I am writing this morning’s Daily Article in a sleep-deprived state yet again. For the last three nights, I have stayed up to watch the Texas Rangers play in the World Series. I am happy to report that they rewarded my support by winning the world championship last night.
It seems appropriate that our team won its first title on the anniversary of the night the Chicago Cubs snapped their “curse” in 2016 by winning their first title since 1908. It hasn’t been that long for the Texas Rangers to win a World Series—it just seemed that way. But our team’s fans are overjoyed, though weary, this morning.
Why is this?
And how is this conversation relevant to our war-torn, conflicted culture?
FBI director warns of threats against Americans
When we watch sports on television, we can trust what we see with our own eyes. We don’t need anyone to tell us who won and lost since we experience the event in real time.
There was a day when many could say the same about their daily lives as they intersected the world at large. When most of us lived on farms or in small towns, most of what affected us directly was around us, from the weather to our families, schools, customers, employers, and employees. We were never truly exempt from world events: after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, my father went from a small town in Kansas to fighting the Japanese in World War II. But most of what happened to us on a daily basis resulted from a much smaller world, one we could understand and had a hand in controlling.
Now it seems the world at large affects us in ways we did not choose, cannot control, and struggle to understand. For example, the FBI director testified this week that the Israel-Hamas war has raised the potential for an attack against Americans at home. The agency is concerned about violent extremists or lone actors inspired by hateful messages and calls for violence.
Our trust in government, universities, and the media continues to decline, while an increasing number of parents are choosing to homeschool their children. These trends reflect my point: we are losing confidence in what we do not control. And we feel that we can control less and less each day.
“A single journey of liberation and improvement”
These facts were crystalized for me in reading a recent Foreign Affairs essay by Charles King, a Georgetown University professor of international affairs and government. He profiles Walt Rostow, a longtime presidential advisor, author, and economist who popularized the “modernization theory” that countries follow predictable stages as they embrace or reject democracy and capitalism.
Rostow assured Americans that history, common sense, and human nature are inevitably on our side as consumerism enables social transformations that lead other nations to align with our values. King describes this view: “The grand sweep of social and economic change was a single journey of liberation and improvement, one that any country or culture might choose to join.” Rostow consequently predicted a world filled with “mature powers” like the US.
According to King, the strategies of our political leaders across recent generations were informed by Rostow’s worldview. Iraq and Afghanistan are just two examples of many where we sought to enable nations to embrace democracy and capitalism, confident that they would then join us in forging a global community of peace and prosperity.
While few of us have heard of Rostow, our society is imbued with this optimistic expectation that history’s arc is bending in our direction. But history is proving uncooperative. Russia has reverted from democracy to Putin’s tsarist autocracy; China has regressed from open markets to Xi’s oppressive communism; the Taliban are back in charge in Afghanistan; Hamas and its jihadist partners openly repudiate secular democracy and seek to build an Islamic theocracy.
Meanwhile, we watch as college students celebrate Hamas’s invasion of Israel and politicians champion socialism while castigating America as a racist project. In a culture that increasingly rejects traditional ethics and condemns biblical morality as dangerous, we grieve for our nation and worry about the future for our children and grandchildren.
It’s unsurprising that diversions like Halloween, televised sports, social media, and binge-watching TV shows are so popular.
“Your way is the best way for me”
Here’s where Rostow’s influential worldview fell short: it didn’t ask, in famed psychologist Karl Menninger’s iconic words, “Whatever became of sin?” God answered his question long ago: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Our heart problem is the heart of the problem.
This is why, to be at peace with ourselves, others, and God, we must be at peace with “the Lord of peace” who alone can “give you peace at all times in every way” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). Isaiah’s prayer is our invitation: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). This is why the prophet called us to “trust in the Lᴏʀᴅ forever, for the Lᴏʀᴅ Gᴏᴅ is an everlasting rock” (v. 4).
If the Lord were more your “rock” today than yesterday, what would you need to change?
To that end, I invite you to pray these words from Henri Nouwen with me today:
I am full of wishes,
full of desires,
full of expectations.
Some of them may be realized, many may not,
but in the midst of all my satisfactions
I hope in you.
I know that you will never leave me alone
and will fulfill your divine promises.
Even when it seems that things are not going my way,
I know that they are going your way
and that, in the end, your way is the
best way for me.
O Lord, strengthen my hope,
especially when my many wishes are not fulfilled.
Let me never forget that your name is Love.