Flash Attack

At noon on October 30, 2010, a devastating device ripped through a crowded Philadelphia department store.  Hundreds of unsuspecting shoppers were suddenly exposed to an infectious agent delivered with explosive power.  Those exposed are still dealing with the immediate effects.  They could be faced with ongoing effects for the rest of their lives.

Similar attacks at malls and food courts have been reported and posted on YouTube.

Not surprisingly, the media have been silent.

In the Philadelphia video, the effect of the attack on the innocent is immediate.  Within seconds, the device seizes their consciousness, rendering them incapable of commercial activity.  For the length of the attack, about five or six minutes, the entire edifice of nonsense that forms too much of popular consciousness collapses.  From its rubble rises the power and magnificence of the best of Western civilization, filling the towering stone-clad grand court of the Macy's store in Philadelphia's Center City.  

In a flash, the divisions of race, ethnicity, and even religion evaporate as the first booming notes of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus roar from the world's largest pipe organ.  Sexual distinctions remain, however, as men and women divide by vocal range, blending their voices in beautiful baroque harmony.  A crowd of milling, atomized individuals is suddenly fused into a single consciousness, briefly embraced by the joy of beauty and truth.

The nightmare for progressives takes flesh!

Drawing on the genius and power of the best of our civilization, this kind of demonstration can't be easily savaged by judicial tyrants.  The Messiah is, after all, a cultural touchstone.  Unfortunately for the miserable zealots who can't tolerate religious expression, it also unabashedly praises the Christian God.

Is there a clearer sign of our slide into barbarism than the idea that a public performance of one of the greatest works of our culture borders on sedition?  Yet it's impossible to watch the video and not wonder how the organizers got away with it.

The barbarians we need to fear aren't just bearded monsters from the Middle East.  The biggest threat to our civilization comes from our own elite universities that once preserved and extended it.  The insane siege engine they've built is a rickety contraption of lies, distortions, and manipulations that tirelessly assaults our foundations with myths and superstitions.

Fortunately, we have a patrimony that draws on that soaring, transcendent power that unites, sustains, and inspires us.  It's up to us to seize it and fortify our walls.  That's what's so reassuring about the video.  It is a magnificent demonstration of how to win hearts and awaken our neighbors to the truth.

Like early Christians whose actions won the pagans of Rome and the ancient world to their cause, the voices of over 650 people singing Handel's praises to God are irresistibly attractive.  The effect isn't limited to the crowd in the store; its power is palpable to anyone watching the video.

The location is also significant.  John Wanamaker built the landmark store in 1910.  He was a wildly successful 19th-century merchant who was also a devout Christian.  He built a business empire on innovations like guaranteed quality and full-price refunds.  He also expected his managers to treat employees respectfully and provided his employees free health care, profit-sharing, and pensions.

Having the good fortune to be successful when Americans were still free to enjoy the fruits of their labor, Wanamaker died in 1922, leaving an estate estimated at $1.3 billion in today's dollars.

The "Messiah" itself is instructive.  It's hard to imagine a more eloquent or beautiful repudiation of contemporary "intellectual" trends.  The words are taken from Holy Scripture, the music written by one of the greatest manic-depressives in history.  Almost a century before Wanamaker was born, in 1741, a depressed and indebted Handel sat down without benefit of modern anti-depressants and in 24 days produced one of the most recognizable pieces of music ever written.

There seems more than a whiff of providence in the fact that all these elements combine in 2010 to produce a moving experience available to anyone with an internet connection.  It is also a powerful lesson for those of us who look around and see a civilization crumbling at our feet.

There is a road back.  We can restore our republic.  It's tempting to look at political power and assume that by seizing it, we will magically restore the values and virtues that built the country.  However, virtue, like an apple, can be cultivated, but never commanded.  The state in the hands of the right is no more a god than it is for the left.  It is simply brute force.

America's restoration begins inside each one of us.  America was great because Americans were good.  Wanamaker wasn't an anomaly.  The American 19th century was full of remarkable goodness.  Charitable institutions abounded and thrived alongside the burgeoning wealth of the nation.

For almost a century, we've lived off the fumes of the prosperity Wanamaker's generation created.  It's taken that long for the pernicious forces that grew like microbes around that success to bleed away the fuel of faith and virtue that propelled it.

The process of progressive corruption of our nation began with the corruption of our hearts.  Today, we are confronting the terminal effects of the rot that's spread to every corner of our civilization.  Politicians and business leaders long detached from the values of the Wanamaker generation freely practice the grandest larceny in history, poaching us all with apparent impunity.  Like vultures and jackals, they've consumed the carrion of the past and the promise of the future, and now they turn their gaze to the living.

We find our society sliding to its apparent dismal destiny, exhibiting morals and behavior more like the pagan societies of the ancients than those of our American forebears.  Political leaders have all but abandoned the rule of law for the convenience of inflicting their will on the rest of us.  Like decadent Romans, much of our populace is happily bought off with subsistence, subsidized vice, and the illusory promise of security.

Yet nearly everyone senses that it won't last.  Maybe these flash opera episodes are just about people who like to sing.  Maybe they have no spiritual dimension at all.  Maybe there is no Satan, no God, and maybe a murderous, misogynistic political ideology is just as valid as the benevolence of Christ's teachings.  

Or maybe it's a message.  Maybe it's a call back to the bedrock of our civilization coming to us from the very hometown of our republic.  Regardless, it is an unmistakable demonstration of the power of truth and the importance of God in each of our lives: 

But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God ... And the Word was made flesh!

Maybe by regaining Christmas in our hearts, we can begin to regain our nation.