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BreakPoint: The Greatest Love

Memorial Day Memories

Today on BreakPoint, we hear Chuck Colson’s thoughts on Memorial Day and what he called, “The Greatest Love.

It was February of 1945—three months before the end of World War II in Europe. Eighteen-year-old Sergeant Joseph George of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, was stationed in Lorient, France. It was evening, and George was preparing to go on patrol. The Americans were hoping to locate landmines buried by the Germans.

Sergeant George had been on patrol duty the night before. As he told his friend Private James Caudill, he was tired—tired and scared. Private Caudill offered to take the patrol on his behalf. He pointed out that, at age 36, he was nearly two decades older than George. He told George—who had already been blown off a torpedoed ship in the English Channel—“You’re young. Go home. Get married. Live a rich, full life.” And then Private Caudill went out on patrol. A few hours later, he was killed by a German sniper.

The actions of Private Caudill echo the values and valor of generations of military men and women we remember today. And they are an example of the sort of behavior we almost take for granted when it comes to our men and women in uniform who fight just wars.

What is a just war? One that is defined as providing a proportionate response to evil, to protect non-combatants, among other considerations. Today, our military men and women around the world are fighting to resist evil. Ridding the world of Islamo-fascism—by just means—is a good and loving act.

This willingness to sacrifice on behalf of our neighbors is why military service is considered such a high calling for Christians—and part of what makes just wars just. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica puts his discussion of just war in his chapter on charity—the love of God and neighbor. John Calvin agreed; he called soldiering justly a “God-like act,” because “it imitates God’s restraining evil out of love for His creatures.”

A world in which free nations refuse to fight just wars would be a world where evil is unchecked and where the strong would be free to prey on the weak—as we are now seeing in Darfur.

Our soldiers’ willingness to defend the defenseless around the world makes me proud to be an American. Their willingness to lay down their lives is a reflection of how the Christian worldview has influenced our society, which is why American soldiers, by the way, are welcomed all over the world, as historian Stephen Ambrose wrote, while soldiers from other cultures are feared.

So what of Sgt. Joseph George? He returned safely home. He married, fathered five sons. One of them—Princeton Professor Robert George—is a good friend of mine. He’s devoted much of his life to fighting the moral evils of our time: abortion, embryo-destructive research, and efforts to redefine marriage in a way that would destroy it.

In John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that [he] lay down his life for his friends.” The story of Private Caudill and Sergeant George makes one realize more deeply what a tremendous gift this is. It’s why the George family has remembered Private Caudill in prayers for sixty-one years.

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BreakPoint: Thanksgiving 2017

Hi, I’m John Stonestreet. Today, we want to share a classic Chuck Colson BreakPoint commentary on Thanksgiving, Squanto and the providence of God.

Chuck Colson: Most of us know the story of the first Thanksgiving; at least we know the Pilgrim version. But how many of us know the Indian viewpoint?

No, I’m not talking about some revisionist, politically correct version of history. I’m talking about the amazing story of the way God used an Indian named Squanto as a special instrument of His providence.

Historical accounts of Squanto’s life vary, but historians believe that around 1608, more than a decade before the Pilgrims arrived, a group of English traders sailed to what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the trusting Wampanoag Indians came out to trade, the traders took them prisoner, transported them to Spain, and sold them into slavery. It was an unimaginable horror.

But God had an amazing plan for one of the captured Indians, a boy named Squanto.

Squanto was bought by a well-meaning Spanish monk, who treated him well and taught him the Christian faith. Squanto eventually made his way to England and worked in the stables of a man named John Slaney. Slaney sympathized with Squanto’s desire to return home, and he promised to put the Indian on the first vessel bound for America.

It wasn’t until 1619, ten years after Squanto was first kidnapped, that a ship was found. Finally, after a decade of exile and heartbreak, Squanto was on his way home.

But when he arrived in Massachusetts, more heartbreak awaited him. An epidemic had wiped out Squanto’s entire village.

We can only imagine what must have gone through Squanto’s mind. Why had God allowed him to return home, against all odds, only to find his loved ones dead?

A year later, the answer came. A shipload of English families arrived and settled on the very land once occupied by Squanto’s people. Squanto went to meet them, greeting the startled Pilgrims in English.

According to the diary of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford, Squanto “became a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . He showed [us] how to plant [our] corn, where to take fish and to procure other commodities . . . and was also [our] pilot to bring [us] to unknown places for [our] profit, and never left [us] till he died.”

When Squanto lay dying of fever, Bradford wrote that their Indian friend “desir[ed] the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in heaven.” Squanto bequeathed his possessions to the Pilgrims “as remembrances of his love.”

Who but God could so miraculously convert a lonely Indian and then use him to save a struggling band of Englishmen? It is reminiscent of the biblical story of Joseph, who was also sold into slavery, and whom God likewise used as a special instrument for good.

Squanto’s life story is remarkable, and we ought to make sure our children learn about it. Sadly, most books about Squanto omit references to his Christian faith.

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Living as Christians in a Deeply Divided Time

For many Americans, the most crucial factor in their Thanksgiving plans is who they’ll have to talk to across the table. More on being Christian in a divided nation. . . .

In the wake of last year’s election, many Americans decided to spend Thanksgiving with friends instead of family. This year, I suspect it will be even worse. After all, once Uncle Bill starts talking about President Trump, or Aunt Sally weighs in on transgenders in the military, or Cousin Phil announces why a Christian baker should or shouldn’t decorate a cake for a gay wedding . . . well, who knows what might happen.

I’m not that old—not nearly as old as Eric Metaxas, in fact—but I can’t remember a time when our country, our communities, and even our families have been so ideologically divided. Not only do we disagree but we tend to see others not only as wrong, but as our enemies. On news outlets, college campuses—certainly on Twitter—civility is out the window.

It’s one thing to say “I disagree with you.” It’s another thing to say “I can’t even share a meal or stand the sight of you.”

But it’s exactly here that Christians have something unique to offer.

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Virtue and Vice on Display

Even with all of our modern devotion to moral relativism, people still know virtue—and vice—when they see it.

Chuck Colson liked to quote Karl Barth’s observation that Christians should do theology with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.

Now I’m not sure what Chuck would have thought of podcasts, but Barth’s quote came to mind while listening to a recent episode of the Tony Kornheiser Show.

In the final segment, Kornheiser and his guests talked about two stories in the news. The first was an article in the Washington Post about Tim Tebow playing in baseball’s Single-A minor league after his stint in sports limelight.

Tebow was a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at the University of Florida. And while his NFL career wasn’t nearly as successful, he still had great moments.

But what has long set Tebow apart, of course, is his Christian faith. It’s drawn millions of people to love him. It’s also why he has been the object of what George Weigel called “irrational hatred,” despite his many charitable efforts and the fact that he doesn’t force his faith on anyone.

Recently, the Post’s Barry Svrluga spent a day in Hagerstown, Maryland, watching Tebow in action. And he admitted that his initial skepticism (maybe even cynicism) quickly changed when he saw Tebow interact with fans, some of whom had driven hundreds of miles to see him. He talked about Tebow’s “prom experience for kids with special needs” called “Night to Shine.”

Svrluga had this to say to those who are cynical or dismissive about Tebow’s decision to now play minor league baseball and to question his motives: Before you form your opinion about Tim Tebow, “Talk to the people who made the pilgrimage here,” he said, “and look at the smiles in right field in the early evening.”

Everyone on the show agreed. Kornheiser, who’s Jewish, even joked that if he had spent a few more minutes with Tebow he might have ended up converting. He and his guests could not say enough good things about Tim Tebow.

Then the conversation turned to a very different subject: Harvard’s rescinding of at least ten offers of admission to members of its incoming freshman class. Harvard took this highly unusual step because of a Facebook group created by members of that class.

Their posts contained “offensive jokes about school shootings, the Holocaust, [sexual perversion] and the death of children and minorities.” And these are just the ones we can mention on this commentary.

All the guests on the Kornheiser show agreed—and so do I: Harvard did the right thing.

But it’s the juxtaposition of the Harvard story with Tebow that brought to mind what C.S. Lewis said in “The Abolition of Man”: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

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BP_blog
One Follows the Other
We’ve already witnessed the spiritual demise of Europe. Can its physical demise be far behind?

John Stonestreet

In early May, Brussels Airport finally re-opened after being closed for nearly six weeks, following the March terrorist attack that killed sixteen people.

While it will not be back at full capacity until mid-June, the Belgian government sees the re-opening as part of their effort to regain some sense of normalcy after the attacks.

Another part of their efforts is figuring out how to deal with its restive and disgruntled Muslim minority, especially in places like the now-infamous Brussels suburb of Molenbeek. This tiny municipality, measuring less than 2.5 square miles, not only produced the March 22nd attackers, it’s also the reason Belgium produces proportionately more ISIS fighters than any other European country.

In recent remarks before the European Parliament, Koen Geens, Belgium’s Minister of Justice, told parliamentarians that “In Europe, very shortly we’re going to have more practicing Muslims than practicing Christians . . . That is not because there are too many Muslims, it is because Christians are generally less practicing.”

Not surprisingly, people, and not just Muslims, took offense at his comments. Belgium’s Interior Minister said that Geens was “making an enemy of Islam” and insisted that “the overwhelming majority of [Belgian Muslims] share our values.”

Lost in the furor over Geen’s comments was the fact that he was talking primarily about secularism and the decline of Christian practice, and values.

Also lost in this conversation over Belgium’s future, Islam and its jettisoned Christian heritage, is that the nation has turned euthanasia into a fundamental right. As PBS put it, and everyone already knows, Belgium has “the world’s most liberal euthanasia laws.” Physician-assisted suicide there isn’t limited to the terminally-ill – people with psychiatric illnesses or even children can also be euthanized.

As a member of Belgium’s Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission told PBS, at the heart of the law is “a respect to individual autonomy.” Thus rather than being limited to the terminally ill, the dark practice is available to anyone who sees his or her condition as “hopeless.”

And that includes, as we’ve previously told BreakPoint listeners, children as young as twelve. All that’s needed is the approval of two doctors, three in the case of psychiatric patients.

By all accounts, Belgium’s law, which goes against everything Christianity teaches about the sanctity and dignity of human life, enjoys wide support. While Geens’ party, the Christian Democrats, has opposed Belgium’s euthanasia regime, their view is a minority one.

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