Friday, February 15, 2013

Do You Understand What Depression Is?

When I hear some people say that that this is the worst economy since the Great Depression, I marvel at their ignorance. Of course, this is generally political speech. It is used on the left to give blame for the past administration, and to give cover to the present administration for its economic policy failures. This the same situation that prevailed 80 years ago and made a bad economy worse and which extended the recession, turned depression, to 13 long frustrating years.  Like FDR before him, Obama is trying to manage a free economy by socialist principles and failing badly. We may soon see how badly when the federal spending and job-stifling high taxation shows the inevitable results.

My parents lived through the Great Depression, as did the parents of my friends around my age. My generation, because of the plenty we enjoyed, had a hard time appreciating what they experienced. My parents tried to describe it to me and my siblings: how they ate potatoes and beans for most every meal, along withe fish and game that the men brought home from hunting and fishing; and how my father might expect to get a new set of overhauls for a Christmas present. As I understand it, the motto of the time was, "Use it up, wear it out, Make do or Do without." The following pictures might help us "get the picture". We just need to imagine them in color.

In those years, people really wanted to work for what they might eat. My father worked as a teenager, along with his brothers and my grandfather, in the coal mines of northeastern Kansas to help provide for his family. He went to school during the the high school football season so he could play football, but then he would go back to the mines when the season was over. Because of this, he never completed his education beyond the 8th grade. After serving in the European theater of WWII, he came back to look for work where ever he could find it. He ended up as roofer, eventually working for himself and teaching his sons the roofing trade. He was the hardest worker I have ever known.

Those folks were a tough lot. They endured the Great Depression and the greatest world war yet seen on the earth. They survived what their government's economic policies inadvertently did to them because they had great work ethic, and they largely strived for success and self respect. And, further more, they had great faith in God. Do we have the same values and virtues today, which would carry us through similar circumstances? We may have to see what we are made of in the very near future, and seeing what I am seeing, I have some serious doubts about us. This time the pictures will be in color!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

William Penn


Why do people want to come to America? Mostly, I think they want to come here, these days, for economic opportunity--the millions of illegal immigrants storming our unprotected southern borders for the past 20 years to find jobs testifies to that--and there are still some who would come here for political liberty, though I think in much lower numbers than the 1950s and 1960s. And to some degree, would-be immigrants still seek the freedom of religion. In our early history, It was clearly much the same, with the people craving economic opportunity, political freedom and, to a much greater degree than today, religious freedom. The world needed a place like America. And, the world needed unselfish leadership to create such a place. And so I offer another instalment of Profiles of Leadership in America:

William Penn
October 14, 1644—July30,1718

When one visits the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor they can read the famous lines written by Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

During the 17th Century when religious outcasts (many of which were tired and poor) were seeking asylum from persecution, there were few, if any, such places in the world as Emma Lazarus describes. However, a young convert to Quakerism, William Penn did envision such a place, and planned to make it happen in America.

Penn was the well-educated son of wealthy Admiral Sir William Penn. Though he came from a well-to-do family, Penn was attracted to the teachings of the radical preacher, George Fox. Against his father’s wishes, Penn joined with the Society of Friends (Quakers) and became one of the faith’s most ardent defenders. During his career, he was arrested and imprisoned several times for his religion, but he never relaxed his faithfulness to it. Quakers believed that the Holy Spirit or “Inner Light” was capable of inspiring everyone (even women). They had no paid clergy and no official creed. These beliefs plus the fact that most of the Quakers were of the bottom wrung of the social ladder and chose not to tip their hats to the social elite, made the Quakers extremely unpopular in England.

Although he was not the typical Quaker, William Penn’s personal experience with religious persecution, his sense of right and wrong and his religious faith prompted him to provide a safe haven for his fellows. Using his own great personal wealth and calling in on a debt owed by King Charles II to Penn’s father, Penn was able to secure a land grant in North America which was named Pennsylvania. Penn founded and designed the city of Philadelphia (city of Brotherly Love). He created a government with more than the usual democracy, hoping to limit the “power of doing mischief, that the power of one man may not hinder the good of the whole company.” He, like Roger Williams before him, treated the Indians fairly and wished to live with them as neighbors and friends. And again, like Roger Williams, he enlarged on the image of America as a freedom-loving place and provided much of the philosophy that would later be borrowed by the architects of the Constitution of the United States. Before his death, Penn wrote his “Essay Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe”, in which he outlined a plan for a league of nations based on international justice.

Though William Penn spent limited time in his colony and he died a virtual pauper in England, he left a great legacy and a great vision for the future. Not only did Quakers from England, Germany, The Netherlands, and Wales flock to Pennsylvania, but Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Catholics were attracted to Pennsylvania’s religious toleration as well. And though Penn’s “peaceable kingdom” eventually suffered from the absence of his leadership, during his time, he lifted his “lamp beside the golden door.”

George Whitefield

There are some today that reject the notion that religion is, or should be, an important element of the American experience. They may even deny the importance of religion in the founding of our nation. Of course the fact is that religion was paramount, not only as a motivator to colonize America, as in seeking religious freedom, but as an empowering agent, convincing our ancestor's that they were compelled to create this nation by Divine inspiration. Thus I offer my fourth instalment of Profiles of leadership in America:

George Whitefield
December 16, 1714 - September 30, 1770.

The American Revolutionary War was fueled by various differences of opinion between England and its American Colonies. For example, taxation without representation is accepted as a major contributor to the harsh feelings held by England’s American colonists. However, religion may be as big a contributor to the war as any thing else, and traveling preacher George Whitefield may have unwittingly helped to prepare the way.

Since the time of Henry VIII when the Church of England had broken from the Roman Catholic Church, many other variations of Protestant Christianity splintered away from it (The Church of England). From the Anglican Church came the Puritans (Congregationalists and Separatists), Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, and Methodists. Each group dissented from an earlier dissenting group until there remained less and less common philosophical ground amongst the various Protestant Faiths and even less good will from one group to another. By the early 18th Century, North America had become a place where religious misfits such as Roger Williams and William Penn and their various followers could worship as they wished without persecution. America was becoming a hotbed of religious dissent.

George Whitefield was born December 16, 1714, in Gloucester, England, to innkeepers, Thomas Whitefield and Elizabeth Edwards. Though he was not particularly physically attractive—he was severely cross-eyed, judging by portraits of him—Whitefield was a gifted and passionate orator with a penchant for theatrics, often reenacting scenes from the bible during his sermons. Because of a poor economic background, his education at Oxford was tuition-free in return for working as a servant for other students. While at Oxford he associated with brothers, John and Charles Wesley, and underwent a religious self-awakening after and illness. After his ordination he preached throughout England, establishing several churches in his name. Whitefield was a follower of the Wesleys’ Methodist teachings but later condemned John Wesley’s doctrine of “free grace” becoming the acknowledged leader of “Calvinist Methodism.”

In 1732 George Whitefield came to Georgia acting as the catalyst of the “Great Awakening” in the American Colonies. In the age when traveling across the Atlantic was anything but easy and comfortable, Whitefield was indefatigable, crossing over the Atlantic seven times. He traveled up and down the colonies preaching his evangelical message, often in the out of doors, to thousands and thousands of rural Americans—an obvious precursor to modern stadium preachers and evangelists—who thirsted for the religious guidance that the Anglican Church was unable, if not unwilling, to provide. Whitefield’s message and his style of delivering it impressed many thoughtful Americans, including young Benjamin Franklin who, though he disagreed with Whitefield on some religious tenets, became a close friend, helping him with publishing. His colorful and powerful oratory and his willingness to preach repentance to the leaders of the Anglican Church made him both the most popular (to the dissenting masses) and most unpopular (to the Anglican leaders) religious teacher of his time. Whitefield also organized numerous schools and established the Bethesda orphanage, but he is equally noted for contributing to inter colonial unity. His attacks against the State’s official church and his travel throughout the colonies helped create an alliance of dissenters from New England to Georgia.

A few decades later the majority of Americans would not only largely reject the religious dictates of the Church of England, but would also reject the economic and political dictates of the government of England as well. And with George Whitefield as a possible example of righteous indignation, patriots like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin would, with evangelical zeal, call for independence. Just as George Whitefield was able to do with the religious-minded, Franklin and his friends were able to unite the diverse and seemingly at-odds American colonies to a common purpose. Though they may not have intended to start a revolution, George Whitefield and religious leaders like him may have started the colonies in that fateful direction.