If you can’t say something positive, then don’t say anything at all. That’s what I always say. I mean to say, the world is so full of criticism and carping . . . why can’t we just accentuate the positive? Focus on what is good. Try to emphasize the delightful. As Paul once put it, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, you know. Walk on the sunny side.
Reading Their Linebackers:
One of our standard practices should be to take special note of the people who are wrecking the world, and then to take another special note, a second special note as it were, of what they hate. When you find out what the people who are wrecking the world hate, then perhaps you have found something worthy of a defense. If you are lucky, you will have found something that is actually unpopular to defend.
I say this because the people who are wrecking the world hate America, and so I would like to rise in order to say a few things in praise of America. And I remind myself . . . no qualifications. Just praise.
Our Calvinist Constitution:
One of the very best things about this nation is that we have a constitutional structure that doesn’t trust Americans at all. People love to talk about American exceptionalism, but the really exceptional thing about our founding was that the Madisonian settlement had as its bedrock assumption the fact that human nature in America was exactly the same as it had always been throughout history, to wit, pretty grimy.
Americans have always been hustlers, on the hunt for the main chance, and so it was the sheer grace of God that the Founders devised an intricate obstacle course for them to have to get around before they would be able to start in on the eating and drinking with drunkards and beating all fellow servants.
This constitutional booby-trapping has been most necessary, what with federal judges and the EPA and all, and it hasn’t worked perfectly, but boy howdy, it has worked. Every time the tinker-tyrants launch some new initiative, like they always do, whether it is to save us all from that flaming ball of fire in the sky, or to rescue the children from the opinions of their parents again, or to swoop in to define the ditch water down by your mailbox as part of the “waters of the U.S.” and subject to the regulation thereof, they frequently step on another rake that was left for them on the lawn, on purpose, by James Madison himself.
So I would just like to say that a form of government that assumes total depravity in every direction is my kind of governance. I get a kind of intellectual and theological pleasure from this that starts at the ankles and gets better going up.
A Brief Interlude:
Having praised our constitutional assumption of total depravity, let me proceed to a discussion of our good points. You say that I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself; I am large, I contain multitudes. Yeah, Whitman was a weirdo, but he was very American, and that’s what counts.
Where was I? Common grace is complicated, and solid cultural values can be a real thing even when the heart is deceitfully wicked.
Americans Are Ebullient:
This country is a cheerful can-do place. The Construction Battalion of the Navy (the Seabees) had a motto that epitomizes this attitude nicely. “The difficult we do now, the impossible takes a little longer.”
During the Second World War, we built a fleet of Liberty Ships, thousands of them. We got to the point where we were churning out three a day. And, at one point, apparently just to prove that it could be done, one shipyard built one of them, keel to masts, in one day.
And on top of that kind of thing, I can’t do something as simple as going into MacDonald’s for a cheeseburger without being reminded of my responsibility to have a good day.
Do it right, do it now, all my fellow citizens tell me. And do it while having a nice day.
Some of our people were residing in another country a few years back, and the locals Christians were complaining about the education options, which were admittedly poor. “So why don’t you start a school?” our people asked, innocently enough. The response really should have been anticipated. “That is just so American.”
Starting something is American?
So America is to the world what Texas is to America. Now you sometimes might want to make sure to watch your dosages carefully, because too much might be kind of like a bit of Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo. Please take note of the literary allusion. I am quoting a British writer, but one who was very fond of Americans.
Americans Are Generous:
Routinely upbraided for being selfish and piggy, Americans are actually the most generous people on the planet. I am not referring to the lunatic behavior of whoever is behind our foreign aid daisy cutter approach, but rather to the rivers of private charity.
Whenever a humanitarian disaster happens, from a tsunami to a hurricane to an earthquake, thousands and thousands of $20 donations make their way into the relief. And by every measurement, Americans are way down the road ahead of everyone else in this.
You can almost consider it a law. There is an inverse relationship between the actual generosity of a group and the reputation it has with the cool kids for generosity. The most generous people in the world are Americans. The most generous Americans are religious Americans. Among religious Americans, the most generous are Protestants. Among the Protestants, the most generous are the evangelicals. Using another grid, Arthur Brooks showed years ago that the most generous state in the Union, as indicated by private donations of every kind, was . . . wait for it . . . Mississippi. The least generous was either Connecticut or Massachusetts, I forget which. Does it matter?
Generosity takes many forms. I am also talking about the many thousands of Americans leaving the richest country in the history of the world in order to give it all away on the mission field. These are individual choices, obviously, but they arise out of shared cultural values.
And this would obviously include the recent martyrdom of John Allen Chau. To paraphrase the words of the great missionary John Paton, the fact that he shed his blood there means that this island will most certainly be secured for Christ.
It also provides us with a standing reminder of how self-absorbed Internet observers can get away with chiding him for his “selfish” death. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Love is hate. Selfishness is altruism. Sacrifice must be the real selfishness.
Actually, a big part of real selflessness is budgeting for all the people who reserve their right to keep a safe distance from every form of authentic Christian living. If it “fails,” they can sniff and say they didn’t really approve, and if it succeeds they can rally around afterwards for the awards ceremonies. They are the one talent and they bury themselves in the napkin.
Generosity is as generosity does.
Americans Know How to Fight:
We cannot leave this subject without praising American combativeness. When a fight is necessary, and the need for it has finally become obvious, one of the things you want by your side in a dark alley, bricks at your back, is an American.
During the American Civil War, a Yankee was speaking about the war over in Manchester, England. The crowd was a hostile one because Manchester was a textile town that had had a relationship with the South because of the cotton. Anyway, the crowd was giving this Yankee a hard time because of how long the war was taking. Initial predictions had been that it would be a matter of weeks. One of the hecklers jeered that subduing the South sure was taking a long time, wasn’t it, a lot longer than predicted? Yes, the speaker allowed. It was taking a lot longer than we had anticipated. What we should have factored into the equation was the fact that we would be fighting Americans.
A Flash of Self-Awareness:
I do know, and do not need to be further informed, that I am a very American writer. Nothing can be done about it now anyway.