Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Learning about the importance of courage from the Bible

pg-42-happy-two-2-bbc

Here are some of my favorite verses from the Bible on the topic of courage.

“In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you…”
(1 Pet 4:4)

“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled…”
(1 Pet 3:14)

And a longer one:

1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.

2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.

4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

(1 Cor 4:1-5)

Or this one:

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

(1 Cor 4:12-14)

Or this one:

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.

17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.

18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

(Dan 3:16-18)

So often we have this very repressed view of Christianity as happiness, politeness and cleanliness. We don’t want to offend anyone, or to be disliked by anyone, or to make anyone feel bad about not knowing God and not living in a way that respects him.

Here’s John Piper explaining the importance of being “thick-skinned”:

One thing is for sure: if you begin to lead others you will be criticized. No one will be a significant spiritual leader if his aim is to please others and seek their approval. Paul said in Galatians 1:10, “Am I seeking the favor of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men I should not be a servant of Christ.” Spiritual leaders do not seek the praises of men, they seek to please God. Dr. Carl Lundquist, former President of Bethel College and Seminary, said in his final report to the Baptist General Conference that there was hardly one of the 28 years in which he served the Conference that he was not actively opposed by many people.

If criticism disables us, we will never make it as spiritual leaders. I don’t mean that we must be the kind of people who don’t feel hurt, but rather that we must not be wiped out by the hurt. We must be able to say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” We will feel the criticism but we will not be incapacitated by it. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “We do not lose heart.”

Leaders must be able to digest depression because they will eat plenty of it. There will be many days when the temptation is very strong to quit because of unappreciative people. Criticism is one of Satan’s favorite weapons to try to get effective Christian leaders to throw in the towel.

And here is C.S. Lewis writing about courage:

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”

- from “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis

In my life, I have had to say things like this: “I’m really sorry that you don’t like me. I’m really sorry that my decision to honor God makes you uncomfortable. But I’m not going to change for you. I’m OK with being the underdog. I don’t have to be happy right now. I don’t need you to approve of what I am doing.”

It makes me laugh that people think I care what they think of me just because I don’t act against my conscience to approve of their sinning. I’ve thought through my views, and seen the evidence from peer-reviewed publications, and debated with people who disagree with me and I’ve won. I couldn’t care less about their desire for me to approve their reckless, selfish behavior. I interpret their desire for approval as weakness and I scorn their weakness. If they were right, they wouldn’t need my approval.

Every Christian comes to a point where the things we hoped that God would do for us do not happen, when our former allies fall away from us, when the people entrusted with caring for us failed in their obligations… at that point we have to decide what we are going to do with God. I think Psalm 27 is an excellent thing for people to read who are in that situation. It’s my favorite Psalm – I used to read it when my life was very difficult. And if things got difficult again, that’s where I’d go for comfort.

By the way, Christians should have an eye out for other Christians who are in distress while striving mightily for the Lord. Act self-sacrificially in a way that you strengthen their relationship with God in Christ. Make plans to support that person, and carry them out. Instead of reducing support for Christians to just private devotions, prayer and Bible reading, you ought to act to give them support that is calculated to solve the problem. That could involve the use of money, spending time, expending effort, resolving intellectual challenges, defeating a challenger in a discussion for them, writing them with advice… anything. Really, we need to stop turning inward when another Christian is in distress. Know what the Bible says first, pray second, then take action to solve the problem. Use your mind to think of what will get the job done. That is the goal, isn’t it?

You may enjoy listening to this lecture entitled “Giants in the Land“, by Dr. Walter Bradley. It talks about courage, and I would say that it is the lecture that best prepared me to not care what people would think of me. There’s a Bible study in the lecture, so have your Bible ready.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , ,

Dinesh D’Souza: What’s so great about America?

Dinesh D’Souza

Here is the essay, which provides an immigrant’s perspective on America (Dinesh is the son of East Indian immigrants).

Excerpt:

Is America worthy of a reflective patriotism that doesn’t mindlessly assert, “My country, right or wrong,” but rather examines the criticisms of America and finds them wanting? As an immigrant who has chosen to become an American citizen, I believe that it is. Having studied the criticisms of America with care, my conclusion is that the critics have a narrow and distorted understanding of America. They exaggerate American faults, and they ignore what is good and even great about America.

The immigrant is in a good position to evaluate American society because he is able to apply a comparative perspective. Having grown up in a different society-in my case, Mumbai, India-I am able to identify aspects of America that are invisible to people who have always lived here. As a “person of color,” I am competent to address such questions as what it is like to be a nonwhite person in America, what this country owes its minority citizens, and whether immigrants can expect to be granted full membership in this society. While I take seriously the issues raised by the critics of America, I have also developed an understanding of what makes America great, and I have seen the greatness of America reflected in my life. Unlike many of America’s homegrown dissidents, I am also acutely conscious of the daily blessings that I enjoy in America.

Here, then, is my list of what makes America great.

He focuses on the following areas:

  • America’s Good Life
  • Equality
  • The Pursuit of Happiness
  • The Ethics of Work
  • Religious Liberty
  • Ideals and Interests
  • America’s Virtue

Read the whole thing. It’s long it’s similar to his book of the same name, but up to date.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On wargames, history and heroes: “this story shall the good man teach his son”

Memoir '44: Pegasus Bridge setup

Memoir ’44: Pegasus Bridge setup

Last night, I played through the Pegasus Bridge scenario from the Memoir ’44 wargame with Dina a few times. We actually played the online version of the game, using Steam. She was very gracious to play a wargame with me, which I don’t think is necessarily the first thing on most women’s lists of things to do on a Thursday night! I appreciated her agreeing to learn how to play and then playing with me several times. I think that Christians need to plan and execute more “together” activities like that – activities that involve interaction, co-operation, communication and engagement. We try to avoid doing things where we are both spectators. Playing wargames is not the only thing we do – we also do Bible study and cooking lessons (for me), for example.

Anyway, the point of this post is to express the deeper meaning behind playing wargames. I think that it is important to recognize and celebrate those who have demonstrated good character, whether it be now, or in the past. I think that it is important for us to search out the best role models ourselves, so that they will influence the way we act in our own lives. The second world war was a clear example of good versus evil. Anyone on the Allied side who demonstrated bravery and courage should be celebrated for safeguarding the security, liberty and prosperity that we enjoy today. In the case of Pegasus bridge, the hero is Major John Howard of the British paratroops.

Here is a quick re-cap of his exploits that day from the New York Times:

Maj. John Howard, the commander of glider-borne British infantrymen who seized the strategically vital Pegasus Bridge in the first battle of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, died Wednesday in a hospital in Surrey, England. He was 86 and had lived in Burford, near Oxford.

Under cover of night on June 6, 1944, six gliders carrying 181 officers and men of the Second Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry landed on the eastern flank of a 60-mile invasion front on the northern coast of France. The regiment had a heritage going back to the battles of Bunker Hill and New Orleans, to Waterloo and to World War I. Now its soldiers were in the vanguard of the invasion of Hitler’s Europe.

Major Howard’s D Company was ordered to seize two bridges, one over the Caen Canal and the other spanning the parallel Orne River. If the Germans held on to those bridges, panzer units could move across them in a counterattack isolating 10,000 British paratroopers jumping behind the British invasion beach known as Sword, where infantry forces would arrive at daybreak. And Major Howard’s men sought to strike swiftly to prevent the Germans from blowing up the bridges if they were overwhelmed; the British needed those bridges to resupply their airborne units.

British Halifax bombers towed the gliders over the English Channel, then cut them loose.

Major Howard’s lead glider landed at 12:16 A.M., only 50 yards from the Caen Canal bridge, but the glider’s nose collapsed on impact, knocking everybody aboard unconscious for a few seconds. The soldiers quickly emerged, and over the next five minutes the men directly under Major Howard killed the surprised German defenders.

The nearby Orne River bridge was captured by other troops in Major Howard’s unit, and soon the words ”Ham and Jam,” signifying mission accomplished, were radioed to the airborne.

Two British soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in the operation.

Over the next 12 hours, British paratroopers and commandos reinforced Major Howard’s men, and British forces were able to move toward the city of Caen, their flank having been protected by the capture of the bridges.

On July 16, Major Howard received the Distinguished Service Order, Britain’s second-highest award for valor. On the 10th anniversary of D-Day, he received the Croix de Guerre Avec Palme from the French Government, which had renamed the Caen Canal span Pegasus Bridge, for the flying horse symbolizing the British airborne. The road crossing the bridge was later renamed Esplanade Major John Howard.

Why is this important? Well, it’s important to think on the things that are excellent. There are so many things in the culture that are not excellent that we are confronted with every day. We have to make it our business to do things together where goodness is celebrated. Especially when manly virtues like courage are celebrated. We don’t do that much anymore. And I think there’s a connection between wargames and Christian apologetics that we need to deliberately encourage.

Here’s an excellent passage from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” that makes the point:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day. (4.3.43)

This is from the famous speech in which King Henry charges his men to fight well before the famous Battle of Agincourt.

You can read more about the history of the British Airborne division and Pegasus bridge. The famous historian of the second world war Stephen E. Ambrose also wrote a history of the Pegasus bridge battle, called “Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944“. You won’t find many military historians better than Stephen E. Ambrose!

You might be surprised how many men are interested in military history and wargames, precisely because men instinctively look up to men like John Howard who embody qualities like bravery and courage. We have a dearth of moral character in this society. And we don’t do much to teach young men about manly virtues, even in the church. I think that it is important for us to think of creative ways for us to present good character to our young men. Young women should also learn about good character, because they must separate out the good men from the bad when they are courting.

Thanks to Dina for helping me to edit this post!

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dinesh D’Souza: What’s so great about America?

Dinesh D’Souza

Here is the essay, which provides an immigrant’s perspective on America (Dinesh is the son of East Indian immigrants).

Excerpt:

Is America worthy of a reflective patriotism that doesn’t mindlessly assert, “My country, right or wrong,” but rather examines the criticisms of America and finds them wanting? As an immigrant who has chosen to become an American citizen, I believe that it is. Having studied the criticisms of America with care, my conclusion is that the critics have a narrow and distorted understanding of America. They exaggerate American faults, and they ignore what is good and even great about America.

The immigrant is in a good position to evaluate American society because he is able to apply a comparative perspective. Having grown up in a different society-in my case, Mumbai, India-I am able to identify aspects of America that are invisible to people who have always lived here. As a “person of color,” I am competent to address such questions as what it is like to be a nonwhite person in America, what this country owes its minority citizens, and whether immigrants can expect to be granted full membership in this society. While I take seriously the issues raised by the critics of America, I have also developed an understanding of what makes America great, and I have seen the greatness of America reflected in my life. Unlike many of America’s homegrown dissidents, I am also acutely conscious of the daily blessings that I enjoy in America.

Here, then, is my list of what makes America great.

He focuses on the following areas:

  • America’s Good Life
  • Equality
  • The Pursuit of Happiness
  • The Ethics of Work
  • Religious Liberty
  • Ideals and Interests
  • America’s Virtue

Read the whole thing. It’s long it’s similar to his book of the same name, but up to date.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How faith, virtues and marriage are declining among blue collar Americans

Brad Wilcox writes about a new book entitled “Coming Apart” in the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

So much for the idea that the white working class remains the guardian of core American values like religious faith, hard work and marriage. Today the denizens of upscale communities like McLean, Va., New Canaan, Conn., and Palo Alto, Calif., according to Charles Murray in “Coming Apart,” are now much more likely than their fellow citizens to embrace these core American values. In studying, as his subtitle has it, “the state of white America, 1960-2010,” Mr. Murray turns on its head the conservative belief that bicoastal elites are dissolute and ordinary Americans are virtuous.

Focusing on whites to avoid conflating race with class, Mr. Murray contends instead that a large swath of white America—poor and working-class whites, who make up approximately 30% of the white population—is turning away from the core values that have sustained the American experiment. At the same time, the top 20% of the white population has quietly been recovering its cultural moorings after a flirtation with the counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s. Thus, argues Mr. Murray in his elegiac book, the greatest source of inequality in America now is not economic; it is cultural.

He is particularly concerned with the ways in which working-class whites are losing touch with what he calls the four “founding virtues”—industriousness, honesty (including abiding by the law), marriage and religion, all of which have played a vital role in the life of the republic.

Consider what has happened with marriage. The destructive family revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s has gradually eased—at least in the nation’s most privileged precincts. In the past 20 years, divorce rates have come down, marital quality (self-reported happiness in marriage) has risen and nonmarital childbearing (out-of-wedlock births) is a rare occurrence among the white upper class. Marriage is not losing ground in America’s best neighborhoods.

But it’s a very different story in blue-collar America. Since the 1980s, divorce rates have risen, marital quality has fallen and nonmarital childbearing is skyrocketing among the white lower class. Less than 5% of white college-educated women have children outside of marriage, compared with approximately 40% of white women with just a high-school diploma. The bottom line is that a growing marriage divide now runs through the heart of white America.

This whole article is worth reading, because it talks about some of the other areas that are declining in middle class America. I have added the book to my wishlist.

It seems as though Theodore Dalrymple’s description of the British lower classes in his book “Life at the Bottom” has come to America. He argues in that book that the new moral relativism of the elites works well enough for them because they have money, but it is very harmful to the poor, if the poor adopt moral relativism. I always believed that America would be safe from moral relativism. Recently, I was trying to argue with some British Christians about how the secularization of Britain was leading to the decline of marriage and the nuclear family. I point out their 45% out-of-wedlock birth rate, and they pointed out our 40% out-of-wedlock birth rate. We are right behind them, and it really makes me sad. Children need a mother and a father to take care of them.

When arguing with liberals about the importance of marriage, I like to use two good articles from the Heritage Foundation. I argue that when marriage goes, many bad things happen, like child poverty and child abuse. You would think that the government would do something about the decline of marriage, but people on the secular left often don’t like marriage, because there are traditional roles for husbands and wives that clash with their feminism. They don’t like the working father and the mother staying at home – not even if that creates the most stable environment for the children

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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