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Volume 13, Issue 2: Anvil

In Praise of Wonder Bread

Douglas Wilson

Now donít jump to conclusions, just because of the title.

But perhaps I should back up. We all have a tendency (over time) to come to certain settled aesthetic conclusions about what we do or do not like, and then, with a sniff and a look down the length of the nose, we tell the Philistines that we would be alone. But in this process we frequently forget where we have come from, and how good God was to us along the way. He is not good to us now that we have arrived; He was kind to us all along the way.
Perhaps our younger readers have seen photographs and advertisements in old editions of the Saturday Evening Post, found while cleaning down in the basement, dating, say, from the late Eisenhower years. The cars were strange, the clothes were weird, and colors were bright pastels. The boys wore blue jeans with rolled up cuffs, and crew cuts were everywhere. I remember thinking at one point that my hair was long on the sides if I could get hold of it.
Now imagine one such kid, around five-years-old, who comes in from playing in the dirt pile out back, and his mother gives him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, on white bread, with a couple of cookies, and a glass of whole milk. Loved by her, he is reminded to bow his head and thank the Lord.
The sandwich was made out of Skippy peanut butter, Welchís grape jelly, and Wonder Bread. Not one of those ingredients could be found at the local organic food co-op. The bread was not that healthy kind you can get nowadays, with the bark still in it. But still, the kid thanked the Lord for something that delighted his heart.
The apostle Paul taught us that the measure of goodness in food was not the ceremonial law—and certainly not the amount of fat, or sodium, or pesticides, or whatever Wonder Bread folds did back then to make it taste so darn good—but rather the fundamental duty of gratitude. Food is good when we thank God for it, and that makes gratitude the chief ingredient, the chief thing. "For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim. 4:4—5).
I can prefer other things for lunch now (and I have to say that I do), but I still had duties back then when my preferences had not gotten this far on their pilgrimage. And part of my duties now is to remember the reality of my duties then. It has been many years, but I have to say that I am still grateful for that sandwich.


 

The Biggest Media Bias

By Douglas Jones

We all know how the major news media try to wear the face of objectivity and fairness. In a particular news story, they see themselves as laying out naked facts, not taking sides as much as possible. They acknowledge their values play some inescapable part, but they try to minimize them.

But guarding fairness in individual stories misses the louder shout given in the whole collection. Step back and consider the lead stories and headlines for almost every news source as far back as your memory stretches. What is by far the most important category in news thinking? What does the world turn around? What would leave an unbelievable black hole in the news if they refused to report on it? Of course, the answer is politics.
Night after night, morning after morning, front pages and lead videos obsess about what some civil officer has done. What did the White House do today? What did the state legislature do today? What about the Senate? What about some foreign state?
As a reflection of culture, the media present what we want to hear. We live in a culture that naively believes that political power and coercion is what makes life move. A materialistic culture has no other option. It has to assume that change occurs by one physical thing dumbly pushing on another, one gear grinding another. Thatís all that politics is. The art of shadowing coercion.
That also explains our fascination with criminal violence, the runner-up for news obsessions. News shows shift back and forth between politics and crime (assuming there is some difference). Every prime-time news magazine nuzzles in to explain some new act of violence or politics. Materialists are utterly fascinated by coercion, like tribesmen in awe of an automatic door. And politics and crime hum the soothing mechanistic rhythms of their universe.
But if you think, as Christianity does, that the world moves by the seductive causality of the Holy Spirit, then this narrow obsession with politics and crime appears comical. For us, matter and history move in the flow of the Spirit, not by physics. Change comes from the Spiritís wind, not mere blocks knocking over blocks.
Itís as if weíre in a theatre watching a rich ballet of life, and some edgy guy next to us keeps insisting the real heart of the dance is how these theatre seats move up and down. "Spring hinges. Now thatís ballet."
The upside of the mediaís obsession with coercion is that theyíve left a vacuum where the real battles are fought. Sssssh.


 

Being Scary

By Peter J. Leithart

Many among todayís media and political elites find conservative Christians frightening, and we quickly reassure them weíre just folks.

We want to carry on a culture war wearing a happy face. By trying to improve our image, we have squandered a blessing from God, the blessing of being scary.
Throughout Scripture, itís a good thing when Godís people terrify the wicked. Yahweh promised Israel that "all the people of the earth . . . shall be afraid of you" (Deut. 28:10). Egypt drove Israel out because they feared continuing plagues (Exod. 12:33). Forty years later, Canaanites couldnít stop talking about the exodus and trembled when Israel pitched camp in Moab (Josh. 2:8—11). David rejoiced that the same was true of his enemies (Ps. 8:45).
We find the same in the New Testament: that new Jericho, Jerusalem, was full of fear on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:43), and this became a "great fear" after Ananias and Sapphira died (5:11). No wonder. The apostate Jews were the new giants in the land, and the Spirit had just formed a band of "giant-slayers."
Terror is a proven evangelistic method. Like Rahab, the Gibeonites allied with Joshua because they were afraid of him (Josh. 9:24). When the Lord overturned Hamanís plots, "the dread of the Jews fell on all the peoples" of Persia (Esth. 9:2—3), and as a result "many among the peoples of the land became Jews" (8:17). The Jews didnít wring their hands, fretting about their "negative" image. While the peoples of Persia melted in fear, the Jews enjoyed a day of light, gladness, and joy (8:16).
Christians can be scary for wrong reasons—because we lack self-control, or because we are foolishly militant, or because we are just plain foolish. The mere fact that we scare people doesnít mean that weíre blessed. Godly fearsomeness is a product of faithfulness, a reflection of the fearful God who dwells among us.
We can do little to mollify these fears anyway. Calvin said the wicked are startled by a falling leaf. How much more will they be frightened of a faithful church.


 

The Monkeys are Out of the Cage

By Douglas Wilson

The modern state, as we understand it, is teetering on the brink of extinction. This datum, if true, still says nothing about whether it will be replaced by good things, bad things, or (if the future is like the past), a mixture of both. But the modern state, in my view, is toast.

Those on the left for whom politics is the Great Answer will have trouble with this. But many of those on the right wing will have the same kind of trouble with it. They have been fighting fire with fire for so long that if we really got rid of fire where would their weapons of resistance be?
Take a tour of the various right-wing web pages (and they appear to be Legion), and consider for a moment the common assumption they share with the statists currently in power—which is to say, that legislation matters.
And of course, in one sense, legislation can matter on a day-to-day level. It does affect my tax bill, for the time being, and so on, but legislation cannot make water start flowing uphill. Legislation cannot repeal the law of supply and demand. Back in the day when the cage was locked, the antics of the monkey parliament made a considerable difference for the monkeys within. But the door swings open now, some key bars are missing, and more and more monkeys now have accounts in off-shore banks.
Much lamentation has occurred over the phenomenon of American companies heading overseas. Where is their loyalty to America? Well, we could probably find it the same place as we would find Americaís loyalty to them, which is to say, it used to be around here somewhere.
If we put it to a vote, which we could do if politics mattered, the majority of Americans would probably vote to keep things the same way they have been. But people do more than vote. They have children, or abort them, or educate them, or refuse to educate them by enrolling them with the governmentís compulsory ignorance program. They buy things over the Internet, have them delivered by UPS, and donít pay the state use-tax. And most people who do not pay that tax are not refusing because they are tax rebels. They do not pay because they never heard of the tax.
God has fashioned human society in such a way that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each person in a given society can believe that the civil order of that society is here to stay and, if the matter were put to a vote, would vote that way, and yet, at the same time, be doing other things which undermine that system necessarily. We are at that point now, and nothing can be done to stop it.
Just as the industrial revolution gave us a centralized system, so the current e-pheavals are giving us a decentralized system. That is all right: decentralized monkeys do better.

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