Reflections on the Last 40 Years in America: The Nineties

This is the second of four articles in a series entitled, Reflections on the Last 40 Years in America.

The Nineties were an exciting decade. It was a time of tremendous technological change. The internet, cell phones, and digital music changed society in unfathomable ways. It was also a time of political and cultural change. The Nineties were definitely not boring. Sadly, though, the decade also included several tragedies. So let’s look back on that time for a few moments.

POLITICS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AND TERRORIST ATTACKS

As the Cold War drew to a close on Christmas Day of 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union (what a nice Christmas present!), the geopolitical situation changed fundamentally. Instead of a bipolar world, the United States became the world’s only superpower. On that night, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time at the Kremlin and replaced by the Russian tricolor. Gorbachev resigned and was replaced by Yeltsin. Atheistic communism was shown to be the complete failure it had been all along.

As Ronald Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush oversaw the transitional period of the end of the Cold War. He chose to take a soft approach toward the old Soviet Union and decided against taking victory laps.

Bush was deft in foreign policy as shown in his handling of the First Gulf War (a.k.a. the Persian Gulf War). Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. The U.S. led the largest allied coalition formed since WWII, quickly defeated Saddam’s forces, and liberated Kuwait. The war had lasting consequences, however. Bush’s son would have to deal with Saddam again twelve years later. In addition, Osama bin Laden, angered by U.S. troops stationed in Saudia Arabia, would mastermind the 9/11 attacks.

Bush ran into trouble on the domestic front, especially the economy. The President broke his famous pledge at the 1988 Republican National Convention, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” The combination of Bush’s decision to raise taxes and the economic recession of the early 1990’s helped pave the way for Bill Clinton to defeat Bush in 1992 and win the White House. Clinton was popular with baby boomers and younger voters, but as a candidate and as a President, he and his wife Hillary would be plagued by multiple scandals.

The near downfall of Clinton’s presidency occurred when Matt Drudge broke a major story on his website, the Drudge Report, about Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. The nation was dragged through the gutter as it learned the sordid details of the Starr Report. Clinton went on to survive impeachment by House Republicans when the Senate failed to convict, but his administration was badly damaged.

In foreign affairs under Clinton, the U.S. intervened militarily in places like Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Some were skeptical about America’s involvement in these places. Others felt that the U.S. should have done more to prevent the Rwandan genocide, in which hundreds of thousands Tutsi, Twa, and Hutu people were murdered.

Also on the international scene, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and became the first black South African President, helping to end apartheid and foster reconciliation; the Oslo Accords were signed; and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a fellow Israeli who opposed the terms of the Oslo Accords.

There were several terrorist attacks in the decade. The first World Trade Center attack took place on February 26, 1993. A truck bomb was detonated below the North Tower. Islamic terrorists were responsible. Ramzi Yousef was the mastermind behind the attack, while his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, financed it. The intention was to topple the North Tower into the South Tower and cause both to collapse. Thankfully, that did not happen, but sadly the attack killed six people and injured over a thousand more. It would be a preview of a much more horrendous attack to come eight and a half years later.

Other terrorist attacks included the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah and Iran were found to be responsible. In 1998, the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. The Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda were behind these attacks. As a result of the bombings, the FBI put Osama bin Laden on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

The Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995 was one of those events in which everyone remembers where he was when it happened. I was a senior in high school, and our Physics class was outside launching rockets we had made. We heard a blast and then saw smoke in the distance. We went inside and turned on the radio to learn more about what had happened.

Timothy McVeigh, with the aid of Terry Nichols, had set off a bomb in a Ryder truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. McVeigh was upset with the federal government over its handling of Ruby Ridge and the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. The Murrah bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil until 9/11. It remains the deadliest domestic terror attack in the country’s history. There were 168 people killed, and hundreds more were injured. Volunteers rushed to the scene to help, and the tragedy united Oklahomans and bolstered their resolve. Later, President Clinton and Billy Graham came to OKC to attend the memorial service.

On a positive note for the city, the hugely successful MAPS project revitalized Bricktown and downtown OKC.

TECH

Sneakers, a 1992 comedy-thriller film, foresaw the implications of the technological change that the decade would bring. There’s a great quote in the film by the character Cosmo which sums up the seismic shift in technology and society which took place in the nineties:

There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!

The material excesses of the eighties gave way to the technological sophistication of the Information Age. Of course the biggest tech development of the decade was the World Wide Web. Suddenly all kinds of information was available at our fingertips. The internet shrank the world by connecting people from distant places. Email and chat rooms became popular new forms of communication. The internet quickly changed the way we did business, commerce, education, music, and even dating. The web was not all good, of course. The negatives included such things as pornography, social isolation, and technological addiction to name just a few. Also, the Dot-com bubble in the stock market caused by massive speculation would lead to the Dot-com crash by the year 2000.

Cell Phones started to become widespread near the end of the decade. I still remember my first one–a Qualcom QCP 2700. My friend worked at the Sprint store and got me a good deal on one. I sent my first text in 1999.

Advancements were made in genetics as well, and major ethical questions were raised when Dolly the Sheep was cloned. It was the first time an adult mammal was cloned from an adult somatic cell.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit in 1990 and provided detailed images of deep space.

The media landscape also changed substantially. Twenty-four hour news came into being with the advent of CNN, Headline News, and the internet. Alternative media such as Fox News and the Drudge Report also arose and challenged the liberal establishment.

One of the crazier events (or maybe I should say nonevents) of technology in the decade was the panic over the Y2K crisis. Endless news stories were generated about how computer bugs involving the inability to properly read the year 2000 would lead to mass chaos in society. Not much happened, though, and in hindsight the hysteria seemed misplaced.

SPORTS

In the sports world, John Elway and the Denver Broncos finally won not just one but two Super Bowls. In baseball, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire battled in a home run race. The Braves made frequent trips to the World Series, but not in 1994, when a strike cut the season short. In 1996, Derek Jeter and the Yankees won the World Series, one of three championships for the Bronx Bombers in the decade. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA. And in April 1997, Tiger Woods won his first major, The Masters, and became the youngest player, at 21, to win the tournament.

ENTERTAINMENT

Popular movies of the decade included Jurassic Park and the beginning of a new (or should I say old) Star Wars trilogy. Titanic was the highest-grossing movie. It included a hit single by Celine Dion, My Heart Will Go On, which filled the radio waves. The Matrix trilogy, Independence Day, and The Lion King were other blockbusters. Classics like Braveheart, The Shawshank Redemption, The Prince of Egypt, Forrest Gump, Schindler’s List, and Pretty Woman also appeared on the big screen. Harrison Ford starred in a cinematic remake of the old television show, The Fugitive. Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones appeared in the entertaining swashbuckler, The Mask of Zorro. First Knight satisfied audiences who loved medieval themes and Authurian legend. Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York became overnight Christmas classics, while the computer animation of Toy Story completely changed the landscape of children’s movies for the foreseeable future.

Seinfeld, Wings, Friends, Walker Texas Ranger, Coach, Full House, Frasier, Home Improvement, and the Saturday morning favorite Saved by the Bell were just a few of the popular television shows of the decade. I loved Wings. I remember watching it after Seinfeld on Thursday nights in college, and I still watch reruns of it to this day. Seinfeld and Friends were not just T.V. shows. They were cultural phenomena. “Double dip”, “close talker”, and “soup nazi” entered our vocabulary thanks to Seinfeld. Friends made the coffe shop popular as a hangout; and Ross and Rachel became America’s favorite couple. One of the more underrated shows of the decade was Becker. Ted Danson starred as a cranky doctor in the Bronx who lacked bedside manner and liked to hang out in a local diner.

Seattle’s Grunge music exploded on the scene in the first half of the decade. Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam were three of the most popular grunge bands. When Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain committed suicide, it shocked fans. I still remember walking out of school that day when I heard the news.

Other alternative rock bands like The Cranberries and The Cure also dominated the era. I had my own alternative rock band, Introspective. We played a few shows, but mostly we got together to jam and hang out.

Brittany Spears and boy bands like NSYNC dominated the latter part of the decade. On the rap scene, Coolio and Dr. Dre were mainstays on MTV.

Napster changed the way young people got their music. It allowed for the sharing of MP3 files, but it soon ran into copyright infringement issues. The cat was out of the bag though, and the way people acquired their music would never be the same. The days of going to the record store to buy a CD were going the way of the card catalog.

On the book front, The Firm, a legal thriller, catapulted John Grisham to stardom. Also, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park was the basis for the hit movie mentioned above.

SOCIETY

Multiculturalism was a major factor in the nineties. Race issues were front and center when a video of the L.A. Police beating Rodney King was released to the media. Then the trial of the decade, maybe the century, occurred after O.J. Simpson was arrested for murdering his girlfriend, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. But the drama began before the trial even started. Millions watched on television as authorities chased O.J. Simpson and his friend A.C. Cowlings down the L.A. Freeway in a white Ford Bronco. Simpson was found not guilty, but many were convinced that he was guilty.

When Princess Diana was tragically killed in Paris in an automobile accident as she and her boyfriend fled the Paparazzi who were chasing them, a worldwide outpouring of grief and sympathy occurred. Mourners left flowers, candles, and messages outside of Kensington Palace in her honor.

On April 20, 1999, the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado shocked the nation. Two teens, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered twelve students and a teacher in their school before committing suicide in the library.

CONCLUSION

The nineties were a mixture of triumph and tragedy. Two major events can serve as bookends for the decade. The fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War ushered in the nineties while the impeachment of President Clinton and political dysfunction ushered it out. The United States that would enter the new millennium would be a far different country than the one at the beginning of the decade. Technological, social, political, and geopolitical changes had transformed not only the country but the world. And unbeknownst to the United States, trouble lay on the horizon.

Reflections on the Last 40 Years in America: The Eighties

This is the first of four articles in a series entitled, Reflections on the Last 40 Years in America.

The Eighties were my favorite decade. Those were the years of my childhood. Times were so much simpler back then–before the internet, ubiquitous cell phones, texting, Netflix, Facebook, and email. Let me try to take you back to that time.

Ronald Reagan was President, and he presided over a time of relative peace, stability, and prosperity. By the end of the decade, the Berlin Wall had fallen and the Cold War was drawing to a close. There was definitely less division in the country; many Democrats actually voted for Reagan. It seemed like everyone loved America. We felt safe, and society was much more peaceful. There weren’t shootings and disasaters every week like now, but the Challenger disaster did stand out as one of the tragedies of the decade. Americans looked to President Reagan to soothe the nation as he talked about how the crew of the shuttle had “slipped the surly bonds of earth.”

On the technology front, personal computers began to be mass marketed for home use. IBM released its first personal computer, while Apple released its Macintosh personal computer. It was the first commercially successful PC which used a mouse and a graphical user interface. Cell phones began to hit the market, although they were mainly a luxury for the wealthy and not yet widely used by the general public. The internet, then called ARPANET, had been in development since the 1960’s, but it would not become available to the general public in the form of the World Wide Web until the 1990’s.

On the weekends in the eighties, teenagers went to the mall, the skating rink, or the movies. Popular movies included the Indiana Jones trilogy, E.T., The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, the Back to the Future trilogy, Top Gun, Rocky IV, Star Trek II and IV, Three Men and a Baby, and Crocodile Dundee. Television was much cleaner back then. We had classic shows like The Cosby Show, Family Ties, and Magnum P.I. Popular books of the decade included Beloved, Lonesome Dove, and The Color Purple. And Rush Limbaugh began broadcasting his famous radio show nationally from New York City in 1988.

Musically, it was the beginning of MTV (back when they actually showed videos). Bands like U2, Duran and Duran, and The Police were in vogue. Almost every young person had seen Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. I still remember listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 on the radio on Sunday with my brother after we got out of church.

As kids, we played board games like Risk, Monopoly, and Stratego. Hot wheels, Legos, and Star Wars figures were the popular toys for boys. Girls had Cabbage Patch Dolls and Barbies. We called our friends on the phone and talked for hours since there was no texting. We spent the night at each others’ houses on the weekend and played video games like Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo. We had our birthday parties at the arcade at the mall. We played Little League and traded baseball cards. My dad coached our team in 6th grade.

One of my most vivid memories was watching the New York Mets come from behind in Game 6 of the ’86 World Series with my brother and mom. How exciting it was to watch Ray Knight score the winning run as Mookie Wilson hit it down the first base line!

Family was important. We loved and respected our parents and visited our grandparents often. We ate at cafeterias like Picadilly’s and Luby’s. Of course we got plenty of Happy Meals at McDonald’s, too. We played basketball and football with our cousins on the weekends. We went to church on Sunday mornings and studied the Bible. My mom led me to Christ in our living room when I was eight years old.

My mother was a teacher, and I was in her math class in 2nd grade. One of my favorite memories was going to the school carnival in the Fall and playing all the games. We also had Land Run day in April where we dressed up and brought covered wagons to school. We said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang My Country ‘Tis of Thee at the start of each school day.

My dad and stepmom owned a restaurant called, Pro’s Coney Place. My brother and I spent many Saturdays there playing video games like 1942 and Pac-Man, eating Frito Chili Pies, and walking around Holiday Square. We also went golfing with dad on Saturday mornings at the neighborhood 9-hole course.

Yes, it was a great decade. I have many fond memories of that time. Our country was more united, more secure, more caring, and more optimistic. I thank God that my childhood was in one of the best decades ever.

Ten Ways to Make the SBC Great Again

1. Shut down the ERLC.

2. Remove liberals from leadership within the convention.

3. Fire seminary professors who teach or preach Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and/or social justice.

4. Foster a pro-American atmosphere within the denomination.

5. Cut all ties with ecumenical groups like TGC.

6. Reveal the salaries of top SBC executives.

7. Shift power from the Executive Committee back to the local churches.

8. Take a strong, Biblical stance on homosexuality.

9. Reaffirm the SBC’s commitment to the prohibition of women pastors and preachers.

10. End diversity-motivated hiring practices.

Five Reasons Why I’m Not a Calvinist

With the popularity of the reformer John Calvin and his teachings seemingly on the rise, perhaps it is important to examine his doctrine more closely. Calvinism can be explained with the mnemonic device, T.U.L.I.P. (T=Total Depravity; U= Unconditional Election; L=Limited Atonement; I=Irresistible Grace; P=Perseverance of the Saints). Calvin didn’t invent the device, but scholars use it to summarize his teachings. Let me also say before I begin that I have friends who are Calvinists, and I understand that well-meaning people can disagree over how to interpret the Scripture. So my intention is not to start a fight or draw a line in the sand as a test of fellowship. Having said that, here are five reasons why I’m not a Calvinist:

1. God Desires for all to be Saved

Calvin’s idea that only a few elect are predestined to be saved seems to be challenged by 1 Tim 2:3-4. The letter U in T.U.L.I.P. stands for Unconditional Election. While the Bible does talk about the elect, the idea that God predestined unconditionally a select few seems to contradict what Paul says about God in verse 4: “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Also in 2 Peter 3:9, the Bible says (in the context of Christ’s return), “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Again we see that God does not want anyone to perish.

However, God’s Word is clear that not all will be saved; so we can agree that the Bible refutes universalism. But if God desires salvation for all mankind, then why wouldn’t God elect everyone for salvation? In light of the fact that God desires for all to be saved, the idea of free-will is the only apparent explanation that explains why all are not saved.

2. Christ Died for All

I also believe that Scripture clearly refutes the L in T.U.L.I.P. The letter L stands for Limited Atonement. If we examine 1 John 2:2, we see that Christ is the propitiation, or atoning sacrifice, for the sins of the whole world. Also in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, we see that Christ, our Mediator, gave Himself as a ransom for all. These two verses, in my mind, clearly refute Calvin’s idea that Christ only died for the elect.

3. People have Free Will

This brings us to the letter I–Irresistible Grace. This is the idea that a person cannot resist the grace of God. This negates the concept of free-will. In the Bible we find admonitions against hardening our hearts and resisting God’s grace. Here are a few Scriptures that seem to indicate that we have a choice in whether we follow God or not: Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Joshua 24:15, Jeremiah 29:13, Jonah 3:9-10, 2 Corinthians 6:2, Titus 2:11, Hebrews 3:7-13, and James 4:8. In Titus 1:9, Paul says that an elder or bishop should be able to exhort and convince the gainsayers. Why would it be necessary to convince those who oppose the Gospel unless people have a choice in whether they receive or reject the truth?

There are also numerous passages which, while not necessarily dealing specifically with salvation, show us that God responds to people’s prayers as they seek Him. Moses interceded for the children of Israel in Exodus 32:11-14, and God relented from his anger and did not destroy them. In the well-known verse of 2 Chronicles 7:14, God spoke to Solomon concerning Israel:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

The evil king Manasseh, in 2 Chronicles 33, humbled himself, prayed, and entreated God. In verse 13, it says that, “Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

4. God’s Character is Loving and Merciful

Calvinism doesn’t seem to fit well with the character of God that we learn about in the Bible. We see in the Scriptures that God desires to see people saved. Think of parables such as the prodigal son, the lost coin, and the lost sheep. These all paint a picture of God searching for the lost. Psalm 86:15 says, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” Romans 5:8 reminds us that God demonstrated his love to us as sinners by sending Christ to die for us. So how do we reconcile Calvin’s idea of absolute predestination with the loving and merciful character of God? It’s difficult to do so.

5. The Word Whosoever

Finally, the most famous verse in the Bible informs us that anyone can be saved. In John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Notice the word whosoever. The offer is available to all, though not all will receive it. Revelation 22 tells us that whosoever will (or desires), let him take the water of life freely.

I’m not going to challenge the letters T and P of T.U.L.I.P. because I believe that there is Scriptural support for the doctrines of Total Depravity and the Perseverance of the Saints. Psalm 51:5, Romans 3, and Ephesians 2:1 make it pretty clear that we were born sinners and that before salvation, we were dead in trespasses and sins. And John 10:27-29, Philippians 1:6, and 2 Timothy 1:12 are great texts which show us that it is Christ, not ourselves, who keeps us saved.

One of the major problems with Calvinism is that it seems to take the importance out of personal responsibility. Everything seems to be predetermined, and free-will is removed from consideration. The motivation to evangelize is diminished. Love also seems to take a hit in Calvin’s theology. If you are one of the elect, instead of looking at the lost with compassion, you might be tempted to look down on them.

The Calvinism-Arminian debate has been going on almost since the Reformation, so we probably won’t solve it here. And one has to concede that there are indeed hard-to-understand passages on this topic such as Matthew 22:14, Romans 9, and Ephesians 1:4-5, as well as others. This is clearly a topic that has generated much debate and discussion in the past. My point in writing this blog is to emphasize that God desires for lost people to be saved, and that his salvation is available to all. Jesus promises in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Interestingly, Calvinists could use the first part of that verse to make their point, and Arminians could use the second part.

Thomas Jefferson, not an orthodox Christian himself, in a letter to Benjamin Waterhouse, mentioned the “demoralizing dogmas” of Calvin. While I disagree with some of Jefferson’s reasoning in the letter, I tend to agree that some of Calvin’s teachings are demoralizing. Given the harsh nature of Calvin’s theology, it’s not surprising that many people cannot subscribe to Calvin’s tenets of absolute predestination. Calvinism seems to turn a loving and merciful God into an unfeeling and arbitrary one. It also seems to remove all motivation for repentance or change of conduct in individuals. But ultimately, it’s not what we think or feel that matters. It’s what the Word of God says. And considering the previously cited Scriptural passages, I think it’s fairly clear that Calvin got some important points wrong in his theology.

Be a Berean

If I could offer one piece advice to young Christians in this age of false teaching and celebrity pastors, it would be to know the Bible for yourself.

In Acts 17:11, the Jews of the town of Berea were called more noble than those in Thessalonica because they eagerly received the Word preached unto them, and, not only that, but they also searched the Scriptures daily to check what they heard to see if it was indeed true.

In Matthew 24, Jesus warned about deception and false teachers. Not everyone who preaches or teaches is getting their doctrine from the Word of God. False teachers twist the truth to fit their own agenda. And some may honestly be misinformed or deceived themselves.

When I was in college, I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation for the first time. I searched and studied the Scriptures daily. This was invaluable to me because it gave me a solid foundation for what I believe and for a basic Christian worldview. When I heard the Bible taught from then on, I could check what I was hearing against what I had read in the Scriptures.

False teaching and deception really are widespread in our day–not just in the media or on the college campus, but sadly in the Christian world, too. So know the Bible for yourself, and be like the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they heard was true.

Boston, Plymouth, and Cape Cod—Summer 2019

My wife and I were blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Boston this past week. We left early last Thursday, July 25. I sat by a man on the plane who lived in New Hampshire. He gave me some helpful advice on some places that we should check out. We had a short layover in D.C. at Reagan National Airport and ate at Smashburger.

Once we got in Boston, we took a cab to our hotel at Club Quarters on Devonshire. The room was small, but it was located within walking distance of the Freedom Trail and other sites of interest so it worked well for us. The staff was nice, but our television kept changing channels and turning off on its own. We weren’t in our room much, so it wasn’t a big deal. The view was obstructed by a building across the street. Other than coffee and fruit, the hotel didn’t provide breakfast in the mornings.

After we got settled, we walked to the Old South Meeting House where Ben Franklin was baptized. Outside, a vendor sold touristy things, and we bought a hat and some shirts. Then we made our way to Beacon Hill, saw the Massachusetts State House, and ate dinner at Cheers. The food was surprisingly good, and there were a lot of interesting items related to the show.

Next, we made our way to the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common. The gardens were beautiful. We finished up the night at the Quincy Market and Long Wharf. We got some ice cream at the market, sat down by the water, and watched the yachts on the water. As we sat on the bench, we could hear the riotous crowds at an outside bar.

On Friday, we took the T to Fenway Park for a tour of the stadium. The subway system in Boston has 4 color-coded lines. The Green one takes you to Fenway. We got off on the Kenmore exit and walked around a corner and across the bridge and Fenway was right there. We walked around the stadium and took pictures, and then we took a tour of Fenway Park that we had scheduled beforehand. It started in the team store across the street and then went into the stadium and through the stands. We got to go on the Green Wall and in the press box. Along the way our guide gave an interesting history of the park and the team. The tour ended in a museum within the stadium.

We then ate a quick bite for breakfast and got back on the subway and headed to the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. We had prescheduled this tour online as well. We started out in a replica of the Old South Meeting House where a couple of colonial figures spoke with us, including Samuel Adams. The actors stayed in character and made us laugh. We then headed to a replica of the ship Eleanor. We were allowed to tour the ship and throw fake tea overboard. Another costumed actor told us about what exactly happened that night.

We then headed onto the dock and looked around for a few minutes before being led through the multi-media museum. The experience ended with a trip upstairs to Abigail’s Tea Room where you could have various kinds of tea and dessert. We tried Young Hyson Green Tea, a favorite of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and tried some Boston Cream Pie as we sat on the balcony, which overlooked Fort Point Channel.

We went back to the hotel for a few hours to rest until the Red Sox-Yankees game later that night. We took the T to Fenway again. We got some pizza and a hot dog inside the stadium for dinner and then made our way to our seats. We sat out in the corner of right field. The seats were the old wood and iron chairs. The sun was shining on us for the first few innings so it was pretty hot. The Red Sox hit multiple home runs over the Green Wall and basically dominated the Yankees the whole game. The T was crowded after the game, so we got back to the hotel late.

On Saturday morning we headed to the Boston Common to take a tour of the Freedom Trail. We had bought tickets beforehand online, but we left them at the hotel so we had to buy them again. Looking back, we should have just done a self-guided tour. We were disappointed that our tour guide spent nearly 45 minutes in the Boston Common slamming the Puritans and talking about glaciers. That’s only a slight exaggeration.

There are plenty of maps and books available around town for the Freedom Trail. These allow you to take the trail yourself–not to mention the red brick line in the sidewalk throughout downtown that delineates the trail for you. I would recommend setting aside most of the day for the Freedom Trail. We started about 9:30 a.m. and finished around 5:00 p.m. You have to cross the Charlestown Bridge to reach the last two stops–the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument. We walked across the bridge to get to Charlestown. The Bunker Hill Monument has 295 steps, so if you want to go up it, be prepared for a strenuous circular climb. My two favorite stops on the trail were probably the Old North Church and the USS Constitution.

We ate lunch at an Italian restaurant around the corner from Paul Revere’s house, and for dinner we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe. We took the T after dinner to Harvard. We both were a little underwhelmed and thought the campus rather plain. We went in a local bookstore to look around, and I got some good ice cream at JP Licks. We then got back on the T and headed back to the hotel.

On Sunday morning we went to Tremont Temple Baptist Church, the first integrated church in America. The man I sat by on the plane had mentioned going to this church, and I had seen some good things online about it. The interior was beautiful, and we enjoyed singing the old hymns. The pastor gave a Biblically-sound sermon on Hebrews 3:1-6–Consider Jesus, Glorify Jesus, and Hold Fast to Jesus.

After church we took the T to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. A free shuttle bus took us from the subway stop to the library. The modern-looking building is set by the water, and we spent a few minutes walking the grounds and enjoying the waterfront views before going inside. The museum tour starts with a video of Kennedy’s military and political career leading up to his presidency. You can go through the museum in less than 2 hours. After we finished, we went to the cafe and got some clam chowder and blueberry pie. It was my first time to eat clam chowder. It was too fishy for me. It tasted like potato soup with a fishy aftertaste. The gift shop had some interesting things and was worth the look.

After exploring the grounds some more, we then took the shuttle back to the T and arrived back in downtown Boston. We ate at The Replica Cheers in Quincy Market. We ordered the nachos as an appetizer, which were some of the best we’ve ever had. I got the chili in a bread bowl, and my wife got the hamburger. We then just kind of strolled around downtown Boston. We toured the Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacre and the public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Then we went back to the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden and relaxed. We saw quite a large crowd in the Boston Common watching an outdoor performance of a Shakespeare play. As it got dark, we headed back to the hotel.

On Monday morning, we made our way to the Enterprise Rental Car in Downtown Center. It was hard to find because it was on the ninth floor of a parking garage, which was under construction. The attendant was very nice, though, and he set us up with a black Nissan Rogue. Returning the car was somewhat difficult as we had to navigate the one-way streets to find the entrance into the parking garage, find somewhere to park the car since the Enterprise area was full, and then walk back to our hotel late at night.

Once we received the car, we drove to the town of Plymouth. It was a beautiful, serene oasis. The people were so friendly as we walked along the shore. After being in the frenetic atmosphere of Boston, it was like a breath of fresh air being in Plymouth. I felt so relaxed. We saw Plymouth Rock and then went into some shops and bought a few items. There were some great prices at Pilgrim’s Corner on jackets, hats, and t-shirts.

We made our way back to Plimouth Plantation (we had gone there first, but it wasn’t open yet so we decided to go to Plymouth Rock; and yes the two are spelled differently). We walked through the Wampanoag homesite, the craft center, and the 17th-century English Village. The village offered a beautiful view of the sea below. There were actors in the houses who answered our questions as if they were actual Pilgrims. We talked to them about bathing and swimming. The Pilgrims did not swim in the ocean or submerge themselves in water because they thought it would upset their bodily humors. We finished our tour of the Plimouth Plantation with a quick walk-thru of the exhibits inside and the gift shop.

Around lunchtime, we drove to Cape Cod. In order to get to the cape, we had to drive across a bridge which traverses a canal. So the cape is technically separated from the mainland. We hadn’t really planned out specifically where we wanted to go on the cape. We found a Chick-Fil-A and ate lunch. After that, we decided to go to a beach. I had looked online earlier for the best beaches on Cape Cod, and since we were fairly close to Seagull Beach, we headed there. On the way, we came across some downed power lines which were blowing in the breeze. We could see smoke and sparks, so we turned around. We decided to go to Coast Guard Beach instead. After a little bit of a drive, we arrived at the parking lot for Coast Guard Beach. We had to pay $20 to park and then take a shuttle to the beach. The beach was crowded, but I walked down the beach just a little ways and there were far fewer people. We walked into the water and enjoyed the refreshing waves. As we sat on the beach, we were harassed by biting horse flies. The ocean view was pretty, but the crowds and flies kept it from being relaxing.

After about an hour or so on the beach, we took the shuttle back to our car and drove to Provincetown. I thought the drive would be more scenic, but we couldn’t see much of the ocean until we neared the end of the cape. Provincetown was very picturesque and beautiful, but, in my mind, was marred by the fact that it seemed to be an LGBT headquarters. Gay pride flags were ubiquitous–the Pilgrim Monument even had a flagpole next to it with a rainbow flag underneath the American flag. The gift shop sold gay pride merchandise, and the museum mixed a gay exhibit in with those of the Pilgrims. Interestingly, they had a Somerset Bible opened to Romans 1. I wondered if I was the only one who saw the irony. It was “Family Week”, and sadly we saw kids walking around town at the same time as some kind of gay parade. The town itself was quaint, and we would have stayed longer, but I felt increasingly uneasy about all of the homosexual displays. Provincetown is definitely not a place for kids.

We climbed up the Pilgrim Monument, which didn’t have as many steps as the Bunker Hill Monument and also had ramps. It was still quite a climb, though. It was very windy at top, but there were beautiful views of both the town and the ocean. Sailboats and yachts dominated the shoreline.

Interestingly, the Pilgrims landed first at Provincetown before they sailed onto Plymouth. They also signed the Mayflower Compact aboard the ship just off the coast of Provincetown. It’s easy to assume that they landed first at Plymouth. I had known that they had anchored at Provincetown, but it wasn’t until my wife said something that I learned that they had gone ashore there too.

We left Provincetown and were planning on heading back to Boston, when my wife mentioned that she wanted to see a lighthouse since that is one of the things Cape Cod is known for. We looked up the closest one, and providentially it just happened to be Highland Light. I say providentially because Highland Light is the oldest lighthouse on Cape Cod and it was authorized by George Washington. It also had one of the most beautiful ocean views atop a cliff that I have ever seen. The lighthouse was set back from the water because it had been moved, but you could walk behind the lighthouse to the cliff overlooking the ocean. It was around 7:30 p.m. on Monday evening. I looked out at the ocean and saw a lone sailboat. It was so peaceful and serene. I found myself wanting to stay out there for a long while, bit we were quickly losing daylight and still had a two-hour drive ahead of us to get back to Boston, and we still had to eat dinner and get gas before we returned the rental car.

We stopped at Savory Pizza Grill on the way back for dinner. The food was excellent. They also had an ice cream shop attached to the restaurant, but we were in a hurry and full from the pizza, so we opted out of dessert. We drove back to Boston in the dark, hitting some construction on the Interstate. It was a late night, but we had gotten to see so much on our last full day in Massachusetts.

To sum up my thoughts on the trip–we had a wonderful time. There’s so much to see within Boston itself. Boston is a clean, walkable city. The people we talked to were friendly and helpful. When I think of Boston, I think of 3 H’s–history, honking, and homelessness. Obviously, with the Freedom Trail, there is so much history in the town. So if you love early American history, Boston is a must-see. One of the first things I noticed when we got to downtown Boston was all the honking. There were a lot of impatient drivers. And then sadly, we saw a lot of homelessness, especially in Boston Common and in the T. We ran across a lot of panhandlers, but I guess that is typical with any major metropolis.

I think I enjoyed Plymouth and Cape Cod even more than Boston. It was nice to get out of the city and enjoy a slower, quieter pace with spectacular ocean views. I think it would be nice to go back to Plymouth and stay at a bed and breakfast for a few days.

Early Tuesday morning we headed to the airport to go home. We were supposed to take an UBER, but they cancelled on us at the last minute. So we took an interesting cab ride. The cab driver was a veteran who was interested in history and politics. We had a great conversation. He said he listened to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and liked President Trump. He, not surprisingly, also talked about how he didn’t like UBER because of how they were putting him out of business. He probably got a kick out of my story about how they had cancelled our ride that morning.

We landed in Charlotte and were supposed to have about a two-hour layover, but then we got a surprise. We were bumped from our flight because it was overbooked. The only other flight to OKC wasn’t until 8:40 p.m., so we spent nearly ten hours sitting in the airport. It was a long and stressful day, but we did meet several interesting people. One woman was moving to Florida. Another lady had just come back from Montreal and had been whale-watching. And then I had an encouraging conversation with a lady who had just gotten back from a mission trip to Haiti. She said that she had led a woman to the Lord in the airport that day.

Our flight home offered beautiful views of the sunset and nighttime city views. I had never flown at night before, and it was a different experience from flying during the day.

I’m thankful to God that He blessed us with a wonderful vacation and got us home safely. I would recommend Boston to all those interested in history or baseball. And I would recommend Cape Cod to those who love beautiful ocean views. And isn’t that everyone? The only caveat I would add is that Provincetown, while beautiful, is not a place for kids.

Christians and College

Campus Renewal states that 70% of Christian freshman leave the faith in their first year of college. However, if a student unites with a church or a Christian student ministry, he is much more likely to keep his Christian faith.

I can attest to this finding from my own experience. I felt a little lost when I went off to college until I found a local church, which had a college ministry for students. The fellowship and teaching there provided me the support I needed to face a hostile environment on campus.

Even with that support, it wasn’t always easy being a Christian on a secular college campus. I remember being in a class on Intellectual History of 19th Century Europe–one day we were discussing Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species. I answered a question during our discussion in such a way that I made it clear that I believed in the Biblical account of Creation. I can remember laughter and snickering from the other students in the class.

I also wrote a biweekly opinion column for the student newspaper. One day the paper featured two opinion columns on the subject of gay marriage. I wrote the column against gay marriage and another columnist wrote the column for gay marriage. I received quite a bit of hate e-mails and letters to the editor from people who were upset with me for defending the Biblical position on marriage.

In a political science class, I was politely rebuked by the teacher with a lecture in red ink on my essay paper, again for a stance I took on the gay marriage debate.

Unfortunately, things are much worse today on college campuses for Christians, especially conservative ones. I was criticized and made fun of for my views, but I was allowed to express them. Students today are silenced and shut down if they do not tow the line on issues like homosexuality, climate change, transgenderism, or social justice.

In recent years at my alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, freshman have been required to take a mandatory freshman diversity course, full of left-wing propaganda. There are new departments, which were not there when I attended, designed to promote the LGBT agenda. New pronouns for transgender people have been invented that I didn’t even know existed when I was in college. Socialism is also on the rise among young people. I can’t imagine the vitriol a Trump supporter, or any conservative for that matter, would have to endure on campus these days.

I’m grateful that I was in college before things became too crazy–back when universities still valued the First Amendment. There was still the possibility of fruitful debate and discussion between opposing sides. Mutual respect was not an entirely forgotten concept.

If you or someone you know will be a college student soon, I would recommend five things to help you through this exciting but potentially difficult journey. 1) Find a local church where you can find support. 2) Join a biblical, Christian student ministry on campus, if available. 3) Read your Bible daily. 4) Know what you believe and why you believe it. 5) Pray. This is perhaps the most important one. You need the Lord’s strength to face the opposition you may encounter. Pray for boldness, wisdom, and protection.

Ephesians 6 talks about the spiritual battle that we are in as Christians. The college campus is one of the most intense battlefields in America today. You will need to put on the full armor of God daily. May God bless and protect you.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:10-12‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Napoleon’s Realistic View on Governance

Despite coming of age during the French Revolution and even supporting and defending it, Napoleon did not share many of the extreme idealistic tendencies of his contemporaries when it came to politics. Napoleon was a realist when it came to human nature and political power. It was exactly this moderate way of thinking that allowed him to be the logical choice to take the reins of power when the inept Directory floundered. At the time of the Coup of 18 Brumaire, the French people distrusted royalists and the Ancien Régime, but they also feared the neo-Jacobins and a return to the terror. In their estimation, Bonaparte was the man to preserve the gains of the Revolution while also being able to govern effectively and sensibly.

Napoleon built his empire upon what he called “masses of granite.” These were institutions–the Council of State, the Prefect, the Bank of France, the Civil Code, the Lycée, and the Concordat–that Bonaparte used to bring stability to the chaos which had beset France. This system depended upon a group of elites called notables. These were distinguished, property-owning men who were officially recognized by the French government. Napoleon would rely upon them to help him run the empire.

In 1802, Napoleon established an order of merit system called the Legion of Honor. It replaced the nobility with a merit-based system. It was meant to recognize both military and civil service to the state. Recipients were awarded a medal star attached to a ribbon, a title, and a pension.

Napoleon received much criticism for instituting the Legion of Honor since to some it seemed to be a return to a system of privilege that existed before the Revolution. However, this new institution was based on talent and service, not on birth and hereditary considerations.

The First Consul defended his new order of merit by saying:

“You tell me that class distinctions are baubles used by monarchs. I defy you to show me a republic, ancient or modern, in which distinctions have not existed. You call these medals and ribbons baubles; well, it is with such baubles that men are led.

Napoleon later said that his motto had “always been a career open to all talents, without distinctions of birth.

In Napoleon’s Civil Code, he eliminated some of the more radical notions of the Revolution such as women’s rights and reintroduced a patriarchal hierarchy into the law. Napoleon was realistic about the importance of family to the stability of the state. He pressed the members of the Council of State and the jurists who were writing the Civil Code to give back more power to the father when it came to control over children, inheritance, marriage, and divorce. The Civil Code did codify many of the principles of the Revolution, but it also took France in a more conservative direction.

One can see from the examples above that Napoleon placed great importance on three fairly conservative ideas as the major building blocks of a stable society: a property-based, land-owning class, a merit based system of rewards and distinctions, and a traditional family structure.

In our day, many have a naive view of what government should look like. Support for socialism, equality, free college, and even the abolition of the traditional family abound. These people would do well to study history so that they might realize what Napoleon knew early on–you can’t rule based on fantasies. When establishing a government, certain realities will restrain us whether we like it or not.

“We have finished the romance of the Revolution. We must now begin its history–only seeking for what is real and practicable in the application of its principles, and not what is speculative and hypothetical.”–Napoleon

Brave New World vs. 1984

Are we living in a Brave New World or in 1984? That seems to be the frequent subject of discussion these days. The answer is that we can see aspects of both novels playing out in our society today.

Nineteen-Eighty Four, written by George Orwell, is a dystopian novel about a totalitarian state that echos Stalinist Russia. Winston Smith is a worker in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. Winston secretly rebels against Big Brother and falls in love with a woman named Julia. Eventually, the pair are captured, and they are tortured until they betray one another and express allegiance to Big Brother.

So what parts of 1984 appear in our present society? The constant surveillance is an obvious example. In 1984, telescreens monitor Winston even in his apartment. In our society, we have smart phones, smart TV’s, ubiquitous security cameras, and of course Alexis. But the government hasn’t forced this on the people; people have willingly given up their privacy to these things. And it’s not always government doing the surveillance. It’s often huge corporations.

Orwell’s Newspeak bears remarkable similarities to today’s political correctness enforced at universities and in the media. In 1984, language was limited to prevent independent, undesired thoughts. Big Brother also used nonsense slogans such as War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength in order to brainwash the populace and make them more docile. It reminds one of the Left’s Orwellian language on abortion rights, which is couched in terms of personal liberty and autonomy, and transgenderism (a man can be a woman and vice versa). Though not always government enforced, incredible social and economic pressures are brought to bear upon those who dare to deviate from the liberal orthodoxy of the elites, especially when it concerns the LGBT or abortion rights agendas.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (BNW) is a dystopian novel about a society where people are genetically engineered in artificial wombs. The people are sedated with a drug called soma and by hedonistic pleasure. Bernard Marx, a psychologist, and Lenina Crowne, who works in the hatchery, take a trip to the Savage Reservation and meet John, who grew up reading only two books, one of which is Shakespeare. John is brought back to World State and finds it difficult to fit into the scientifically advanced, hedonistic society.

Whereas in 1984 the public is prevented from hearing the truth, in Huxley’s dystopia, the people are indifferent to it. They are too busy chasing after pleasure. The dependence upon the drug Soma is reminiscent of recent trends in our society–increasing use of recreational marijuana, addiction to online pornography, and an obsession with sports and celebrity culture. Many people in our day know more about the Kardashians than they do about the Founding Fathers.

The social elite in BNW are scientists and intellectuals. Likewise, we also have an elite intellectual class in academia and media, which dictate to the rest of society not only what to think, but also what is morally right and wrong.

The character of John, who does not fit into the World State because of his traditional values, represents a stark contrast to the elitist social hierarchy found at the beginning of the novel. In a way he resembles a Rousseau-like vision of the noble savage unspoiled by civilization. He is physically attracted to the woman Lenina but is turned off by her immoral lifestyle. He represents the old-fashion values of an earlier period, which is contrasted with the modernist, sophisticated, amoral notions of World State. One does not have to strain very hard to see the correlation to our own day.

It could be said that neither writer’s predictions were entirely correct, but when combined together these two books paint a fairly accurate portrait of the world we live in. One usually thinks of 1984 in the context of warnings against totalitarian governments–which seek to crush freedom and control people’s lives. And such warnings are relevant to us, especially when we hear about those kind of tactics being used in countries like China and North Korea. However, we must also be vigilant against the apathy and indulgence we see in Huxley’s vision of the future. In this regard, the enemy may not be Big Brother, but ourselves. We would do well to remember what Huxley said in a letter to Orwell in 1949:

“The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.”

Deliverance and Restoration in 1 Samuel 7

“Restore us, O God of our salvation, And cause Your anger toward us to cease.” -Psalms‬ ‭85:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

At the beginning of the seventh chapter of 1 Samuel, we read about the men of Kirjath-jearim going to fetch the Ark of the Lord. They bring it into the house of Abinadab, where it stays for twenty years. The Ark had been taken by Israel’s enemy, the Philistines, and it had stayed in their land for seven months.

In verse three, Samuel pleads with Israel and urges them to RETURN to the Lord with all of their hearts. During the period of the judges, Israel had gone off into sin and apostasy, and now God’s prophet calls them to repent.

Samuel commands Israel to put away or REMOVE the idols from among themselves and prepare their hearts to serve the Lord only. If they obey in this, Samuel says that God will deliver them out of the hand of the Philistines.

They then gather at Mizpeh and pour out water before the Lord, fast, and confess that, “We have sinned against the Lord.” The children of Israel RECOGNIZE AND CONFESS THEIR SIN to the Lord.

When the Philistines hear that the children of Israel are at Mizpeh, they go up to attack Israel. Afraid, the children of Israel REQUEST PRAYER from Samuel. They tell Samuel not to cease crying out to the Lord so that God will save them from the Philistines. Samuel then takes a suckling lamb and makes a burnt offering to the Lord, and cries out to the Lord.

The Lord then thunders upon the Philistines, and God ROUTS THE ENEMY. Israel pursues the Philistines and smites them all the way to Beth-car. Samuel takes a stone called Ebenezer (literally Stone of Help), and sets it up between Mizpeh and Shen to help Israel to REMEMBER how God had delivered them.

God also RESTORES to Israel the cities– from Ekron to Gath–that the Philistines had taken from them. The Philistines are subdued and no longer come into the coasts of Israel. So God relieves Israel from the oppression of their enemy.

Here we have a great pattern for us to follow. When we have sinned against the Lord, we should return to Him, remove the idols, confess our sins, pray for restoration, and then let God fight our battles. When God delivers us, we should remember what He has done for us and give Him thanks.

What a gracious and merciful God we serve that He would be so kind and forgiving toward us! It is because of what Jesus did on the cross, when He paid for our sins, that God shows us mercy. The risen Savior offers us deliverance from sin, death, and hell; He offers us new life and the ultimate restoration–eternal life with Him in heaven. Praise the Lord, our great Deliverer.