The Patriot – Epilogue
The mess in which we find ourselves today is of our own doing—well ours and our parents’ and our grandparents’. Few of us actually tended to our republic as Ben Franklin had admonished. We did not take our responsibilities for self-government very seriously, and essentially left governance to others. Understand … I am speaking in generalities.
I wrote in Patriot.01 – A Patriot’s Baseline, of how my generation, born in the 50’s, came into a world where American capital was high. We were the hero-nation of WWII, the country that had swooped in and rescued Europe from that poster boy for evil—Adolph Hitler. We thought very highly of ourselves, and in many ways, had earned the right to think and feel that way.
And yet, lurking in the background, the seeds of nationalism had already taken root, planted perhaps in the Wilson era, or maybe even before. In fact, at the very beginning of the nineteenth century, on January 1st, 1801, Rev. Moses C. Welch preached a sermon at his church in North Mansfield, Connecticut. His message is titled A Century Sermon. Bearing in mind that this message was delivered over 200 years ago, consider this small excerpt:
“… at the close of the nineteenth century, when infidelity is sunk forever—when the wilderness of America shall become a fruitful field—when the banner of the cross shall be displayed from the Atlantic, through the vast tract, even, to the shores of the Pacific Ocean—when the Lord shall have planted flourishing churches all over this land … then shall you look down from heaven and, with adoring angels, admire the works of God …”
I could easily devote an entire blog post to this short blurb from Welch’s message, delivered 211 years ago. You cannot question the man’s vision. He saw something of the future. And I wonder, if scattered amongst the good seeds sown in that sermon, we might also find some seeds of our own destruction. I do not doubt or question for an instant that God had a plan for America. And I believe he still does. But I can also see now, with the benefit of hindsight, how easy it is, with just a slight turn off course, to become sidetracked down the wrong path. Consider these historic abberations:
- 1840’s – Manifest Destiny: A quote from the July-August, 1845 issue of United States Magazine and Democratic Review reads, “… our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our multiplying millions.” (Note: the image above is titled American Progress)
- 1899 – The White Man’s Burden: In his 1899 poem, The White Man’s Burden, Rudyard Kipling promotes the idea that the white man had a responsibility to serve the world by exporting western culture through colonization. His opponents called his writing racist and imperialistic.
- 1917 – Making The World Safe For Democracy: On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson spoke before a joint session of Congress, seeking a Declaration of War against Germany. He argued that with America’s entry into the war, the world would “be made safe for democracy.”
- 1968 – Redeemer Nation: Writer Ernest Lee Tuveson penned a book of this title in 1968. In it he explores the historic, almost messianic role of America in world history.
- 2000’s – Nation-Building: President George W. Bush went from being an opponent of nation building to being a nation builder himself. (Note: Personally, I am still working through this one, but placed in the context of the other historic abberations above, this too now seems to me like a bad idea).
I believe in American exceptionalism. I believe that because of the manner in which our forefathers and founders implemented their ideas of self-government, we inherited not only an amazing document in the U.S. Constitution, but also a collection of ideas about God, man, and government that trump anything and everything else in the history of mankind—save ancient Israel—the Israel of the Old Testament.
As American patriots, we have a responsibility to pursue and embrace the truth wherever it might lead. In so doing, we must fight our way through the many distortions of patriotism and find that narrow path to what matters most. I submit that at the end of this story, we must emerge as lovers of our country, and of the ideas of true, small government, republicanism (small r). It is indeed a tricky course.
Both the Bible and history in general attest to the idea that God does indeed raise up specially called individuals to lead us through critical moments. But I am also wary of the temptations of personality-driven politics, which is fraught with incredible danger. Let us walk carefully and wisely.
Thank you for reading …