The sunflowers that the children planted last Sunday, pressing the seeds into the loamy soil in miniature clay pots, sprouted during the week. This morning we gathered around the shiny yellow table and marveled at the green shoots. Natalie, age four, carried the teapot (our pitcher) to the bathroom next door. She stood on the step-stool and turned the faucet, then watched the water gush into the pot. With great attention and care she grasped it with both hands, balancing her walk back to the yellow table with its new life. Together we tilted the spout and watered some sprouts, then passed the chrome pot to Luisa, age two, to give it a try with another teacher’s helping hand.
Earlier we had tied bright colored balloons to our welcome sign outside. We filled a basket with animal crackers. Soon we would read the story of creation with its many hued watercolors of rainbows and rivers and flowers, yellows and blues and greens and reds, and all things bright and beautiful. I was looking forward to singing this hymn – “All Things Bright and Beautiful” – together.
As I watched the children and the teachers in this precious hour in the back of our parish church I thought how this scene had become and would become a part of my history. I have been involved in teaching children in church for thirty-seven years now, and as I share with them the creation of the world, I know that even in this small way I am contributing a few drops to the great stream of Western civilization. For the children will grow up believing in a rational God who not only created order out of chaos, life and light out of death and darkness, but loved, and continues to love, his creation. This is marvel-ous news.
There has been much outcry in the last few years about the loss of Western Civilization courses in major universities. How will we understand who we are? How will we move forward, creating and inventing and ordering the chaos around us if we do not understand how we created in the past? As many have written recently, this creating and inventing and ordering – this steady progress, was the product of belief in a rational God. Without the Judeo-Christian civilizing stream none of this would have happened. Progress happens within a linear view of history, not cyclical. When Abraham left Ur, at the command of the One True God, he left the pagan cycles of fatalism and reincarnation. He gathered his people and stepped forward in time to a destination. One action built upon another. Prophecies encouraged the journey, angelic visitors explained the future. He and his tribe were a part of something far greater, even in his old age, something building and progressing, something sacred led by God. Abraham looked up to the stars and found a God who cared, and he looked forward to the path he would follow to his destination.
So as I watched the children, I considered how my own history, my country’s history, my culture’s history, that of the Western world – all the past that has brought me here – is vital to the next generation. And values of freedom, democracy, respect for one another, heroism and sacrifice, personal responsibility, the sacredness of life itself, must all be cultivated just like these Sunday School seeds in order to flower.
This last week I signed up as a contributing “Creator” to a newly launched website, LibertyIslandMag.com, founded by Adam Bellow. Here “conservative, libertarian, and contrarian” authors of fiction may post their pieces and excerpts, blogs and comments, adding to a growing national conversation. I know I’m conservative, probably libertarian to a degree, and most likely considered contrarian by major publishers (and some of my family) so I was glad to find this island of sanity.
I’ve also recently had the privilege of being part of the first steps taken to establish in Berkeley a Center for Western Civilization – library, faculty residence, lecture hall – one block from the U. C. campus. The St. Joseph of Arimathea Foundation sees this as a means to plant more seeds in the fertile ground of this major university area, to teach founding principles of Western Civilization to this coming generation. Joseph of Arimathea was the trader who provided the tomb for Christ’s burial; he sailed to Glastonbury to plant the seeds of Christianity in Britain. It is said that he planted his staff and the staff flowered. This same thorn tree, replanted over the years, still flowers in winter.
Many folks across our land are cultivating Western ideals, planting seeds for the future generations. They need our support, both financial and spiritual, to rebuild our broken culture and reap a good harvest.