Douglas Feavel

Author of "Uncommon Character: 26 Stories Of Ordinary Men And Women Who Did The Extraordinary"



Heroes, Worldview, and Truth

An examiniation of the criteria for recognizing a true hero.

Heroes’ lives exhibit extraordinary personal character, such as could be labeled “Christ-like” in that they proved the value and virtue of the so-called “golden rule” by placing others before self and/or by demonstrating action tied to an abiding faith regardless of the personal cost. Ultimately, God’s character is on display in the lives of truly authentic heroes who could have, but did not, claim credit. They realize that they did only what God asked of them and what God gifted them to be capable of performing. A good working definition of a hero would be similarity to Jesus as a suffering servant; rather than as the world identifies a hero as a person who was physically or politically or socially dominant, successful, or accepted. True heroes don’t always do something physical; that is aren’t always involved in death-defying risk or action; although they most certainly may have been. (Whether referring to a woman or a man, I use only the male suffix for consistency because “heroine” has a confusing connotation and lacks the common usage and acceptance of generic “hero”.)

            They demonstrate and/or uphold Judeo-Christian worldviews that are decidedly superior to exclusively secular ones. Superior in the sense that they hold to lasting, eternal principles which best endure the fluctuating moods of passing generations. We are repeatedly cautioned in the Bible and in the writings of conservative scholars not to dismiss, replace, or ignore the proven standards of the preceding ages when facing choices, evaluating changes, or appraising circumstances that test our character. The passing ages have validated the wisdom of these admonishments. We are repeatedly cautioned in the Bible and in the writings of conservative scholars not to dismiss, replace, or ignore the proven standards of the preceding ages when facing choices that set consequences in motion, when evaluating changes that create adaptation and growth, when undergoing circumstances that prove the quality of our character. Tests and trials regularly visit our lives through challenges by way of the aforementioned elements of character, choices, and changes. The interaction between them is what makes our life so compelling.

            What is a Judeo-Christian worldview; i.e. a non-secular one? The Judeo portion reflects the righteous living confirmed in the Old Testament and the Christian portion reflects the “mind of Christ” as confirmed in the New Testament. The combined whole is revealed to us in general ways by our study of the Bible’s sixty-six books and in specific ways by our practical applications in affiliated prayer, fellowship, and ministry. These are supplemented in a universal sense by the increasing knowledge gained through deeper explorations of the outer space of the universe with telescopes and through deeper explorations of the inner space of the atom with microscopes. These are true because their results continually illuminate the God’s creative nature as expressed in everything around us. A secular worldview, that applies different evaluation standards, may conclude — in direct contrast ­­— that those I select are not heroes but rather even failures or losers. These men and women, however, are genuine heroes when God’s eternal standards are applied to them.           

Heroes proscribe to a singular consolidated Judeo-Christian worldview, as opposed to a bi-furcated one that assigns spirituality and science to two different realms of life. That is, the Judeo-Christian worldview integrates “religious” and “real-world” beliefs and activities as opposed to maintaining a “wall-of-separation” between them; e.g. the spiritual is not assigned to only church functions on Sunday and to personal Bible reading during the week while all politics, science, education, and social beliefs and activities remain strictly secular. God is active in all realms, He cannot be assigned to operate in only the world’s corners, basements, and attics. God does not exclude Himself from any realms, and neither should we exclude Him. What worldview is held by an individual may strike some readers as an incidental element of one’s personhood, but it is as fundamental to the core of their being as the book of Genesis is to the Bible — they are both the wellspring of all that follows.                      

The truths that were treasured and that were successful in former times don’t diminish or mutate with time but continue to hold firm that they may help and sustain us when we retain our allegiance to them. The truths that heroes lived, and some died for, would be valid in any century, society, or county. Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. (Jeremiah 31: 21) Truth is eternal and is not relative; if it changes, then it cannot be truth. If it does not change, then our standards, virtues, and values — which are byproducts — should not change either. Therefore, what represents a hero and what a hero represents do not change with time or place or situation either. Two centuries ago, Pontus Pilot asked Jesus, “What is truth?” It’s assumed that Jesus did not respond, but that is incorrect. Jesus responded by standing silently and unmoved before Pilot because He is Truth (John 14:6). It was the Roman ruler — even after cautions by his wife — that failed to recognize and/or accept the obvious answer. The better question would have been, Who is Truth?

            Contemporary media, sports, and entertainment do not highlight heroes; rather they highlight celebrities. The two are rarely interchangeable. They sometimes laud individuals whom they have identified as “speaking truth to power.” This is an empty and over-used catch-phrase. Heroes are truth-tellers, although not because of a single highly public or contrived incident, but because that is how they consistently live. It’s more than the words they speak; it’s that their actions are synchronized to their words and vice versa. 

            Some argue that the measure of heroes is how they add merit to the status of the individual; others argue that the true measure is how they add merit to the status of society as a whole. My position is that they add merit to both outcomes, as the two outcomes are not in opposition but are compatible — and they add merit by both their speech and their actions; i.e. words and deeds.

Coming soon to a blog near you….

The Four C’s of America’s Foundation:

How Can Christians Be So Blind?

I was shocked when a support-Biden-for-president sign appeared in the front yard of an active and long-tenured Christian family living near me.  The neighbors, herein known under the covering “Brown”, profess to be those who are pro-life, tithers, committed to attending two to three church services weekly, and belonging to and/or teaching small group, Bible study, and Sunday School.  I’m not naive, so I know that many profess to be Christians and they are really, at best, occasional church-goers.  When those pseudos support unGodly causes, affiliate with questionable associations, and participate in spiritually unhealthy activities, there is no surprise and neither is there any analysis necessary.  Thus, when another Biden sign appeared in another neighbor’s yard, I was not surprised as they boldly resist all appearances of Christianity. But the Brown family syndrome does exceedingly justify careful review.

How do the Browns simultaneously hold and rectify such opposing worldviews?  In my studies of the past six months, I have found the support for my answer to that question.  It is within the books written by Francis Schaeffer, Nancy Pearcey, Dinesh D’Susza, and Chuck Colson as well as Dr. Dale Tackett’s “The Truth Project”.  It’s beyond the scope of my brief blog posting to outline their work.  Interested readers may easily pursue this on their own given that I have provided excellent leads.  

I will therefore limit my writing to simply providing the answer to my opening question.  The Browns might be saved through a onetime profession of Jesus as Savior, and that alone may define them as generally Christian in religious title within American society.  But they do not possess an abiding likeness to the mind and Spirit of Jesus as Lord of their lives — which is the only full and accurate definition of being a Christian.  They are living two separate and irreconcilable “truths”.  The Browns hold unequal portions of both a worldly worldview (not as redundant as it may sound) and a Biblical worldview.  The first they apply to everything except “church-time” related activity and the second they apply to “church-time” related activity only.  To restate: the elements of their life that have to do with job, philosophy, politics, family, education, relationships, social activities, science/health and so forth are all unrelated to the revealed Biblical truths from Genesis to Revelation.  The elements related to attending church activities are their special, walled-off portions of life that are reserved for God.  This sad and erroneous dichotomy is, of course, what Jesus and the writers of the New Testament spent so much of their time pointing out as double-minded and wholly inadequate.  Truth is not relative to the time or the situation or the desired outcome; truth is absolute, all-encompassing, and unchanging. Jesus said that He is the Truth, the Way, and the Life.

God does not want part of our lives, part of the time.  He wants and deserves it all, all of the time.  The right answer is an adoption of an all-encompassing Biblical worldview that applies first, last, and in-between to everything in life externally and internally, locally and globally.  There can be no partitions.  Once more: No partitions in either our thinking, our doing, or our voting. 

When You Need Jesus

We may overwhelmingly conclude that God did not create man to live independently of a close relationship with Him.  All attempts to do so end in tragedy.  When nothing’s real in your life, when you’ve reached bottom, when your marriage is sinking, when you can’t hold on any longer, when your strength is all used up, when you’re lonely and abandoned, when you have no more resources, when you’ve run out of excuses, when you need a fresh start, when you feel you can’t be forgiven nor can even forgive yourself, when you are flat broke, when no one is there to help you, when you’re not certain why you are here, when you need a fix or a drink, when your pain or shame seems more than you can bear, when there are only questions without answers, when you don’t know what direction to turn, when you feel like a failure, when you want to quit or die, when your health is broken, when you need a lover, when you’re ready to run away; then I Am Who I Am is the All-Sufficient One and He is freely offering Himself to you right now, just as you are.

Parable of the Giving Gift: Still My Favorite Teacher

Let not many of you become teachers… (James 3:1)

Mrs. Clark stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the first day of a new fall term and told the eleven-year-old students a lie. Like many teachers, she habitually gathered the children early for an orientation session during which she never failed to share that she would dedicate herself to each of them fairly and equally. At the time, she meant it; she thought she was that kind of teacher. However, slumped in the back row was a skinny boy named Johnny who was just plain difficult to like. He was soon going to unwittingly expose her inadvertent hypocrisy.

Mrs. Clark began noticing that Johnny didn’t play well with the other children, his clothes were messy, and he always needed a bath and a hair washing. Communicating with him was difficult because he only spoke when spoken to, and then only responded in monosyllables like “yup,” “nope,” and most often a noncommittal “maybe.” On the good side, his silent demeanor and standoffishness meant that he was never a disruption, didn’t require admonishment for fighting or bullying, nor need go to the principal’s office for discipline. However, Johnny rarely completed his assignments or turned in his homework. Her frustration with him reached the point that Mrs. Clark almost enjoyed marking his papers with a red pen, drawing bold Xs next to his errors and omissions, or marking the top of his papers with a big F.

Each teacher had access to their student’s academic histories and was encouraged to review them. If she had read Johnny’s school records earlier, she would have understood him better. Mrs. Clark had delayed Johnny’s until last. When she finally checked his file, she was appropriately surprised. His first-grade teacher had written: “Johnny is a bright child with a quick laugh. He does his work neatly and exhibits good manners…he makes friends easily and is pleasant to be around.” His second-grade teacher had written: “Johnny is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he’s troubled by his mother’s terminal illness and life at home has caused him to struggle.” His third-grade teacher had written: “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will affect him negatively if corrective steps aren’t undertaken.” Johnny’s fourth-grade teacher had written: “Johnny is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and he day-dreams in class.” By fourth grade, the records described Johnny as the poorly performing student that Mrs. Clark knew the following year.

The school year progressed with their relationship mostly unchanged as the two-week Christmas vacation approached. On the final school day of the old year, Mrs. Clark’s students followed the longstanding tradition of bringing their teacher gifts. There were many presents under the little tree in the corner of the room waiting to be opened during the afternoon party. All were wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright, fancy paper; all except Johnny’s whose were clumsily wrapped in the heavy brown paper commonly used for grocery bags and held together with masking tape. His presents were just like Johnny, not very neat or attractive.

When it was time to unwrap gifts, Mrs. Clark was a little surprised to have received anything from Johnny, so she took care to open his two gifts in the middle of the other presents. A few children began to snicker when she opened the first, containing a rhinestone bracelet with some of the fake jewels missing; and then they did so again when she opened the second containing a half-filled bottle of cheap perfume. Mrs. Clark had the presence of mind to kindly stifle the children’s rude reactions by quickly placing the bracelet and dabs of the perfume on her wrist, holding it up, and exclaiming, “My, how very wonderful!”

Johnny lingered after school that day standing near her desk. This was unusual behavior and it created both curiosity and more surprise in Mrs. Clark. He looked nervous but sounded sincere when he said, “Mrs. Clark, today you smelled just like my mom used to, and her bracelet looks really nice on you. I just want you to know that you’re my favorite teacher.”

That night Mrs. Clark didn’t sleep well; something unidentified was deeply troubling her. She persisted in examining the day’s activities, and eventually gained insight into the situation. A clearer understanding of Johnny’s problem led to perceiving her part in contributing to it. She felt ashamed about her attitude toward him. Before sunrise, Mrs. Clark determined she needed to make some immediate changes. From now on she would really love and help all of her students the same – especially the slow and troubled ones – beginning with Johnny. She would strive to become the kind of teacher she said she was, the kind she wanted to be, and the kind the students needed her to be.

On the first day of school after the holidays, the fifth-grade students were greeted by a new teacher. It was still Mrs. Clark on the outside; but on the inside, she was different. She quit just teaching subjects like reading, social studies, and math; she began teaching students. As she had determined, Mrs. Clark paid particular attention to Johnny. After working with him for some days, his mind seemed to awaken and find a fresh spirit. The more she encouraged him, the more he responded. By the end of the year, Johnny had caught up with most of the other students and he had even begun to surpass a few others. Now to keep her promise of impartiality toward all students, Mrs. Clark had to keep her pride in check and resist the temptation to treat Johnny, and those like him, as teacher’s pets.

The school year ended with Johnny graduating fifth grade, with its accompanying physical move from elementary school to the middle school some miles away. Before departing for summer vacation, Johnny was found one final time waiting by Mrs. Clark’s desk after the rest of his class had charged excitedly out the door. He told Mrs. Clark a simple good-bye, followed by “You’re my favorite teacher.”

Mrs. Clark didn’t hear from him for the next three years. In late spring of the third year, she found a hand-addressed envelope in her assigned mail slot at school. It contained a note from Johnny reporting that middle school had gone well and he was moving on to high school. He concluded it with: “You’re still my favorite teacher.”

Considerable time passed without further contact from Johnny until, at the end of the fourth school year, she received a familiar-looking handwritten envelope in her mail slot. It contained another note from Johnny saying that high school had gone well and he’d been accepted at the state university on a partial scholarship. The note again concluded simply: “You’re still my favorite teacher.”

Mrs. Clark continued to teach fifth grade at the same school. Nearly four more years passed without any more updates from Johnny; that is, until late spring of the fourth year when she found a third note in her mail slot. It was from Johnny and reported that he was graduating from the university in a few days with a degree and summa cum laude honors. This note concluded similarly to the other two: “You’re still my favorite teacher.” That simple statement always reminded her of the long-ago Christmas party and of her renewed commitment to teaching during the sleepless night that followed it. The recollection never failed to inspire and refresh her.

The next six years passed quickly for Mrs. Clark, who had spent more than half of them enjoying retirement from the classroom. Late in the spring of the sixth year, an envelope arrived at her home. It was from the office manager of her old grade school. Upon opening it, she immediately recognized Johnny’s handwriting on what was to be her final note from him. It was another brief update reporting that he’d gone on to medical school, where he met a pretty young nurse to whom he was now engaged. But the personal note wasn’t alone. Attached was a sealed, formal envelope containing both an embossed invitation to his wedding and another handwritten note. In the second one, he reminded Mrs. Clark that he’d lost his mother in elementary school and reported that his father had passed away several years ago. Thus, having no one to represent his parents at the wedding, he asked whether she’d be available and willing to do so. This note concluded with the now-familiar words: “You’re still my favorite teacher,” but it had an unfamiliar signature. It was signed: Dr. John R. Mills, MD.

Mrs. Clark accepted the wedding invitation, considering it an honor to sit up front where Dr. Mills’ parents would have sat. She arrived wearing the bracelet and perfume given to her on that Christmas when she and Dr. Mills were together in her old classroom – when he was still known as Johnny.

After the ceremony, they embraced and Dr. Mills thanked Mrs. Clark for being there for him on his wedding day, and more importantly, he thanked her for what she’d done for him back in fifth grade. Mrs. Clark replied that his gratitude was misplaced, for it was he who had honored her with the invitation as well as he who had encouraged her to become the kind of teacher she wanted and needed to be. It was the combination of his simple trust and fidelity that acted as the catalyst for decisive growth in her life.

They were both correct because they’d been mutually influential in making substantive, positive changes in each other’s lives – changes that cascaded from both of their lives on into the lives of many others thereafter. Johnny’s unquestioning love for Mrs. Clark was the igniting spark for her change; it was her change that reflected the love back to Johnny, who then leveraged it to consistently improve his life. Those two small, physical Christmas gifts of the bracelet and the perfume were the first seeds sown into lives that would grow into greater gift giving for both parties. These kinds of gifts don’t require shopping, money, or wrapping, yet they are gifts that will endure and keep on giving. The real gifts were their time and attention to each other. These were the best gifts they had given, and the best ones they had received.

Their gifts are representative of gifts we can all afford to give: our love, talents, kindness, attention, and time. These are the true gifts that are needed by those unlovable ones like Johnny, or by those misguided ones like Mrs. Clark. At some point in our lives, we are all like Johnny and need to receive from a Mrs. Clark; at other times, we are capably equipped like Mrs. Clark and can give of ourselves to a needy Johnny. Even Johnny, who seemingly had nothing, found something to give Mrs. Clark. We are reminded to be generous in giving of ourselves, for none of us has anything in life of real value that we have not been given ourselves. The investments that we make in others are the best ones because they are life-changing and thus pay lasting dividends to the giver and to the recipient.

There are only four things we can take beyond the grave; I call them the everlasting four: integrity (sometimes called a good name or reputation), relationships, the positive concentric circles that our good deeds have set in motion (sometimes called paying-it-forward), and faith.

…knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)

Cosmic Stories

Stories were the primary vehicle for education and entertainment before electronics. Today in situations where electronics are not readily accessible or appropriate, we still revert to telling stories as a way of connecting on an intimate level; even more so than the other communications are able to attain even when they are available; e.g. the back seat of cars on long trips, prisons, campsites, battlefields, children’s libraries, fishing and hunting cabins, bedsides, classrooms, mother’s laps, power blackouts, and mission fields. Who does not continue to thrill a little when hearing or reading a classic opening phrase from their youth like: “Once upon a time”, “In a land far, far away”, and “It was a dark and sultry night”; or a  “fuzzy-feeling” ending line like: “And they lived happily ever after” or “That’s how it remains to this very day.”

I’ve noted that stories and storytelling generally appear to be on the edge of revival. I can’t say with certainty that presently more stories are being written and read, but I have definitely noticed that, as a genre, stories are receiving more attention as many people in publishing are stressing their value. 

The following quote from Donald Miller’s How to Tell a Story is a typical example of my observation: “Story is no longer a tool only for artists. The rest of the world is beginning to understand that entire cultures are being shaped by the storytellers; and business leaders, pastors and parents are starting to wonder how they can incorporate more stories into their communication methodology. And they will all be benefited for doing so.”

The Bible contains over five hundred true stories, as well as a handful of fictional illustrations. Overall, by percentages, it’s reported to be a mix of seventy-five percent stories, fifteen percent poetry, and only ten percent unadorned teaching principles. It’s not so much the story of God, as is so frequently stated; it’s much more the story of man. In the preface to his book The Gates of the Forest, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel tells a story that ends with the statement: “God made man because He loves stories.” 

There’s a movement of increasing application, especially among missionaries, to teach and preach the Bible evangelistically in the form of stories. This is variously called Bible telling and chronological Bible storying. Sharing stories is what Jesus did regularly and preeminently; some were parables, some were wholly fiction while others were wholly non-fiction. He did so knowing they would change hearts as well as educate. At their best, the Scribes and Pharisees only educated because they didn’t wrap their dry precepts in real-to-life story coverings; they failed mightily where Jesus succeeded beyond comparison. 

Gary Alan Taylor of Red Letter Christians defines stories as the “currency of human contact.” He reasons that: “We tell stories about ourselves that reveal a great deal of what we as a people believe and value. If you want to understand a culture’s values, listen to her stories. As examples, these are prevailing American narratives: the Godly Puritans at Plymouth Rock, Captain John Smith at Jamestown, George Washington on the Delaware and brave white settlers heading west into the sunset to claim the land God set aside for them.”

Near the end the movie version – also its turning point – of the essentially non-fiction story Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney finally gains the confidence of the reluctant author of Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers (aka Helen Goff), by convincing her that she can trust him to visually portray her written human portraits with the respect she intended. He does so with the following words, which are a fitting summary of the film’s theme and, perhaps, the entire body of Disney’s creative work: “That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope, again and again and again.” Such is my intended approach when crafting stories from the themes, events, and individuals under my care.

Occupying an antiquated position in the digital age, the employment of straight-up oral storytelling remains fairly rare today; but when offered in the right setting, it is still highly appreciated. In the not-too-distant past, it was the most prevalent method of values education and of communicating history, traditions, and beliefs. 

In a collection of essays and lectures titled, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, short-story virtuoso Flannery O’Connor accurately stated storytelling’s diminishing circumstances: “There is a certain embarrassment about being a storyteller in these times when stories are considered not quite as satisfying as statements and statements not quite as satisfying as statistics; but in the long run, a people is known, not by its statements or its statistics, but by the stories it tells.”

In her book The Story Keeper, Lisa Wingate writes: “Our stories are powerful. They teach, they speak, they inspire. They bring about change. But they are also fragile. Their threads are so easily broken by time, by lack of interest, by failure to understand the value that comes of knowing where we have been and who we have been. In this speed-of-light culture, our histories are fading more quickly than ever. Yet when we lose our stories, we lose ourselves.”

It’s been said that telling about what happened to millions of people is not a story, it’s a statistic. But when that same information is reduced down to what happened to one person or to a small group, it then becomes a story with all the attendant benefits. For example, a mention of six million Jews killed in the Holocaust lacks the human dimension and personal connection to be a story; but make it about one individual, like Eva Kor or Irena Sendler, and now we have a story.

Wilfred M. McClay, author of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story writes: “We are, at our core, remembering and story-making creatures, and stories are one of the chief ways we find meaning in the flow of events. What we call ‘history’ and ‘literature’ are merely the refinement and intensification of that basic human impulse, that need (to tell and hear stories).”

History is more than just factual times, movements, and locations. Most of my generation had history introduced to us as His Story – alluding to its overarching scale and infinite purpose.

Isaac Bashevis Singer writes: “When a day passes it is no longer there. What remains of it? Nothing more than a story. If stories weren’t told or books weren’t written, man would live like a beast, only for the day. The whole world, all human life is one long story.”

In The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity, Mattthew Kelly shares: “The beautiful thing about stories is that they speak to each person in a different way. Ten people could read a story and get ten different messages. All ten messages were in the story, but each person heard what he or she needed to hear.

In closing, a final beautiful thing about stories is that (according to the results of experiments by Dr. Paul Zak of Claremont University’s Center for Neuro-economic Studies) when stories are shared our brain chemistry changes and our brains unite because the hormone oxytocin is released. Its release helps us to understand and accept our differences – it may not result in agreement, but it is an expanded openness for the ideas of another. I particularly appreciate the title of his 2015 article in Cerebrum: “Why Inspiring Stories Make Us React.” His conclusions may appear to contradict Matthew Kelly’s, but they do not. We retain all the individuality brought into the interaction, but there is less prejudice toward the uniquenesses of the parties.

Help available to us (at all times, including pandemics)…

All of these blessings are potentially available to provide our healing and insure our strength: 

The Word and the promises, the Spirit and the Anointing, His presence, the prayers and agreement of the Body of Christ, your personal petitions, faith-hope-love, God’s mercy-grace-favor, His perfect will, more than conquerors, first fruits, your calling/ministry, and…

Holiness, the blood covering, sanctification, peace that passes understanding, the anointing, the fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, a great cloud of witnesses, Sabbath rest, the mind of Christ, forgiveness, comfort-care-counsel, right-standing, Godly wisdom, miracles, ministering angels, edification, helpmates, the beauty of creation, victory over death-hell-grave, the Balm of Gilead, signs and wonders, understanding and knowledge, assurances of a prepared place in Heaven, and…

Power over hell and the grave, revelation and prophesy, eternal truth, clear/clean conscience, life-love-light-liberty, protection and deliverance, His covering, songs and hymns, thanksgiving, fellowship with the saints, endurance to finish the race, the wings of an eagle, an Abba, redemption, a share in God’s glory, prosperity, help in time of need, the Church and the Family of God, guidance, new and eternal life, fresh oil, release from the law, and… 

Covenantal relationship, strong arm of the Lord, joy, dreams and visions, Godly authority, a high Priest to intercede, eyes that see and ears that hear, created in His very image, praise and worship, an Advocate with the Father, new wine, deliverance from fear and ignorance, release from the law, joint-heirs, domination over nature, the good news, breathe of life, access to the throne, our bodies as temples, freedom-faith-forgiveness, a friend that stays closer than a brother, the one new man, and…. 

Full armor of God with a helmet/breastplate/shield/belt/shoes/sword, our daily bread, victory, the name of Jesus, a Helper, nullification of the curse, mourning into dancing, intercession, no weapon formed against me shall prosper, the Way, reconciliation-rebirth-restitution-rejoicing, a Comforter, and shalom (includes: safety, rest, prosperity, welfare, completion, fullness, soundness, and well-being).  

All these and more provisions from the living God for our spiritual and physical health.

Discovering Purple: On Behalf of Social Resolution

    Due to the growing stridency, distance, extremism, and animosity between right/conservative/Republican (“red”) and left/liberal/Democrat (“blue”) proponents, the center (“purple”) is a harmonious location increasingly unshared in America. To describe the red’s fixed position, I borrow authors Alexander Betts and Paul Collier phrase “heartless head”; and to describe the blue’s I borrow their phrase “headless heart”. Journalist James Traub seems to advocate synthesizing these otherwise incompatible mindsets when he suggests reasoning with our hearts and feeling with our heads. The pure tone of the truth is the center, and it’s the only credible place for us, as a bifurcated society, to engage. It’s the magnetic pole that we should endeavor to be drawn toward.
    The proliferation of exclusions to and opposition to free speech (e.g. college campus protests) exacerbates our collective loss of opportunities for civil social discourse and reduces our ability to learn to understand the other side and thus to merge factions. I’m modestly suggesting, rather than over-reaching for general agreement, that each of us simply recognize the problem (i.e. a lack of congenial discourse) and then do our best to rise above it by avoiding the excesses and the caricatures all-too-frequently promoted by those who are morally-failed dividers or just plain noisy advocates of our side. All publically espoused positions come with both blemishes and beauties that need to be carefully and creatively sorted like the wheat and the weeds, the sheep and the goats.
    Let’s invest the individual time to seek the truth as we also adhere to this five centuries-old advice: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity” (translated from the Latin original of an unknown source). No matter how much or how many of our predilections have to be shed to get there, the cost of doing so is incontestably worthwhile for crafting the healthy environment so needed by our individual souls and the larger community spirit.
    Historically, we Americans have faced not dissimilar deep ideological national chasms during and after the Revolutionary War, Civil War and Vietnam War; each respectively occurring slightly post mid-century (1760s-70s, 1860s-70s and 1960s-forward). The signing of treaties and the cessation of fighting after the Civil War did not come close to automatically healing hearts and uniting minds. A national rapprochement was called for by inspirational leaders like Lincoln, Douglass, and Grant. Arguably, today’s bifurcation of the population began with the liberal-conservative split during the Vietnam years and has continued to widen and remain with us since. Another cry for rapprochement should be clarion today, and it can only effectively come from those among us, especially those in leadership, who determine to rise above the common us and me petty politics with its attendant name-calling, contempt, and selfishness. Lincoln’s plea is still in season: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” The failure to attain national discourse leads to continuing escalations, and most any escalation – as we have already seen – leads to outbreaks of violence of a Brown Shirt and Antifa nature. Who among us is not already familiar with Jesus’ warning that a house divided will not stand? If we believe it, our actions should reflect it.
    Healing change comes one heart at a time starting with our own (see “frown power” in the Stetson Kennedy story). “Uncommon Character” presents two dozen individuals – from a variety of locations, vocations, and ages – who have successfully modeled selfless commitment and altruistic behavior for our collective follow-up. Good character knows no political affiliation or religious denomination. It rises above roadblocks like political correctness and name-calling. It is not driven by politics or economics. It comes from having relationships in harmony. This not to say that our American way of life does not have real enemies whom we must resist in lieu of them subverting us. We do have them, many of them. But, we must be able to identify our true life-and-death adversaries from our fellow travelers, with whom we could productively compromise and turn into allies for two and three-fold strength in the real battles.

Why Are Government Entitlements Growing?

Conservatives rightfully ponder whether there exists any upward limit to the non-stop expansion of the welfare state with its escalating governmental intrusion consisting of more regulations, taxes, entitlements, and free stuff; i.e. whether there is any point where the liberal mindset would be satisfied and willing to rest from further agitation against traditional values and fundamental check-and-balance processes. That is to disassociate from an ill-advised mindset that Marvin Olasky has variously labeled promiscuous material distribution, subsidizing of disaffiliation, universalizing depersonalizers, culture of delegated compassion, and false comfort. Each of his descriptors peels away and exposes a layer of liberal falsehood, obfuscation, and deceit as associated with their programs and orthodoxy.

I don’t believe there is a point where leftists will say, “Entitlements and/or government are too big” or, “They are not working.” The left is far less interested in resolving poverty-related problems than in simply continuing to gain from the on-going visibility produced by perpetually defending and funding them at their status quos and beyond. Bob Woodson of the Woodson Center says, “There are a lot of perverse incentives against people being independent” and that these prevent the welfare system from being applied in the manner it was intended.  It was intended (but not correctly designed) “as an ambulatory service, not a transportation system [again, Mr. Woodson speaking].” The right understands and holds superior and more practical positions on helping the poor and the victimized recover, become independent, and continue succeeding; but it is deficient at marketing them at the street level and their solutions are generally long-term; that is they take longer to implement, but they last longer – unfortunately, short-term, ineffective fixes are an easier product to sell.

I hold the following five reasons as support for my position. First, “solutions” like increased welfare spending sound so simple. They sit right at the top of the stack of quickie fixes and are easy to grab and run with, especially since that would be safely traveling incognito and in the same direction as the rest of the pack. Conservative real solutions require thorough thinking, research, and implementation planning with post-execution monitoring and accountability; doing so causes one to stand out, perhaps alone. Because these contrary solutions are opposed and ridiculed by the liberal pack – often accompanied by personal slander and harsh recriminations, the advocates must be exceptionally brave and, therefore, are few in number. (The deliberately hurtful negativity expressed in some of their “reviews” of Uncommon Character stand as clear personal evidence of the strident intolerance of ideas that differ from their own).

Second, they are a practical and proven Machiavellian-like method to secure the support of the masses for purposes of gaining and retaining political power. Fabian George Bernard Shaw says, “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”

Third, liberals believe problems like poverty and education are solved by spending more money; they don’t know that solutions require depth, sacrifice, and time (see the first reason above). Liberal thinking is: see the problem, throw money at it; still see the problem, throw more money at it. If the problem remains, it must be because conservatives are preventing them from throwing enough money at it. In reality, the money often is or becomes a significant part of the problem.

Fourth, liberals haven’t thoroughly dealt with three underlying personal issues. One is personal sin, such as resentment, rebellion, and envy; sin on the part of those allocating the supporting funds and on those receiving them. Another is their genuine guilt (rooted in personal sin and overriding rebellion toward God). They falsely assume that this guilt can be avoided or alleviated by mindless funding of issues related to poverty. Until these two factors are recognized and addressed, they remain surreptitiously negative influences. Effective remedying of sin and guilt requires responses that promote the healing of their relationships with God, man, and self. The last of the three underlying issues is their erroneous belief in the essential goodness of mankind. A brief review of just the twentieth century should be convincing proof to the contrary.

Fifth, giving tax money to the poor is an outlet for liberals to feel self-righteous. Attempting to appear virtuous is valued as the equivalent of the actual practice of virtue. Leftists live outside of a truly righteous relationship with God and they are not motivated by Biblical principles such as true charity; i.e. giving of personal time, care, and money. Therefore, tax-based giving is desirable as an inoculation against having to deal with the underlying truths and the sacrificial giving, both of which are preferably ignored. After all, big government is their god, so let their god give; that’s what gods are for.

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