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Douglas Feavel

AUTHOR OF : "Uncommon Character: Stories Of Ordinary Men And Women Who Did The Extraordinary" (Previously titled: "A Storyteller's Anthology: 26 Inspiring Character Portraits For Our Time")

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True Charity

Misdirected bureaucratic provisioning and unearned individual gratification have together served to collectively mask God as our Savior and Provider. Worldly government largesse is substituted for His proper place and our proper role. Wanting what is not ours is envy; taking what is not ours is theft. Personal charitable giving – the conscientious giving and receiving of gifts by and to individuals – is the appropriate alternative. In the realm of government-sponsored charity, want is often confused with need. At its rare best, welfare is a short-term patch; its continuous application is a poor substitute for the necessary moral changes, lifestyle adjustments, and personal growth that collectively nearly guarantee lasting, positive results. This approach requires planning and application that are long-term in scope, not just patching previous quick fixes.

“Today’s socialists and progressives support not only more governmental redistribution but every aspect of the sexual revolution from no-fault divorce to pornography, abortion, the ever-widening LGBTQ agenda, and the legal assault on marriage. All of it leaves women and children at the mercy of the state. When families fail, the state grows to pick up the pieces.” Quoted from “The Realty of a Pipe Dream”, an article by Robert Knight. Ultra-liberalism always has rationalistic and relativistic God-is-dead-and-we-didn’t-need-Him-anyway elements associated with it. As a tried-and-true test, look for this perception; it’s always found underneath the facade of any pretentiously compassionate social proposal, policy, or program; and just beneath the skin of any aggressive proponent of a liberalistic lifestyle, education, or philosophy. We should not accept as the real thing what is only a veneer; the truth is always available, but like the pearl of great price, it must be industriously sought and then held securely.

Generosity is a virtue, but being generous with other people’s money is not a virtue; it’s simply false and Pharisaically overblown. Liberals like to use compassion as another weapon in their continued bullying of conservative Christians by trumpeting how freely they validate every indiscriminate entitlement cause while demonizing our discernment and long-term fixes with their non-stop libeling, name-calling, and disparaging labeling like stingy, selfish, greedy, racist, and uncaring. Author Lynne Truss writes that engaging in such uncivil “abuse is the weapon of the weak.” The truth is – regarding true humanitarian causes, not their political coverings – conservatives have a strong record of out-giving liberals from their personal resources, and evangelical Christians give exponentially more from them than do both liberals and non-Christian conservatives. What liberals don’t mention is that their generosity only extends to foundation spending (e.g. Ford, Annie E. Casey, John and Catherine MacArthur, Robert Wood Johnson) and confiscatory tax revenue spending; that is, other people’s money and not their own money (with the exception of the small-tax portion which a minority of liberals are forced by law to pay). They speak of fair share, but in reality about a third of adults contribute almost nothing because they pay little to no taxes; thus, fair is applied only to getting, not to giving. For fair share to be truly fair, taxes should be levied on all citizens based proportionately on income from all sources, including the freebies. Everyone should have skin in the game, as it helps assure their active participation and interest in – as well as appreciation of – the outcomes related to our common good. Indiscriminate and institutionalized giving is far more harmful than helpful. Replacing God with government does not change His role in our lives, despite the growing faulty acceptance that God and government are interchangeable providences. When something becomes too popular, that’s a certain indication that a sanity-check is overdue, and that swinging the pendulum back toward the center is necessary. To be a success, the society must be essentially Christian in its practices.

The practice of true Christianity is the best expression of, and most effective means of, relevant charity. It requires caring for the needy, both spiritually and physically, by letting God work His purposes through us as we agree with Him and yield to Him – including our purses and wallets. To accomplish these ends, Jesus promoted charitably giving out of our own blessings, time, and production; not forcibly taking from our neighbor and then giving or keeping what is not ours. That isn’t godly no matter what label it’s been accorded; and it certainly isn’t noble or wise. Such methods are neither self-sustaining nor effective, and they are more akin to theft than to charity. These are cleptoparasitic in nature; i.e. parasitism by theft, as when one animal takes food that was caught, collected, or prepared from another animal whose efforts derived it (definition paraphrased from Wikipedia). Robert Knight of the American Civil Rights Union says: “There’s something about deploying the government as a mugger to obtain the fruits of someone else’s labor that appeals to the worst in us. But it invariable leads to poverty, dishonesty and even tyranny.” John Timmer’s Dutch parents hid Jews in their house during the Holocaust. He wondered what motivated his parents to take such risks with six of their biological children in the home. John concluded that God shows compassion (aka charity, care, or welfare) to us, so we are expected to show the same to others. In taking such actions, he says, “rescuers make themselves the equal of the rescued because both are equally dependent on the compassion of God”.

Marvin Olasky asserts that making contributions because they’re tax deductible is not nearly as involved, direct, or effective as offering a room in your house to a homeless person or to a pregnant, abandoned woman. Gilt-edged liberals remotely operate their charitable practices hands-off from a safe distance, assuring that they suffer no personal cost or inconvenience while smugly basking in the reflection cast by their very public humanitarian gestures. Someone must, however, pay the real costs caused by their fallacious generosity, and it’s usually the working/ giving/caring middle class and the Christian outreach ministries. A hands-off approach is in contrast to: Let brotherly love continue.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also. (Hebrews 13: 1-3, bold text added)

 

 

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The Authentic American Dream

Every lax and easy attribution of victimhood status cheapens the genuineness of those who are truly society’s deserving and suffering members, such as terror victims, Holocaust survivors, quadriplegics, refugees seeking asylum, disabled veterans, abused and raped women, the deaf/dumb/blind, sexually assaulted children, crack babies, and those afflicted with Down syndrome and other serious congenital or acute diseases and physical malformations. There’s no shortage of truly afflicted people who desperately need and are deserving of our attention. Inviting pretenders into their numbers is not doing them any favors and it diminishes the available resources, awareness, funding/donations, and compassion. Many assumed and presumed victims are simply victims of their own bad choices or are plainly defrauding society, such as the lifetime and multi-generational welfare abusers. Other pretenders claim victimhood by playing the race card, gender card, religion card, sexual orientation preference card, and so forth, on into an eternity of minority/diversity statuses, quotas, and causes, each with their own claims of incumbent special privileges and supposedly violated or denied civil and legal rights. Identity-politics, with its superfluous creation of hyphenated minorities and special-interest groups, has done nothing for our sorely needed national integration and harmony, and it has, in reality, brought about overall cultural annihilation through the promotion and pursuit of multiculturalism and diversity objectives.

The massive increase in the welfare lifestyle/victimhood mindset may be partially gauged by a third of the adult population who consistently binge in government-provided economic benefits while paying little to nothing into the source funds via income and real estate taxes, or offering alternative contributions through volunteer work. This increase in government-sponsored indulgence continues to occur even though the standard of living has dramatically improved at all levels of society. There’s no way to fully address the nature of character in America while bypassing a discussion of government entitlement programs and their recipients. Former Senator Jim DeMint, subsequently a Heritage Foundation president, observed that in our nation’s past there were only two ways to proceed in life: the legitimate way (work hard, play by the rules, and live within your means), which led to earned success; and the illegitimate (criminal) way, which – hopefully – led to prison. Now he adds that there’s a third way: living off the largesse of big government. It is not right, but it is legal, and it has become acceptable beyond reasonability and morality. Most welfare programs no longer place much responsibility on their recipients and thus exacerbate the receivers’ moral and civic laxities.

Lifestyle choices are, unfortunately, not factored into the welfare qualification and management equations. Treating all applicants as though they are blameless victims caught in circumstances beyond their control is deliberately turning a blind eye or inattentively failing to apply minimum qualifications and monitoring. It is common practice for agencies to aggressively solicit new recipients in order to deplete, increase, and renew their annual budgets and to insure personal job security – at times even fraudulently adding friends and family to the rolls (sometimes for kickback).

The authentic American Dream is not one of intentionally growing into, and remaining, a government dependent. Governor Scott Walker points out that our opportunities for improvement and advancement may be equal, but the outcome is still up to us. Character and success are built on the dignity of work. I saw a poster that made a lasting impression upon me: “Will work for work.” That phrase connotes plenty of wisdom, not the least of which is an advocacy for performing volunteer work as a prelude to obtaining an associated paying job.

When Is It “Enough”?

Conservatives rightfully ponder whether there’s any upward limit to the growth of the welfare state or government intrusion, regulation, and expansion; that is, whether there is any point where the liberal mindset would be satisfied and willing to rest from further agitation against traditional values and fundamental processes; i.e. to disassociate from a ill-advised mindset that Marvin Olasky has variously labeled promiscuous material distribution, the subsidizing of disaffiliation, universalizing depersonalizers, a culture of delegated compassion, and false comfort (for the giver and the receiver). Each of his descriptors peels away and exposes additional layers of liberal falsehood and deceit as associated with their politically correct labeled programs. I don’t believe there is a point where leftists will say, “Entitlements and/or government are too big” or, “They are not working.” I hold the following five reasons as support for my position.

First, welfare spending is a simple-sounding solution. It sits right at the top of the stack of quickie fixes and is 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 solutions require thorough thinking, research, and implementation planning with post-execution monitoring, and doing so causes one to stand out, perhaps alone. Because these contrary solutions are opposed and ridiculed by the pack, even to the point of personal slander, advocates must be exceptionally brave and are therefore few in number. Second, it’s a practical and proven Machiavellian 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 or education are solved just by throwing money at them; they don’t know that solutions require depth 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. Factually, the money often becomes a major part of the problem. Fourth, they haven’t dealt with the three underlying issues. One is personal sin, like resentment, rebellion, and envy; sin on the part of those allocating the supporting funds and on those receiving them. The second is their genuine guilt (rooted 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 the poor. Until these two factors are recognized and addressed, they remain surreptitious negative influences. Effective remedying of sin and guilt requires responses that promote the healing of their relationships with God and man. 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. Leftists live outside of a truly righteous relationship with God and they are not motivated by biblical principles. Therefore, tax-based giving inoculates them from having to deal with the underlying truths they seek to avoid. After all, big government is their god, so let their god give; that’s what gods are for.

Olasky writes: “Cultures build systems of charity in the image of the god they worship” and “It seems that our ideas about poverty always reflect our ideas about the nature of man, which in turn are tied to ideas about the nature of God.” He goes on to say that in early America, when a theistic God of mercy and justice was the center of our policymaking, our compassion could be described as “hard-headed but warm-hearted”. To tax-and-spend, big government believers, the Christian God is like the conservative citizen: supposedly stingy or unconcerned. Recipients and proponents of everything-for-nothing politics, regulations, beliefs, and lifestyles often wrap themselves in a deceptive cloak they call social justice. It would be more difficult to sell their true objectives if they nakedly called them what they are: Communism, or one of its many insidious sister forms: Socialism, Fabianism, ultra-liberalism, Marxism (including neo-Marxism and cultural Marxism), Frankfort School Philosophy, corporate fascism, and progressivism. All these social change theories and -isms have the same underlying motivations: envy and resentment, as well as rebellion against traditional biblical standards. Claiming to promote an ambiguous and ethereal fairness, the leaders are purveyors of class and race division. Their violent reactions to fabricated hate crimes are the true, overt acts of hatred, thus removing their benign outer sheep coverings to display the ravenous wolves within. Their varying belief systems are slightly different paths to the same destination: a life filled with abiding attitude of ingratitude. Many advocates infiltrated the church, education, and legal professions during and after the 1960s, some disguising themselves as Christians and preferring to appropriate and misuse spiritual and pastoral titles such as Reverend to gain credibility – applying them far more extensively for political purpose and personal gain than for spiritual practice.

Those religious leaders endorsed by the liberal media should go unheeded by true adherents to Christianity – if not outright opposed. Genuine spiritual leadership is sourced in a personal, covenantal relationship with our Creator and its societal expression is pastoral in nature; it’s not a radical political position, a program to solely benefit a factional group, a personal fund-raising platform, nor a fleece-the-rich economic practice. These people are proponents of self-centered, contrived faith, to which they bestow coded labels like the social gospel and libertarian theology, and which they primarily apply to tangential community issues like race or class relations and welfare programs. These are perverted forms of Christianity fashioned into their own worldly image for personal gains in income, popularity, and power. It grossly distorts Jesus’ purpose by claiming, in essence, that He was a Robin Hood-like historical figure who advocated that His disciples take from, and subdue, the rich while giving to those in need, thus making Him an income redistributor just like them. It ameliorates the commandment referencing not to covet the neighbors’ goods. Jeane Kirkpatrick states: “I conclude that it is a fundamental mistake to think that salvation, justice, or virtue come through merely human institutions.” The social gospel is a precursor to Communism, and Communism is always intimately linked to atheism; it is a world system that not only ignores God, but actively hates God and opposes the body of Christ on earth. Psalm 83:2-3 warns: For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones.

The practice of true Christianity is the best expression of, and most effective means of, relevant charity. It requires caring for the needy, both spiritually and physically, by letting God work His purposes through us as we agree with Him and yield to Him – including our purses and wallets. To accomplish these ends, Jesus promoted charitably giving out of our own blessings, time, and production; not forcibly taking from our neighbor and then giving or keeping what is not ours. That isn’t godly no matter what label it’s been accorded; and it certainly isn’t noble or wise. Such methods are neither self-sustaining nor effective. Taking from others without their approval is theft, not charity. John Timmer’s Dutch parents hid Jews in their house during the Holocaust. He wondered what motivated his parents to take such risks with six of their biological children in the home. John concluded that God shows compassion (aka charity, care, or welfare) to us, so we are expected to show the same to others. In taking such actions, he says, “rescuers make themselves the equal of the rescued because both are equally dependent on the compassion of God”.

Olasky writes that making contributions because they’re tax deductible is not nearly as involved, direct, or effective as offering a room in your house to a homeless person or to a pregnant, abandoned woman. Gilt-edged liberals remotely operate their charitable practices hands-off from an insulated safe distance, assuring that they suffer no personal cost or inconvenience while smugly basking in the reflection cast by their very public humanitarian gestures. Someone must, however, pay the real costs caused by their fallacious generosity, and it’s usually the working/giving/caring middle class. Peggy Noonan writes in “How the Elites Forsake Their Countrymen” that those in power positions who enact these programs and policies see their countrymen not as countrymen but as aliens who must be anticipated and managed so that those non-elite others remain responsible for getting their hands dirty with implementation and payment of the ultimate costs. She says “affluence detaches, power adds distance to experience….there is a distance between the leaders and the led.” (For clarification, the elitists to whom Peggy and I refer are those at the pinnacle of influence in their fields who directly form public policy and opinion from places and positions like Washington D.C., Hollywood, the mainstream news media, Wall Street, the courts, and the universities – clearly not those in the middle classes who carry the entitlements load or those in the lower classes who are the beneficiaries of it.)

A Life Plan

 

I have some suggestions to help each of our personal stories, written or not, to be good ones. I may not have the track perfectly aligned, but I know I’m close and I think it has lasting expediency. I don’t say that with a cavalier attitude, because it took slow, old me a lifetime to even get this close. First, invite God in to assume His rightful place. You do that by committing your life to Him, asking for His help with important decisions, and continually seeking His guidance. Second, determine what you like to do, what you are good at doing, and what you believe in; that is, assess your talents and passions. God made you with certain unique preferences and equipped you with the specialized skills and the enabling anointing required for your particular calling. Third, keep your eyes open for opportunities along the way. As Vince Lombardi said, “Run to daylight.” God will open certain doors and close others. If you stay in touch with Him, you will be able to tell the difference between the two, and if you make a mistake, He’ll be quick to help you realign. Sometimes you require dreams, prophecies, or visions to jerk your chain and re-center you when you’re far off course. When you’re walking closely with God on a daily basis, the more spiritually extreme actions aren’t required to get your attention. It’s probably a good sign if you aren’t moving from one spiritual goose-bump experience to another. Fourth, and last, be prepared to candidly share your life stories to encourage others; this is called testifying, as in being an open and ready witness to what God has done in your life. The fourth step is paying-it-forward for what you enjoyed within the first three.

This plan may not always be easy to execute, but conceptually it’s that simple. In his cartoon series Pogo (a favorite of mine during middle school), political satirist Walt Kelly stated the plan humorously: “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.” By the grace of God, it’s easier to write a successful personal story in America today than it has been throughout previous centuries and in any other country. Dinesh D’Souza said that what is uniquely American is our access to equal rights, self-determination, and wealth creation. America has many haters internally and externally, but he shares that America is not the problem – America is the answer. Dinesh means an America characterized by the capital Cs: Christian, Conservative, Constitutional, and Capitalistic. He is not saying America is God, but that God has blessed America because it honored His biblical and covenantal principles. He knows God is the ultimate explanation. God made America a refuge for the world, especially for the Jewish people. Within that refuge, by God’s goodness, are great opportunities so that we, in turn, may fund the gospel throughout the world and participate in its propagation. That’s the big story. We just need to figure out where our own personal page fits into it.

It is more than okay to wholeheartedly pursue the planning steps I suggested; it’s what He intends us to do. When we do what we were purposed to do and enjoy what we do, we are more creative, satisfied, and productive, and we are all the more effective witnesses to His story. As He demonstrated during the six days when He conceived the universe, creativity and productivity are traits of God. Satisfaction is also His, as further demonstrated on the seventh day when He said, “It is good,” and then rested. God encourages us to rest one designated day each week; adopt this practice and do so without guilt, as it similarly yields productivity and creativity for us during the other six days.

The first third of my adulthood I got the exercise of what I’ve proposed close to entirely wrong; then in the middle third I got it about half right; and finally in the last third I got it spot-on. I can tell the difference; others probably can too. My story was a journey from naïve and unconcerned to auto-pilot liberal to oblivious fence-sitter to sincere seeker to conservative and committed Christian.

I understand there are times when life preparations or our occupations are not fun. We have to guard against confusing worthwhile with easy. We aren’t able to select or to know our story’s ending, but we can strive to stay in the race and to finish well no matter the mistakes and regrets along the way. Sometimes we are offered a do-over along the way; sometimes we aren’t. What we can control is whether we squander the time and opportunity we’re allotted and whether we add to our burden through bad choices. We are exhorted to work-out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Applying that statement broadly to the entire course of our lives, I think it simply means we have been assigned a uniquely personal mission, one that is only ours. In pursuit of it, we’ll have to keep checking with our Great Author and Planner to make the necessary adjustments to our story until we finish and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the rest that is prepared for you.”

Each of our stories is vital and worthwhile. Write your life story with chapters where you go for the gold, make the right choice, climb the mountain, enjoy the big adventure, find the love of your life, finish the race, and act the hero. Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). The end of the journey – the conclusion of our life story – is of more exemplary and eternal consequence than how we started, or about the ups and downs along the way. Strive to finish well!

In Praise of Politically Incorrect Speech

Politically correct language pretends an empathy with freedom of speech while really denying it, thus practicing censorship equating to totalitarianism or deliberate obfuscation through the use of double-speak or Orwellian newspeak euphemisms. The primary intentions and outcomes of such speech are indoctrination and subjugation.

Political correctness should be relabeled cultural Marxism, because many of its adherents deliberately erode fundamental American and Christian values in favor of the communist values like those of the Frankfurt school of ideology. Politically correct speech is not practiced by, nor characteristic of, those holding traditional or conservative views, since they are known to continue endorsing what’s already proven by time and experience. Rather, it is widely and frequently employed by those advocating ultra-liberal, deconstructionist, elite progressive, and communist-leaning views. Proponents of P.C. speech use it to facilitate change, and subsequently intend to permanently secure the resulting change by acting as though it were, indeed, always the superior and natural order of life. Hypotheses and untruths are promoted as facts until they erroneously become accepted as facts. Existing and alternative ideas and speech are labeled with mean-spirited expressions such as ignorant, regressive, uneducated, curmudgeonly, and provincial in order to dismiss them as without credibility and thus deny them any further opportunity for expression or consideration. Free thinking and open dialog, continued research, dissent, and discussion are thereafter repressed and eliminated. Two sure signs of a weak concept or program are: first, if its existence or acceptance cannot withstand any competition; and second, if it’s dependent on the protection mustered by a rigid P.C. code encircling it like a thick fortress wall guaranteeing the restrictive presence of a “safe zone” with freedom from any vague “micro-aggressions”.

Politically correct concepts are aggressively enforced dogmatically on university campuses, and from their classrooms they filter into books, texts, journalism, newspapers, theses, literature, and K-12 education, and even into our laws, regulations, and courts. Politically correct methodology is frequently leveraged against proponents of, and topics pertaining to, creationism, pro-life, school vouchers, welfare alternatives, freedom of religious expression, traditional marriage, sexual morality, educational choice, natural gender differentiation, strict Constitutional construction, support for the State of Israel, absolute values, environmental issues, abstinence education, the Second Amendment, and anything relating to a Supreme Being.

Politically correct concepts are riddled with dogmatic contradictions, the only consistency being their lack of logic. Examples of their contradictions are: the rejection of Christianity as too religious, while embracing neo-paganism, atheism, humanism, Satanism, magic, and witchcraft – all of which are religious in nature and practice; rejection of the obvious proofs offered by a wondrous and complex universe or biological cell while embracing far-fetched and just-plain-silly alternative hypotheses as fact; and rejection of innocent, unborn human life while attempting to prolong the lives of convicted serial killers and protect endangered insects.

Mobocracy in Madison

In my home state of Wisconsin during 2013-2014, unionized teachers and other unionized state employees binged for months in and around the capital building at Madison. They indulged in uncouth, lawless, selfish, obscene, and destructive mobocracy during their prolonged attempt to literally take down the legitimately elected government and discredit its majority-passed legislation. Their bullying was thought justified because they felt entitled to a continuation of ever-increasing benefits without any associated productivity standards, personal contributions, or merit-based performance measurements. They entered into acts of violent resistance and attitudes of mindless insistence, despite the fact that the state government was drowning in red ink because of their past history of receiving special privileges. Many of the paid thugs were shipped in from all around the country and were not even direct stakeholders; they represented the larger global agenda of the moldy, old dictatorship of the proletariat. The private sector had already peacefully accepted and successfully adapted to fiscal responsibility, belt-tightening, productivity demands, performance-based incentives, and spending cuts two decades earlier. Greater detail about the related, shameful circumstances are in Governor Scott Walker’s book Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge. Twenty years earlier, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani suffered an unjustified fate similar to Governor Walker’s as he also undertook effective measures to reduce out-of-control entitlement spending and bloated debt in the nation’s largest city.

Capitalism & Christianity

The true Christian way is, indeed, to care for the poor and needy, both spiritually and physically, by letting God work His purposes through us as we agree with Him and yield to Him – including our purses and wallets. To accomplish these ends, Jesus promoted charitably giving out of our own blessings, time, and production; not forcibly taking from our neighbor and then giving or keeping what is not ours. That isn’t godly no matter what label it’s been accorded; and it certainly isn’t noble or wise. Such methods are neither self-sustaining nor effective. Taking from others without their approval is theft, not charity. Capitalism is a better approach, but it is not Christianity; it is, however, built upon the biblical principles of labor, production, investment, research, initiative, and creativity. These are God’s ways, as He demonstrated throughout Genesis, where we see the dignity and value of work. Capitalism does best in a nation adhering to Christian principles. It’s why America is the greatest land of opportunity and affluence in all history, why peoples the world over are still coming here century after century, and why they rarely go back with their earnings after succeeding here. Capitalism also does best when the means of production are fully in private hands. When government controls and/or owns the means, it is not true capitalism. It’s been labeled corporate fascism because inefficient, greedy, regulation-prone, controlling, reactionary, prejudiced, and unseasoned bureaucrats operate the economy from a myopic fair-share agenda. Ayn Rand exposes this concept effectively in her classic Atlas Shrugged.

Each of Us Makes a Difference

We need to progress to the business of building our character around the absolute truths of self-responsibility and everyday common virtue (statement paraphrased from A Nation of Victims by Charles J. Sykes). The positive societal contributions of good character, and the negative consequences of its alarming decline in America today – especially as it relates to the public education system and to public/government service – are two sides of a single critical issue. These contributions and consequences may generate a cause-and-effect nature that continues beyond and outside of our own singular life. This is comparable to the familiar ripples-in-the-pond analogy.  In other words, each one of us does make a difference in the world around us. An unforgettable story illustrating this aspect was researched and presented by Bill Gothard of the Institute in Basic Life Principles. He speaks of two specific Englishmen who founded families in the eighteenth century. One man led a selfless life, and generation after generation of his posterity was documented as being heavily populated by doctors, lawyers, and ministers. The other led a life of depravity and crime, and generation after generation of his posterity was documented as being heavily populated by rapists, murderers, and thieves.

Writing the Story of Your Life

Toward a Happy and Productive New Year:

Although some may never write a book, we’re all composing a personal, nonfiction story. It’s the story of our life. Others read our story when they witness how we live. When that occurs, we are all teachers or storytellers, knowingly and willingly or not. As our story unfolds, it’s merged into the larger story, God’s story.  You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; you are manifestly an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, on the heart.  Corinthians II 3:2-3 NKJV

The promotional description for Scott McClellan’s book, Tell Me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) Through Narrative, states the following: “Jesus called His followers witnesses. We are, in fact, witnesses to His unfolding story. This story is not only our calling; it’s the next generation’s best chance of identifying with the Church and changing the world. As we become storytellers, we learn to see the world in terms of stories being lived and told. We discover deeper insights into God, ourselves, and others.”

I am not referring to actually committing our stories to writing (that is, composing our autobiographies), but professional storywriter Donald Miller does recommend something closely approaching that outcome in his essay “How to Tell a Story.” He justifies writing it as a worthwhile exercise for everyone: “We are all on a journey, of course. We all want things for ourselves and our families and those desires launch us into stories. And stories are filled with risk and fear and joy and pain. In each of our stories, friends and guides have passed through and those friends have taught us things.” Miller continues this line of thought by adding personal reflection: “The point of any story is always character transformation. I am so grateful to have studied story if for no other reason than it’s helped me realize how much I’ve changed over the years as a human being. Story has given beauty and meaning to my life because it’s no longer passing by without me reflecting on it and noting its positive and negative turns and what those turns have done to me to make me a better person. I believe it’s true every person should write their memoir if for no other reason than it helps them understand who they are, what’s happened to them and who it is their lives have caused them to become. A person who understands themselves is easier to connect with, more settled and, most importantly, can see how their story interconnects with the stories of others.”

Writing for the grammarly.com blog, Allison VanNest expresses a similar sentiment to Miller’s. Stated more succinctly, she says: “The most valuable thing you have to offer is the story only you can tell.” By this, she seems to be expressing two convictions: that each life is a story possessing unique meaning and purpose, and thus it is worthwhile sharing; and that those who are creative storytellers with tales of fiction or nonfiction inside should seek either verbal or written expression.

Intentionally or not, personal character traits – good and bad – are woven intricately throughout our stories. Regarding this dichotomy, John Steinbeck offers a thought-provoking commentary that illustrates how society observes character. In his mini-novel Cannery Row, his protagonist, Doc (based on his close friend Ed Ricketts), states: “It has always seemed strange to me … The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.” Applying this on an individual level illustrates the continuous battle within everyone’s heart as we make the many character-defining decisions and choices that cumulatively create the essence and legacy of our lives.

During the lengthy experience of researching, sharing, and writing these stories, the following opportune definition emerged for uncommon character: exercising personal responsibility when no one is watching, when it costs or hurts us to do so, when we may have to act entirely alone, and when it benefits others – even our enemies – more than self.  Therein is outlined a most worthy goal for every individual; a goal which has been met by the heroes comprising Stories of Uncommon Character.

Upon examining their progression from ordinary to extraordinary, the people in this book emerge as role models and mentors; and although our lives may not yet compare to theirs, the long-term plan is to embrace the Apostle Paul’s admonishment: “…Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). The end of the journey – the conclusion of our life story – is of more exemplary and eternal consequence than how we started or about the ups and downs along the way.  Strive to finish well!

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