Then and Now
By: Jonathan Harris
Remember when you were a kid? Perhaps you were in boy scouts or girl scouts and you participated in different patriotic events with your troop or family. I do. My family has always attended patriotic events on Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and sometimes the 4th of July. Since my father is a pastor, many times he gives the invocation for local town events to commemorate our soldiers living and dead. I remember the crowds being a bit larger when I was young. I remember seeing more children present. I remember men taking off their hats during the prayers and national anthem. Perhaps it’s just the nostalgic perspective of a child, but I feel like something is missing from these events currently. I just got back from a Veteran’s day ceremony 10 minutes ago, and I can’t help but compare what I use to see and what I see now. Perhaps this is a stream consciousness with no bearing on reality at all, but on the other hand, perhaps it’s not. Maybe, just maybe, others out there can relate to what I’m saying and confirm its truth.
Let me begin by saying the victorious attitude I had as a child would send chills up my spine every time a military theme or patriotic tune was played at commemorative ceremonies. I would spend Veteran’s and Memorial Day watching war movies, dressing in camouflage and running around my backyard, and of course playing with toy soldiers. I don’t do any of those things now, but the same patriotism still exists within me; at least I think it does? I still love my country. I still support our soldiers fighting overseas. I still feel the shivers up my spine every once in awhile. However, something has changed, and I’m not sure I’m the only one that’s felt its affect. Where is the conquering vigor within the voices of those singing “God Bless America?” Why do the speakers at such events now have to ad in that such attributes as “honor” are no longer understood by our culture. Why do most everyone in the audience look over the age of 50? There is a depression in the air when patriots sing, and I think I know what it is. We are singing about what once was. We know the America we have come to honor is no longer the America that exists in reality. I feel sorry for most patriots in this condition because they don’t know what to attribute this to. The veteran who spoke at the local Town of Wappinger Veteran’s Day ceremony talked about such attributes as “honor,” “duty,” “freedom,” etc. being the cornerstones for our way of life and the reason behind the motivations of the soldier’s he fought with. He then lamented about how our culture no longer understands these attributes. No explanation was given for this definitional departure, and I suspect it grieves the hearts of veterans to not understand why such things are happening. After all they’ve been through, risking life and limb and their friends lives and limbs, why would our country not be grateful?
The answer is a religious one. Our country is a semblance of what it once was because we have turned our backs on our Christian foundation. The attributes of “honor,” “duty,” and “freedom,” or “faith,” “hope,” and “charity,” as Glenn Beck likes to call them, are certainly the cornerstones on top of which our country stands, but who’s definition of such terms are we using? A fundamentalist Muslim sees 9-11 as an honorable act. An Atheist sees offending the religious right as an honorable action. A Mormon sees having as many babies as possible to be an honorable action, etc. We could take each attribute and do the same thing. Duty to an environmentalist means having no kids and recycling everything. Freedom to a libertarian means the liberty to do anything that doesn’t infringe on another’s liberty, though “infringement” is never clearly defined. I’m sure Nazi veterans viewed themselves as meeting the criteria for defending “honor,” “freedom,” etc. Who’s to say what the definitions of these words mean? It use to be that Americans, even if they weren’t Christians themselves, abided by the the Christian definition of such terms. Today the true foundation, the Bible, has been replaced completely by man’s perceptions. In fact, I would argue that during the early part of the last century this had already taken place, it’s just that man, out of habit continued to abide by what the Bible said, even though it wasn’t the final authority. Today however the logical implications of humanism are rearing their ugly heads. The veteran making the speech could well walk up to a gang on the street burning an American flag and say, “Don’t you believe in honor and respect! Where’s your patriotism!” The gang members could reply, “We believe in honor and respect. That’s why we’re burning this rag!” You see, the same language, but different presuppositions about what such terms actually mean.
The moral of the story? We must not go back to “honor,” “duty,” and “freedom,” or “faith,” “hope,” and “charity.” Instead we must go back to the proper definitions of the terms. Honor is what is becoming of God- Stubbornly holding to the standards He has set. Duty is protecting your fellow man because he’s made in God’s image. It’s also proclaiming the truth and fulfilling every mandate God has given including being a “good soldier” and fulfilling the government’s responsibility to protect its people. Freedom is directly linked to our responsibilities to God. Where there is a responsibility on an individual, familiar, governmental, or ecclesiastical level there should be the liberty to carry such a responsibility without interference from the other accountable institutions. Faith and hope can only be rooted in God’s Word and the assurance it gives us that good will win in the end. Charity flows out of a love for one’s neighbor only because we love the Lord our God. You see, the real foundations are not the attributes, but what the attributes themselves rest upon.
I couldn’t help but wondering as I stood in the audience today, “Will my children ever see anything like this?” As a mosque loomed in the background just beyond the ceremonial activities and as the congregation sang “God Bless America” in a funeral like fashion I stood motionless without a tear. America has fallen and only God can save her now.