Blood Moons and the End of the World By Mark Saucy


“The Apache helicopters in America’s arsenal are the locusts that come from the abyss in Revelation 9.” This statement comes directly from 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988, a tome you could still purchase on Amazon, believe it or not. It was also the subject of a huge prophecy conference that year in the Anaheim Convention Center, I remember. The sequel came out a year later (same author) after obvious and awkward complications: The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989 (also on Amazon, if you’re interested). Then we all remember the more recent predictions (and later apologies) of Harold Camping about the End of the World being May 21, 2011. Somewhat ironically, it happened that the final exam for my grad course in eschatology and ecclesiology was scheduled for that very day. Real believers, I told the class, didn’t need to study for that one! (No one took me up on it.)


So now we have blood moons, tetrads, Jewish feasts, and cool-sounding apocalyptic biblical language (Acts 2:19–20; cf. Joel 2:30–31) all being marshaled to give biblical eschatology another black eye. While it’s true that this shiner is worn most by those actually fronting such things, I still get painted with it, too. This is because I would probably have much in common with the “Blood Mooners” in the big questions of Christian orthodoxy, not to mention I also read Daniel, Jesus in the Olivet Discourse (e.g., Matt. 24–25), and Revelationas having application to the future.

It’s one thing to be a scandal for the Gospel—the Gospel of Jesus Christ is scandalous to the world. Paul felt that, and I am proud to own that, too (1 Cor. 1:18–25). But blood moons as signs of the prophecy clock ticking is a scandal in the wrong direction.

Now, I’m all in favor of blood moons (awe-inspiring astronomical phenomenon!), tetrads (rare!), Jewish feasts (our overly Gentilized Church calendars should be more dominated by these—as they are fulfilled in Christ), and apocalyptic (it can be literal too—resurrection is a feature of apocalyptic, and we all believe in that one). But put them together in yet another sensationalized, factually crazy…, books-flying-off-the-shelf spectacle for the world, and I just shake my head. We’re in the same ditch as those who have no hope.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind at all if the blood moon clamor were right. I’ll take the Lord’s Day over this present darkness any time! But in saying this, I also know that such predictions have been part of the Church since its founding. Everygeneration has located the signs of the end in its day. So, if you have a new supposed fulfillment you’re cooking up, like blood moons, take a number and get in line! You have a lot of company.

Better is to keep one’s focus about the end times where Scripture does. Why has God given his people any knowledge of the future? These are the things I have confidence in:

1. Knowledge of our story, the one God told us in the Bible including how it all ends, gives us stability for life. It gives comfort when standing for what’s right (1 Pet. 2:23; Rev. 2–3), strength for service when weary (1 Cor. 15:58; 2 Cor. 5:10–11; 1 Pet. 5:4), grit to resist all that’s unholy (1 Pet. 1:13–17), and intentionality for following the Master with all our heart (Matt. 16:24, 27). This world is not our home, and Christ’s coming for his own marks the end of our alien condition. We must live every day in the light of this truth, but God alone knows the end. His son said so (Mark 13:32).

2. Knowing God’s story keeps us from being taken in by those with other stories (see Matt. 24:5—there will be pretenders). It’s why God’s people don’t need Tarot cards, psychics, astrology, channeling, etc. In fact, for their good, God even forbids these of his people (Deut .18:14–15).

3. Fulfilled prophecy validates the prophet (Deut. 18:21–22; see also Jeremiah’s “prophecy duel” with Hananiah in Jer. 28:1–17—good story).

4. Most of all, prophecy proves who is God and who is not. Who else can say, “Truly I am God, I have no peer; I am God, and there is none like me, who announces the end from the beginning and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred…” (Isa. 46:9–10)?

Someone wisely observed that God has told us just enough about the future so we don’t despair, but not so much that we should not need him. Probably a wise balance and one I at least will aim for when the next blood moon comes around this fall.

For more, visit the Good Book Blog, a seminary faculty blog from Talbot School of Theology.

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Same-Sex Marriage: A Stunning Cultural and Legal Accommodation By Dr. Jim Eckman |

Same-Sex Marriage: A Stunning Cultural and Legal Accommodation

Oct 18th, 2014 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

On Monday, 6 October 2014, the US Supreme Court let stand appeals court rulings permitting same-sex marriage in five states—Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.  Such decisions by the Court are done without explanation, as was this decision.  But the silence of the Court here is deafening, for it sends a decisive signal that the accommodation to same-sex marriage is virtually complete within American culture and law.  This action by the Court increased the number of states permitting same-sex marriage to 24.  This will expand quickly to others.  Monday’s order from the Court let stand decisions from three federal appeals courts striking down bans on same-sex marriage in the states listed above.  But these three courts have jurisdiction over six additional states that ban same-sex marriage—Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming—which will result in bans in those states being struck down as well.  This will bring to 30 the states that permit same-sex marriage.  Other appeals courts will certainly follow, most certainly the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, which has jurisdiction over nine states.  Assuming the Ninth Circuit will follow suit, this will bring the total to 35 states that permit same-sex marriage.

Let me explain something here about the Supreme Court’s action on Monday, 6 October 2014.  The Supreme Court is under no obligation to hear cases, for it has discretion over its own jurisdiction in legal matters.  Those who lose a case in a lower court may petition the Supreme Court for a review of the case (called a writ of certiorari), which is what the Court decided on Monday:  it refused to grant a review of these cases.  When such a review is denied, the judgment of the lower court becomes final.  As Garrett Epps argues in The Atlantic, “In every one of the marriage cases [in the petition for a review], a federal court held that the parties before it are entitled to recognition of their marriages, or entitled to be legally married in their state or residence.  Laws and state constitutional provisions limiting marriage to ‘one man and one woman’ are void.  In each case, either the court of appeals or the Supreme Court had ‘stayed the mandate’ pending Supreme Court review.”  It is virtually unthinkable that the Supreme Court will overturn this in any future cases dealing with same-sex marriage.  In other words, the accommodation to same-sex marriage is now complete.  Based on what the Supreme Court just did, the Constitution has now been interpreted as providing the right of same-sex marriage in the United States.  Theologian Albert Mohler is correct when he concludes that “The remaining federal courts were put on notice that same-sex marriage is now the expectation of the Supreme Court and that no appeal on the question is likely to be successful, or even heard.”

The accommodation of culture and law to same-sex marriage is nothing short of staggering—and really unprecedented.  First legalized in the Netherlands in 2001, same-sex marriages have spread to 19 countries and, as mentioned above, will soon be legal in 35 states!  How has this cultural and legal accommodation happened so quickly?  How is it that what was once unthinkable, became debatable and is now acceptable?  There are many ways to approach such questions, but most certainly the accommodation of American culture and law to Postmodern autonomy is a major factor explaining this accommodation to same-sex marriage.  In terms of law, the 2003Lawrence v. Texas decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy was decisive.  In that decision, Kennedy wrote that “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”  In other words, liberty is absolute autonomy:  I alone determine what is valuable, worthwhile and meaningful.  There is nothing outside of me that defines things of worth and value.  In 2003, Justice Antonin Scalia fully understood the implication of what Justice Kennedy was saying:  “This reasoning leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.  Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as a formal recognition in marriage is concerned.  If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is ‘no legitimate state interest’ for purposes of proscribing conduct . . . what justification could there possible be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples?”  What Scalia foresaw in 2003 has occurred in 2014!

Two major conclusions are obvious:

  1. In this accommodation to same-sex marriage, American culture and law are on a collision course with religious groups who disagree with same-sex marriage on theological grounds.  In the name of religious liberty, such groups will seek exemption from the application of this ruling.  Religious liberty is a sacred right detailed in the First Amendment and one which is at the heart of the American experiment in human liberty.  But with the acceptance of Postmodern autonomy as the new basis for culture and law, it is at least somewhat doubtful that religious liberty will be preserved.  In some ways, the threat to religious liberty and freedom of conscience has never been more real.
  2. American culture and law have completely abandoned any recognition of God’s Creation Ordinance in Genesis 2:18-25.  In that central text, God makes clear that marriage is monogamous, heterosexual and a “one-flesh” union between a man and a woman.  [Each time Jesus and Paul in the New Testament discuss marriage and sexuality, they reference this Creation Ordinance, for it transcends all time and all cultures.]  There is no lack of clarity in this text, but throughout history human beings have chosen to ignore it and God has simply “given them over” to the natural consequences of this choice (see Romans 1:18-32).  As God’s clear teaching on marriage and sexuality are opposed, other vices follow in terms of human sin; the downward spiral of self-destructive behavior follows.  The United States is quite naïve and actually quite arrogant if it thinks that America alone will be the exception.
Posted in Biblical Worldview, Breakdown of Marriage, Breakdown of the Family, Children at Risk, Christianity, Cultural Barometer, Death of a Nation, Death of Western Culture, Dr. James P. Eckman, Not Following God's Plan, Political Correctness, Postmodernism, Progressives, Sin, Society at Risk | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View, by Robert Oscar Lopez

Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View

Between 1973 and 1990, when my beloved mother passed away, she and her female romantic partner raised me. They had separate houses but spent nearly all their weekends together, with me, in a trailer tucked discreetly in an RV park 50 minutes away from the town where we lived. As the youngest of my mother’s biological children, I was the only child who experienced childhood without my father being around.

After my mother’s partner’s children had left for college, she moved into our house in town. I lived with both of them for the brief time before my mother died at the age of 53. I was 19. In other words, I was the only child who experienced life under “gay parenting” as that term is understood today.

Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors. People in our community didn’t really know what was going on in the house. To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A’s.

Inside, however, I was confused. When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, in a fundamental way striking at basic physical relations, you grow up weird. I have no mental health disorders or biological conditions. I just grew up in a house so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.

My peers learned all the unwritten rules of decorum and body language in their homes; they understood what was appropriate to say in certain settings and what wasn’t; they learned both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine social mechanisms.

Even if my peers’ parents were divorced, and many of them were, they still grew up seeing male and female social models. They learned, typically, how to be bold and unflinching from male figures and how to write thank-you cards and be sensitive from female figures. These are stereotypes, of course, but stereotypes come in handy when you inevitably leave the safety of your lesbian mom’s trailer and have to work and survive in a world where everybody thinks in stereotypical terms, even gays.

I had no male figure at all to follow, and my mother and her partner were both unlike traditional fathers or traditional mothers. As a result, I had very few recognizable social cues to offer potential male or female friends, since I was neither confident nor sensitive to others. Thus I befriended people rarely and alienated others easily. Gay people who grew up in straight parents’ households may have struggled with their sexual orientation; but when it came to the vast social universe of adaptations not dealing with sexuality—how to act, how to speak, how to behave—they had the advantage of learning at home. Many gays don’t realize what a blessing it was to be reared in a traditional home.

My home life was not traditional nor conventional. I suffered because of it, in ways that are difficult for sociologists to index. Both nervous and yet blunt, I would later seem strange even in the eyes of gay and bisexual adults who had little patience for someone like me. I was just as odd to them as I was to straight people.

Life is hard when you are strange. Even now, I have very few friends and often feel as though I do not understand people because of the unspoken gender cues that everyone around me, even gays raised in traditional homes, takes for granted. Though I am hard-working and a quick learner, I have trouble in professional settings because co-workers find me bizarre.

In terms of sexuality, gays who grew up in traditional households benefited from at least seeing some kind of functional courtship rituals around them. I had no clue how to make myself attractive to girls. When I stepped outside of my mothers’ trailer, I was immediately tagged as an outcast because of my girlish mannerisms, funny clothes, lisp, and outlandishness. Not surprisingly, I left high school as a virgin, never having had a girlfriend, instead having gone to four proms as a wisecracking sidekick to girls who just wanted someone to chip in for a limousine.

When I got to college, I set off everyone’s “gaydar” and the campus LGBT group quickly descended upon me to tell me it was 100-percent certain I must be a homosexual. When I came out as bisexual, they told everyone I was lying and just wasn’t ready to come out of the closet as gay yet. Frightened and traumatized by my mother’s death, I dropped out of college in 1990 and fell in with what can only be called the gay underworld. Terrible things happened to me there.

It was not until I was twenty-eight that I suddenly found myself in a relationship with a woman, through coincidences that shocked everyone who knew me and surprised even myself. I call myself bisexual because it would take several novels to explain how I ended up “straight” after almost thirty years as a gay man. I don’t feel like dealing with gay activists skewering me the way they go on search-and-destroy missions against ex-gays, “closet cases,” or “homocons.”

Though I have a biography particularly relevant to gay issues, the first person who contacted me to thank me for sharing my perspective on LGBT issues was Mark Regnerus, in an email dated July 17, 2012. I was not part of his massive survey, but he noticed a comment I’d left on a website about it and took the initiative to begin an email correspondence.

Forty-one years I’d lived, and nobody—least of all gay activists—had wanted me to speak honestly about the complicated gay threads of my life. If for no other reason than this, Mark Regnerus deserves tremendous credit—and the gay community ought to be crediting him rather than trying to silence him.

Regnerus’s study identified 248 adult children of parents who had same-sex romantic relationships. Offered a chance to provide frank responses with the hindsight of adulthood, they gave reports unfavorable to the gay marriage equality agenda. Yet the results are backed up by an important thing in life called common sense: Growing up different from other people is difficult and the difficulties raise the risk that children will develop maladjustments or self-medicate with alcohol and other dangerous behaviors. Each of those 248 is a human story, no doubt with many complexities.

Like my story, these 248 people’s stories deserve to be told. The gay movement is doing everything it can to make sure that nobody hears them. But I care more about the stories than the numbers (especially as an English professor), and Regnerus stumbled unwittingly on a narrative treasure chest.

So why the code of silence from LGBT leaders? I can only speculate from where I’m sitting. I cherish my mother’s memory, but I don’t mince words when talking about how hard it was to grow up in a gay household. Earlier studies examined children still living with their gay parents, so the kids were not at liberty to speak, governed as all children are by filial piety, guilt, and fear of losing their allowances. For trying to speak honestly, I’ve been squelched, literally, for decades.

The latest attempt at trying to silence stories (and data) such as mine comes from Darren E. Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, who gave an interview to Tom Bartlett of the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which he said—and I quote—that Mark Regnerus’s study was “bullshit.” Bartlett’s article continues:

Among the problems Sherkat identified is the paper’s definition of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers”—an aspect that has been the focus of much of the public criticism. A woman could be identified as a “lesbian mother” in the study if she had had a relationship with another woman at any point after having a child, regardless of the brevity of that relationship and whether or not the two women raised the child as a couple.

Sherkat said that fact alone in the paper should have “disqualified it immediately” from being considered for publication.

The problem with Sherkat’s disqualification of Regnerus’s work is a manifold chicken-and-egg conundrum. Though Sherkat uses the term “LGBT” in the same interview with Bartlett, he privileges that L and G and discriminates severely against the B, bisexuals.

Where do children of LGBT parents come from? If the parents are 100-percent gay or lesbian, then the chances are that the children were conceived through surrogacy or insemination, or else adopted. Those cases are such a tiny percentage of LGBT parents, however, that it would be virtually impossible to find more than a half-dozen in a random sampling of tens of thousands of adults.

Most LGBT parents are, like me, and technically like my mother, “bisexual”—the forgotten B. We conceived our children because we engaged in heterosexual intercourse. Social complications naturally arise if you conceive a child with the opposite sex but still have attractions to the same sex. Sherkat calls these complications disqualifiable, as they are corrupting the purity of a homosexual model of parenting.

I would posit that children raised by same-sex couples are naturally going to be more curious about and experimental with homosexuality without necessarily being pure of any attraction to the opposite sex. Hence they will more likely fall into the bisexual category, as did I—meaning that the children of LGBT parents, once they are young adults, are likely to be the first ones disqualified by the social scientists who now claim to advocate for their parents.

Those who are 100-percent gay may view bisexuals with a mix of disgust and envy. Bisexual parents threaten the core of the LGBT parenting narrative—wedo have a choice to live as gay or straight, and we do have to decide the gender configuration of the household in which our children will grow up. While some gays see bisexuality as an easier position, the fact is that bisexual parents bear a more painful weight on their shoulders. Unlike homosexuals, we cannot write off our decisions as things forced on us by nature. We have no choice but to take responsibility for what we do as parents, and live with the guilt, regret, and self-criticism forever.

Our children do not arrive with clean legal immunity. As a man, though I am bisexual, I do not get to throw away the mother of my child as if she is a used incubator. I had to help my wife through the difficulties of pregnancy and postpartum depression. When she is struggling with discrimination against mothers or women at a sexist workplace, I have to be patient and listen. I must attend to her sexual needs. Once I was a father, I put aside my own homosexual past and vowed never to divorce my wife or take up with another person, male or female, before I died. I chose that commitment in order to protect my children from dealing with harmful drama, even as they grow up to be adults. When you are a parent, ethical questions revolve around your children and you put away your self-interest . . . forever.

Sherkat’s assessment of Regnerus’s work shows a total disregard for the emotional and sexual labor that bisexual parents contribute to their children. Bisexual parents must wrestle with their duties as parents while still contending with the temptations to enter into same-sex relationships. The turbulence documented in Mark Regnerus’s study is a testament to how hard that is. Rather than threatening, it is a reminder of the burden I carry and a goad to concern myself first and foremost with my children’s needs, not my sexual desires.

The other chicken-and-egg problem of Sherkat’s dismissal deals with conservative ideology. Many have dismissed my story with four simple words: “But you are conservative.” Yes, I am. How did I get that way? I moved to the right wing because I lived in precisely the kind of anti-normative, marginalized, and oppressed identity environment that the left celebrates: I am a bisexual Latino intellectual, raised by a lesbian, who experienced poverty in the Bronx as a young adult. I’m perceptive enough to notice that liberal social policies don’t actually help people in those conditions. Especially damning is the liberal attitude that we shouldn’t be judgmental about sex. In the Bronx gay world, I cleaned out enough apartments of men who’d died of AIDS to understand that resistance to sexual temptation is central to any kind of humane society. Sex can be hurtful not only because of infectious diseases but also because it leaves us vulnerable and more likely to cling to people who don’t love us, mourn those who leave us, and not know how to escape those who need us but whom we don’t love. The left understands none of that. That’s why I am conservative.

So yes, I am conservative and support Regnerus’s findings. Or is it that Regnerus’s findings revisit the things that made me conservative in the first place? Sherkat must figure that one out.

Having lived for forty-one years as a strange man, I see it as tragically fitting that the first instinct of experts and gay activists is to exclude my life profile as unfit for any “data sample,” or as Dr. Sherkat calls it, “bullshit.” So the game has gone for at least twenty-five years. For all the talk about LGBT alliances, bisexuality falls by the wayside, thanks to scholars such as Sherkat. For all the chatter about a “queer” movement, queer activists are just as likely to restrict their social circles to professionalized, normal people who know how to throw charming parties, make small talk, and blend in with the Art Deco furniture.

I thank Mark Regnerus. Far from being “bullshit,” his work is affirming to me, because it acknowledges what the gay activist movement has sought laboriously to erase, or at least ignore. Whether homosexuality is chosen or inbred, whether gay marriage gets legalized or not, being strange is hard; it takes a mental toll, makes it harder to find friends, interferes with professional growth, and sometimes leads one down a sodden path to self-medication in the form of alcoholism, drugs, gambling, antisocial behavior, and irresponsible sex. The children of same-sex couples have a tough road ahead of them—I know, because I have been there. The last thing we should do is make them feel guilty if the strain gets to them and they feel strange. We owe them, at the least, a dose of honesty. Thank you, Mark Regnerus, for taking the time to listen.

Robert Lopez is assistant professor of English at California State University-Northridge. He is the author of Colorful Conservative: American Conversations with the Ancients from Wheatley to Whitman. This year he will be publishing novels he wrote in the 1990s and 2000s.

Posted in Biblical Worldview, Breakdown of Marriage, Breakdown of the Family, Children at Risk, Cultural Barometer, Death of a Nation, Death of Western Culture, God's Order for His Creation, Liberalism, Not Following God's Plan, Postmodernism, Progressives, Sin, Society at Risk | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The United States of Gomorrica by Dennis Leap

The United States of Gomorrica


How Americans have transformed their morals—and why it matters to you.

When was the last time you sat down in solitude and seriously thought about where the United States of America is headed? Have you given any thought to what America will be like in 5, 10 or 15 years? I believe I have something to tell you that will help motivate you to do just that.

When I was a boy in the 1950s, I was taught that the USA was my country, and that I had a personal responsibility to appreciate, love and protect it. I had some special training in this area. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles lived through the Great Depression—they were a tough lot with high morals.

Several of my uncles fought, endured and were victorious in World War II. I remember my mother’s older brothers telling my brothers and me their personal war stories about fear, fighting and becoming courageous amid nearly insurmountable difficulties. They taught us the immense value of our American freedoms because of the heavy price that was paid to secure them. To the best of my ability, I tried hard to appreciate the fact that I lived in America.

Looking back on that time now, I know how special it was. America was robust and strong—the world’s superpower. My neighborhood was full of happy families that actually associated and played together. I don’t remember being afraid of being mugged, some intruder breaking into my house, neighborhood gang violence, or terrorist attacks on my city.

My oldest granddaughter is 12 years old. Her America is radically different than the one in which I grew up. In fact, it is headed for catastrophe. My little granddaughter has a lot more to fear than I ever did at her age. This should not be!

Can you be honest with yourself? The United States’ political system has suffered a severed spinal cord and is severely handicapped. Our government no longer functions. Our economy is coughing up blood and is on the brink of collapse. What is even more frightful, our historic enemies, which lust for our destruction, are rising up and growing stronger daily.

There is a cause for every effect. Why has America (and our entire Western world) gotten so bad? Although a vast majority will likely not agree, it is time to identify the cause: the pervasive decline in our morals.

Are American Morals on the Rebound?

Some want you to believe that America is in the process of turning its morals around. “The United States remains beset by difficulties, political, economic and cultural. Some of the key social trends, however, are more positive. To study them provides hope that the country isn’t, as one doomsayer declared in the 1990s, slouching toward Gomorrah.” That’s what Bloomberg View’s Al Hunt assured all Americans in “American Moral Values on the Rebound” (New York Times, Dec. 22, 2013). This was an obvious slam against Robert H. Bork’s 1996 bestselling book, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline.

With a gesture toward appearing sensible, Hunt does admit that the birth rate of Americans born to single mothers is troubling. Since 1965, that figure among blacks has tripled to 72 percent; the rate for whites has increased 10-fold to 29 percent, which is higher than the rates for blacks in 1965; the rate for Hispanics is currently 53 percent.

Yet, here is why Hunt is giddy: “Even so, an especially encouraging harbinger of change is the dramatic progress over the past two decades in reducing pregnancies and birthrates among teenagers. Although they remain higher than in most other countries, both rates have dropped about 40 percent in 20 years.” While we can agree that reducing pregnancies and birthrates among teenagers is a good thing, let’s be honest: These statistics do not mean there is a rebound in morality among American teens. Looking deeper into the facts makes my point.

What has lowered teen pregnancies and birthrates? “The magic combination of less sex and more contraception has contributed to this national success story,” states Sarah Brown, the chief executive of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Experts like Brown say teens are waiting longer to have sex, having fewer partners, and using contraceptives more. “There is a growing social norm that teen pregnancy is not OK,” Brown assures.

Think about what Brown is saying. Teens are waiting longer to have sex, are having sex with fewer partners and using more contraceptives. Where is the rebound in morality in that? And when was it ever widely accepted that teen pregnancy is OK?

The facts still staring Americans in the face are that the U.S. has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, birth and abortion in the industrialized world. U.S. teen pregnancy and birth rates are nearly double those of Canada, four times those of France and Germany, and more than eight times those of Japan. Nearly 1 million teen girls get pregnant in the U.S. each year. Almost four out of 10 young women get pregnant at least once before they turn 20. Don’t these facts show America leads the industrialized world in a lack of morality?

Americans Accepting of Immorality

In May this year, Gallup conducted its annual Values and Beliefs survey in the U.S. The polling group discovered that the American public has become more tolerant on a number of key moral issues. Respondents were asked, “Do you believe that, in general, the following are morally acceptable?” The table below shows the percentage of change between the years 2001 and 2014. Study the numbers.

Divorce: 2001: 59%; 2014: 69%

Sex between an unmarried man and woman: 2001: 59%; 2014: 66%

Having a baby outside of marriage:

2002: 45%; 2014: 58%

Homosexual relations: 2001: 40%;

2014: 58%

Pornography: 2011: 30%; 2014: 31%

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These survey results reveal the true state of America’s moral health. It is not on the rebound—it is in serious decline. Gallup’s results show a significant shift in acceptance of divorce (10 points), sex outside of marriage (7 points), having children outside of marriage (13 points) and homosexual relations (18 points). The majority of Americans view divorce, sex outside of marriage, having children outside of marriage and homosexual relations as morally acceptable. This is terrifying!

Even though the shift in the acceptance of pornography appears to be small, and those who think it is moral are not in the majority, Gallup discovered that there was a big difference among age groups in the acceptance of pornography. For example, only 19 percent of Americans over the age of 55 answered yes to the question about pornography—yet 49 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds, close to a majority, think pornography is morally acceptable!

As it turns out, Gallup discovered that Americans in the 18-to-34-year age group responded similarly on issue after issue. This means that as the older generation dies off, Americans will likely continue to become more socially liberal.

Gallup also discovered that moral tolerance among American Democrats has increased significantly on many issues, while Independents show a smaller shift in the same direction, and Republicans’ views have changed little. For example, in 2003, 52 percent of Democrats said having a baby out of wedlock is morally acceptable (compared to 40 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Independents). Yet this year, while Republicans and Independents were unchanged (40 and 60 percent, respectively), Democrats who say it is morally acceptable jumped to 72 percent—a 20-point increase!

Evil Is Now Called Good


In Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Judge Bork, who died in 2012, recorded his deep concerns that America was being led into serious moral decline by modern liberalism. Written over 18 years ago, much of this book is a prophetic-like look into our troubled 21st-century American culture. For example, one concept that modern liberalism has successfully promoted throughout American society that Bork discussed in his book is “defining deviancy up,” meaning that “middle-class life”—with its higher standards of moral behavior—“is portrayed as oppressive and shot through with pathologies.” He quoted Charles Krauthammer as saying, “As part of the vast project of moral leveling, it is not enough for the deviant to be normalized. The normal must be found to be deviant.” This is precisely what has happened to American moral values.

In the ’50s, divorce, sex outside of marriage, having children out of wedlock, homosexual and lesbian sexual relations and pornography were considered deviant. Gallup’s May 2014 survey shows that the majority of Americans consider what was once deviant as morally acceptable. Do Americans now consider sexual abstinence prior to marriage, heterosexual marriage and fidelity in marriage to be deviant?

Tragically, in many cases the answer is yes. In fact, modern liberals are waging a full frontal attack to destroy traditional marriage—one man wedded to one woman.

Looking into our time now, the Prophet Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). Isaiah was speaking specifically about America’s moral health. When a majority of Americans believe that “anything goes” concerning sex, isn’t that calling evil good? When a nation falls into that way of living, Isaiah warns that woe will follow.

Robert Bork viewed American society as sickly hedonistic, meaning that the majority of individuals are focused solely on personal pleasure. Bork also believed America’s moral wretchedness would destroy its economy. “[I]t seems highly unlikely that a vigorous economy can be sustained in an enfeebled, hedonistic culture,” he wrote. When we consider all the facts, could it be that Judge Bork was more right than Al Hunt wants us to believe?

“Analysis demonstrates that we continue slouching towards Gomorrah .… The imperative question is whether there is any possibility of avoiding the condition of Gomorrah,” Bork wrote in the final chapter of his book. Human history shows that once a society slips into such terminal degeneration, it does not come back. America has passed that point of no return. When you consider that 58 percent of Americans believe that homosexual relations are “morally acceptable,” hasn’t America become “Gomorrica”? The Bible shows that catastrophe is looming on the horizon (2 Peter 2:6).

Take the time to examine your moral values. Are you concerned about the moral direction of the country? Or have you slipped into the belief that there are no moral absolutes? You need to understand the danger in such thinking—both to you personally and to your nation!

We have a booklet you need to read. It exposes the agenda behind this rapid shift in society’s morals. It reveals where this trend is taking us, and what you can do as an individual to safeguard yourself and your family. It is calledRedefining Family. It will help you make sense of this revolutionary trend, and show you the path toward a strong family and a healthy moral and spiritual life.

Posted in Biblical Worldview, Breakdown of Marriage, Breakdown of the Family, Christianity, Conservatism, Cultural Barometer, Death of a Nation, Death of Western Culture, Liberalism, Marriage-less Society, Political Correctness, Postmodernism, Progressives, religion, Sin, Socialism, Society at Risk, welfare state, Western Civilization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cultural Dysfunction in 21st-Century America by Jim, Eckman

marijuana-rally“…consider the national trend of accommodating the culture to the legalization of marijuana. Recently, the editorial page of the New York Times argued intensely for the legalization of marijuana and the removal of all penalties against the manufacturing and distribution of marijuana, let alone the possession of marijuana in its many forms. Since late 2012, two states have voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use; licensed shops in Colorado and Washington now sell it to anyone who wants it. Six states have legalized the drug for medicinal use, bringing the total to 23. There are three premises used to justify the legalization of marijuana: (1) it will stop governments from wasting money locking up people who have not really hurt anyone. (2) It will raise tax revenue. (3) It will put criminals out of business. In short, legalizing marijuana expands personal liberty and serves the interests of an expanding government. For example, Colorado expects about $114 million in taxes and fees during its first year of marijuana legalization. However, columnist Michael Gerson offers a poignant reminder: “Pot is called harmless, though we really have little information on the health and cultural effects of the widespread legal distribution of modern, potent methods of consuming THC (the chemical name [for marijuana]). We do know that the substance is addictive in about one in nine cases (more like one in six when use starts in the teens); that it can make structural changes in portions of the brain controlling emotion and motivation; and that regular use undermines memory, attention span, problem-solving skills and the ability to complete complex tasks. What possible use could these attributes have in a modern economy?” Furthermore, there is little doubt that an expanded legal market in pot also expands the illegal markets for reselling (or giving) it to children and teens. As Gerson comments, “The social message of normalization, of banalization, is intended—and received by young people.” Ironically, about $40 million of the tax revenue Colorado expects to receive will go for public school construction: “What were once ‘drug-free school zones’ are becoming drug-funded schools.” Our culture has reached a point where parents no longer expect much help from government in reinforcing the cultural, spiritual and ethical norms necessary to raising responsible, successful children. Many states are actually actively undermining those very norms—and the marijuana panacea is a perfect example of just that. As Gerson argues, “Rather than building social competence and capital, politicians increasingly benefit when citizens are addicted, exploited, impoverished and stoned. And that deserves contempt, not applause.”
The current remedy for cultural dysfunction is embracing marijuana in the name of personal liberty and funding expansive government. If one is intellectually honest, it is silly to think that personal liberty is really a compelling reason for marijuana’s legalization. Common sense would seem to indicate it will actually produce greater personal enslavement. Further, as the various states foster addictive behavior among its citizens, they will in effect be furthering state addiction to revenue from pot. No matter how one views this set of developments, it is difficult to see all of this as a great advancement in civilization. I believe rather confidently that these cultural changes will actually enhance cultural decadence and dysfunction. May God have mercy on us!”

See Michel Gerson in (16 July 2014); The Economist (12 July 2014), pp. 25-26; Allysia Finley on the NEA in the Wall Street Journal (12-13 July 2014); and David Brooks in the New York Times (5 May 2014).

Posted in Cultural Barometer, Death of a Nation, Death of Western Culture, Dr. James P. Eckman, Society at Risk | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel’s air attacks were a model of restraint. By Gabriel Schoenfeld

War Crimes in Gaza?

By any historical standard, Israel’s air attacks were a model of restraint.


Condemnation of Israel for its conduct of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza continues unabated. The chief accusation, heard time and again, is that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have either been cavalier about civilian casualties or are intentionally inflicting them. Israel and its defenders, for their part, have been at pains to point out the great lengths the IDF has gone to avoid injuring civilians, while at the same time noting the innumerable ways in which Hamas has violated the laws of war.

Central Frankfurt, June 1945


The debate over these matters has been almost as intense as the fighting itself. All too often, historical and moral perspective have been lost in the rhetorical smoke. No nation can survive with hundreds of rockets raining on its cities day after day while its borders are simultaneously penetrated by armed fighters seeking to spirit out hostages via underground tunnels. Once again, Israel has found itself waging a war for its survival. In such a war, the question becomes: What is forbidden and what is permitted?

As is well known but bears restating, the campaign Israel has been conducting to suppress Hamas rocket fire and destroy its tunnel network employs precision guided munitions. The attacks from land, air, and sea are designed to destroy Hamas’s command and control facilities and those structures in or from which it has been manufacturing, storing, or firing its huge arsenal of rockets. Before the IDF attacks any buildings where civilians are known to be living or congregating, it issues numerous alerts by dropping leaflets, making telephone calls and sending text messages, and firing warning shots.

In a conflict in which its adversary employs innocent women and children as human shields and fires offensive weapons from or near hospitals, schools, and U.N. shelters, Israel’s effort to reduce civilian casualties has clearly not succeeded in every case. But the effort itself, if not unique in the annals of warfare, is certainly far from the norm. Notably, it stands in the starkest possible contrast to the way Great Britain and the United States conducted their own war for survival.

The Germans in World War II may have initiated the carpet bombing of civilian centers, but it did not take long for the Allies to respond in kind. Days after the German bombing of Rotterdam, Winston Churchill’s war cabinet settled on the initiation of “unrestricted air warfare,” openly casting aside concern for civilian life so long as military objectives would be realized. What followed over the next years, as is well known, was the destruction of more than half of Germany’s urban centers.

What is less well known, but has been meticulously chronicled by the historian Richard Overy in The Bombers and the Bombed, is exactly how methodical—even scientific—that bombing campaign became. To calibrate how best to wreak destruction, the British air ministry devised a measure of the ratio between bomb weight and expected deaths among German workers, i.e., civilians. The unit of measurement it selected was based upon the casualties inflicted by Germany in the November 14, 1940, bombing of the English city of Coventry. The scale went from “1 Coventry” upward, with an attack of “5 Coventries” expected to yield approximately 28,000 German deaths. In the spring of 1942, Churchill’s scientific adviser, Lord Cherwell, produced his famous calculation that 10,000 Royal Air Force bombers would be sufficient to “dehouse” one-third of Germany’s urban populace.

A new military-scientific subdiscipline emerged: “incendiarism.” It is “axiomatic,” explained the report of one British defense research divison, “that fire will always be the optimum agent for the complete destruction of buildings, factories, etc.” Overy recounts how experts from the National Fire Protection Association in the United States traveled to London to provide advice on how best to achieve “large-scale fire destruction.” As the war progressed, considerable effort was devoted to making certain that targeted cities would be consumed by firestorms of the kind that sucked the oxygen out of the air and killed by the tens of thousands.

A unit in the British air ministry systematically considered the relevant factors for fostering the “essential draught conditions”: the dimensions of beams in the average house in northwest Germany, the materials used in constructing rooftops, the design of staircases, the thickness of floors. The happy conclusion it reached: “a German house will burn well.” Observing Churchill read aloud a memorandum setting forth the possibility of “round-the-clock bombing” of Germany, an American general was later to recollect: He “rolled the words off his tongue like they were tasty morsels.”

Churchill today is remembered, rightly, as one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. Israel has never for a moment even contemplated employing the kinds of tactics that, however much we recoil from them today, the British titan utilized to ensure his country’s survival. Similar draconian tactics were employed by the United States under Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman in the war against Japan and were repeated in the saturation bombing of the Korean and Vietnam wars, both conflicts far from our shores where our own survival was not at stake. Yet instead of reducing all of Gaza to rubble, Israel has chosen to fight door-to-door and tunnel-to-tunnel, and to suffer heavy casualties of its own.

Obviously striking in this connection is the contrast between Israel and Hamas, which has engaged in a wide variety of war crimes that, beyond those previously mentioned, include aiming rockets at civilian targets, using Red Crescent ambulances to ferry fighters, and carrying out attacks during a U.N.-sponsored truce. Particularly noteworthy among its assortment of violations is the use of Israeli uniforms by Hamas fighters as they carry out attacks.

According to the Hague Convention of 1907, it is “especially forbidden” to “kill or wound treacherously.” Treachery comes in a variety of forms, and one of them is to “make improper use of .  .  . the military insignia and uniform of the enemy.” Yet this is precisely what Hamas has repeatedly done. Once again, practices during World War II are instructive.

As Germany’s military position was collapsing in December 1944, Adolf Hitler set in motion Operation Greif (Griffin), aimed at capturing one or more of the bridges traversing the Meuse River. He put in charge Otto Skorzeny, the enterprising SS officer who had rescued Mussolini from Italian captivity. The Führer insisted to Skorzeny that special units be employed composed of English-speaking soldiers wearing captured British and U.S. Army uniforms. They were to cause mayhem behind enemy lines by issuing false orders, changing road signs, and other forms of military mischief.

But by this juncture Hitler’s military genius was insufficient to save the day, and Operation Greif—along with the Battle of the Bulge, of which it was a part—came to grief. Some two dozen of Skorzeny’s fighters were captured. Skorzeny himself was also apprehended. In 1947 he was put on trial in Dachau for a number of crimes, including that of treacherously making use of American uniforms. Skorzeny acknowledged ordering his soldiers to wear the uniforms. But he asserted that so long as enemy uniforms were not worn during combat, their use as a ruse was not illegal under international law. The court agreed. As there was no evidence showing that he or his forces had used a uniform while firing weapons in actual combat as opposed to deception operations, he was acquitted of the charge. But 18 of his fighters who were caught in the field wearing American uniforms were not so fortunate. They were executed on the spot in full accordance with military law regarding the treatment of spies.

This brings us back to Hamas. Its illegal use of Israeli uniforms in combat is but one of many practices that reveal the group to be not a government or a governing party, but a terrorist organization. Indeed, its fighters fall into the same category of “unlawful enemy combatants” that applies to al Qaeda. In fighting such an adversary, one is allowed to take off certain gloves, as the United States has been doing in Afghanistan under both Presidents Bush and Obama. Our forces there have routinely used a variety of tactics to kill our enemies that entail the inadvertent but extensive loss of civilian life.

All this is overlooked by the wolf pack that constitutes Israel’s critics. So too is the ocean of civilian blood flowing in Syria and Iraq at the hands of Islamic butchers of various religio-ideological stripes, about which Israel’s critics are thunderously silent. President Obama fully participates in the hypocrisy by publicly chastising Israel for causing civilian deaths when such deaths have occurred with regularity as a consequence of the drone strikes carried out in Afghanistan and elsewhere at his own orders, and for which the United States has on frequent occasion felt compelled to apologize.

The chorus of condemnation of Israel will no doubt continue. Its sources are to be found not in facts and fairness, but in a brew of convenience, fear, and hatred. Yet by the yardstick of history, Israel has conducted itself with astonishing restraint. In the war for survival that it is waging, it would be fully justified in taking off the gloves. If the IDF had wanted to suppress all Hamas rocket fire and destroy the Gaza tunnel system without losing a single one of its soldiers, it had well within its possession the means to do so. It has chosen not to employ such ferocious means. That is not the way the Jewish state fights. It is a bitter irony that Israel’s restraint has not earned it a respite from savage criticism even as it has saved the lives of countless Palestinian civilians while also costing the lives of many dozens of its own soldiers.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is the author, most recently, of A Bad Day on the Romney Campaign: An Insider’s Account.

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Summer of Stalemate: The fight for Georgia by GEOFFREY NORMAN

Summer of Stalemate

The fight for Georgia

AUG 18, 2014, VOL. 19, NO. 46 • BY GEOFFREY NORMAN

In the summer of 1864, the Union cause rested with Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. They commanded the most formidable armies ever seen on the continent, yet neither had been in uniform four years earlier, when the war began. Both were West Point trained and had served, without distinction, in the regular army. One had left the army in disgrace; the other in frustration. The detractors of one said that he drank, and the other’s enemies said he was “unbalanced.” When the two were working in harness, during the long and difficult campaign against the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, one newspaper had editorialized that the “army was being ruined in mud-turtle expeditions, under the leadership of a drunkard [Grant], whose confidential adviser [Sherman] was a lunatic.”



The Vicksburg campaign had eventually succeeded. Grant was called east by President Lincoln to take command of all Union armies. He put Sherman in charge of the western armies positioned around Chattanooga. His plan, as Sherman described it: “He was to go for Lee, and I was to go for Joe Johnston. That was his plan.”

Like all able generals, they understood that the enemy’s armies were the ultimate objective. Destroy them, and the rest—cities, governments, whole populations—would follow. So the true objectives of the campaigns were the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Tennessee under Joseph Johnston. The nominal objectives were Richmond and Atlanta, and these were the focus of attention in the press and in the political debate about the future of the war and President Abraham Lincoln.

The South could not afford to lose either city and certainly not both. The Confederates would be compelled to risk their armies to save them, and when they did, they would be crushed by the Union’s superior weight in numbers, arms, and all things except, perhaps, generalship. On that matter, the jury was still out.

The plan was simplicity itself, and the generals who were to execute it were plainly brutal and determined enough to pull it off. And yet .  .  .

Grant found it hard going in Virginia. He began the campaign in early May, and in a month he had lost 60,000 men in a series of exceptionally bloody battles, none of which could be called a Union victory—the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Cold Harbor. By mid-June, his army was in Petersburg, outside of Richmond, locked down into something like what the world would eventually come to know as “trench warfare.”

Washington—indeed, all the Union—was demoralized by the casualties and the stalemate. There was a sense of futility in the air that translated into a desire, simply, for an end, for some kind of political settlement that would require, first, a new president. With the election coming in November, President Lincoln told a confidant that he expected to lose and perhaps to lose badly.

With Grant stalemated, hopes against this possibility seemed to rest with Sherman, down in Georgia. Atlanta was about as far from his base in Chattanooga as Richmond was from Washington. But while he had the same distance to go as Grant, he faced a different kind of enemy attempting to keep him from getting there.

Someone had said earlier in the war that Robert E. Lee’s name “might be Audacity.” If that were so, Joe Johnston’s could have been Prudence or Caution. Lee had taken over command of the armies defending Richmond in 1862 from Johnston, who had been seriously wounded in the Battle of Seven Pines. Prior to that battle, he had retreated for days ahead of Union armies commanded by his old friend George McClellan in the Peninsula Campaign. It was a contest between two equally cautious commanders. Lee had changed all that, saved Richmond, chased McClellan back to Washington, and been nemesis to Union commanders and armies ever since.

Johnston had recovered from his wound and been given new commands, ultimately taking over in the west from Braxton Bragg, who had won a victory at Chickamauga but was otherwise both unsuccessful and unpopular—so much so that even the support of Confederate president Jefferson Davis could not keep him in command.

Johnston was a prideful, prickly man, whom Davis disliked. He had a reputation as an able administrator and tactician. He could handle an army, and his troops liked him, but he was not inclined to take risks. A story told about him got to this aspect of his character. It seems that the patrician Johnston, who enjoyed quite a reputation as a wing shot, was invited on a hunt at some plantation. With each bird that flew over, he found a reason not to shoot—too high, too low, too far away, etc. He was a crack shot who never missed because he never fired a shot.

He had backed all the way up the Peninsula, almost to Richmond, two years earlier, retreating skillfully enough but never showing much inclination to go over to the offensive. The question now was, under pressure from Sherman, would he back all the way up to Atlanta? Would he give up the city and, perhaps, in so doing, lose the war?

Sherman, in temperament, was the antithesis of Johnston. He is known to history for the statement “War is hell,” though the context is uncertain, and the occasion was many years after the war. But he said much the same during the war, as in his famous letter to the people of Atlanta: “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.”

He was a man of fierce and liquid emotions who had become so despondent early in the war that he left the army and lived in a kind of self-imposed solitary confinement for a time, suffering from what today would be called depression. When he came back, he showed that he was a fighter, especially at Shiloh, where his division took some of the worst of the Confederate assault on the Union line in the first day of fighting. That night, he found Grant, alone, sitting under a tree and smoking a cigar. “Well, Grant,” he said. “We’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” Grant said. “Lick ’em tomorrow, though.”

They did, with Sherman taking two wounds in the fighting.

The two generals became an immortal military partnership. Sherman, 10 years Grant’s senior, was happy to serve as the subordinate. He once acknowledged to another officer what he saw as Grant’s most critical virtue as a soldier: “I am a damned sight smarter man than Grant. I know more about military history, strategy, and grand tactics than he does. I know more about supply, administration, and everything else than he does. I’ll tell you where he beats me though and where he beats the world. He doesn’t give a damn about what the enemy does out of his sight.”

Sherman also summed up, with colloquial precision, the bond between these men who would win or lose the war: “Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.”

Sherman, for all his volatility, was not an impulsive general. He knew how to maneuver and he understood terrain. He was familiar with some of the ground his army would be required to cross if it were to make it to Atlanta, having walked it when he was stationed nearby in the years before the war.

He began his movement toward Atlanta in early May as Grant moved down into Virginia. Johnston was in Dalton, Georgia, where he had established a strong defensive position. Sherman, after the war, wrote, “I had no purpose to attack Johnston’s position at Dalton in front, but marched from Chattanooga to feign at his front and to make a lodgment in Resaca, eighteen miles to his rear on his lines of communication and supply.”

This set the tone for the entire campaign. With, that is, one unfortunate exception.

For the next month and a half, Sherman would move to get around Johnston, who would counter with a move of his own, almost always a withdrawal. While each of those moves would bring Sherman’s army closer to Atlanta, it would also lengthen his lines of supply and communication and shorten Johnston’s.

It was a chess match between two able tacticians. Move and countermove, with neither general taking any long risks but with both men looking for opportunity to make that one, decisive maneuver that would end the thing.

Sherman tried at Resaca, sending General James McPherson far around Johnston’s left in an attempt to get behind him and then between the Confederates and the first of three rivers between their current position and Atlanta. The move would force them to come out of their defensive positions or wither with their own supply line to their base in Atlanta severed. Done right and done decisively, this maneuver would, perhaps, finish the thing for good and all. Sherman believed it would, and when McPherson’s first dispatches arrived at headquarters, he banged his fist on a table and said, “I’ve got Joe Johnston dead.”

But as so often in this war, an opportunity went wasting when a subordinate failed to execute. McPherson was cautious, like all of Sherman’s senior commanders, and Johnston, who seemed to have a feel for this sort of thing, moved quickly to escape the trap McPherson was slow to spring.

Sherman took it hard, saying, “Such an opportunity does not occur twice in a single life.” But he did not relieve McPherson. He merely informed him that he “regretted beyond measure” that he had not done all he might have.

Johnston, despite his preference for the defense, was also looking for an opportunity to turn and handle the enemy in one big, decisive action. Prudence and sound strategy argued that the closer to Atlanta this fight occurred, the better. But he was not going to pass up any opening Sherman gave him. He had his pride, and he knew his reputation and was aware of what his detractors were saying about him, both in Richmond and among his own officers.

So in the course of what one of the generals on the other side called his “clean retreats,” Johnston came up with a design to go over to the offensive and catch Sherman out in the open. He gave the job to one of the most aggressive generals of the war on either side. John Bell Hood had lost an arm and a leg already, but it was still in his nature to attack. To excess, perhaps, as noted by Lee, under whom he had served. Asked about Hood’s fitness for high command, Lee had described him as “all lion; no fox.”

But the lion had the ear of Jefferson Davis, to whom he wrote complaining of the army’s lack of aggressiveness. Johnston now provided Hood with the opportunity to correct that defect by attacking one of the three elements of Sherman’s advance when it was isolated and could not be supported by the other two, which would then be dealt with in turn. It was a good plan. Hood liked it and was eager for the opportunity to fight. Johnston was so confident of success that he issued a general order which concluded, “I lead you to battle. We may confidently trust that the Almighty Father will still reward the patriots’ toils and bless the patriots’ banners. Cheered by the success of our brothers in Virginia and beyond the Mississippi, our efforts will equal theirs. Strengthened by His support, these efforts will be crowned by like glories.”

The soldiers, too, were tired of retreating, and after the reading of the order, according to one, “A sort of grand halo illuminated every soldier’s face. .  .  . We were going to whip and rout the Yankees.”

But Hood, like McPherson, flinched at the critical moment. The general mistook a small element of cavalry that he encountered for a much larger Union force and feared that it was he who would be ambushed and annihilated. The attack never happened. The retreat continued.

This was maneuver war of the sort that is taught in command and staff colleges, and perhaps the most striking thing about it is how capably it was done. Hood and McPherson may have missed their opportunities, but neither commander blundered or even made an injudicious move. This was a rare thing in war, which is generally a catalogue of mistakes and blunders. It was especially notable in this war, which was fought between armies of tens of thousands, almost all of them untrained civilians three years earlier. The war had been the school and combat the teacher. It is interesting to imagine what might have happened if either of these American armies—or either of the two fighting in Virginia—had suddenly found itself in a fight against the soldiers from any of the European nations. Americans had become both terrible and skilled in battle.

So the soldiers in Georgia performed like the veterans that they now were. They were especially good at throwing up defensive works whenever they stopped moving. They would quickly go to work with saws, axes, and shovels and in short order construct field fortifications from earth and logs strong enough to make an attack imprudent at best and suicidal at worst. They had learned a lot, not least the futility of fighting upright and in the open.

And so the generals maneuvered and the soldiers dug. The fights were insignificant affairs against the bloody battles being fought in Virginia. The people behind the lines and in the governments of Richmond and Washington were not inclined to admire the skills of either the generals or the soldiers engaged in this martial dance across Georgia. They wanted action and results—wanted Atlanta taken or the invaders routed and punished. They wanted something conclusive.

Union impatience with Sherman and his slow progress was exacerbated by the heavy body counts in Virginia and by unrelieved bad news from other fronts. Grant had put three other operations in motion. They were relative sideshows compared with the campaigns that he and Sherman were waging. Still, they were intended to put additional pressure on the South, and all three had failed. General Banks had been defeated and pushed back in Louisiana. General Butler was stalemated south of the James River in Virginia. And General Siegel was routed in the Shenandoah Valley, at the Battle of New Market, by a hastily assembled Confederate force that included the cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, some of them as young as 15. They were, in Jefferson Davis’s phrase, “the seed corn of the Confederacy.”

Meanwhile, in Georgia, far to Sherman’s rear, the Confederate cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest fought and won what may have been his masterpiece at Brice’s Crossroads in Mississippi. Forrest’s victory was studied by military men for years after, among them Erwin Rommel.

Sherman, unlike previous Union commanders, did not let what had happened to his rear stampede him into abandoning the advance, however slowly it might be proceeding. He commanded others to take care of Forrest and continued to press Johnston. But Forrest’s success may have been one factor pushing him into a standup battle at Kennesaw Mountain.

Sherman himself had begun to chafe at the slow progress and the repetitive flank marches of his army. His troops, he seemed to think, were losing their edge. They needed to fight, and the enemy needed to see that they would fight. “A fresh furrow in a plowed field,” he complained to Grant, “will stop the whole column and all begin to entrench.”

The Confederates’ Kennesaw Mountain position that he chose to attack was naturally formidable and made stronger by the ad hoc engineering skills of the Confederate soldiers. The battle was a one-sided defeat for the Union, which Sherman did not deny in his postwar writings: “I ordered a general assault with the full cooperation of my great lieutenants, Thomas, McPherson, and Schofield, as good and true men who ever lived or died for their country’s cause, but we failed, losing 3,000 men, to the Confederates’ loss of 630.”

It was undeniably a defeat, though Sherman would argue in his official report that “it produced good fruit, as it demonstrated to General Johnston that I would assault and .  .  . boldly.”

As for the numbers, in these late, hard days of the war, they had become somehow tolerable. Grant had lost more men at Cold Harbor in an hour. As Sherman wrote to his wife, “I begin to regard the death and mangling of a couple of thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash. .  .  . It may be well that we become hardened. .  .  . The worst of the war is not yet begun.”

Kennesaw Mountain may have been a victory for Johnston and his army, but that did not mean taking the offensive. Three days later, Johnston was again in retreat. The Chattahoochee River was to his back, and once he had crossed that .  .  . Atlanta.

The frustrations of the South were as great as those of Washington, and pressure for the relief of Johnston was almost irresistible. Odd as it might seem that the victorious general after a great battle should be in danger of losing his command, this was the case, and it says volumes about a spirit of mutual desperation at this point in the war.

The mood of Washington may have been depressed and fearful, but the two commanders, the crazy man and the drunk of Sherman’s formulation, remained calm and confident—in themselves and in each other. Sherman would not let himself be distracted by the successes of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Nor would Grant take his eyes off the prize, even when Jubal Early came raiding up the Shenandoah Valley and reached the outskirts of Washington. The president himself went out to observe the action and was actually under fire for a few moments from a Confederate sharpshooter, before Union captain Oliver Wendell Holmes is supposed to have shouted to him, “Get down, you damn fool, before you get shot.”

It is said that Holmes did not recognize one of the most recognizable men alive, and maybe so. At any rate, Lincoln took himself out of the line of fire, and Early went back to Virginia. He did not have the numbers to follow up on his successes, Grant having sent just enough men to make sure of that, while himself pursuing the main objective, which was Lee and, by extension, Richmond.

So if there was fear and demoralization in Washington, there was firmness in the high command under conditions that easily could have made it otherwise; when generals could have made it known to supporters in government and the press that the blame lay not on them but, for instance, on the army in Georgia that maneuvered instead of fighting and lost when it did fight, or on the army in Virginia that was being bled white by an inferior force. All the while, Grant and Sherman remained confident in their plan and pressed the fight.

Things were not so on the other side of the hill. Frustration with Johnston became exasperation leading, finally, to his relief. His replacement was his critic, General John Hood, who was determined to fight.

Of Johnston, Sherman wrote, “No officer or soldier who ever served under me will question the generalship of Joseph E. Johnston.” After the war, the two became friends and dined together when Johnston was in Washington. In 1891, as an honorary pallbearer for Sherman, Johnston refused to wear a hat, though it was raining and he was warned he might take ill, saying, “If I were in his place and he were standing here in mine, he would not put on his hat.” Johnston did, indeed, become ill, and pneumonia carried him off not much later.

There was no such quaint sense of chivalry in front of Atlanta once Hood assumed command. He immediately put his men on the attack in a series of battles, beginning on July 21 on the banks of Peachtree Creek. The fighting was intense and bloody even by the grisly standards set in Virginia. Men and officers went down, including General McPherson, who rode into Confederate lines in the heat of battle, refused to surrender, and was cut down when he tried to make his escape. He was the second-highest-ranking officer killed in the war and was mourned not just by Sherman but also by Hood, who called him “my classmate and boyhood friend.”

While he lost more men in 72 hours than Johnston had in a month and a half, Hood had not accomplished the deliverance of Atlanta. But neither had Sherman taken the city. It was now under siege, as Richmond was to the north.

With the election looming, impatience and frustration spread like a fever, and even so staunch a supporter and Union man as Horace Greely was saying, “Mr. Lincoln is already beaten. He cannot be elected.”

Sherman, however, was not done. And the world would soon learn the meaning of the words by which history remembers him.

Geoffrey Norman, a writer in Vermont, is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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