Friday, June 11, 2004

Reaganoptics: How He Gave the City Light to See

It has been said of President Ronald Reagan that his timing was impeccable. Perhaps above all other qualities, this one in particular--his death--carved his status as the Great Communicator. Yet never in his life was his timing more perfect and his message more clear than it was in his death. Reagan loved few things more than his country, and it is fitting that providence gave him the opportunity to send such a poignant message at this moment. This nation stands in the center of a remarkable confluence of events that have combined to fix our attention on the sacrifice that gives birth to freedom.

It is true, as it has been said so often, that Reagan was a kind and courteous man, and we need to be more kind and courteous. He was a decent man who loved his wife faithfully, and it takes little imagination to perceive how such character is in short supply. But let there be no mistake. The message of Ronald Reagan’s memory that is absolutely inescapable today is that freedom and democracy advance only through courage and sacrifice, never by conciliation and appeasement.

Sunday we were reminded that four thousand American lives lost on the shores of France was the price our nation paid in just one day for the European appeasement of a German madman. Every day we are reminded that three thousand American lives lost on our home shore is the price we pay for the lack of courage we demonstrated in failing to deal with the terrorist threat that fired its warning shots in the 1990’s. Starkly contrasted with these reminders is the great light of freedom that is shining now in places where it was unthinkable twenty years ago.

If there is an era in the history of this planet in which the groundswell of freedom was more powerful than in the era influenced by the Reagan presidency, historians have failed abysmally to leave record of that era for us. Grenada, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Afghanistan, Poland, Austria, the former East Germany, the Czech Republic, Romania, the Baltic States, a whole basketful of former Soviet “Republics” and Russia itself owe their present freedom from totalitarian regimes to Ronald Reagan more than to any other human being.

It has been truly laughable to see the video clips from the 1980’s with elected officials criticizing Reagan’s aggressive responses to the evils of communism and Lybian terrorism. I know that the lesson of history to many who are reading this letter is as unclear as it was to these men twenty years ago. But those of us who “get it” need to take personal responsibility to make sure that the lesson is remembered. Ronald Reagan believed that our nation is a city on a hill. What he didn’t tell us was that he was the man who created the spark that lit the lamp that served as the shining beacon of light for that city. Now that he is gone, our time must come.

Monday, May 31, 2004

What Is Paleoevangelical?

In June of 2004 I decided to take the plunge into the blogosphere, generated my first post, then lapsed into nine months of silence save for one political rant that I promptly deleted. During the several weeks prior I had pondered naming my blog "Paleoevangelical," and I was surprised at how few references to the term existed on the web at that time. Although I have no recollection of where I first heard the term, I am quite certain that it was not an original thought. Not until spring of 2005 did I once again see the term published, but I am again at a loss for its source. Perhaps all this background is quite irrelevant to the greater questions of what paleoevangelical means and what a paleoevangelical is, but it seemed prudent to provide some explanation for the historians.

Elsewhere I have made it quite clear that I do not consider myself an historian. So, if the impressions that I am about to describe in the form of statements of fact are less than accurate, I stand open both to correction and forgiveness.

It seems clear to me that Evangelicalism is not what it once was. Likewise, the subset of Evangelicalism that calls itself Fundamentalism has changed substantially since the term was coined in 1920. Paleoevangelical is a term I like to use to describe what I imagine both Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism might have been a long time ago—before both diffused to encompass a distorted morass of aberrant doctrine, pragmatism, personality politics, and materialism (along with remnants of the earlier forms).

I have a theory. It is similar to one plausible view of Baptist history. This view suggests that throughout church history, local assemblies of believers have existed in diverse locations, demonstrating in their body life a commitment to the Baptist distinctives. My theory is that the paleoevangelical idea represents a similar tradition of believers who have maintained pure teaching of the gospel—the evangel—and have been willing to do battle royal to defend it. This tradition has not yet perished, and I am convinced it will not. My hope is that it will grow.

I intend for Paleoevangelical to represent that spirit by the grace of God alone (with some occasional politics, humor, and maybe even sports tossed in). Whether this view of the past is accurate and this hope for the future is realistic is not the immediate point. It's my dream world; please let me enjoy it.