In the interest of serving all our readers, I try to refrain from commenting on local news. However, after Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome ankle injury in last Sunday’s game, a story so impressed me that I wanted to share it. Dak’s neighbors put a huge sign in front of his house with giant letters in Cowboys colors. The top line reads, “GET WELL SOON.” The line below it reads, “YOUR NEIGHBORS.”
In these days of pandemic pain and distress, it’s worth remembering the good in our communities and culture.
Here’s another example: Kevin Williamson notes in National Review that “every Nobel Prize in 2020 was awarded either to an American, a team of Americans, or a team with an American member. Not bad for a group of people comprising 4 percent of the world’s population.”
This week’s Apple unveiling of the newest iPhone is just one example of American high tech. Amazon’s Prime Day is another. Disney’s escalating leadership in streaming-video services is yet another. The fact that all three companies are multinational but headquartered in the US makes my point.
Good news for religious freedom
There’s even good news on the religious freedom front.
A federal court ruled that the District of Columbia’s coronavirus restrictions violated Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s religious-exercise rights. The church has been meeting outdoors and observing all social distancing and mask-wearing standards. The District, however, has banned all religious gatherings over one hundred people, though the mayor appeared at a huge anti-racism rally in June and her office has not enforced its own ban on other gatherings of more than fifty people.
The District argued that Capitol Hill could have broken into smaller groups or met online. However, the judge correctly noted that the District “ignores the church’s sincerely held (and undisputed) belief about the theological importance of gathering in person as a full congregation.” He added that “it is not for [the District] to say” that such beliefs “are mistaken or insubstantial.”
In related news, a US district court sided with Fuller Seminary against two students who claimed that the school violated anti-discrimination laws by expelling them for being in same-sex marriages. This is a very significant victory for evangelical schools who wish to uphold biblical standards regarding sexuality and morality.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from discrimination based on sex in educational programs that receive federal financial assistance. As a result, many of us had been afraid that evangelical schools would be forced to abandon biblical morality or forego federal funding. The court’s ruling is good news with regard to our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion.
How America’s past encourages our present
Wherever you live, it’s good to remember the good about where you live.
For example, today is April 15 in America—or at least it seems that way. The Internal Revenue Service extended the federal income tax return filing deadline for individuals by six months, meaning today is the day for millions of my fellow citizens to pay their taxes to the government. The good news is that our income taxes help fund national defense, Social Security, Medicare, health programs, veterans benefits and services, and social safety net programs for disabled, lower-income, and older Americans.
It is also encouraging to remember in these difficult and divisive times that we’ve been here before. George Friedman, one of the most perceptive geopolitical analysts of our day, reminded us of this fact in his latest article.
Friedman remembers the 1960s and 1970s, when national conflicts over the Vietnam War dominated our culture. He states that President Johnson was regarded by his critics as a baby killer and the war as a tool to enrich defense companies.
Opponents of the war, conversely, were viewed by their critics as tools of the communists and haters of America. The counterculture saw our nation as fundamentally corrupt, while middle America saw the counterculture as “degenerates who were destroying the fabric of America by rejecting everything that was decent and honorable.”
Our culture was dominated by the “passionate belief that anyone who differed from oneself was deeply flawed and likely despicable.” But we survived those dark days. Friedman assures us: “The United States is far too robust, and far too resilient, for the passions of the moment to destroy it. If it weren’t, it would have been destroyed long ago. Robert E. Lee couldn’t break the union, and he had a powerful military behind him. Joe McCarthy and the anti-war movement couldn’t do it. The current cast of characters certainly can’t do it.”
He therefore concludes: “For those who have never lived through this, they have never seen passion like this. For those who have lived through it before, it’s more of the same.”
A Cuban pastor’s wisdom
America is, of course, not the only nation blessed by God. Our people are not the only people loved by God (cf. John 3:16). But to the degree that we are endowed with natural resources, productive and resilient people, and blessings of liberty, I believe it behooves us to ask why.
A few years ago, I learned something significant about America from a Cuban pastor. This longtime friend was in Dallas to speak at my church. We were having dinner together when he made this statement: “I know why God has blessed America.” We all waited for his explanation. He looked at each of us in turn and said, “God has blessed America so America’s Christians can bless the world.”
What resources has your Father entrusted to you? Are you using them with excellence (Daniel 6:3; Philippians 4:8) for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and the good of others (1 Peter 4:10)?
Philosopher and psychologist William James made this interesting observation: “We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.”
What is your cause today?