Students and coaches, welcome to the 2009 Master’s event. I am very sorry that I cannot be with you this week. My prayers are with you, though, and no doubt this week will one of the benchmarks of your life. Indeed, nothing more important in this country is happening this week than what is happening in your conference! And I know what is happening in Washington D.C.!
Many of us talk about apologetics and a few of us are able even to do it. But no one is doing apologetics more effectively, more consistently, more often, with more students, than Teresa Moon. She and her work are quietly transforming the world view of a nation. Congratulations for being a part of that great effort.
Mrs. Moon (Teresa) asked me to present a few words to you.
Our country is in crisis. It really is.
In the ACT II of Arthur Millerâ€™s 1950ish anti-Red Scare play, The Crucible, the adulterer protagonist John Proctor is comforted by his forgiving wife Elizabeth.
John Proctor cries, â€œLet you think of the goodness in me, Elizabeth, and judge me not!â€
Elizabeth Proctor quietly responds, â€œJohn, I never thought you but a good man, but somewhat bewildered!â€
I love my country and it is a good country. I think of and I celebrate its goodness. I love America. But it certainly is bewildered!
Os Guinness, scholar and author, in his book Beyond the Culture Wars, argues that America is in trouble. He says that America is undergoing the fourth major crisis in its history. â€œUnder the impact of modernity, the beliefs, ideals and traditions that have been central to Americans and to American democracy . . . are losing their compelling cultural power.â€ Guiness reaches a disturbing conclusion: Americaâ€™s problem is much deeper than certain discrete problems such as family breakdown, the deficit, drugs, AIDS, discipline in the schools, or crime. . . there is a crisis of cultural authority which means that once inspired, disciplined, and restrained Americans have lost their binding addresses, their inner compelling power to shape culture. . . One of Americaâ€™s greatest achievements and special needs has been to create . . . a widely shared, almost universal, agreement on what accords with the common ideals and interests of America and Americans . . . shared ideals, such as honesty and loyalty; shared commitments, such as the place of public service; and shared understandings, such as the relation of religion and public life.â€ In short, Guinness argues that America has lost its soul; has lost its ability to affect its future in a productive way.
That is one of your most important challenges, young people and coaches: to create a new generation of leaders, or to be a new generation of leaders, who will shepherd our nation throughout the dangerous two or three decades of this new century.
You must not merely speakers of the Word, but you must be doers of the Word also.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to communicate with an unsaved world, a world with whom we have so little commonality. For instance, many of my public school students openly talk about promiscuity. Being married to one woman, all my life, and having all my experience in that area, centered on this one person, I find it difficult to empathize with their struggles, and certainly I would never sympathize with their struggles. In that sense, we have different myths defining our identities.
Joseph Campbell reminds us that myths define a culture. We all have certain myths that more or less define who we are. Myths may be true or not, but they are at the root of how we relate to our world. In 2009 America, there was no collective memory, no commonality. There is nostalgia, but no memory. Theologian Walter Brueggemann in his seminal book Hope in History argues that Americans swoon over â€œthe good old days.â€ In fact they worship â€œthe good old daysâ€ without really understanding that investment that our forefathers made in their Judeo-Christian traditions that made that possible. 21st century reformers forget, for instance, that Martin Luther King, Jr., was a born again Baptist pastor. They only remember his Civil Rights marches. Memory learns from the past; nostalgia tries to retrieve the past. We need to remember and to honor the past, but be open to new paradigms as they emerge. Indeed, we need to create a few of these new paradigms!
The â€œnostalgiaâ€ that grips our nation does not mitigate its profound rage, and at the heart of this countryâ€™s rage, is its hopelessness.
Captain Ahab in Herman Melvilleâ€™s Moby Dick is on a vendetta quest to destroy the famous white whale, Moby Dick. But his quest is far more malevolent than a revenge quest..
Early in the novel the first mate, Starbuck confronts Ahad, â€œTo be enraged with a dumb brute that acted out of blind instinct is blasphemous.â€
Captain Ahab responds, â€œSpeak not to me of blasphemy, man; Iâ€™d strike the sun if it insulted me. Look ye, Starbuck, all visible objects are but as pasteboard masks. Some inscrutable yet reasoning thing puts forth the molding of their features. The white whale tasks me; he heaps me. Yet he is but a mask. â€˜Tis the thing behind the mask I chiefly hate; the malignant thing that has plagued mankind since time began; the thing that maws and mutilates our race, not killing us outright but letting us live on, with half a heart and half a lung.â€
Ahab no longer knows a loving, sustaining God. Ahabâ€™s â€œpowerâ€ behind nature is a â€œmalignant thing that has plagued mankind since time began.â€
Elie Wiesel lost his faith in the fires of Auschwitz. Ahab lost his faith in an insane quest against a dumb animal. Where did 2009 America lose its faith and therefore its hope?
Today, in our country, we have lost a lot of our abiding, ubiquitous myths. No one believes that there are absolute values, for instance, which is at the heart of the American experience. No one respects authority. And so forth.