Alexander Hamilton

 

hamilton 

“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Psalm 130:3,4

My daughter and I went to the play Hamilton last year. It is a cultural success and garnered many awards. It is fast paced. I regret that I didn’t do any homework beforehand to enjoy it even more.

Lin-Manuel Miranda created the musical based on the biography of Hamilton by Ron Chernow.  The entire cast, save the villain King George III, are minorities – either African American, Black, Asian American or Latino – which made it a centerpiece for cultural conversation. It is now on Disney+ so it’s not necessary to mortgage your house to see it.

My daughter recently gave me Kevin Cloud’s book,  God and Hamilton.  It came at just the right time. I have pondered the latest push by progressives to revise American history into a single narrative of racism and slavery by things like The 1619 Project. Despite being widely rejected by historians as inaccurate, it is being taught in public schools.

This revisionist push puts the racial narrative over everything else. Yet the founding of our country faced many issues besides slavery in the formation of our country. It also ignores the disparate treatment of women’s rights. Some of those inequalities exist today.

Which brings me back to Hamilton, the man.  He may have been the most important person in the founding of our country to never become President. The fact that he accomplished anything is miraculous.

An illegitimate child, Hamilton was born in the West Indies. Chernow notes Hamilton’s early life was filled with tragedies: “[His] father vanished, their mother had died, their cousin and supposed protector had committed bloody suicide, and their aunt, uncle and grandmother had all died.”

Not an auspicious beginning. Hamilton’s early writings caught the attention of local businessmen who sponsored him to go to America to be educated when he was seventeen.  As Cloud notes, that was a picture of grace.  Where would we be without the grace of God?

Throughout his life, Hamilton was ashamed of his illegitimate beginning.  He felt like a leper from biblical times, an outsider. “Unworthy. Unaccepted. Unloved.” These are biblical themes:  Grace and shame.

Hamilton’s faith started early, and he composed hymns while young.  Chernow writes that “the faith of his youth returned to Hamilton in his final years.”

Hamilton’s life was a study of contrast, or as Cloud notes, he was both sinner and saint. Cloud says that he was a “brilliant, passionate and driven man”.

He served in the Army under George Washington during the American Revolution and then transitioned from the violence of a revolution to creating a peaceful and democratic form of government. No easy task.

The Founders drafted the Constitution which created the first federalist system. Several Founders wrote what is known as the Federalist Papers, 85 in all.  Hamilton authored or co-authored most of them, a prodigious feat. They provide a detailed narrative into the considerations of why and how the Constitution is to work.

According to Cloud, all Founding Fathers “possessed significant flaws…in their lives and leadership”.  For Hamilton, that included having an affair with Maria Reynolds. He was blackmailed by Maria’s husband. When found out, he did the unthinkable by writing “The Reynolds Pamphlet” about his failure, which inspired a song in the play.

Most Founding Fathers owned slaves. The statement that “All men are created equal”  in the Declaration of Independence seems contradictory, but it is clearly aspirational.

Slavery was an embarrassment that seemed to violate the founding principles of our nation. Hamilton opposed slavery but realized that the founding of the nation required a compromise that could be fixed later.

But life is like that. Not everything is perfect out of the box.  Our lives are like that. One historian said that we need to acknowledge both sides of these men’s lives.  Even Washington, in his farewell address, painted himself as “human” and “capable of mistakes.”

What the Founders did was to produce “a more perfect union.”  Not a perfect union, but one that could be made better in time. They created a system of government that could correct past failures in the future.

When the Civil War broke out, President Lincoln in his 1854 Peoria speech said that, while the Founding Fathers originally left the slavery question alone, they left the door open for its “ultimate extinction.”

That extinction came with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which set the stage to eliminate slavery in America in 1863 before the Civil War was complete. Our country has struggled with continuing racism, so the battle is not over.

Hamilton and the Founders set the stage for equality – for both women and minorities. There is still ground to gain, but we cannot be silent about a revisionist history that ignores how our country was started.

As Lynde Langdon writes, the play Hamilton “stays unashamedly patriotic, celebrating the U.S. political system despite the flaws of the people who built it.”

Our challenge is that the revisionist history is being taught in our school systems, and the next generation is being fed a false narrative. We need to counter that with historical truth.  The story of Alexander Hamilton is a good example of historical accuracy.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation would do well to watch Hamilton now that it is available on-line. Encourage your mentee to watch it or give them a copy of God and Hamilton to read.

FURTHER READINGHow Lincoln and the Founders Viewed Slavery and the Constitution – NR

God and Hamilton – Kevin Cloud

The Federalist Papers

Alexander Hamilton  Ron Chernow

How Women’s Suffrage Changed America – WSJ

MUSIC: The Reynolds Pamphlet – From the musical, Hamilton.

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Offensive

offense

You may think everything you do is right, but the Lord judges your motives. Proverbs 16:2 (GNT)

Offensive is used in a lot of contexts. In sports, being on offense is the description of having the ball and trying to score, as opposed to being on defense which is to prevent scoring. So, you have your offensive players (and schemes), and defensive players. Pretty simple.

In a cultural context, it is used to describe something one doesn’t like, as in “that’s offensive”.  No teams are involved. It’s an individual sport. Our culture has taken it to a new level, and things on campus that someone deems “offensive” are often labeled “hate speech”.  People with alternative views are not permitted to speak, either by students or the faculty.

An example was the one I cited in my post Culture Wars, where the liberal arts faculty at Penn State University were forced to retract a tweet which was intended to be inclusive by listing a broad variety of groups as all being significant and welcome. The list included blacks, Latinos, Asians, LBGTQ+ groups, …….and conservatives.

The uproar from the students over including conservatives caused a retraction. They considered it offensive. That’s the thought police at work. It is a danger to our culture and to our freedoms of expression.

Jean Twenge addressed this as being the “dark side of tolerance.” What began with a good intention of being inclusive by not offending anyone leads (“at best”) to an unwillingness to explore deep issues. “At worst”, it results in having careers destroyed by a comment found offensive and the silencing of alternative viewpoints.

What has caused this?  I’ve studied this phenomenon a lot, and while I don’t have all the answers, I have some ideas.  Part of it is the educational system that for years has emphasized self-esteem to the exclusion of real-world competitiveness. Everyone gets a participation trophy, from the best to the worst.   There are no winners or losers.

Out of nowhere, the term “trigger warnings” and safe spaces were created on college campuses across the country to protect students from “offensive” speech.

We have also coddled a generation of kids with well-intentioned parenting styles such as the helicopter parent, or even the lawn mower parent. The latter is a parenting style that consists of the parent attempting to mow down every bump in the road to protect their children. The children have been brought up in bubble wrap to protect them from any bump or bruise.

The result is a high level of arrogance that is counterproductive. We end up with damaged kids who are not ready for a competitive world that rewards based on merit.

The result is that one can become offended about anything. That means that things that really aren’t innately offensive are deemed offensive. Our discourse suffers because opposing ideas aren’t heard.  Now, for example, some colleges have deemed the English language to be racist and therefore offensive. Really?

What would happen if we started a trend in the other direction?  Where you choose to be “unoffendable”.  It would be a choice of action – to intentionally say that we choose not to be offended.  Think about that – you wouldn’t get angry at any small slight.  You would embrace it with a response like “I never thought about that before.”

Instead of taking offense at things we don’t like, we welcome them, even if they are edgy. We forfeit a “right” to be right.  It is a picture of God’s grace at work. If God was offended at everything we did or say, we would stand no chance to be part of His Kingdom. We’d get thrown out on our ear.

Being offended is really an emotion – it is a form of anger.  Emotions are part of being human. We don’t give up those emotions when becoming Christians, but we are told to control them.  God questioned Cain in Genesis 4 and asked: “Why are you angry?” He then said, “sin is crouching at your door…but you must rule over it.”

In other words, you can control emotions. So, you have a choice to become angry. Or not.

We have become experts at being the victim, which causes rewriting narratives that puts us in the center of the narrative. That’s what is happening with the Black Lives Matter movement – it is a victim-centric narrative. It is causing a revision of American history with things like the 1619 Project which is factually deficient and distorted.

Being a victim permits one to paint themselves “into a righteous-looking work of art” according to Bran Hanson. It’s the sense that I’m right and they’re wrong. It justifies itself.

But anger is not critical thinking. We need to pause and question it.

Think about what the world would look like if people parked their anger at the door and were able to have real discourse without anger. It would be nirvana compared to today’s culture where families are broken because of ideology and insistence on being right.

The challenge is to embrace grace in a new way.  It means surrendering your claim to anger and resentment and letting go. We can be an example to the next generation who haven’t learned enough about God’s grace. We need to be more unoffendable, not less.

MENTORING TAKEAWAY:  In a culture that is quick to be offended, we can exhibit God’s grace by taking on the mindset of being unoffendable.

FURTHER READING: Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life BetterHanson

WORSHIP:  Yes I Will  Vertical Worship

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Cancel Culture

marx

Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

One of the more recent developments, starting on campuses and now spreading into the rest of the culture, is something called Cancel Culture. Taken broadly, it means that a minority of activists can “shout” down anyone through social media that contains a viewpoint they deem not to their liking. It’s a form of mob rule.

In a country where we take freedoms for granted – freedom of speech and religion among them – the latest manifestation of the Marxist agenda is to take those freedoms away in a very subversive manner.

Recent episodes – toppling statues around the country – is a physical way of cancelling history. We can point to the Politically Correct (“PC”) movement as a way of stifling speech.  It seemed innocuous at first as though it was an attempt to be sensitive to others’ feelings. Not anymore.

Cancel culture uses a mob mentality to accomplish its goal of silencing those they don’t like.  Bob Unanue, the president of Goya Foods the largest Hispanic food company in America, was targeted for a boycott  of Goya foods because he happened to say something nice about a sitting President. He also said nice things about Obama when he was president.

I’m amused, because most of those who advocate a boycott never buy Goya products anyway. The “boycott” was met with a “buy-cott” of his products as a push back which encouraged people to buy Goya products and donate them to food banks.

And then there is Penn State University where a tweet from the liberal arts department expressed inclusion for all students to let them know they were all important. It mentioned “conservative students”, along with Black, Latino, female, Muslim, LGBTQ+, and Jewish students.

Bad move, apparently.  Diversity is not welcome at Penn State. The tweet was deleted after students were dismayed at including conservative viewpoints alongside other groups.  

How did we get here?   After WWII, many Universities hired German philosophers from the Frankfurt School , who were trained to “translate the ideology of Marxism from economic terms into practical cultural terms.”

“This new revolution would not promote bullets, bombs, and bloodshed in the beginning but seek to smash religion (Christianity in particular), morals, authority, and American patriotism”, according to Ron Hale.

Antonio Gramsci, a  Marxist theorist, wrote that the path to cultural change was to de-Christianize society. It meant overturning family, religion, media, and education which was the product of 2000 years of Judeo-Christian values. To do this, new meanings and definitions would be given to language.

The new narrative was that the white Christian was the ruling majority and oppressor, and every other group is a minority.  This is the thesis of the 1619 Project promoted by the NY Times and which is now appearing in public schools. Even to secular historians, the 1619 account is flawed.

Even the National Museum of American History and Culture has bought into the oppressor/victim mantra with its release of a Web Portal, which among other things, discusses “how societies use race to establish and justify systems of power, privilege, disenfranchisement and oppression.”

This is from a museum that is part of the Smithsonian which is funded by U.S. taxpayers.

The attack on free speech has occurred regularly on college campuses around the U.S.  Protests, sometimes violent, have kept conservative voices from being heard.

Just ask Bari Weiss, who resigned from the NY Times and sent a scathing resignation letter.  She was subjected to a social media attack because she was a self-described “centrist liberal”, which was not woke enough. She didn’t submit to the “orthodoxy” of the mob.

She was twittered out of her job by people who called her a “Nazi” and racist. She’s Jewish, so the Nazi label is hard to believe.  Truth doesn’t matter, and there is no grace extended in this cancel culture.

As one journalist noted, one wrong “like” will get you fired by the thought police.  Saying “All Lives Matter” is just as bad. Sadly, there is no push back because of fear that the mob will descend on your doorstep. This is anarchy and dangerous.

According to the author of the book White Fragility, you are racist by just saying that you are not racist.  There is no ground for discussion.

Now we are seeing attacks on Christianity – physical attacks occurred in four states last week. Just another form of cancel culture which is indiscriminate, and eventually will turn on itself and start cancelling their own.

The important point of this post is that the Cancel Culture is a direct attack on our culture, our religion, freedoms and history. The next generation has been fed this indoctrination in the school systems for decades. They are an easy target for the narrative. The challenge is to tell them the truth with a biblical perspective.

I believe that history repeats itself, and that the pendulum will swing back into sanity. We need to pray and be vocal in our opposition to those who would undermine our freedoms. I recognize that speaking out today risks being targeted, usually for the wrong reasons, but we cannot remain silent or passive.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer made that decision – he realized that, as a Christian, opposing the Nazis was required. It cost him his life.  We need to be pro-active, too. Our culture is at stake if we sit by passively.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Your next generation mentee may have a distorted sense of history due to their education. They need to know Biblical truth which is color blind. We should be judged by our character, not our skin color.

 

FURTHER READING: University Marxists Have Been Lying in Wait for Young Americans Since WWII.

The Anti-American Anti-Christian 1619 Project Wins a Pulitzer Prize

The 1619 Project Tells a False Story About Capitalism, Too  WSJ

Defund the Thought Police

Penn State Deletes Tweet Acknowledging Conservative Viewpoints are Important

One Wrong “Like” will get you Fired by Cancel Culture Chicago Tribune

Cancel Culture: Views from the Campus  WSJ

WORSHIP: I Am Free.  Ross Parsley

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Six Months

blm-5267765_1920

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7

In my long lifetime, I don’t think I have ever witnessed a series of events so earth shattering as have occurred since the beginning of the year.  2020 started in a most normal way, and in America, the economy was chugging along with the lowest unemployment in decades.

That all changed when the coronavirus arrived.  Experts think that it landed in America in December, long before alarm bells went off in February. If so, it was undetected because no one had ever seen this variety before.

The states hit the hardest were ones that received travelers from China and Europe. Little was known about this virus at the time – how it spread, who was most at risk, and how contagious it was.   Because of the unknowns, governments including the U.S. established health protocols which included social distancing and businesses being closed.

Schools were closed, and colleges sent all students home. Many finished their curriculum on-line, including my grandchildren.

Countries were locked down; only “essential” commerce was left open. Policy decisions were being made on the fly based on data that predicted a pandemic which would have mirrored the Spanish flu a century ago which killed 50 million overall and 675,000 in the US alone.

What was deemed “essential” by policy makers was partisan.  Abortion clinics were deemed “essential” in liberal states, but hospitals were closed to “non-essential” operations such as providing cancer treatments and elective surgery.  It’s estimated that some 60,000 people in the U.S. who had cancer went undetected during the shutdown.

People were fearful. Being isolated takes its toll emotionally and mentally. Interaction with others went from in person contact to Zoom overnight. No one had ever heard of Zoom until March of this year, yet it now a platform for connectivity.

And then, a terrible episode of police brutality occurred when George Floyd, a black man, was choked to death by a white police officer in Minneapolis.  Outrage at a level unseen in years was unleashed.

Peaceful protests turned violent; riots, looting took over sparked by groups that were less interested in the death of a black man than in using the event as a rallying cry to overturn our country as we know it.

Black Lives Matter became the slogan.  And then a movement.  It was a rallying cry for the victims.  But as the peaceful protests turned violent, the same influencers took over the movement so that it is really a Marxist front to destroy America from the inside.

This has an eerie familiarity to the Weather Underground. It was the violent side of Students for Democratic Society (a campus movement) in riots around the country in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Federal buildings were bombed, and many people died.

It was designated a domestic terrorist organization by the FBI, which infiltrated it resulting in the arrest and convictions of many of its leaders. The members disappeared into society by 1980, but their influence stayed on campuses.

We are paying the price for their existence to this day. The movement left behind a 186-page manifesto called Prairie Fire which details their strategy to overthrow the government through popular protest. It listed 6 guiding strategies:

  • Destroy Capitalism (Occupy Wall Street).
  • The weapon of choice: systemic racism and reform police (defund police)
  • Identify a victim class (blacks).
  • Organize the victims the victim class (BLM).
  • Coordinate with the international movement (i.e. socialism and communism).
  • Attack and Dethrone God (socialism).

It comes as no surprise that one of the fund raisers for BLM is Susan Rosenberg, a member of the Weather Underground who was sentenced to 58 years in prison for terrorist acts. Her sentence was commuted by President Clinton on the last day of his presidency.

We stand at the precipice of history. Covid-19 has had a chill in the marketplace for normal interaction, and the voices of the BLM movement are shrill in the streets. But make no mistake about it, the BLM movement is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Many of the activists are millennials, but Gen Z is a generation of activists who have been unified by social media. They are, in the words of one member, ready for a revolution – “in the streets, online and in the polls”.

I have written numerous times of the impact of the digital world in making sound bites a substitute for critical thinking. Gen Z is woefully deficient in history, and many have gotten a distorted education due a rewrite of history like the 1619 Project.  The latter is an attempt to characterize our country’s beginnings as flawed and without redemption.

As Christians, we understand that the world is sinful due to the events in the Garden. Man is capable of doing unspeakable acts. Fortunately, Christ came to redeem all of us from sin. He offered grace which is unmerited favor. It’s a message of freedom and redemption that needs to be retold.

The challenge is clear: We need to interact more with the next generation, not less. If they don’t hear truth from their parents and mentors, they are certainly not going to get it on social media.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: As mentors, you have a prime opportunity to bring truth into the lives of your mentees.

FURTHER READING:  A Deeper Look at Black Lives Matter and Its Impact

‘We’re tired of waiting’: Gen Z is Ready for a Revolution”. CNN

Prairie Fire:  The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism

Black Lives Matter in Public Schools; They are making MarxistsFederalist

WORSHIP: One Thing Remains  Jesus Culture

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The Third Way

Three

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.  I am not a historian when it comes to Christianity (other than what is in the bible). But there is something about this phrase that has great significance today.

It was a phrase used by the early Christian church. It is unfamiliar to most of us today.  It was first used by a Roman official in a letter from Diognetus in the second century.  For context, there were two other streams of Christianity – one stream basically bought into culture and embraced it and reflected it.

The second stream went in the opposite direction and insisted on isolation from culture. You had two choices:  either embrace and reflect culture in your practice and mirroring its values, or you isolated yourself from it.

The first option “undermined the uniqueness of the belief system” according to Gerald Sittser in Christianity Today.  The latter movement became culturally irrelevant because of their isolation.

The Third Way was a short-hand describing that you can do both – you can both be in the world but not of the world. How does that work?  Well, it means engaging in the world but not changing the belief system based on a culture around you.

The Third Way created something new and different in its theology, community, worship and behavior. It developed in the Roman culture – a very secular culture, and it is instructive for us today. Christians had to move new converts from their secular culture to discipleship.

It required taking an outsider and making them an insider. From a casual observer to a full-fledged disciple. It worked, creating generations of believers who were firmly established in their faith and able to expand Christianity over time.

The result was that a believer had an identity in Christ that changed all other identities – marital, ethnic and marital. It broke down walls. It succeeded and grew steadily in difficult circumstances. It was a minority movement that influenced the larger culture, not the other way around.

Christians figured out how to engage culture without excessive compromise yet remain distinct without isolation which would have made them irrelevant. They figured out how to be faithful and winsome at the same time. At the heart of the movement was the identity and mission of Jesus, who summonsed them to a new way of life following Him.

If you look over the last century of church history, you see where mainline denominations have gone down the path of the leaving the third way behind to their detriment. Most large denominations are disappearing at a rapid pace because the truly have lost their way.

Fundamentalism caused isolation. Most Protestant denominations attached themselves to the world. Even the Southern Baptist church is suffering decline, recently reporting the biggest drop in membership in a decade.

Evangelicalism was an attempt to become the third way path. In the 60’s and 70’s, there was a broad attempt to engage cultural institutions. But even it may have lost its way in trying to “hip”(or “woke” in today’s jargon) and mimicking culture to be attractive.

Even Rick Warren used blatantly modern marketing to establish Saddleback Church – everything was designed to appeal to the culture around it. He created a cultural composite who was nicknamed “Saddleback Sam” based on demographics. The service was designed to appeal to “Sam”. It worked, but that approach can go too far.

In many ways, the current church is a consumer-oriented church. It means all to0 often of being passive: going to listen to a good sermon, listen to some good songs and interact with friends. Congregations come to congregate and little more. The pastor did the active part in delivering a message. The congregation’s job has become a passive role.

Discipleship requires more.  While churches today focus more on the number of “members” on its rolls, very few track the number of disciples created.

The Third Way saw worship as a bridge between divine and human life. It was the method of preparing one to be able to return home to their ordinary lives in the market, home and neighborhood as disciples.

We have lost our way in some ways. We may need to look at a change in church culture which has defaulted into a culture of entertainment, politics and personality. We need to return to a culture of discipleship.

In my leadership training with pastors, I often emphasize that most ministry takes place outside the four walls of the church. They often don’t want to hear that. But we stand today in an environment where many church doors are closed due to a pandemic.

Maybe it’s a way of God tossing us out to rethink how we are to be strategic in creating a culture of disciples. One modest suggestion: a return to mentoring the next generation through life on life contact. It worked for Jesus and the disciples, and it can work now.

MENTOR TAKEWAY:  You, as a mentor, are a tool of discipleship into the lives of your mentor. It is an invaluable investment.

FURTHER READINGThe Early Church Thrived Amid Secularism and Shows How We Can, Too. Gerald Sittser

WORSHIP:  Build My Life – Passion

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