In Matthew 28, Christ told his disciples to go and teach the Word to all the nations. (Mt 28:16-10). That was Christ’s commission, and much has been written about it the past five hundred years.
For those of us who try to imagine just what sort of undertaking that might have been, we imagine humble men walking into towns and speaking of wondrous things to people who would listen. They were playing to a tough room, though, for most of them were executed somewhere along the trail for their efforts.
Matthew Henry, one of the earlier expositors of the Bible, d1714, wrote,
The salvation they were to preach is a common salvation; whoever will, let him come, and take the benefit; all are welcome…
But somewhere along the way this humble commission took a bump in the road, for by the 16th Century, this simplest of messages was being delivered by missionaries backed by armies of conquering steel-plated soldiers on horseback.
By the 16th Century, the churches of Spain and France had been turned into arms of royal foreign and economic policy, justifying the rape of one-and-a-half continents in the New World by bringing Christ to the heathen in order to secure slave labor for the mines or fur trade. Missionaries were part of the royal bottom line.
Frances Parkman, in his volume on the Jesuits in North America, cited one monk’s lament that the last of the Algonquins (a mighty tribe in the 1600s) had died out from disease, going on to say “…at least they had died in the bosom of the Lord”.
About that other one half of two continents, which was spared this Roman onslaught, America was founded originally by Englishmen seeking religious freedom and a new life. Not gold. But in time American churches created their own missionary movements as well, and aimed them at the North American aborigines. Seeking only souls, not riches, still many of them came carrying the same arrogance of power as the conquistadores.
Case in point, just after the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Nex Perce tribe of Idaho sent emissaries to St Louis asking that the white man send men to teach them of this new god. (For the life of me I can’t recall why they did this, but they did.) Heeding this call, the Presbyterians in New England sent a reverend named Henry Spalding who set up two missions in Oregon territory, one manned by himself and his wife, the other by a kindly doctor and his wife, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. In 1847 the Whitmans were massacred along with nine others by Cayuse Indians, setting off a small war.
I was taught this part in 7th grade, for the Whitmans were portrayed as martyrs and heroes in the public schools when I was a kid.
And they were.
But it would be my college days before I learned the rest of the story; that the Indians of the northwest didn’t take kindly to Rev Spaulding treating them like children and trying to beat religion into them with a whip or cane rod, which he did often.
So, in childlike fashion, the Indians killed the innocent Whitmans, the closest white people at hand at the time.
If you’ve read James Michener’s Hawaii the Hawaiians did a similar thing as the Nex Perce. Their Polynesian religion called for their kings and queens to be killed at regular intervals, and one of them, a queen I think, asked that missionaries be brought to Hawaii teaching a religion where the royal family didn’t always get killed in Act III. Since Jesus had already done the dying for them, Christianity seemed like the perfect replacement.
Though not as cruel as the 16th Century French and Spanish, the 19th Century English, American missionaries in Polynesia were often heavy-handed in converting the islanders, even forcing those beautiful children of nature to start putting on clothes.
Re-teaching civilization and morality
Now that preamble (above) was necessary to explain the cultural situation we find ourselves in today.
In 1910 a man named Ward Platt wrote a book, The Frontier, about the missionary effort in the frontier cow towns as they sprung up west the Mississippi after the Civil War.
Most American parishioners in the East who gave to the church mission fund never realized much of that money was supporting mission efforts just a few days’ ride away.
But out west the tables were turned, more like the hostile towns the original disciples entered in the First Century, where Christians were outnumbered by a similar ratio.
As Mark Twain said about Virginia City when he visited in 1867,
… it had a saloon every fifteen steps, several brothels, three opium dens…and some talk of a building a church. And everyone was armed to the teeth.
Missionizing among an armed heathen class obviously called for a lighter touch than Rev Spaulding offered to the Cayuse Indians. A gentle spirit and humility, although it often earned a lot of catcalls and pranks, went much further than Rev Spaulding’s whip in bringing both religion and civility to communities…
…which within a generation won out so completely the arrogance of power re-emerged.
Enter the Methodist Ladies Flower Arranging Society of Greasy Creek
Bernard Chumm, in his piece on “Don’t Give a Damns,” wrote about missionizing turned inward on a town, most often organized by church ladies’ groups, primarily to save the children of the “don’t give a damn” parents in the town, who by the 1930s-1950s, amounted to no more than 10%-15% of the population.
(“Don’t-Give-a-Damn’s” were people of no religious faith or of any sense of right and wrong…except as to what was legal and illegal. Worse, to the ladies, they had no knowledge of even the most rudimentary forms of civilized behavior, such as ordinary manners, belching, cussing, or saying Thank you, Ma’m.)
Every town and city had one or more of these gangs of righteous old crones, from Maine to Tucson. My own town had them, and my mother was one of the ringleaders, which is why I’m so intimate with their prejudices and ways.
These groups’ main purpose was to teach those children about Jesus, and everyone knew who those families were as all the churches in the area collaborated, by accounting who was never there on Sunday, so, like as not, still in bed, as Bernie reported, “cursing those g-damned church bells”.
I’m not sure if civilizing their manners was as important as bringing them to God, since most of the ladies, having never met a French diplomat, believed the two went hand in hand.
From the time I could recognize Margaret Hamilton, I made fun of those old girls for years, as nosy busybodies, but in truth, the number of children they brought to civilization from the don’t-give-a-damn families in our town was probably a staggering 90%. (My sister can attest to this.)
On religion, however, I’d say their rate was much lower. But in hindsight I’ve learned that by injecting religion as a foundation for moral behavior, and moral behavior as the key to civilized behavior, I am certain they did wondrous work in holding society together and making it stronger for succeeding generations. (Again, my sister can attest to this.)
It’s interesting that we seem to have lost this connection between God and Morality and between Morality and Civilized Society, but the Left surely didn’t, for by the late 60’s these old crows were prohibited from shopping their wares in public schools and public places anymore. Banished…all because of religion.
I defy any sociologist to disagree with me on this; that while the ladies of the local Christian Benevolence Society and Thursday Afternoon Flower League in Licking Branch, West Virginia, probably did little, in the CS Lewis sense of the term, to bring many kids to Christ, they brought a helluva lot of them to an understanding of social morality, and, even if they weren’t very religious themselves, they knew that religion was at the root of it.
Those kids respected it. And they feared going astray of it…not because of what the old goats down at the church might say, mind you, but, well, you know, What might lay out there.
In the mind of the godless, God is doubt. And that’s a good thing.
This is what we need to recapture.
Only our playing field has changed, which is why I brought up the prairie missions. Whereas for over a hundred Christian women could storm virtually any city council or school board, and could pull their hat pins from their Mamie Eisenhower hats or hoist their knitting needles high and hold any town hostage, we now have to consider every town in America as the missionaries on the frontier had to analyze their situation almost as it exists today…with open sex, even among children, open drugs, even among children, and alcohol and vice, even among children…”and some talk of a building a church.”
This is because, as Bernie Chumm chronicled, the Don’t Give a Damns have become a federally protected “religious” class, with their own ombudsmen and legal staff. And instead of 10%-15%, they now number closer to 50%, and many of them do not work for a living, but do vote for one. And they have moved up-town, infesting the finest (most affluent and best educated of families).
They control the public highway and their children are off-limits to all but the most qualified of government agents in Child Welfare and Health and Human Services. Kicking the old girls to the side of the road, the state has preempted the field, with the predictable results.
You taxpayer dollars at work: While grey haired ladies down at the church were effective at teaching kids to be moral, and teaching them why they should be moral, as volunteers, FOR FREE!, the state, in its inimitable wisdom has caused them to grow tenfold at the cost of billions of dollars.
The way is clear
You cannot see this change to our society and simply blame government.
While it may be the result of inattention, negligence, and our arrogant belief that we are still in charge, still on top, always able to stampede any city council, as the old girls of my town believed, it was always the policy of the state to have the popular culture destroy the moral culture so that it can be replaced by a sterile, amoral state culture. And it has been their dream for nearly a century.
We’re not only seeing the fruit, but fully grown trees along the Pop Culture’s boulevard…and as soon as the state gets complete control, they will chop everyone of those trees down…overnight. The Don’t Give a Damns are but vessels.
The Left’s purpose was always to remove the moral culture from our memory. History can then be rewritten as if we “were never here”…and by we/you, I mean your parents, your grandparents, all the way back to the days you ancestors first got off the boat.
Michelle Obama spoke of this in 2009, so understand this.
This is not a call to thought, or commiseration, or even prayer. But to action.
How to proceed, Mayhem or humility?
Actually a little bit of both, as I’ve always been a mayhem kind of guy, myself, but it is important for all of you to know that we no longer can push our weight around as the majority anymore.
We have to take the public and popular highway back, but in such a way that children of the Don’t Give a Damn’s will 1) know there are rules of society that mean survival, generation after generation and 2) have THAT doubt left in their minds. That’s about all we can do…
…besides smiting all the back sass we will hear from our local councilmen and board members and “paid” parents sent to protest. I understand we can’t go into the schools teaching Jesus as we once could but we can insist that ethics and morality, and all the inter-connectedness I just mentioned above be taught, and that the parents and community have some say (a lot) as to the content, so we don’t get Saul Alinsky’s ideas on right and wrong taught to our kids.
We need to go back into the lion’s den and take back all that territory. And we need to do as a group, not as mob.
But we can’t do it flying solo, as so many Christians have done these past 30 years. Too have been saying it’s every man for himself. Not a good thing. I admire homeschooling, but in fact, especially those citizens should be the ones fighting hardest to restore the schools to what they once were. And yes, folks, before the last of us die out who can remember, American public schools were once the finest in the world, and the fact that it can be once again is a thing we should all strive to see.
Just never lose sight of the prize…taking over the highway then putting kids back on that highway.