Tending the Wheat

Dr. Ben Haden pastored First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga. His bio is astonishing. His ministry was broadcast and published around the world and welcomed into my study. A former newsman, he told stories and declared Jesus. Ben Haden died in 2013 at age 88. His sermons and teaching had been on radio, TV and online for 47 years.

I think this story is about Haden: Someone said to him he should save some of his stories for himself. He responded with, “If I don’t share them, God will stop giving them to me.”

His line provokes me and stimulates me to get the stories to you ASAP. This is elbowing into my soul:

     FREEDOM—

“…the greatest enemy of freedom is freedom” (Os Guinness).

The forecast has been that America’s enemies would use “Freedom” and “Rights” against us to defeat and destroy us. Those who can’t tell you the Third Commandment or the Fourth Amendment are articulate about the First Amendment—the part about free speech.

Free societies must win freedom, maintain freedom and defend it. There are public declarations by people in the House of Representatives talking about replacing our government and turning USA into a Muslim state. How do we defend freedom from destruction, while gifting those enemies with freedom of speech? Dicey!

“…freedom always faces a fundamental historical challenge. Although glorious, free societies are few, far between and fleeting. In the past, the high view of human dignity and independence that free societies require was attained by only two societies with world influence: the Greeks with their view of the logos, or reason within each person, and the Jews with their notion of the call of God to each person.

“   freedom faces a fundamental political challenge. Free societies must always maintain their freedom on two levels at once: at the level of the nation’s constitution and at the level of their citizen’s convictions. If the structures of liberty are well built, they last as long as they are well maintained, whereas the spirit of liberty and the habits of the heart must be reinvigorated from generation to generation.

“    freedom always faces a fundamental moral challenge. Freedom requires order and therefore restraint, yet the only restraint that does not contradict freedom is self-restraint, which is the very thing that freedom undermines when it flourishes. This the heart of the problem of freedom is the problem of the heart, because free societies are characterized by restlessness at their core.

“…such are human passions and the political restlessness they create that the self-renunciation essential to self-restraint needed for sustaining freedom is quite unnatural.”   Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide, InterVarsity Press, 2012)

     YOUTH—

After talking with a lady about her daughter who walked away from a drug rehab facility, I was agonizing over how many teens and young adults are into drugs, practicing non-traditional sexual habits and choices and moving toward Socialism and Marxism. The center is not holding, nihilism is the philosophical environment. Fear, anxiety and doubt about the future is thicker than southern Louisiana humidity. Shelby Steel writes some ideas that resonate:

“Fidelity to a discipline of principles—rather than to notions of social or public “good”—is the unending struggle of democracies. And the legitimacy of democratic governments and institutions depends on the quality of this struggle.” (Shelby Steel, White Guilt, (Harper Perennial, ©2006) Page 11.

“In democracies, true moral authority is always man’s responsibility rather than God’s, and it can only be earned through fidelity to principle.”

After seven years in the pastorate, I went back to school. I wisely chose the middle and late 60s to put myself in university academics and discussions. I sensed, maybe discerned, the spirits that were invading. I have questioned what happened in the middle and late 60s that affects each generation since. Shelby Steel says some things that offer an answer:

“One purpose of youthful rebellion is to put one’s self at odds with adult authority not so much to defeat it as to be defeated by it. One opposes it to discover its logic and validity for one’s self. And by failing to defeat it, one comes to it, and to greater maturity, through experience rather than mere received wisdom. Of course, every new generation alters the adult authority that it ultimately joins. But if the young win their rebellion against the old, their rite of passage to maturity is cut short and they are falsely inflated rather than humbled. Uninitiated, they devalue history rather than find direction in it, and feel entitled to break sharply and even recklessly from the past.”  (Page 86)

It is the next paragraph that raised my eyebrows and understanding:

“The sixties generation of youth is very likely the first generation in American history to have actually won its adolescent rebellion against its elders.”

That rebellion occurred during the days when adult moral authority was declining and adults were not as certain as they were. Steel says the youth was “served up a rich menu of social and moral ‘contradictions’ and ‘hypocrisies’ to hammer away at the moral authority of adult American society.” Vietnam, women’s rights, racial issues, role of minorities all fueled the sexual revolution and “…over time, it expanded the vacuum of moral authority.”

Western civilization has not recovered that moral authority. Our institutions were invaded by dark spirits (figuratively and literally) and each generation has been affected. (At least that is how I’m reading history and interpreters.)

Speaking for Baby Boomers Shelby Steel says,

“So, just as all the very normal tensions of youth roiled and built into something like a will—the adolescent will to individuate—we met an adult world so stripped of moral authority that it could not do the timeless work of adults, which is to say, ‘Here, and no further.’” (Page 86)

Disturbingly profound insight. And, perhaps, a revelation. The prophet Malachi may be speaking to 2020 when he speaks and quotes God:

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5—last verse of the Old Testament).

Is that our call to reestablish moral authority? I’m wondering if that is part of the “turn from wicked ways” of God’s promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14. Only God can restore moral authority, but He cannot–cannot do it theoretically. Humans are required!

A major global ministry is restructuring itself to invest in and accommodate the youth during the expected Third Great American Awaking. The new structure sounds like the Elijah movement that is promised before “that great and dreadful day of the Lord.”

An odd experience for me: I asked the Lord how we should be praying for the enemies of the State and what we should be doing. Instantly, a thought came: “Let both (wheat and weeds) grow together until the harvest” (Matthew 13:30). With precision timing, a second thought (voice?) said, “Which works if someone is planting and attending to the wheat.”

If you read the Preamble, Declaration and Bill of Rights, you will come away saying, “That’s where I want to live! That is revolutionary!” It is not the foundation of our founding that is weak, it is that the foundation has been neglected. Freedom must be won, it must be maintained and it must be defended. Who is teaching kids the promises, rights and responsibilities of the Preamble, Declaration and Constitution? What those documents say is under attack 24/7. Where are they being taught to adults? Where is the “wheat” being planted and attended? Place the ingredients of American Experiment side by side with other options and the options are pale and undesirable.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident….” Not anymore.

“…the spirit of liberty and the habits of the heart must be reinvigorated from generation to generation” (Guinness).

Thanks for considering.

©2020 D. Dean Benton—Writer & Wonderer & Wheat-Tender.

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