Some items from church today, followed by a quick write-up on Patrick J. Buchanan’s The Greatest Comeback, with a Goebbels tangent thrown into the middle. The church group in which I am participating, via Zoom, is going through Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing.
A. “Anxious for Nothing” comes from Philippians 4:6-7. The pastor gave some background about Philippi. Philippi was a Roman colony in Greece. The inhabitants of Philippi were Roman citizens, so they had rights and privileges that the cities around them did not possess. Such background may explain some of the themes in Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. Like the city of Philippi, Christians are strangers in a strange land and possess a different citizenship from that of the people around them: Christians are citizens of heaven, not earth. At the same time, the pastor said, Christians still are involved in the world out of love for their neighbor.
B. Someone in the group pointed to Philippians 4:5. Her translation said, “Let your reasonableness be known to all.” For the Greek word translated as “reasonableness,” other translations have “moderation,” “forbearing spirit,” and “gentleness.” The Greek lexica on my BibleWorks gravitate towards kindness, gentleness, and yielding to others. Still, the group’s discussion about reasonableness resonated with me. The person in the group said that, so often, we react. The pastor replied by talking about a marriage counselor he knew. If a couple is having a shouting match, the counselor suggested they take ten minutes then resume the conversation after they had cooled down. That way, the reasonable part of their mind could take over from the lower, flight-or-fight part aspect of their mind.
C. In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul exhorts two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to put aside their differences, and he urges his companion to help them in this. The pastor said that Euodia and Syntyche were allowing their differences to distract them from the mission of the church and the proclamation of the Gospel. This resonates with me, somewhat. For one, reconciling with others for the sake of a goal makes more sense to me than saying we all should like one another, which, in my mind, is unrealistic. Second, Paul recommended that someone help the two women to set aside their differences. Reconciliation may require a third party to help. Reconciliation is not easy, so people may need outside help to do it.
D. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus exhorts his disciples to seek first the Kingdom of God, then those other things (i.e., food, clothing) shall be added to them. The pastor referred to a lesson that the youth pastor gave, in which people placed stuff in a bag. You need to put the Kingdom of God and righteousness into the bag of our mind and life first; if you put other things in first, there will be little, if any, room for the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. The pastor interpreted the Kingdom of God in reference to God’s provision and protection, and there being a bigger picture than what is right in front of us.
E. I Peter 5:6-8 exhorts believers to humble themselves before God, to cast their anxiety onto God, and to be sober and vigilant, since the devil seeks to devour them. The pastor interpreted the part about humbling themselves as throwing themselves into God’s embrace. They must do so consistently, since the devil is there to distract them and to try to make them think that everything rests on their shoulders, rather than trusting in God. The pastor interprets v 6 in light of v 7, and that may have some truth. At the same time, v 5 appears to define humility more in terms of submission to elders and interpersonal relationships. Anxiety and pride in relationships can overlap, though, since anxiety can lead to strife. Another point that the pastor made was that, when we fill ourselves with ourselves, we leave little room for God. When we empty ourselves, God can fill us with God’s gifts.
F. The pastor talked about Habakkuk. Habakkuk was upset with God, hoping God would stop the Babylonians from attacking Israel. God responds in Habakkuk 2:4 that the righteous shall live by faith. Later, in Habakkuk 3:17-18, Habakkuk affirms that, even if there is poverty around him (fruitless fig tree, no crops, no sheep), he shall still rejoice in the God of his salvation. God works in and through the bad for the benefit of people.
G. People in the group talked about the hatred and problems in America today, and the pastor talked about the strife in America, the world, and even his home during the late 1960’s and the 1970’s. Then, as a historian, he went back to the 1920’s, the time of the Red Scare. People in America feared Communism, and, in Europe, Germany was on the verge of becoming socialist, and Hungary was overthrown by a Communist dictator. As the pastor talked about the problems in Europe, I thought of Joseph Goebbels’s speeches and articles that I have been reading lately (not that I am comparing the pastor to Goebbels). Fear of Bolshevism pervades Goebbels’s speeches. Even towards the end of World War II, when Germany’s defeat looked inevitable, Goebbels encouraged the Germans to keep on fighting, since otherwise the Bolsheviks will take over and bring a reign of brutality and oppression. Goebbels’s speech contrasting National Socialism with Communism is especially enlightening, since conservatives act as if the Nazis and the Communists essentially supported the same kind of statist system. Goebbels differentiates between Nazis and Communists in that (1.) the Communists are internationalist and seek to overthrow nationalism, whereas the Nazis champion nationalism, both their own and that of the countries that they govern, and (2.) the Communists seek to overthrow religion and private property, whereas the Nazis uphold both. Goebbels was far from a laissez-faire capitalist, however, for, in other speeches, he criticizes the wealth inequality that exists in Britain and the United States, contrasting them with Nazi Germany, which takes care of its people; one reason that Britain opposes Nazi Germany, Goebbels maintains, is that Nazi Germany has a system of socialism that shows up Britain’s deficient capitalistic system. Goebbels also mentions the Communist takeovers of countries in Europe, which the Communists do under the guise of protecting those countries. When Goebbels talks about the Nazi takeover of countries, he justifies it as protecting countries and creating a new order in Europe. Goebbels seems to reject imperialism, though. He never says that Germany should rule the world, for, as much as he loathes the British empire, he envisions German coexistence with it; plus, like A.J.P. Taylor, Pat Buchanan, etc., Goebbels presents Nazi Germany as militarily unprepared for the British attacks on them and their interests. According to this picture, Germany was not preparing at the outset to take over Britain and the world.
H. Patrick J. Buchanan. The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority. Crown Forum, 2014.
Nixon lost the Presidential election in 1960, then the California gubernatorial election in 1962. It was after the latter that he told the press, “You will not have Nixon to kick around anymore.” Nixon came across, not just as a loser, but as a sore loser. Pat Buchanan joined Nixon’s team in 1966 and played a key role in Nixon’s political resurrection. He wrote speeches for Nixon and advised him on political strategy, as Nixon sought to appeal to conservative, moderate, and liberal Republicans.
—-In 2013, I devoted the year to reading books by and about Richard Nixon. Nixon often came across as introverted and vindictive, afraid of interpersonal confrontation, and as a loner. How did this jibe, or not jibe, with Buchanan’s portrayal? In Buchanan’s picture, Nixon definitely could be vindictive, as when he punished a press person by having Buchanan escort him off the plane. Nixon also preferred that others confront people on his behalf rather than doing so directly: this is the case with that press person, and also when Nixon had Buchanan get Nixon out of a speaking commitment that he had just made to a woman, just to be polite. Nixon also did some of his activities in solitude, for he studied and read a lot and communicated through memos. But Buchanan also depicts Nixon as more social than other books I have read. He loved to joke and banter with his staff. He enjoyed golfing with people he knew, as awkward as he was at golfing. I have wondered if Nixon had Asperger’s, but Buchanan’s descriptions of Nixon make me question that. Buchanan also comments briefly on whether Nixon had a problem with alcohol. Buchanan’s view is that Nixon was not an alcoholic but, because he was so tightly wound up, when he finally did loosen up, it did not take that many drinks for him to appear drunk and silly.
—-Buchanan offers his own views about political issues, in some cases. On academic freedom, Buchanan defines that as the right of professors to speak their mind about their fields, not the right to express support for the Viet-Cong without consequences. On the First Amendment, Buchanan rejects the idea that it applies to riots, thinking it relates to speaking one’s mind at a town hall, to use an example. On the former, Buchanan has an ironic story about a professor who endorsed the Viet-Cong in the late 1960’s but, decades later, converted to Catholicism and endorsed Buchanan’s presidential candidacy in 1996.
—-An issue on which Buchanan is ambivalent is that of tribalism and nationalism. On the one hand, Buchanan sympathizes with the nationalist sentiments of Third World countries, especially those whose countries and peoples were split apart by artificial political borders. On the other hand, Buchanan questions whether African leaders possessed the experience and knowledge to rule Africa, whereas the European colonialists had those things.
—-Buchanan in 1968 advised Nixon on how to make a stronger stance in favor of gun control. This is ironic, since gun control nowadays is anathema to conservatives. Although the gun lobby was strong then, as it is today, polls indicated that 70 percent of Americans supported gun control. Nixon incorporated gun control into his law-and-order platform. A lesser irony is that Buchanan appears more supportive of Israel in the late 1960’s than he later became.
—-Buchanan is a little muddled about the Southern Strategy. On the one hand, Buchanan denies that Nixon sought to appeal to Southern racists by opposing integration. Buchanan notes Nixon’s heart for African-Americans and quotes his own memos that advise Nixon to leave racism to the Democratic racists. Nixon supported black capitalism and opposed liberal urban renewal programs that displaced African-Americans from their homes. Nixon appealed to white Southerners on other issues, including riots, lawlessness, and American weakness in the face of Communism. On the other hand, Buchanan is critical of school busing and attempts to mainstream lower-performing African-American students into higher-achieving classes; he prefers upgrading African-American schools rather than trying to create an artificial equality. He is rather critical of federally-imposed open-housing but eventually embraces it as a way to show that positive change can occur through law rather than riots. He says that Nixon, as part of his Southern Strategy, supported states’ rights and decentralization in education and open-housing; if that is not a wink-wink to Southern segregationists, what is?
—-In Oliver Stone’s 1995 movie Nixon, Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover are apprehensive that Robert F. Kennedy might win the Democratic nomination then the Presidency. Nixon laments that young people treat RFK like a “rock star,” and the implication is that the Deep State had RFK killed. Buchanan in this book, by contrast, states that Nixon did not deem RFK to be a significant threat. RFK was doing poorly and lacked the charisma of JFK, and the anti-war vote was divided. According to Buchanan, Nixon was more apprehensive about George Wallace!
I will be doing my Buchanan series off and on. Right now, I am reading an Ann Coulter book.