Wednesday, March 02, 2005

But If Not

Daniel 3:13-18 (King James Version)

“13Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.
14Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
15Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
17If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

It was May, 1940. Tyranny was on the march and civilization was on the brink of collapse. The German juggernaut had advanced on all fronts and at this dark point in history the remaining Allied armies were trapped at Dunkirk. There, with their backs to the sea, they were at the mercy of the advancing Germans. It seemed that nothing, save a miracle, could save them.

Thankfully, the miracle did come. British citizens crossed the Channel in a “curious assembly of many different types of craft” and saved the day. The Allied army was saved to fight on against the evil that had descended on the world.

While there were many dark days ahead of those survivors, the heroism displayed by the British people in this “miracle of deliverance” was one of the great turning points in the war.

In looking back at those days through the prism of history I’ve often found myself asking what motivated those involved in the rescue to risk so much. I believe their willingness was rooted and grounded in common belief and frame of reference they shared with all men who have throughout the course of history opposed despots and tyrants.

Those brave souls responded to a call to give their all for all that was good, decent, noble, and right about civilization. They heard the call and heeded it, believing that:

“The decisive struggle is now upon us. Let no one be mistaken. It is no mere territorial conquest that our enemies are seeking. It is the overthrow, complete and final, of this Empire and of everything for which it stands: and after that, the conquest of the World. It is a life and death struggle for us all. And if their will prevails, they will bring to its accomplishment all the hatred and cruelty which they have already displayed. But confidence alone is not enough. It must be armed with courage and resolution, with endurance and self-sacrifice. Keep your hearts proud and your resolve unshaken. Let us go forward to that task as one man, a smile on our lips, and our heads held high.”

King George VI in a May 1940 broadcast during the dark days of Dunkirk

While this call went out from the royal palace, a response from the leadership of those trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk was reported to have come back. The reply contained only three words – “But if not.” It was these words, and the words of King George VI, that galvanized the people of Britain and saved the day.

What was it about these words that so galvanized the people? I believe they spoke to shared values, a shared frame of reference. The people of Britain knew that the king’s words were true, and they also knew that those three words in response were equally true. Today, under similar circumstances, I suspect that the people of what we call western civilization would have little or no understanding of what they meant or why they were even important. I can almost hear the questions that people in my world, in my time would be asking. “What on earth does that mean?” “But if not, what…..Where’s the punch-line in this?”

Thankfully, at that critical point in history, there was a common frame of reference, shared values. They responded not only to save the goods and homes they had built, but for the Judeo-Christian values that had been passed on to them by previous generations that formed ranks that stretched far back into history to the beginning of time and God’s revelation to man of what is right and good in life.

I’d like to think that the same principled approach would hold today, but I’m not sure.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision really shook me to the core. To think that our law, in the minds of our highest court, now rests on “evolving standards” or the whim of international opinion is almost beyond belief. A door that should never have been opened has been and the way is now paved for whim to replace the rule of law as our national core. It’s as though our national foundation has become a bottomless pit.

This battle for civilization, in my time, has had its monumental clashes and it seems that the forces of oppression have won them all. At first it was a frontal assault on the values we believed we held in common. With yesterday’s decision, though, the wind has shifted. By injecting “evolving standards” as a foundation for law, the Supreme Court is now free to attack on all fronts at once. Law, religion, history, tradition, put them under one umbrella and call them what you will, have nothing to say to the great questions of our time. It’s now all subjective, based on the whim of a few, the “wise” among us.

Our great religions, the wellspring of our culture, have been effectively denied any voice in shaping our national consensus. It’s evident to me that there is a growing national whim, a move away from the objective standards that have been the glue that has held civilization together. In yesterday’s Emporia Gazette a fellow Emporian made the following general observation about religion vis a vis the rule of law:

“Thankfully, we have the right to choose our religious beliefs and act on them in our personal lives. We do NOT, however, have the right to impose our religious beliefs upon others.”
While I might wish so, I doubt that this is a minority opinion in America today.

The observation was made concerning a proposed amendment to the Kansas constitution banning gay marriage, but the deeper issue was the issue of religion in the marketplace. It really cuts deeper than freedom of conscience and religious expression. It’s all about who makes the rules and what the foundation of our society should be.

Would the writer object, for example, to societal prohibitions on murder or bestiality just because they were “religious” ideas? The writer would probably say something like, “We’re all opposed to those things” and try to leave it at that. But what that person and the Supreme Court are really endorsing is a world in which whim and “evolving standards” rule the day. Who would be able to, for example, prevent the “wise and enlightened” at some future date from declaring that our laws prohibiting murder are outdated and outmoded and need to be overturned and replaced with a long ago rejected standard, revised for current consumption? In the face of such “wisdom” and “enlightenment” any call to the firm foundation of faith, history, and tradition would be drowned out.

Writing, I believe, prophetically, C.S. Lewis once noted that:

“A great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional or (as they would say) ‘sentimental’ values in fact have in the background values of their own which they believe immune from the debunking process. They claim to be cutting away the parasitic growth of emotion, religious sanction, and inherited taboos, in order that ‘real’ or ‘basic’ values may emerge.”

I believe this is where we find ourselves today. We desperately need a solid foundation; what we now have opened to us by judicial fiat is a bottomless pit. We desperately need the courage to face the enemies who are standing at our gate; we have been given the tyranny of codifying our basest whims.

The pattern is as old and familiar as the beginning of human history. With the deceptive promise of enlightenment the father and mother of all mankind fell. In the face of the warning that eating from the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil” would bring dire consequences, the tempter’s words sounded very inviting indeed:

Genesis 3:4-5 (King James Version)

“4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Enlightened humanity can toss off the restraints as a myth, but in our age of “evolving” wisdom ignoring the warnings of history that separating true wisdom and enlightenment from their Author will, if unchecked, have disastrous consequences. The bold print in this social contract promises enlightenment. The fine print spells disaster.

As in times past once we shed the light that has been revealed to us by history, tradition, and religion, mankind becomes his own god, making his own rules based on the edicts of the few “wise and enlightened” among us who have cast aside the mundane trappings that have been the glue that has bound us together. They’ll create new myths, and their successors will create even newer ones. They’ll do it all for the common good or for the greater good. Without tradition, history, or religion there will be little to stop them.

Over twenty years ago songwriter Bob Dylan, seeing the early birth pangs of this headlong movement toward “enlightenment,” put it this way:

“Look out your window, baby, there’s a scene you’d like to catch,
The band is playing “Dixie,” a man got his hand outstretched.
Could be the Fuhrer
Could be the local priest
You know sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.”

“He got a sweet gift of gab, he got a harmonious tongue,
He knows every song of love that ever has been sung.
Good intentions can be evil,
Both hands can be full of grease.
You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.”

I’m sure that many of those who read what I’m writing will believe me to be an antiquated alarmist, a fool who clings to principles, faith, and traditions that have been “proven” outmoded. What can I say in response? I think there’s little that I or other “traditionalists” can do to stop you; you’ve now got the power to declare that “good is evil and that evil is good.” It’s the new rule of law and for those who protest there will be new fiery furnaces devised. We’ll either have to bow to the new rules or be thrown in.

When that time comes, I and those who are like-minded will choose the fire over obedience to this man-made enlightenment. And, like the Hebrew children of old we’ll stand on those things that have stood for thousands of years. Our last words will be, “But if not…..But if not!”


James Fletcher Baxter said...

'Multitudes, multitudes in

the valley of decision

for the day of the Lord is at hand

in the valley of decision."
Joel 3:14

Welcome: Generation-Choicemaker !!!
Psalm 25:12

Stacy said...

Wow, excellent writing. I fear we are headed for a revolution in America, but unfortunately b/c we do not have the spiritual foundation or moral fortitude of the 1st American Revolution, we will have a revolution of the French variety, leading to Anarchy with plenty of violence and chaos. We are ferverently praying, tirelessly shouting from the roof tops, sharing God's word and shedding light on current events which assault faith in Jesus everyday. We hope and pray for the best, but if not...