What does this country need?
When it comes to economic solutions I prefer Marx- Groucho, not Karl- who said what this country needs is a good ten-cent nickel. He said when some one purchased something for a nickel they would get a nickel in change. If taken care of properly a nickel could last a family a life time. But there is one form of deficit we have that can not be dealt with so light-heartedly. As it seems we are reminded daily, this nation is in desperate need of good men.
Between the time Abraham Lincoln won the vote in the 1860 election, and had to deal with the early days of the Civil War, the President-elect had the responsibility of forming his cabinet. In a letter to a supporter he noted that the task was not as easy as he had supposed. He wrote:
while the population of the country had immensely increased, really great men were scarcer than they used to be.¹
Oh, Abe. If you thought they were scarce then! It seems almost daily we read of someone in an office of national responsibility behaving in ways that even a college freshman would avoid. And while politicians are easy targets for such criticism, they are merely a sample from the larger population filled with increasing numbers of vacillating, irresponsible men with little self-control.
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus speaks to the multitudes about the virtues of John the Baptist and through it references the character that causes Christ to proclaim, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” By asking three questions of them concerning John, he gives the foundations of character that as men we should emulate.
“What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
A reed is a plant that has little ability to stand against the wind. It bends in whatever direction even the slightest wind pushes it. He was saying that if you thought that you were going to find a man who was easily blown about by peer pressure, or by every wind of doctrine you went to the wrong guy. John was a resolute man.
The spirit of our age is not conducive in developing resolute men. Postmodernism can mean several things, but one of its characteristics is its capacity to produce men who can change their “core” values overnight.
Irresolute men may tell you today what they believe; they may pledge to you today what they believe; they may even sign something today of what they believe. But that reflects the status of their thinking today, for tomorrow they may well be as firmly convinced of the opposite. Postmodern thinking
produces irresolute men.
As a result, an irresolute man is an untrustworthy man. Irresolve breaks down the very fabric of trust necessary for a society. Contracts are based on trust that each party will fulfill the agreed upon provisions regardless of the feelings of the parties on any given day. To pledge, with no resolve to keep that pledge, is an acid that eats away at a culture. I know it sounds odd to the modern ear, but the beauty of Psalm 15 in the King James brings this truth home:
1.Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? 4b. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not
That means that a man of character makes a pledge and even if it turns out to be less advantageous than he bargained for, he stays true to his word.
Irresolute men are imprudent men. If truth is malleable and pledges ephemeral, there is little requirement for proper planning and investigation before a decision is made. Jesus said that no man would start to build a tower unless he first sat down and computed the overall cost, lest he wind up with the shame of an unfinished project. “Counting the cost” is an essential ingredient of maturity and from the boardroom to the marriage bond our nation needs men who practice it.
Irresolute men are men that are hard to understand. Few intentionally desire to be opaque. Yet when men vacillate and send out contrary signals as to what they think important, their personal relationships are adversely affected. We owe it to our families to be a source of constant resolve.
Irresolute men are unhappy men. We desire resolute men, not simply for the benefit of the business, or the family, or even the country. The Bible teaches the truth that, “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways”. We desire resolute men for their own happiness.
In a time, not long ago, the popular evaluation of a philosophy, religion, or a world-view was, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere in that belief.” It was never a true statement, but it took the events of 911 to remove it as a standard. What has taken its place, however, is also damaging to the country. The new standard doesn’t allow for discernment between differing philosophies, but instead condemns real committment to anything. Resolve has become an enemy, and shaking with every wind has become a virtue.
We have reached the plight of the two men in William F. Buckley’s parable. One man pushes old ladies out-of-the-way of oncoming buses, the other pushes old ladies into the path of oncoming buses. They are both condemned for pushing old ladies around.
Regardless of the criticism, we still need resolute men. Our businesses need them, our families need them, and our country needs them. Even more than a ten-cent nickel.
¹Quoted in Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln A Life ( Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008), vol.1, 719
This post is an edited portion of a Fathers’ Day Sermon