The Significance of Work in Our Nation

Posted on January 19, 2019

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I am going to do something I don’t do too often in our column, which is to plug a good book. I am not speaking of the Bible, the ultimate “Good Book,” which I refer to often and use as my instructional guide.

But the book I am referring to has a lot of Biblical truth in it, and the subject of the book came up in a conversation a few weeks ago with wife Louise. We were driving back from Anniston, having met our oldest daughter there who came from Atlanta to pick her children after a few days with their grandparents, us. We met her halfway, which, as I thought later, has seemed to elude modern politicians as a useful principle,

“What’s wrong with the country?” came up as we zipped across the wintry Alabama interstate on our way to Birmingham and then home. It was cold outside and as the sun set before us, the heater felt good, such a contrast to the long hot summers that seem to stymie thinking on sweltering afternoons.

I tossed around some ideas on the subject and Louise mulled them over, half convinced that her historian husband may be right in some of his ruminations on the origins of socialism and communism in the modern world, and their growing attraction in our country, long thought to be the bastion of capitalism and liberty the last few centuries.

“So,” she pondered on, “can we stop this plunge and return to what we were?” or as President Trump expressed it, to “make America great again” in his Inaugural Address.

In a truly perceptive article by Ralph Benko in spring 2017, “The Left’s Epic War on Trump Contests ‘American Greatness,’ Benko nailed the issue as a “narrative war” between Left and Right in this country. Who rules the narrative, or the story of what is right and wrong, the truth, will prevail in the end. You have to read it to appreciate the argument (in Forbes if you are interested). The argument is well made: who controls the narrative essentially rules the politics. The best line was Trump’s complaint that he is being treated unfairly by the media, which prompted Benko to remember World War II bomber pilots who opined, “If you’re not catching flack, you’re not over the target.” So, by extension, Trump must be doing something right, and, of course, those throwing up the anti-aircraft flack were the enemy.

Benko nails the revisionists of the Left in our country who turn the truth upside down and reveal what they consider the truth. Daniel Boone was not a “heroic frontiersman beset by savage, brutal, Indians,” but “a barbaric figure invading the territory of, and harming, the noble Native Americans.” Even the American Revolution is diminished and dismissed by the revisionists who claim—and so seek to get the upper hand in the narrative–that the Revolution was just a piece of “great-power politics, fought in unimaginably brutal terms, and no more connected to ideas and principles than any other piece of great-power politics.” So much for “all men are created equal [and] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Read Benko’s article for the true Boone, who was much closer to the heroic myth than his modern detractors describe him.

And here let me stray a bit from these arguments about existentialism, revisionism, narrative, and legitimacy and turn to the “Creator” affirmed in the Declaration of Independence. At the core of this great debate between traditionalists and revisionists, between conservatives and progressive socialists and communists is not only whose narrative is the honest and true one, but also the issue of how we create wealth—work–and what we do with it—wealth–in this country. Even more important, how do we live in God’s will with respect to work and wealth?

In other words, while the narrative is the issue for Benko and many brilliant thinkers and strategists on both sides of the issue, I think the question needs to be reframed. The issue is: are we turning invariably towards socialism or can we preserve the best of a capitalist culture built on liberty and godliness?

Who has the answers? Let me suggest as gently as possible to all the great and small thinkers, intellectuals, politicians of depth and some so shallow as to be unbelievable if they hadn’t just been elected in the last round, that the answers are in Scripture. Put aside econometrics, ideologies, existentialism, identity politics, and the like for a moment.

I have turned to Scripture often for obvious reasons—but the obvious needs to be stated—that it is only in Scripture where the reader will find the undefiled, no-spin truth, on any subject that transcends time. You won’t find how computers work in Scripture, but you just might find what made a Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, tick and how inventions fit into the scheme of God’s plan for all of us.

To prepare you for this informal series that follows in the next few months–woven into the regular themes that run through the Port Rail–I will follow the thread of what Scripture has to say about work. And, of equal importance, how we spend what we accumulate in our work, generally described as wealth right now for the sake of argument.

Therein lies the answer to: can we preserve the best of our way of life that got us here, or are we turning to socialism and communism for the answer, following the crowd of socialists and communists who have enjoyed some stays in power across the world ultimately to end in dismal and despotic failures.

Ah, the book I am recommending to you. That for later, but you might find Work and Wealth in Scripture if you feel like browsing a bit next time you fired up your computer, and by doing so anticipate a few future columns.

Published as “Does fate of nation rest on control of narrative?” in The Tuscaloosa News, Dec. 16, 2018.

Posted in: Politics, Scripture