Archive for history
Review of Malcolm D. Magee, What the World Should Be: Woodrow Wilson and the Crafting of a Faith-Based Foreign Policy (Baylor University Press, 2008), x + 189 pgs., hardcover.
Although I purchased this book soon after it was published, other commitments compelled me to add it to my mountainous stack of books “to be read.” Since this year is the one hundredth anniversary of World War I, and I have already reviewed two books on World War I (Jack Beatty’s The Lost History of 1914 and Philip Jenkins’ The Great and Holy War), I figured that if I was ever going to read What the World Should Be, I might as well read it this year.
George W. Bush was not the first president to have a “faith-based” foreign policy. Most people know that Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) was the U.S. president from 1913 to 1921. Some perhaps know that he was the governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. But few probably know that he was the son of a Presbyterian minister, president of Princeton University—then a Presbyterian institution that had always been headed by clergymen until Wilson—from 1902 to 1910, and had a faith-based policy of his own.
But like the faith-based foreign policy of Bush, Wilson’s was shaped by a defective faith.
“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire. This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
Whether or not you like Rob Bell – I think he can be a mixed bag at times – you have to appreciate the insight of this quote regarding empire in Scripture. We frequently discount from our 21st century Western perspective just how dire things often are for the people of Scripture, and just how much they had to depend on God for providence and protection. We can thank God for how blessed we really are with the amazing operations of free market capitalism (NOT government!) and reflect upon how the Bible continues to speak to the oppressed today. Thanks for the tip, Bonnie and Rob!
English Baptist minister Robert Hall (1764-1831) was the namesake and youngest child of fourteen born to a Baptist minister. One website recounts his life thusly:
He was an accomplished theologian at the tender age of nine, having then mastered (among other works) “Edwards on the Will” and Butler’s “Analogy.” Notwithstanding such precocity, he did not prove to be a fool, but was one of the few “remarkable children” who turn out really remarkable men. In his fifteenth year he began his series of studies for the ministry at Bristol College, where his progress in learning was rapid; but as a preacher he seemed likely to be a failure. On his first public trial he repeatedly broke down, through an excessive sensibility that made public speech an agony to him, almost an impossibility. He mastered this weakness, however, and thenceforth steadily increased in power as an orator. Four years spent at King’s College, Aberdeen, where he was first in all his classes, brought him to his majority. His pastorates were at Cambridge, Leicester, and Bristol, and in each city his ministry was greatly successful. Many of his sermons were printed and had a wide circulation. No preacher of his time was more highly esteemed by the leaders of thought in Great Britain. Hall was master of an ornate and stately kind of eloquence long extinct in the pulpit, much esteemed in its day and perhaps too little esteemed now. To the present generation his sentences seem cumbrous, his style is pronounced affected and stilted, his tropes frigid. Indeed, the reader of today is at a loss to understand how his sermons could ever have won such encomiums as they received. Yet at his death, in 1831, it was universally agreed that one of the greatest lights of the pulpit had been extinguished.
Hall’s legacy as a popular preacher and cultural celebrity is now largely unknown. His Works, which were widely read in the nineteenth-century, are now rarely cited. Those who today walk by the statue of Hall in the middle of De Monfort Square in Leicester, England, certainly have no idea who he was. Hall was a defender of religious liberty, freedom of the press, and peace. The occasion of his sermon on war was the Day of Thanksgiving throughout England that was proclaimed for June 1, 1802, after the signing of the Treaty of Amiens in March that temporarily ended hostilities between France and Great Britain during the French Revolutionary Wars. I have transcribed the sermon from The Works of Robert Hall, A.M. (Vol. I, 4th ed., London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1834, pp. 81-121). – Laurence M. Vance
Texas House Representative David Simpson delivered the following speech on October 8, 2014 at a Students For Liberty Event in Houston. This text was originally published at the SFL website. Rep. Simpson also recently was a keynote speaker for the first Christians for Liberty Conference. You can visit David’s website here.
We are here today to celebrate the next generation of pro-liberty leaders. In so doing I want to link pro-liberty leaders with America’s greatness.
America’s greatness is often depicted in its natural resources and so we sing: “O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!” But America’s greatness lies not merely in the blessings of its rich resources of oil and gas, and farmland, but most of all within its people!
A people bound together by an idea, but even more than that, a conviction and recognition that individuals are endowed with certain inalienable rights—rights that cannot be severed from our being without doing violence to their humanity.
One would think that if there is any group of people that would be opposed to war it would be Christians. After all, they claim to worship the Prince of Peace. But such is not the case now, and such was not the case 100 years ago during the Great War that we now call World War I.
I have often pointed out how strange it is that Christians should be so accepting of war. War is the greatest suppressor of civil liberties. War is the greatest creator of widows and orphans. War is the greatest destroyer of religion, morality, and decency. War is the greatest creator of fertile ground for genocides and atrocities. War is the greatest destroyer of families and young lives. War is the greatest creator of famine, disease, and homelessness. War is the health of the state.
Just as it was easy for the state to enlist the support of Christians for the Cold and Vietnam Wars against “godless communism,” so it is easy now for the state to garner Christian support for the War on Terror against “Islamic extremists.” But World War I was a Christian slaughterhouse. It was Christian vs. Christian, Protestant vs. Protestant, Catholic vs. Catholic. And to a lesser extent, it was also Jew vs. Jew and Muslim vs. Muslim.