Between Good and Evil is Still Evil
Part of the problem with conservatism nowadays – and I include churchgoing, believing Christians in that group – is that we have too many among us with cash to burn, and time and talents to consecrate, who really could make a difference in turning the tide against a clear and present danger, ‘enter stage left,’ if only it wasn’t so controversial, if only they could keep their reserved seat in the middle of the road, if only they could keep pleasing everyone and everything.
Then they’d contribute. Sure they would. But here’s a question: Isn’t that how we got in this mess? And isn’t it true that “a man sits as many risks as he runs”?
A personal hero of mine, American patriot, church president and former secretary of agriculture under Ike, Ezra Taft Benson – who was not a man to mince words – had this to say about this wishy-washy crowd 40 years ago:
They dare not make a decision on these vital issues. They let other people think for them. They stumble around in the middle of the road to avoid being ‘controversial’ and get hit by the traffic both ways.
No statement is truer.
But the uninformed and undecided, who stay out of the fray for fear of being controversial among neighbors and friends, aren’t the only ones who play this game. There are also those who are well-informed who do hold strong opinions, who, nevertheless, fall silent lest their ‘side taking’ affect the bottom line.
On May 12, 1964, Ezra Taft Benson, addressing the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, had these blunt words for the group:
As American businessmen, you must stand up and be counted – or else you’ll be counted out … the middle of the road between the extremes of good and evil is evil. When freedom is at stake, your silence is not golden, it’s yellow.
I like that. Typical Benson. To the point. Unafraid. He wasn’t worried about controversy. He was a statesman, not a politician. He reminded those businessmen that “I am not here to tickle your ears – to entertain you. I will talk to you frankly and honestly as one who loves his country. The message I bring is not a happy one, but it is the truth.”
He was calling their card: middle of the deck, self-centered, yellow. They knew it, and they knew he knew it.
Growing even more bold, he noted that some of them were unwittingly becoming fascists by promoting legislation “to obtain special privileges for themselves or [to crush] their competition.”
That’s what fascism does.
Ironically, their greed would be their undoing. They “would not understand the value of their freedom until it was taken away.”
I wish I could have seen them squirm in their seats. This was not a “feel good” seminar. This was the truth without apology.
We need more of this. We need more American conservative Christians, and businessmen who will hear the same call, and say and do and finance what needs to be done come what may.
Besides, true self-interest puts the needs of God, family and country first. Adam Smith called this “enlightened self-interest.” The Founders called this “public virtue.” And Christ asked, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
And so Benson challenged these businessmen to rise up:
Today, as never before, America has need for men and women who possess the moral strength and courage of our forefathers – modern day patriots, with pride in our country, and faith in freedom, unafraid to declare to anyone in the world, “I believe in liberty. I believe in justice. I will fight, if need be, to defend the dignity of man.
Too often in recent years, patriotic symbols have been shunted aside. Our national heroes have been maligned, our history distorted. Has it become a disgrace to pledge allegiance to our flag – or to sign a loyalty oath, or pay tribute to our national anthem? Is it shameful to encourage our children to memorize the stirring words of the men of ’76? Is it becoming opprobrious to state ‘In God we trust?’ when proclaiming our love of country?
What we desperately need today is patriotism founded on a real understanding of the American ideal – a dedicated belief in our principles of freedom, and a determination to perpetuate America’s heritage.
This contest in which we are engaged is as old as man and as young as hope. The issue is over the God-given eternal principle of freedom – free agency, the right of choice. In this struggle it is not enough to be right – we must put strength and action back of that which is right.”
Indeed. For those who are true men, it’s time to just say “No!” to the middle.