Rebecca K. Reynolds

Honest Company for the Journey

Never Give In

Recently I was talking about the state of America with several high school students. As I listened to them describing their feelings about the future, I heard evidence of what is probably the single worst casualty of our nation's war on culture. That casualty is despair.

These kids aren't ignorant. Most of them could articulate the issues threatening our country's moral backbone. Most of them  know that an avowed socialist is running for President and why it would be a bad thing for him to win. Most of them could tell you that abortions are killing real human beings, that the Affordable Care Act was ineffective, and that families are falling apart because of widespread immorality and relativism. They know that the public education system is full of progressive propaganda. They know that Iran is dangerous. They know that many of our current leaders are corrupt, and that many of those running for office attempting to replace them are corrupt as well. They comprehend so many of the warnings we've been shouting into the world, and they understand so many of the details of our present danger.

What they don't know is that anything can be done to thwart doomsday. They are numb from hopelessness.

I asked some these teens how many of them would fight for our country, and their answers were disturbing. Why would they risk their lives for a nation with so many flaws? I saw an odd expression on their faces as they spoke. I think it was shame. I think they were ashamed to be living in a country so broken.

My least favorite modern spiritual fad runs among certain urban, 20 or 30-something Christians. These young people, raised in some of the most peaceful, lavish years America has ever known, feel it is their duty to set patriotism at odds with faith. Their whole argument is poorly constructed, built upon a little bit of Bible and a lot of bifurcation fallacy. Even if the pendulum of American patriotism was once blind and over-zealous, these cads are now over-correcting citizenship into a gross, lukewarm apathy. The pearls of a blessing have fallen upon swine.

In attempts to tear love of Christ away from love of state,  these "Jesus-first" crusaders are diluting the holy, altruistic aspects of loving a nation properly, for when a people loses her allegiance she loses the gratitude that compels her to be a giver. She loses the drive to work to improve what is broken. She loses a sense of stewardship over a government which invites her to participate. She loses her commitment to a larger body that, if properly directed, can unite to accomplish global good. She loses a beautiful common vision for strength that God has used in the past to stand against forces of great evil in this world, and that He would likely use again for the same purpose in the future. She withdraws into the grossest of spiritual flaws: an elitism that causes her to pass on the opposite side of the road from a broken and bleeding man, lest she get any of his dirty patriotism on her holy garments.

Certainly the God who cares if a sparrow falls to the ground or how we speak about our neighbor cares about how we manage the power of our citizenship.  Of all people of all time, he has placed us in a situation where we are welcomed to influence legislation.

But instead of believing that love is a commodity that expands upon application, these crusaders have held it to their chests where it has withered. They have forgotten  what their grandparents knew, that by pledging to be part of one nation under God, we pledge to apply our selfless, gospel service to a larger community and to a larger world in need. The good news isn't just about being that social-justice-minded white girl who takes iPhone selfies in an impoverished third-world country, it's also about investing in a first-world country while opportunity knocks.

Yet there is a harder point to swallow still: it's not just the young progressives that are causing this disillusionment. It's not just the work of our current President either, though he has done his share of spreading negativity about our country.

One of the most deadly sources feeding this national cancer of negative rhetoric is the conservative who rants, and rages, and fears, and warns out of his belief in Jesus. In fact, people like me are the dangerous ones. I am what is wrong with this country. People with my values and my tendencies are trying to bring America back to greatness by bashing it to death.

We are slitting our own throats, see? While we attempt to spread the world about dangers facing our republic, we give in to despair. And that despair is what our children see. This despair is what our children believe.

They aren't just listening to our concerns, they are listening to the way we express them. They are reading between the lines and noticing what we believe about how much this fight even matters, and what chance we have of winning it. Our frustration feeds their hopelessness. Our panic feeds their resignation. Here is where conservatives must repent and change.

Leadership is a positive thing. It casts vision. It doesn't freak out that danger exists, it is honest about risk and honest about why that risk matters. It moves with solid dignity, with confidence, and with deep purpose into challenges, because attitude is infectious, especially in times like these.

I have such fond affection for a speech that Winston Churchill gave on October 29, 1941 to the Harrow School. Most likely you have heard his quote, "Never give in." This speech is the historical context for that statement.

My favorite part comes at the end where Churchill changes the line of a song so that instead of referring to present struggles as "darker" times they are called "sterner" times. What emotional connotation is in this shift? Can you feel it? That single edit summarizes what I believe needs to happen within conservative America today.

Henry V is not one of my favorite plays, but it does offer a brilliant speech before a dangerous battle on St. Crispian's Day. The  men are outnumbered, and there will be many casualties, but Henry rallies the troops by showing them that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of something tremendous.

And we have a tremendous opportunity, too. I hear so many believers stating that they would like to live back in the good times of 1950, or 1900 or Regency England, or whatever time period they have decided would have made for a simpler, holier life. I defy all of that.

This is the very best time of all to be alive. I wouldn't trade it for anything. If I could, I would choose these battles, these enemies, this fatigue, this broken country. I love America. Despite her faults, I still believe in her dream. And if this is the sternest time our nation will ever see, let me live right in the middle of it! Show me what to do, and I will do it with all my heart. I would gladly die for my nation, and I would die regretting that I had only one life to give for a beautiful cause.

Are there challenges before us? Yes. Is God afraid of any of the issues at hand? No. Hasn't he planned from before time began to place us here among these battles, battles that will drive us to our knees for wisdom and for resources?

What else would we want to do with the few years we have on this earth? Would we rather live like leeches, complaining, disillusioned and whining, sucking on benefits bought by the blood of dead men who are now lying underground feeding worms? No. Give me this. Give me us. I could ask for no better company, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

God, help us find ways to name our present brokenness without inciting despair. Help us to be full of your vision for what our nation can become. Overcome our fear and our frustration so that when we speak, we cast strength and life into our fellow believers.

Remind us that children are listening not only to our words, but to our deeper fires. These days are not so dark after all; they are only stern. Thank you for the opportunity to trust you. I am glad to be here with you. Light my path. Lead me on.


- - - - - -

October 29, 1941.

Harrow School
When Churchill visited Harrow on October 29 to hear the traditional songs again, he discovered that an additional verse had been added to one of them. It ran:

"Not less we praise in darker days
The leader of our nation,
And Churchill's name shall win acclaim
From each new generation.
For you have power in danger's hour
Our freedom to defend, Sir!
Though long the fight we know that right
Will triumph in the end, Sir!

Almost a year has passed since I came down here at your Head Master's kind invitation in order to cheer myself and cheer the hearts of a few of my friends by singing some of our own songs. The ten months that have passed have seen very terrible catastrophic events in the world - ups and downs, misfortunes - but can anyone sitting here this afternoon, this October afternoon, not feel deeply thankful for what has happened in the time that has passed and for the very great improvement in the position of our country and of our home? Why, when I was here last time we were quite alone, desperately alone, and we had been so for five or six months. We were poorly armed. We are not so poorly armed today; but then we were very poorly armed. We had the unmeasured menace of the enemy and their air attack still beating upon us, and you yourselves had had experience of this attack; and I expect you are beginning to feel impatient that there has been this long lull with nothing particular turning up!

But we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and what is long and tough. It is generally said that the British are often better at the last. They do not expect to move from crisis to crisis; they do not always expect that each day will bring up some noble chance of war; but when they very slowly make up their minds that the thing has to be done and the job put through and finished, then, even if it takes months - if it takes years - they do it.

Another lesson I think we may take, just throwing our minds back to our meeting here ten months ago and now, is that appearances are often very deceptive, and as Kipling well says, we must "…meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same."

You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period - I am addressing myself to the School - surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.

Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.

You sang here a verse of a School Song: you sang that extra verse written in my honour, which I was very greatly complimented by and which you have repeated today. But there is one word in it I want to alter - I wanted to do so last year, but I did not venture to. It is the line: "Not less we praise in darker days."

I have obtained the Head Master's permission to alter darker to sterner. "Not less we praise in sterner days."

Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days - the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.