Looking back and looking forward

Looking back on 2009 is not pleasant; it has not been a very good year. Sifting through the articles and readers' comments in the American Thinker on the arrogance and excesses of the Obama oligarchy, the confusion and division among Republicans, and the devious machinations of Congress, one notices a recurrent, even pervasive note of pessimism and something close to despair for a continued free America or the survival of Western culture.

We must not allow these clouds, however dark and ominous they seem, to obscure the shining lights of past escapes and present blessings. We have known darker years and survived them. We still have a freedom that is still more or less secured by reasonably just laws. Our economy has not lost its resilience and, judging from the Christmas crowds, seems to be recovering despite the administration's best efforts to derail it. Above all, the men and women of our armed forces have once again proved to be as brave and tough as ever and the spirit of Flight 93 is still alive in our air passengers.

So let us not sing of our mercies but rather humbly and gratefully thank God for the blessings we have received this past year. Let us say with the psalmist: "my mouth shall tell of Your justice, of Your helps to me all the day long; for I know not their number."

As to the future, however foreboding it seems, let us face it with prayerful hope. On the whole, the outlook seems bleak, the chances of our nation's resuscitation slim. But one may hope for a miracle or for one of those unexpected concatenations of circumstance that brought victory to the American Revolution.

Some would say that our fate is in our hands, in the sense that we are free to choose whether or not we will allow God to save us.  We believe that God has given man free will so that if obstinately insistent enough, a man may go to hell or a society may go to rot. But we also believe that God is good -- and clever enough to find ways to save men in spite of themselves. The principal theme of the Old Testament, repeated over and over, is that of a prosperous Jewish people abandoning God, becoming degenerate, being conquered and humiliated, repenting, and being miraculously restored by an ever-forgiving God.

Daunting as the odds may seem, we may yet win. The bleakness of our prospects may become an advantage, by making our foes overly arrogant or careless. Perhaps Obama will turn out to be the instrument of Heaven in spite of himself. Like the reckless cabdriver in the story, Obama's audacity and Oedipal arrogance may encourage people to pray for deliverance. And it needn't be a majority. Remember how Abraham (the greatest negotiator in history) haggled God down to accepting ten just people as sufficient grounds for saving Sodom.

In any case, even the defeat of our culture is a victory for us if we devote our best to the fight against what we perceive to be evil. As Chesterton said, "hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all."

The flowering of goodness is often fertilized by the ashes of apparent defeat. The blackest day in history was a Friday when a man whom many thought was the last best hope of the human race, was betrayed, tortured, shamed and killed.  A few days later, some of his friends gathered at his tomb to weep over the ruins of their hopes.

We all know the rest of that story.

And suddenly you know: "It was here!"

You remember it all, and there

Stands an irrevocable year

Of anguish and vision and prayer.

 - Rainer Maria Rilke
Looking back on 2009 is not pleasant; it has not been a very good year. Sifting through the articles and readers' comments in the American Thinker on the arrogance and excesses of the Obama oligarchy, the confusion and division among Republicans, and the devious machinations of Congress, one notices a recurrent, even pervasive note of pessimism and something close to despair for a continued free America or the survival of Western culture.

We must not allow these clouds, however dark and ominous they seem, to obscure the shining lights of past escapes and present blessings. We have known darker years and survived them. We still have a freedom that is still more or less secured by reasonably just laws. Our economy has not lost its resilience and, judging from the Christmas crowds, seems to be recovering despite the administration's best efforts to derail it. Above all, the men and women of our armed forces have once again proved to be as brave and tough as ever and the spirit of Flight 93 is still alive in our air passengers.

So let us not sing of our mercies but rather humbly and gratefully thank God for the blessings we have received this past year. Let us say with the psalmist: "my mouth shall tell of Your justice, of Your helps to me all the day long; for I know not their number."

As to the future, however foreboding it seems, let us face it with prayerful hope. On the whole, the outlook seems bleak, the chances of our nation's resuscitation slim. But one may hope for a miracle or for one of those unexpected concatenations of circumstance that brought victory to the American Revolution.

Some would say that our fate is in our hands, in the sense that we are free to choose whether or not we will allow God to save us.  We believe that God has given man free will so that if obstinately insistent enough, a man may go to hell or a society may go to rot. But we also believe that God is good -- and clever enough to find ways to save men in spite of themselves. The principal theme of the Old Testament, repeated over and over, is that of a prosperous Jewish people abandoning God, becoming degenerate, being conquered and humiliated, repenting, and being miraculously restored by an ever-forgiving God.

Daunting as the odds may seem, we may yet win. The bleakness of our prospects may become an advantage, by making our foes overly arrogant or careless. Perhaps Obama will turn out to be the instrument of Heaven in spite of himself. Like the reckless cabdriver in the story, Obama's audacity and Oedipal arrogance may encourage people to pray for deliverance. And it needn't be a majority. Remember how Abraham (the greatest negotiator in history) haggled God down to accepting ten just people as sufficient grounds for saving Sodom.

In any case, even the defeat of our culture is a victory for us if we devote our best to the fight against what we perceive to be evil. As Chesterton said, "hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all."

The flowering of goodness is often fertilized by the ashes of apparent defeat. The blackest day in history was a Friday when a man whom many thought was the last best hope of the human race, was betrayed, tortured, shamed and killed.  A few days later, some of his friends gathered at his tomb to weep over the ruins of their hopes.

We all know the rest of that story.

And suddenly you know: "It was here!"

You remember it all, and there

Stands an irrevocable year

Of anguish and vision and prayer.

 - Rainer Maria Rilke

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