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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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What’s The Matter With America?

On August 15, 1896 William Allen White published his famous article in The Emporia Gazette, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Much of what he had to say is relevant to America as a nation in the 21st century.  Here are a few excerpts from White’s article:

“What’s the matter with Kansas?”

“Go east and you hear them laugh at Kansas; go west and they sneer at her; go south and they cuss” her; go north and they have forgotten her. Go into any crowd of intelligent people gathered anywhere on the globe, and you will find the Kansas

William Allen White

William Allen White

man on the defensive. The newspaper columns and magazines once devoted to praise of her, to boastful facts and startling figures concerning her resources, are now filled with cartoons, jibes and Pefferian speeches. Kansas just naturally isn’t in it. She has traded places with Arkansas and Timbuktu.

“What’s the matter with Kansas?

We all know; yet here we are at it again. We have an old mossback Jacksonian who snorts and howls because there is a bathtub in the State House; we are running that old jay for governor. We have another shabby, wild-eyed, rattle-brained fanatic who has said openly in a dozen speeches that “the rights of the user are paramount to the rights of the owner”; we are running him for Chief Justice, so that capital will come tumbling over itself to get into the state. We have raked the old ash heap of failure in the state and found an old human hoop skirt who has failed as a businessman, who has failed as an editor, who has failed as a preacher, and we are going to run him for Congressman-at-Large. He will help the looks of the Kansas delegation at Washington. Then we have discovered a kid without a law practice and have decided to run him for Attorney General. Then, for fear some hint that the state had become respectable might percolate through the civilized portions of the nation, we have decided to send three or four harpies out lecturing, telling the people that Kansas is raising hell and letting the corn go to weed.

“Oh this IS a state to be proud of! We are a people who can hold up our heads! What we need is not more money, but less capital, fewer white shirts and brains, fewer men with business judgment, and more of those fellows who boast that they are “just ordinary clodhoppers, but they know more in a minute about finance than John Sherman; we need more men who are posted,” who can bellow about the crime of ’73, who hate prosperity, and who think, because a man believes in national honor, he is a tool of Wall Street. We have had a few of them some hundred fifty thousand — but we need more.

“We need several thousand gibbering idiots to scream about the “Great Red Dragon” of Lombard Street. We don’t need population, we don’t need wealth, we don’t need well-dressed men on the streets, we don’t need cities on the fertile prairies; you bet we don’t! What we are after is the money power. Because we have become poorer and ornerier and meaner than a spavined, distempered mule, we, the people of Kansas, propose to kick; we don’t care to build up, we wish to tear down. “There are two ideas of government,” said our noble Bryan at Chicago. “There are those who believe that if you legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, this prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up and through every class and rest upon them.”

“That’s the stuff! Give the prosperous man the dickens! Legislate the thriftless man into ease, whack the stuffing out of the creditors and tell the debtors who borrowed the money five years go when money “per capita” was greater than it is now, that the contraction of currency gives him a right to repudiate.

“Whoop it up for the ragged trousers; put the lazy, greasy fizzle, who can’t pay his debts, on the altar, and bow down and worship him. Let the state ideal be high. What we need is not the respect of our fellow men but the chance to get something for nothing.

“Oh, yes, Kansas is a great state. Here are people fleeing from it by the score every day, capital going out of the state by the hundreds of dollars; and every industry but farming paralyzed, and that crippled, because its products have to go across the ocean before they can find a laboring man at work; who can afford to buy them. Let’s don’t stop this year. Let’s drive all the decent self- respecting men out of the state. Let’s keep the old clodhoppers who know it all. Let’s encourage the man who is “posted.” He can talk, and what we need is not mill hands to eat our meat, nor factory hands to eat our wheat, nor cities to oppress the farmer by consuming his butter and eggs and chickens and produce. What Kansas needs is men who can talk, who have large leisure to argue the currency question while their wives wait at home for that nickel’s worth of bluing.

“What’s the matter with Kansas?

“Nothing under the shining sun. She is losing her wealth, population and standing. She has got her statesmen, and the money power is afraid of her. Kansas is all right. She has started in to raise hell, as Mrs. Lease advised, and she seems to have an over-production. But that doesn’t matter. Kansas never did believe in diversified crops. Kansas is all right. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Kansas. ‘Every prospect pleases and only man is vile.'”

William Allen White was a young, unknown editor of an undistinguished small-town newspaper, The Emporia Gazette of Kansas.  His editorial “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” was written in 1896 as a presidential election between the Republican candidate, William McKinley, and the Democratic choice, William Jennings Bryan, was underway.  White gained national notice as papers across the country reprinted his sweeping denunciation of Kansas Populism.  He remained a national figure for the rest of his life and is remembered in the William Allen White School of Journalism of the University of Kansas.

Is Your Church Making Disciples?

Michael Craven, writing in a CrossWalk.com column, asks the question “What Ever Happened to Discipleship?” According to Craven:

“The ‘modern’ idea of church, or ecclesiology, it seems is that the church exists only as a venue to ‘attract’ the lost through dynamic programs, performances and events – the more dynamic the better. What one pastor friend of mine referred to as ‘theo-tainment.’ The problem with this approach exclusively is that a disproportionate amount of the church’s time and resources go into these efforts at the expense of discipleship and training the already saved. The result is the proverbial church that “is a mile wide and inch deep.” Yes the church grows in numbers but rarely in spiritual maturity and the witness of the Church is often rendered lackluster.”

The Church seems to have forgotten Christ’s words, And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'” (Matthew 28:18-20)  We are to make and teach disciples.  A Christian disciple is an active adherent who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ.  This type of disciple does not develop in a church that “is a mile wide and an inch deep.”  It does happen, however, in churches where the focus is on the preaching and teaching of God’s word.  Craven continues to write:

“Scripture is full of admonitions on this point. One of the most direct in my mind is Romans 12:1-2 which challenges us ‘by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’

This passage speaks to the fact that the resurrection of Christ and our adoption into the family of God demands a wholly new way of understanding the cosmos and the human situation in the cosmos. EVERYTHING relative to our view of reality must change and this new view must be integrated into every aspect of our lives and thinking. This is the role and necessity of Christian discipleship in producing this new way of thinking accompanied by obedience, i.e. presenting the entirety of our being as a living sacrifice.”

In other words, the church is not to assimilate the worldview or moral values of the current culture, but – “as salt and light” – the church is to permeate the culture with a Christian worldview and moral values.  Far too many churches have caved in to the former and neglected the latter.  This sort of compromise fails to produce true Christian disciples.

Read Michael Craven’s entire article by going to CrossWalk.com.

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