Saturday, September 29, 2007

Quotes and Facts: From "Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris.

This is my last post based on "Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris ( ). Most of the quotations are from Theodore Roosevelt, however, I have also included some quotes by Morris for clarification.

On April 2, 1903, in Chicago, Roosevelt gave a speech affirming the Monroe Doctrine (which declared the entire Western Hemisphere off limits to European expansion). This speech famously paraphrased a West African Proverb:
"There is a homely old adage which runs, Speak softly and carry a big stick: you will go far. If the American nation will speak softly, and yet build, and keep at a pitch of the highest training, a thoroughly efficient navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far." Morris, p.215.

Morris puts Roosevelt's statement in context: 'This generated such applause as to suggest that the audience took his "adage" as aggressive rather than cautionary. Actually, Roosevelt was trying to say that soft-spoken (even secret) diplomacy should be the priority of a civilization, as long as hardness-of military resolve, of military might-lay back of it. Otherwise, inevitably, soft speech would look like scared speech' Morris, p.216.

Theodore Roosevelt on Conservation and Child-Bearing, April, 1903:
"Every man who appreciates the majesty and beauty of the wilderness and of wildlife, should strike hands with the far-sighted men who wish to preserve our material resources, in the effort to keep our forests and our game-beasts, game-birds, and game-fish-indeed, all the living creatures of prairie and woodland and seashore-from wanton destruction. Above all, we should recognize that the effort toward this end is essentially a democratic movement. It is entirely within our power as a nation to preserve large tracts of wilderness, which one valueless for agricultural purposes and unfit for settlement, as playgrounds for rich and poor alike...But this end can only be achieved by wise laws and by resolute enforcement of the laws." Morris, p. 221.

Morris on Roosevelt's views of childbearing: 'His views on childbearing ("Three cheers for Mr. and Mrs. Bower and their really satisfactory American family of twelve children!") were bolstered by spaces so wide and soil so deeply fertile. With the irrigation schemes he had signed into law, these plains might one day support a hundred million people.
'In Iowa's fecund fields, glistening with spring rain, women in faded Mother Hubbard gowns crowded his (train) car, their arms bursting with progeny...Bachelors declining to marry,urban women repressing their natural reproductive function, denied America the seed she needed to grow and be great. Ripeness was all. "I congratulate you on your crops," he said, smiling around at clustered families, "but the best crop is the crop of children." '

Comment by "The Hand": I was surprised at Roosevelt's views on population control. I assumed that as a pioneering environmentalist, he would be for the limitation of family size. It was a pleasant discovery to find that he could be for preserving nature and large families at the same time.

Theodore Roosevelt on the way to preserve peace: "We infinitely desire peace, and the surest way of obtaining it is to show that we are not afraid of war." Morris, p. 229.

Theodore Roosevelt on the Japanese Empire: "If now nations come to power...the attitude of we who speak English should be one of ready recognition of the rights of the newcomers, of desire to avoid giving them just offense, and at the same time of preparedness in body and in mind to hold our own, if our interests are menaced." Morris, p. 313.

This is the end of my reflections on Theodore Roosevelt. These reflections have led to articles to be posted in early October, one on the fighting of Just Wars (Iraq in particular), and another on the Church and War. Future biographies of famous Americans to be discussed on "The Hand" will include those of Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. The first volume of Morris's life of Theodore Roosevelt, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" can be ordered by going to this link: .

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Presidential Legacies.

While reading "Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris ( ), I cannot help comparing the legacy Theodore Roosevelt left this nation with the legacies of his successors. Roosevelt is one of the few Presidents in this century that has not left a legacy of bad consequences to be suffered by succeeding generations. Lets look briefly at most of the Presidents who followed Roosevelt and their negative legacies:

Woodrow Wilson: Much of the origins of "big government" began on his watch with his blessing. While he was a good war-time President, he helped negotiate a peace settlement that has haunted this world to this day. It helped facilitate a Second World War. Much of our current tension with the Islamic world stems from these negotiations.

Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover: All three practiced a foreign policy which neglected the role of the United States as a world power. The result was that Germany and Japan became convinced their expansionist plans would succeed. And they almost did.

Franklin Roosevelt: The threat to our Constitutional form of government from FDR's New Deal cannot be minimized. It is still not clear whether the American people will resist big government from taking over every aspect of their lives. Roosevelt is to be praised for anticipating the threat from the Axis Powers and for his overall performance as a war-time President. Yet his blunders in negotiating the peace brought on the Cold War.

Harry Truman: Most of his major decisions were correct, but the manner in which he chose to wage the Korean War led to the disastrous model of limited military engagements such as Vietnam.

John F. Kennedy: By his orders, the President of South Vietnam was assassinated. This led to the disintegration of that country. His bungling of the Bay of Pigs allowed Castro to remain in power to this day.

Lyndon Johnson: The only positive aspect of his Presidency was his efforts on behalf of Civil Rights. His gargantuan ego determined his policies and made him one of our worst Presidents. His War on Poverty decimated the lives of those it was intended to help. His conduct of the War in Vietnam brought on national disillusionment at home and caused such foes as the Soviet Union, Saddam Hussien, and Osama Bin Laden to think the United States is a paper tiger.

Richard Nixon: His crimes in office destroyed much of the trust the public held in the office of the Presidency. Not even Reagan was able to restore that trust completely.

Jimmy Carter: Those too young to remember his years in the White House cannot fathom how bad things were during his administration. His handling of the Iranian Hostage Crises made the United States look like a laughing-stock around the world. His bumbling helped bring about the Iranian Revolution. He played a big part in destroying our ability to gather intelligence from around the world. His "Malaise" speech has to be one of the worst, most dispiriting speeches ever given by an American President. We are still suffering from his incompetence to this day.

George H.W. Bush: He allowed Sadaam Hussien to reconsolodate his power after the First Gulf War, which led to the slaughter of many Kurds. (See my article at . ) The shallow depth of his Conservative principles alienated his base and led to the election of Clinton.

Bill Clinton: He was one of America's most corrupt political figures; he was a modern day Aaron Burr. He demeaned the office of the Presidency as well as public discourse. His administration allowed the North Koreans to develop nuclear weapons. We still don't know how much sensitive technology he sold to China. His failure to fight terrorism militarily, and his hobbling of law enforcement (especially the rule known as "the wall" which prohibited the FBI and the CIA from sharing information) led directly to 9/11.

Compared to his successors, Theodore Roosevelt's legacy looks better all the time. I will conclude my series on Roosevelt with one more article.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Audio Impressions.

1776 by David McCullough. My brother Andrew bought me the unabridged CD version of this book for Christmas two years ago. Read by the author, the ten disks contain about twelve hours playing time. The action covers the time from Bunker Hill to Washington's crossing of the Delaware. While the author takes no position himself on whether God protected the ragtag American army, the story itself can attest to such a fact. So many times the Americans should have been destroyed, so many times what Washington described as Providence saved the army to fight another day and eventually triumph. It is interesting that McCollough provides quotes from American army officers and civilians acknowledging God's intervention on their behalf while no such corresponding sentiments of the British were either made or were quoted by McCullough. (Some mature subjects do come up for discussion, such as the behavior of off duty soldiers and the rape of American women by British soldiers.) Of course, it would be cheaper to buy the book. However, if you have a long road trip ahead, listening to this CD version would be an excellent way to pass the time. If you don't want to pay the price, perhaps you could check it out of the library. McCullough is one of my favorite narrators so I am glad to have a copy of his work to listen to. You can order the CD version by linking here: .

From the Daniel Pipes Website: . Daniel Pipes is one of this country's greatest Middle East scholars. I receive free e-mails from his website and the information he shares concerning the behavior of radical Islam overseas and in the U.S. is essential reading. While he stresses that he is not an enemy of moderate Islam, he is wrongly accused of being against all Muslims. He is subjected to much criticism from radical Islam and the political left. Earlier this year, Pipes participated in a debate with the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. The debate concerned the desirability of multi-culturalism and the spread of Islam. Livingstone seems to have no problem with the West declining. Unfortunately, one has to strain to hear Pipes. Pipes chose as his debating partner a Canadian political commentator, Douglas Murray. Murray is one of the most effective, devastating debaters I have ever heard. And full of humor. To watch this debate online, go to the Pipes website, click on the "Weblog" section and scroll down to the entry, "My Debate with London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Jan. 22, 2007." Also on the "Weblog" section is an entry, "My Disrupted Talk at the University of California-Irvine, Feb. 1, 2007) Click this entry and scroll down to where it shows "Jan. 28, 2007 Update." Here you can see Pipes give a great speech and then being interrupted by radical Muslim students. Other footage shows these students holding a protest rally after they left the building. Their words make it clear that they seek not just the destruction of Israel, but of all Jews.

Sermon Index. This site contains literally thousands of sermons by great preachers both past and present. You can listen to Vance Havner, David Wilkerson, Jim Cymballa, Ravenhill, Keith Green and many more. There are even a few recordings of William Booth. This site has over four hundred sermons by A.W. Tozer, one of my favorite Christian writers and one of my main influences. To listen, go to the website: .

Monday, September 17, 2007

American Power Revisited.

Earlier this year I posted an article entitled "American Power." ( )The opinions expressed were inspired by my reading of the introduction to "Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris. ( )The gist of the article was that Americans, even those who are Christians, need not be ashamed of America's super-power status. In fact, that power was thrust upon us by circumstances beyond the control of this nation, and that for the most part, that power has benefited the entire world. This is not jingoism, not a confusion between love of the flag and the love of the Cross. One must acknowledge the reality of this nation's power and pray that this power is exercised wisely for American interests while at the same time pray and work for the good of other nations and the extension of God's kingdom around the world. While proud of much of what the United States has done all over the world, I also pray that God's purposes be accomplished, no matter what befalls this nation as those purposes are realized. I am confident that one day this nation will be harshly judged for its abandonment of God in so many spheres. Even if abortion be outlawed again, this nation will have to pay the price for the blood of all unborn children whose lives have been snuffed out before birth. I will soon discuss these issues again in the context of the war against radical Islam in general and the Iraq war in particular.

In considering Roosevelt, he was obviously the right man to introduce American power on the world stage. His vision of the world was one in which the great empires had occupied almost every square inch of ground. They had no where else to expand, but into each other's territories. This made conflict among the powers inevitable. Neither side would allow the United States to remain neutral; each would try to manipulate America to its advantage with the hope of dominating the young country. Even at that time, Germany had designs upon America's Atlantic coast. The Japanese coveted portions of the western United States. The United States could not survive without naval bases on the coasts of other nations; nor could it last long without overseas markets for its goods. This necessitated a strong American naval presence around the world, which made the old empires want to impede, if not destroy the United States. Roosevelt understood the need to exercise power not only for the good of his own country, but for the benefit of the entire Western Hemisphere. He was not afraid of exercising power (unlike his predecessor, William McKinley). Also, among the world leaders of the time, he was the superior strategic thinker and tactician.

Today, many criticize Roosevelt for his conduct regarding Panama and the building of the canal. He had encouraged a revolution in Columbia that created the new nation of Panama so the U.S. could build the canal. While this seems unfair to Columbia, Columbia was trying to extort more and more money from the United States in exchange for the land to build the canal. This could have done severe damage to the U.S. economically because of the military and economic necessity in building the canal. The money would have gone to a corrupt government and would not have benefited ordinary Colombians. Those living in the region of Columbia where the canal was to be built would have suffered economically if the canal was not built; they were facing near starvation if the canal project fell through. The canal would not only benefit the commerce of the United States, it would also prove to be an economic boon to the entire region of Central and South America, allowing for higher standards of living. Of even greater importance, the canal had to be built from a military standpoint. Without the canal, America could not deploy forces around the world in a timely matter to defend itself against the old empires which were increasing their own military capacities. If the Panama Canal was not built, it is probable that the entire Western Hemisphere would have been dominated by brutal European powers and the democracy currently benefiting Central and South America would not have come into being. It is not idle speculation to wonder if the canal had not been built whether or not the United States could have effectively fought Nazi Germany.

Some historians have taken Roosevelt to task for meddling in the internal affairs of other countries in the Western Hemisphere. In particular, they criticize Roosevelt for forcing these nations to pay their debts that they owed to European countries. On the surface, it looked like a bigger nation unjustly interfering in weaker nations' affairs. Yet those European powers, particularly Germany, were using the non-payment of debts as justification for invading these countries. Had Germany or England been allowed to invade, they would have made these nations permanent satellites. The inhabitants of these debtor nations would have suffered as much cruelty as the inhabitants of European empires elsewhere. If one thinks thinks that this region has suffered much bloodshed in the twentieth century, had they become European colonies, the suffering among the people would have been even greater. By forcing countries to pay their debts, Roosevelt spared the United States from a war in which it could have lost parts of its own territory, which Germany in particular coveted. By pursuing such a policy toward the nations in this hemisphere, Roosevelt prevented the region from being dominated by colonial powers, reduced the misery many of these nations would experience during the twentieth century and helped pave the way for democracy to take route at the century's end.

One of my favorite Roosevelt actions was his sending the entire U.S. naval fleet around the world. The navy circled the globe in record time. Congress considered this just a publicity stunt and refused to allocate the funds for such an endeavor. Roosevelt sent the fleet anyway, forcing Congress to pay for the venture. This mission was the product of a superior tactician. The opinion of European governments was that the United States could not deploy naval forces quickly or keep large military formations intact over great distances. By proving them wrong, Roosevelt showed the world that the United States was a power to be reckoned with; that the United states would be capable of resisting European imperialism in the New World. This mission could not have been accomplished without the building of the Panama Canal.

There are some who characterize Theodore Roosevelt as an out of control President bent on exercising power just for the sake of it. The truth indicates otherwise. As Morris points out, Roosevelt was a skilled diplomat who more often diffused dangerous situations than deployed military forces. His skill in negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War won him a Nobel Peace Prize. The United States was fortunate to have a leader at that time who understood that power was not to be shunned, but exercised for the good. In fact, he realized that the nation could not avoid becoming a world power. Some of his successors were not so wise and almost made the U.S. and the world subject to the likes of Nazi Germany. While the record of the United States is in no way unblemished, it can be argued from history that its power has been used mostly for the good of all nations. And while being a world power makes some, including some Christians, queasy, the nation could not have survived without exercising its power. And the world would be a much more brutal place as a consequence. The United States had no choice but to be a super power. To acknowledge that God has a purpose in America assuming such a status is not equating America with God's kingdom. God has his purposes for the U.S., yet He has not revealed them to me or anyone I know. Yet I can sense from my reading of God's Word that there will be a day when this nation will be brought to an account for its culture and its actions. To understand God's judgement is coming is not to preclude celebrating the nation's achievements; in fact, such times allow us to acknowledge God's goodness to us. Nor are we precluded from using our power to ensure national survival and promote stability and safety world-wide.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Monday Morning Devotions.

"For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." (Eph 5:5, NKJV)

This passage is often quoted as a warning against sin. Were you or I to use this verse as a means to convince someone to renounce sin, we might be asked in return, "How? I would like to change my behavior and live a holy life, yet I have failed. All you give me is a warning and no aid. What good is that?"

When we counsel ourselves or others with warnings from scripture, we must also seek practical advice from God's word on how to stop sinning. Fortunately, Biblical warnings against sin almost always include instructions as to how we can cooperate with the Triune God to live a holy life. The above quoted verse is no exception.

In Ephesians 4:21-24, Paul commands us to put off the old man "which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind..." This command more than implies that not only can we change our behavior, but that the very mind that produces wickedness can be transformed. The rest of the chapter lists behaviors and attitudes that we must put off as inconsistent with being a new creature in Christ: lying, stealing, corrupt communications, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, malice. But Paul does not stop there. He give us more than a list of don'ts. The other half of holy behavior is to add on those activities that transforms our minds and therefore changes our behavior. Speak the truth, labor so as to be able to give, impart grace in our speech, practice kindness, forgiving each other, giving thanks to God at all times. What many people forget when they attempt to be holy is that holiness does not just consist in casting off the bad. Holiness also includes adding on the good. Holiness requires the practice of what I call replacement behavior. However, this is not the whole story concerning holiness. If it were just a matter of our own efforts to live right, then holiness would be nothing more than legalism. There is more and to discover the whole truth about holiness, we need to look at the context not only of Ephesians 5:5, we need to know how other scriptures speak about the holy life. For example, I Thessalonians 5:12-22 gives us a long list of what to do and what to abstain from. Yet in the next verse, Paul declares that it is God himself who sanctifies us, not we ourselves. The author of Hebrews writes: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (NKJV) As we put off bad behavior and put on the new man, we do it in faith that God will sanctify us, that the Father will transform our minds to be like His Son's through the power of the Holy Spirit. The faith that He will reward our endeavors is what we must remember most. It is this faith that we must remind ourselves of as we live holy lives. It is this faith that we must point people to as we counsel them to put off sin.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Presisidential Courage: TR Style.

Over the past several months, I have been reading "Theodore Rex," the second of a three volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. ( ) Morris's first volume, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt", won the Pulitzer Prize. This second installment covers the years of Roosevelt's presidency (1901-1909). Since it took me such a long time to read, readers might find it strange when I assure them that the action in each chapter carries readers along at a quick pace; there is never a dull moment with Theodore Roosevelt. Getting to know Theodore Roosevelt makes one wonder where the men of superior vision and intellect are to be found in the current political arena. The most many know about Theodore Roosevelt is that his face is on Mount Rushmore. After reading this biography by Morris, no one could refuse to rank Roosevelt among our greatest Presidents.

To analyze Roosevelt's domestic achievements would take many articles, so this post will focus upon just one area: race relations.

Theodore Roosevelt was President during an era of over-whelming racial prejudice. The context of the times makes his record on this subject all the more impressive. One of his very first acts as President was to invite America's most famous African American to dine with him at the White House. This invitation was the first time an African American had been invited to dine with the President in the White House. That African American was the former slave and noted educator, Booker T. Washington. The firestorm of protest, especially in the South, is an ugly chapter in our nations history. South Carolina Senator Benjamin R. (Pitchfork) Tillman's reaction was the most notorious. (Here is his reaction with my editing: "The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that...will necessitate our killing a the South before they will learn their place again." Morris, p.55) Roosevelt had more than a symbolic dinner in mind when he invited Washington to dine with him. Roosevelt's intention was to work with America's best known African American to remake the Southern political landscape, improve the lot of Southern blacks, and ease the simmering tensions between the two races before those tensions erupted into a war between whites and blacks. Previous Presidents, Republican and Democrat, sought the support of Southern whites by appointing the most prejudiced of whites to Federal offices. Roosevelt and Washington agreed to cooperate in placing moderate whites (Republican and Democrat) as well as African Americans in office with the intent of breaking the monopoly of racially prejudiced office holders. The record of success was mixed. Yet for such a politically ambitious man as Roosevelt to incur the wrath of a whole region for what he knew was right in such a climate as existed then reflects profound moral courage. This climate existed in the entire country as well and so Roosevelt was in effect taking on the entire nation on this issue.

But Roosevelt did more on this issue of race. He spoke out publicly against the practice of lynching, which was occurring nation-wide at a rate of one hundred hangings per year. (Morris, p. 47) When the Governor of Indiana declared that blacks accused of murder had the right to a fair trial and dispersed a mob intent on lynching, Roosevelt sent him a congratulatory letter, which was the first anti-lynching statement by a U.S. President: "My dear Governor Durbin...permit me to thank you as an American citizen for the admirable way in which you have vindicated the majesty of the law by your recent action in reference to lynching...All thoughtful men...must feel the gravest alarm over the growth of lynching in this country, and especially over the peculiarly hideous forms so often taken by mob violence when colored men are the victims-on which occasions the mob seems to lay most weight, not on the crime but on the color of the criminal...There are certain hideous sights when which once seen can never be wholly erased from the mental retina. The mere fact of having seen them implies degredation...Whoever in any part of our country has ever taken a part in lawlessly putting to death a criminal by the dreadful torture of fire must forever after have the awful spectacle of his own handiwork seared into his brain and soul. He can never again be the same man." (Morris, p. 261-262) For a U.S. President to make such a statement during those times was a radical act indeed.

Politically, Roosevelt could do no more than speak out, yet he was far more courageous concerning race relations than his cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Even though FDR was known as a friend of African Americans, FDR had not the courage to support a bill in Congress outlawing lynching. (Harry Truman later signed such a bill into law.) Theodore Roosevelt's record on race relations was not perfect. His unjust dismissal of an entire company of black soldiers is fully chronicled by Morris. Roosevelt believed that whites were superior to blacks. (He considered Booker T. Washington to be an example of how blacks could eventually catch up with the white race.) However, for a President with such prejudices to risk his political career by seeking the well-being of an oppressed race within his own country at such a time is an example of political courage very few public figures could equal.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Monday Morning Devotions.

"Now when you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devises." ( II Cor 2:10-11, NKJV)

Witnessing for Jesus Christ tends to cause non-believers to ask questions such as this: "If what you are saying is true, then why are Christians divided into so many groups"? Many thoughtful Christians have asked themselves what they could do to counter such an impression. Some Protestants seek common ground with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. While there is much to be gained spiritually from such a quest, in the end, I do not believe such a dialogue among these three groups will bear the fruit of a truly unified Church.

What can individual disciples of Jesus do to maintain unity within the body of Christ? The answer: Practice forgiveness and encourage others to do the same.

Of all the sermons preached in Churches regarding the Church at Corinth (the Church Paul was addressing in the quote above), the majority of them I am sure focused upon Paul's denunciation of that Church's sin. Yet we are apt to forget that Paul had a redemptive purpose in mind. An individual in the Corinthian Church had to undergo Church discipline, but to the end that he would experience forgiveness from God and the Church. "...deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor. 5:5, NKJV) But the individual was not Paul's only concern. The entire Corinthian Church had a stake in this matter. Satan wanted enmity to reign among the Corinthian believers. Were Satan to succeed in this matter, the Corinthian Church would become powerless, produce angry, powerless people and then wither away. Paul wanted members of that Church to practice forgiveness as a first defense against the strategies of the enemy. Today's disciples too are to practice forgiveness for the sake of unity. This weapon in the end will prove more powerful than theological understanding among different Churches or any ecclesiastical unity. When the world sees the Church practicing true repentance and forgiveness, then the world will see all the unity it needs to see.