April 18, 2008


Ronald Reagan's America, and Obama's (Dr. Paul Kengor, 4/18/08, FrontPageMagazine.com)

Reagan was heavily influenced by his pastor in Dixon, Illinois, a man named Ben Cleaver, who was a father figure to the young Reagan. Cleaver had attended the University of Chicago, near Obama and Wright's church, and learned to read Hebrew and classical Greek. He was well read and curious, intellectual, and patriotic, harboring a faith in the American founders, given to invoking the likes of Washington and Lincoln. On one such speech to the local American Legion in February 1927, Cleaver spoke of the decidedly different upbringings of the two presidents, emphasizing that neither man's background, whether rich or poor, stopped him from making his mark on history.

Cleaver, a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination, was influenced by church leaders like Alexander Campbell. For Campbell and other 19th century Disciples, America's destiny was often prophetically interpreted, and the nation had a democratic mission to save the world from autocrats. Campbell believed the world's fate rested on America. In July 1830, Campbell declared the world "must look" to America "for its emancipation from the most heartless spiritual despotism ever." "This is our special mission in the world as a nation and a people," said Campbell, "and for this purpose the Ruler of nations has raised us up and made us the wonder and the admiration of the world." Campbell confidently predicted the "speedy overthrow" of "false religion [and] oppressive governments." He spoke of America as a "beacon," a "light unto the nations."

This was the kind of instruction that Ronald Reagan got from his church and the pulpit of Rev. Ben Cleaver, not to mention similarly uplifting messages from additional pastors, like the Rev. Cleveland Kleihauer, who pastored Reagan's church in Hollywood when Reagan was at an age comparable to Barack Obama during his time with Rev. Wright.

From his religious instruction and own reading, Ronald Reagan came to view America as "A Shining City Upon a Hill," which he anchored in his understanding of the Old and New Testament and from his knowledge of what John Winthrop had proclaimed aboard the Arabella off the Massachusetts coast in 1630, the latter of which Reagan recited by heart.

The message Reagan took from Matthew 5:14-16 (New Testament) is especially telling. The passage reads:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men....

A nation that reflects God is not a nation to be hidden under a bowl, Reagan held, just as one would not light a lamp and then cover it with a bowl, not shining its light and extinguishing itself in the process. There's no point to lighting a lamp merely to cover it. Likewise, there's no point to a nation that's a beacon hiding itself. The faithful are not to harness the light only for themselves and their own warmth, but to share and spread it. One must bring that light to where it is needed -- to cast it upon the darkness. For Reagan, that would mean (especially) upon the Soviet Union - an empire he called "evil," and a land he dubbed "the heart of darkness."

Reagan both privatized and nationalized -- and even internationalized -- Matthew 5:14-16. He spoke of the "city on a hill" in this passage as a "Shining City Upon a Hill," as a "beacon." This is what Reagan wanted America to be: a model for all others, a guiding light . He saw America as divinely blessed and chosen to lead the world to freedom.

"I've always believed that this blessed land was set apart in a special way," Reagan said literally innumerable times, "that some divine plan placed this great continent here between the two oceans." It was a divine edict to bring freedom to the world-one that Reagan sought to fulfill. As he summed up in his Farewell Address from the Oval Office on January 11, 1989: "We stood, again, for freedom.... We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world."

In short, Reagan's optimistic view of America would compel him to lead a positive America to create a better world. Reagan looked at America and saw freedom, not slavery.

As bad as his dislike for the America that exists is Senator Obama's insistence that while we should change America we oughtn't change the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 18, 2008 6:09 AM

Well that last bit is really wonderful OJ... change America and not the world... spot on.

Posted by: Benny at April 18, 2008 3:16 PM