||A QUESTION EACH OF US MUST ANSWER
The booklet below was originally written and published as a handout for showings of a German-language
multimedia show entitled, Das gibt es NUR in Amerika! (Only in America).
I would like to share the extremely unusual if not miraculous circumstances and experiences
relating to this multimedia show and the accompanying booklet. I will start at the beginning.
The idea for the project came to me back in the mid 70s when I organized a concert tour for eight
musically gifted Europeans. We toured and gave concerts in many eastern States plus Ontario, Canada.
The Austrian pianist also accompanied us across country by car and was able to see much of the USA.
The impressions these young Europeans gained of an America that they did not know existed was my
During the next two decades, I gathered information and pictures about unique aspects of America
that are little known in Europe. Advancing technology made various types of multimedia feasible, so I
investigated these, choosing what I felt would be the best method to present my program to larger
audiences. The system I chose consisted of four Ektapro slide projectors, a digital data projector,
a complete stereo sound system for music, voice and special effects, and computer programmable
presentation software and equipment from Stumpfl, an Austrian firm of world renown.
The multimedia show consisted of more than 1,000 slides and several video clips, covering
ten unique aspects of America:
1) Europeans think immediately of big cars and trucks when they think of the USA, so I of course
included these. But I also showed mobile home parks, modular homes, and RVs. I showed pictures
of moving large structures, including a brick bank which my Grandfather moved in 1927, using
only horses, rollers and block & tackle.
2) Another segment had to do with show business and covered theme parks, Hollywood, and other
aspects of the entertainment industry.
3) Shopping in America was also covered and included malls, outlets, yard sales and the unique
American auction experience.
4) American sports (baseball, football, basketball and rodeo).
5) Most Europeans live in heavily populated areas, and are fascinated to learn that there is
a gigantic natural forest (the New Jersey Pinelands) on the doorsteps of New York City and
6) The fragile barrier islands and Intra Coastal Waterway, which stretch from New England to
the Florida Keys.
7) Milking trees to obtain maple syrup.
8) My brother's bee farm with around 5,000 beehives. Viewers are especially intrigued by
photos of my nephew, covered from head to feet with millions of bees! He was
entered in Guinness Book of Records.
9) Towards the end of the show, I cover high tech, including computerization, Silicon Valley,
a tour of a TV station and an atomic reactor.
10) In stark contrast to the section on technology, the final segment depicts German-speaking
Americans called Amish, Hutterites, Brethren and Mennonites. Some of these groups live
much the same as they did centuries ago, without automobiles and electricity.
The monster project was finally completed in the summer of 2001. I picked the town we lived
in for the first showing.
A large hall was reserved for September 27. Posters and invitations were
printed. I took the invitations to the Post Office and asked that they be
delivered to every household. The invitations were delivered Tuesday morning,
September 11th, 2001.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
It had been raining in the morning, but the sun was shining at 2:30 pm on September 11, so we set
out on our daily walk. It would have been 8:30 AM in New York City.
After half an hour, winds picked up and soon dark, threatening clouds collected over our heads.
The terrible hail storm of July 4th, 2000 was still fresh in our memories and those clouds looked
the same as then. There was no place to take refuge, so we decided to head for home as fast as
possible. We breathed a sigh of relief when we reached the door of our house, just before the full
force of the storm hit.
We were hardly inside when the telephone rang. It was the retired farmer who lived across the street.
He said we should come over right away. An airplane had crashed into a New York skyscraper and they
were showing pictures on television. He knew that we didn't have a TV.
There is not much on Austrian television during the day, but a technician had just repaired his TV.
Our neighbor turned it on to make certain that everything worked properly and happened to see the first
pictures of what is now simply called "9/11". At that time, reporters still thought that it was a
tragic accident and were not even certain about the size of the plane.
We got to their house just in time to see the second plane hit. With horror, we watched live reports
of events that "changed the world." When the towers collapsed in a cloud of dust and smoke, it seemed
like a bad dream. We continued watching as a third hijacked plane hit the Pentagon and a fourth
crashed in western Pennsylvania, an hour from where Verna grew up.
Only a couple of hours before the news broke, every household in our town had received a flyer in
their mailboxes advertising our multimedia slide and video presentation, scheduled for September 27th.
One segment showed New York City and many of the pictures were taken from the top of the World Trade
Center. The famous towers were depicted prominently in the already printed color posters and on our
website. The cover of the booklet we planned to give each guest had a photo of the ruins of Delphi in
Greece, and below it, a picture of New York, with the World Trade Center in the foreground.
Needless to say, we were in a dilemma, wondering what we should do. Should we cancel the event?
Everyone would understand if we did. If we went ahead with the show, people might ask if we had no
respect for the victims. On the other hand, we could expect the hall to be filled to capacity. I decided
to change the section that covered NYC. I inserted pictures of the terrorist attack with the burning
towers and then paused the show for 30 seconds of silence. I showed the presentation over 50 times in
cities throughout Austria, and the halls were filled.
Here is the English translation of the booklet we distributed to guests. It is long, but I believe worth reading.
WHERE IS CIVILIZATION HEADED?
First printed in German, August, 2001; Translated into English October, 2003.
A CHANGING WORLD
(Click picture to enlarge)
The photo above is from the Wall Chart of World History (Dorset Press, 1988).
It clearly depicts the tremendous political upheavals which have taken place in
the past two centuries. These changes came gradually at first because people
were skeptical of change. But soon, the changes increased in pace and enormity.
The above wall chart ends with 1985, at a time when changes were becoming even
more dramatic. That was before the Berlin Wall fell and Eastern Europe was
liberated from Communism. At least 20 new nations have been formed since 1985.
Here are just a few examples of change in the past 200 years, to which I can
My Father-in-Law was born near Titusville, Pennsylvania, where Edwin Drake drilled
the world's first oil well in 1859. The oil was much easier to obtain
than whale oil, and although refined by primitive methods, it had a higher
quality. The discovery of "black gold" led to a boom that surpassed the "California Gold rush" of
1849. Almost overnight, 40,000 whalers and 700 whaling boats were put out of
operation and within three years, the price of oil had fallen to a mere 10 cents
Until 1900, oil was used for light, medical purposes and for lubrication. A side
product of the refining process, called gasoline, was considered a dangerous
nuisance and simply dumped into the river! It wasn't until the
invention of the automobile 30 years later, that good use was found for
gasoline. The whales were perhaps saved from extinction, but many fish died in the river,
which was appropriately named "Oil Creek." In reality, the
automobile drastically improved life in the cities, which were plagued with
filth and disease due to the accumulation of horse manure.
For seventy years, America was the world's leading
oil producer. Then large oil reserves were discovered in Arabia in 1938,
transforming poverty stricken nations into the wealthiest in the world. Today,
most means of transportation by land, sea and air are fueled with oil. A great
number of homes and businesses are heated with oil, but perhaps of even greater
importance are the plastics, medicines and cosmetic products which come from
Industry was largely dependant upon waterpower until steam power and then electricity was
introduced. Just consider the dramatic effect that this has had on our lives!
Light, household appliances, radio, television and computers are just a few of
thousands of products we now take for granted. During World War II, my Father
worked at the Dupont Company in Delaware, where he unknowingly helped to build
the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan. Although controversial, the
peaceful use of atomic energy has probably had a greater effect on our world
than the bomb. Cheap and plentiful energy has contributed much to the wealth of
the western world.
My wife is supposedly a descendant of Samuel F. B. Morse, but we haven't taken the
trouble to trace her roots. Morse invented the telegraph in 1837 and it took
seven years for a skeptical government to recognize the significance of this
invention. It was another 78 years (43 years after Morse's death) before
telephone lines stretched from coast to coast.
During the sixties, my brother was a specialist for
video recorders working at a NASA tracking station on Ascension Island. He later
joined CBS and developed the first cableless TV-camera in 1972. The world has
become much smaller due to satellite dishes and internet communications.
Our son-in-law is Software Developer for Microsoft. His 700-page book, Programming
Bots, Spiders and Intelligent Agents in Microsoft Visual C++ appeared
in April 1999 and promptly hit the best-seller list of Amazon.com.
Media giants are presently creating "omnimedia", which combine
telecommunication, TV, radio and internet into one giant communications
I recently sat in a jumbo jet flying at an altitude of 30,000 feet near the speed
of sound. I was making a "routine" trip from Salzburg to New York, working
on my laptop computer and listening to stereo music. Next to me was a child
playing with his "Game Boy" and in the back of the seat-rests were
telephones with which one could call the home or office and even check e-mail. A
normal private office contains more electronic technology today than the largest
industry ten years ago. Computers, automatic telephone answering machines and
cordless phones can be found in nearly every household. We talk about electronic
banking and "dot-coms". Prefixes such as macro, micro, mega, giga and
nano have become a part of our everyday vocabulary.
QUALITY OF LIFE
People once worked from sunrise until sundown, often under conditions that were both
unhealthy and dangerous. They were happy to earn enough money to keep themselves
and their families supplied with the basic essentials of life. Today, we work 40
hours or less a week with paid vacations, social and retirement benefits and
plenty of time for hobbies, entertainment and sports. Only the wealthy had
clocks or watches 200 years ago, but we now wear quartz watches, and some are
automatically set by atomic clocks. Participants in sporting events are stopped
by watches that measure time in hundredths of a second increments!
Thanks to modern medicine, we now live twice as long, enjoying a life that would cause
King Solomon to turn green with envy!. We have modern hospitals and labs
equipped with x-ray and ultra-sound machines. They are staffed by highly trained
physicians and surgeons who operate with remote control lasers on internal
organs with no blood loss.
We can get every variety of fruit and vegetable year round, which are kept fresh in
refrigerators and freezers, prepared in modern kitchen appliances and consumed
in air-conditioned dining rooms or restaurants.
We surround ourselves with quadraphonic sound and drive cars with automatic
transmissions, cruise control and every other conceivable comfort.
FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE
The second half of the 20th century has witnessed more and greater changes in the
areas of culture, politics, science, economics, education, government, society
and religion, than all of world history prior to this time. But not all change
has been good and most of these changes have both positive and negative aspects.
The Russians sent their first "Sputnik" into space
in 1957 and Americans followed up by sending man to the moon.
Unmanned spaceships can now reach Mars and Jupiter and communications satellites
circumnavigate the earth in exactly defined orbits, sending TV or other signals
back to earth. Our military has developed "Smart bombs" and guided missiles
which can hit their targets with precision accuracy.
Organ transplants, surrogate mothers, genes experimentation and cloning are becoming
more common with each passing day. The emerging "nanotechnology" promises to
open the door to even more of this type of thing.
As air travel and modern communications bring people closer together,
there is more global awareness. We now speak of a "New
World Order" or "global community". People everywhere are concerned about
the vanishing rain forests in South America and
ozone readings in the Arctic Circle. They are determined to prevent the sinking
of oil platforms in the North Sea and atomic testing in the Pacific. Movements
like "Green Peace" and "Amnesty International" are very popular and
self-help organizations quadrupled between 1990 and 2000.
Newspapers report daily on gigantic bankruptcies, takeovers, mergers and privatization of
public utilities. Huge shopping malls have driven many small shop owners out of
business and a major portion of the goods they sell are now made in China. We
hear a lot about downsizing and automation which leads to high unemployment.
Governments call upon citizens to tighten their belts while taxation continues
to climb. No one seems to understand the stock markets, with the NASDAG first
climbing to unprecedented highs and then plummeting to all-time lows. The same
confusion is evident in international money markets. Trillions of Dollars, Euros
and other currencies are circulating via paper, credit cards and electronic
transmission, which don't even exist!
The world-wide political situation is in a state of constant upheaval. Nations once
forced to beg for bread have become the wealthiest nations on earth due to the
discovery of oil. Other rich or powerful countries have broken apart and are now
dependent upon foreign aid to keep their citizens from starving. Romania
was called the "Breadbasket of Europe" a century ago, yet the median income
today is less than $100 per month. The Russian Bear is now at the mercy of both the Mafia and World Bank
while great monarchies, colonialism and communism are subjects for history
I am alarmed that our world is largely without strong political leadership. A sickly
Boris Jeltsin turned power over to a largely unknown hard-liner, Vladimir Putin,
at the end of 1999. US President Bill Clinton exited the political arena after a
scandalous term in office and was replaced by George W. Bush in the closest
election ever. Following 9-11, Bush's popularity soared, but we know how
quickly the situation can change. America, England and Israel are presently
displaying solidarity, but nearly every other political entity on earth is
opposed or sharply critical of our stance in Iraq. Although it is a scary
thought, Fidel Castro has been more successful in retaining power than most if
not all democratically elected politicians of this century. Osama Bin Laden and
Sadaam Hussein may be in hiding, yet they still have tremendous influence among
Arab Muslims. North Korea and Argentina are the next big trouble spots on our
Despite calls for unification, nations are breaking apart rather than
merging. Hardly a week passes without some country dividing or changing its government. Consider the
changes that have occurred in Central and Eastern Europe since 1989, or what has
transpired in Asia, the Near East, Africa and South America during the past
couple of decades. People are discovering that it is possible to throw off the yokes of bondage which despotic communism;
greedy industry, big government and the institutionalized church have placed
upon them down through the centuries. And they are doing exactly that! There is
increasing disenchantment with and suspicion of bureaucracy and institutionalism
of every kind. On the other hand, citizens of so-called "free western
nations" feel frustrated with conditions over which they seem to have no
The evolution of the European Union represents a notable exception to
what is transpiring around the globe. I see this as a sign of things to come.
Europe is NOT copying the United States, but
building on the combined experiences of member nations and learning from
centuries of political upheaval and dissention. Once powerful and influential
monarchies first turned into small squabbling countries, but they are now
uniting to form one single powerful union. The EU is determined not to
make the "mistake" which America made, by giving too much control to its
citizens. But even in the EU, there is much dissention between the liberal
socialist left and the populist right.
Political experts may differ strongly in where the course of history will take us during
the first century of the new millennium, but all agree that changes will be
A MOST DISTURBING CHANGE
As thought provoking as the above changes are, I am most concerned about the
dramatic changes in the area of morals and religion. It is not the
divisive factors between or within religious bodies, or the radical and violent
tendencies of Muslim fundamentalists, or the mushrooming number of religious
sects that disturb me most. I am deeply concerned at the almost universal
rejection of truth.
WHAT IS TRUTH?
Pilate asked this question of Jesus, shortly before he was crucified, but it has been
the key question posed by man from the beginning of recorded history. Pilate was
not the only person of his time who asked that question. The Greek thinkers,
called Skeptics, Stoics, Epicureans, Sophists and Cynics were heavily engaged in the quest for truth. Most
of us read some of the works of Aristotle and Plato in school.
For centuries, representatives of all races, nationalities, religions and political
bodies agreed upon the basic premise, that there were two opposing poles, by
which all actions and thoughts may be judged. These were known as
"right and wrong" or "truth and error". The quest for truth has been the cornerstone
of science (which speaks of facts or natural laws rather than truth) and the foundation of culture throughout
history. Only that which could be proven was considered truth. All else was
labeled theory or faith. The greatest disparity in the past was found in
religion, but religion is based on faith and not science.
Men have fought wars over the various definitions and interpretations of truth and over
consequences for those who disregarded it. Man has attempted to relativize,
manipulate, cheat and ignore truth; but they have historically agreed that such
poles existed and that everything could be judged upon the basis of established
truth. This was the case when Adam and Eve ate from "the tree of knowledge of
good and evil" and it didn't change until recently.
Modern humanistic thought has paved the way for a total departure from traditional
rationality. Diametrically opposing and conflicting arguments or actions are now
experiencing a strange romance. What was once perceived as good and evil now live in harmony.
Truth and error are found in warm embrace. Millions of people the world
over, now prefer atheistic philosophical thought to the traditional Judeo-
Christian code of ethics, which nearly all the civilized world had come to
The absolute authority of truth no longer remains unchallenged. Unproven
theories and even contradictory statements are accepted as "science" and the
historic thesis/antithesis method of solving differences has been
discarded like a worn-out pair of shoes. The basis for researching the unknown
was always that which could be tested and proven (truth or fact) but today, men
make unproven postulates and often give pure speculation precedence over
scientific facts. They can even get very irate when anyone dares to challenge or
question their claims or the methodology used in reaching conclusions.
Champions of this new type of thinking claim that the pursuance of truth has only led to
hatred, fighting, wars and divisiveness. They believe that discarding the truth
will usher in an age of peace and unity. Since church and religion are
traditionally considered to be interpreters and protectorates of truth, these
institutions have also fallen into disregard if not disrepute. I can understand
that some would reject the interpretations of truth given by certain religious
bodies, but to deny the very existence of truth is insane.
A WISE OBSERVATION OF SAMUEL F. B. MORSE
I already mentioned an ancestor of my wife, Samuel Morse. Morse not only invented
the telegraph, but he was also a pioneer in the field of photography and a
talented artist, who produced over 300 masterpieces. His painting, Gallery
of the Louvre, is considered to be his most valuable work and probably the
greatest piece of American art ever produced. He presented this painting to his
good friend and writer of fifty books, James Fennimore Cooper. The author of
this booklet just happens to be a direct descendant of William Cooper, who
founded Cooperstown and fathered James Fennimore. I trace my roots to his half
brother, John Cooper.
Samuel F. B. Morse's father wrote the first geography book in America and his
grandfather was President of Harvard University. Morse believed that all men
should be educated and to help attain this end, he founded the National
Academy of Design. Together with his brothers, he published the New York Observer
and Journal of Commerce.
Morse was a devout believer in God, which the first sentence spoken on his telegraph
might indicate. The question, What hath God wrought! (Numbers 23:23) is indicative of his faith. Although he
attained great fame during his life, he used every opportunity to give the
Creator credit for his worldly achievements. He held biblical teachings to be
the most important aspect of education. He once stated, "Education without religion is in danger of substituting wild theories
for the simple commonsense rules of Christianity."
Education, science and religion have a common denominator in the quest for and
establishment of truth. None of these is ever perfected in this life, but we
continue to learn until death. Anyone who receives a diploma and thinks he is
educated, has been badly deceived. A scientist who retires after making a great
discovery ceases to be a scientist. Anyone who shies from theological
discussions by claiming, "I have my religion" only lays bare his own
In place of truth, man has inserted a thing he calls "tolerance". The traditional meaning of the word "tolerance" would be
"allowance for error". In industry, a norm is ascertained and then measurable tolerances are specified for
any permissible departure from the norm. This is still the case in
manufacturing, economics and science. Toleration allowances have become
extremely narrow and are hardly measurable today.
Allow me to illustrate the traditional meaning of the word "tolerance", using a
MY FIRST CARS
Two years before I was old enough to obtain a driver's license, I purchased my
first car. It was a 1924 Model "T" Ford. I determined to restore the 30-year-old car to its original condition and
began with the motor. My Father had owned several Model "T"s and gave me
valuable tips. He showed me how to assess the condition of the four-cylinder
engine as follows:
"First, you take off the cylinder head and crank the motor until a cylinder is at the
top. With your index finger, try to wiggle the cylinder. If it moves a lot, you
may have to add sleeves and install new pistons. If it only shows a little bit
of play, you can get away with new piston rings." Fortunately, my car only
needed rings, but this illustrates the allowed tolerances in the twenties. How
things have changed since then!
Two years later, I purchased a 1946 Ford convertible. I had to buy feeler gauges
before "souping up" its V-8 engine. Tolerances had changed considerably
between 1924 and 1946, yet I was still able to rebuild the engine with normal
tools in our own garage. Today, no one attempts to adjust his own carburetor!
Toleration allowances have become extremely narrow and are hardly measurable
without special computerized equipment.
Tolerance is still defined in this manner in most situations. If the police department
declares that motorists will not be ticketed for going five mph over the speed
limit, it is assumed that there is a posted speed limit. Without a speed limit,
a five mph toleration would be meaningless. Supposing your bank tells you that
they are doing away with all calculations and that in the future, they will
simply bill and credit your account as they feel like it. You would certainly
have some questions to ask! Or what if your doctor claims that your pulse and
temperature are not important. Tell the next policeman who stops you for running
a red light that he should be more tolerant. No, there is little tolerance in
most areas of life.
When applied to morals, ethics and religion, however, the opposite is true. The goal
is not to establish a norm with certain allowances for error, but rather the
attainment of the largest possible margin of tolerance, even to the total
elimination of any norm. When hearing the word "tolerance" today, people
think immediately of permissiveness. According to tolerance, everyone should
be allowed to think and do as he or she pleases.
"Live and let live!" Toleration requires a person to ignore situations that
would have been inconceivable a few decades ago. This tolerance tolerates
everything but truth. In fact, truth is presented as the greatest enemy of
tolerance because truth is intolerant! Tolerance has always depended on an
absolute, a normal condition or some standard. But this radical new definition
of tolerance does not need a norm or standard. Tolerance is the norm!
After a lengthy and gruesome tour of the former Nazi concentration camp,
our tour guide said, "What we need to learn from all we have seen today is to
practice tolerance." He obviously did not mean that we should show tolerance
for the atrocities committed in that death camp, but it serves to illustrate how
senseless tolerance can be without an established norm or standard.
How did this radical change in thinking come about? Surely, it didn't
happen overnight! In order to understand what has happened, we need to open our
In the first pages of the Bible, we have the report of Adam and Eve, who yielded to the
devil's temptation to "become as god". Satan argued that they themselves
should decide what is right for them. Eve then looked at the tree and saw that
is was lovely to look upon and its fruit desirable to eat. It was no longer God
who determined truth, but man's own perception of truth.
Adam and Eve departed from God's truth, but they still sought after truth. They
didn't entertain any thoughts about tolerance. It was either God who
determined truth or man and they chose the latter. This was pretty much the case
throughout recorded history. Either man recognized God's truth and obeyed it,
or he took the matter into his own hands and paid dearly.
Conservative evangelicals today, still believe in the absolute authority of the Scripture as
the sole basis of determining truth and practice. Such a position is not only highly suspect in the minds of
modern man, but it is even considered a hindrance to establishing world peace.
So when did man begin to consider an alternative to truth for determining human
behavior? When did that magic word "tolerance" begin to gain entrance into
our values system? Allow me to take you back through the pages of history to
find the answer to this question.
In their attempt to discover the realities of life, early Greek philosophers gradually
came to believe that all things found purpose of life only in the polis
(state, community). Whatever served its purposes was proper and anything that did not serve the purpose of the state
was considered evil. Their quest for truth led them to the conclusion that there
was no absolute truth, but all was relative to the well-being of the state. In
place of truth, the philosophers spoke of justice, but esoteric investigations
disclose what the philosophers actually meant by this term. Justice demanded
that all people be subject to cosmos, or according to the order of the
gods. Of course these gods had their human protectorates: the philosophers! The
greatest goal of philosophy was therefore to make every man conscious of this
"justice," if necessary, by force!
"Justice" was a virtual dictatorship of the intellectuals over the masses, which were seen
as the property of the state. Freedom was accordingly seen as the greatest enemy
of justice. Until his condemnation, the famed Socrates and his followers led a
four-year reign of terror in Athens.
The Greek philosopher Democritus of Abdera (the word democracy stems from his name)
taught that every man was his own law, which comes close to the postulates of
later philosophers. Still, the Greek philosophers could hardly be considered
"humanists," but rather "naturalists." The glorification of human beings
was confined to the masculine gender, and primarily his intellect. Democritus
recognized a "micro-cosmos" in men. Women and slaves were seen as useful
implements of the state. The basis of Greek philosophy can be recognized in the
chaos/cosmos dialectic. The woman represented chaos, from which all order
(cosmos) originated. The primary value of women was producing men. For this
reason, homosexuality was practiced widely among the philosophers. In his
"Symposium," Socrates recognized the "Keys to the Universe" in pederasty
(homosexual relationships with young boys). Plato ("Republic") also held
The democracy we are familiar with is basically a delegated form of government. The
people elect representatives to rule over them, who in turn create laws, by
which all must abide. Later philosophers would someday attempt to sell
humanistic philosophy as a preferable form of democracy, but if God and truth
are left out of the process, there is no limit to what "the people" would
desire and even demand.
In contrast to the Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians, who made great
accomplishments in the areas of education, agriculture, the sciences and
political systems, the Greeks were so bound by their philosophers, that later
generations were endowed with little more than confusing philosophical
postulates. In all this, the proletariat was not helped. The Greeks destroyed
their nation by draining wetlands and burning their forests. Cruel wars between
the states or cities (polis) decimated the population and brought the
people into a poverty, which prevails to this day. Modern philosophers prefer to
close their eyes to the ugly practices and dictatorial attitudes of their Greek
forbearers. They rather seek arguments in their works which serve to support their own humanistic
General DeGaulle once said, "Aristotle lies beneath every one of Alexander's
victories." The Romans may have conquered the Greeks militarily, but Greek philosophy ruled the
"Holy Roman Empire" for centuries to come.
Although early Greek philosophers displayed little tolerance, they did pave the way for
later humanists by departing from the threshold of truth as a determining factor
on what is right or wrong and presenting themselves as gods in charge of their
The only reason for the existence of religion is to interpret and relate truth, but
unfortunately, there have always been differing interpretations of truth, which
led to strife and even wars. Unfortunately, this is also true of Christianity.
After Constantine embraced the Christian faith, the
church gradually began to assume the task of determining what was right and
wrong, allowed or forbidden. At first, these rules were based on Bible teachings
and the result was largely positive. As the Holy Roman Empire continued to gain power, the Bible gradually
lost is significance in political decision-making. Ruling Monks, Bishops and
secular Monarchs began to fight over territorial rights. Laws
were mainly designed to keep the peasants in subjection and to secure a steady
income for the rulers' lavish tastes and for financing wars. Lowly peasants
had no say in politics or religion and even a mild protest was often met with
torture or death.
Under the Habsburgers, church and state cooperated at
least to some extent in ruling Europe. Although there were many disputes and
shifts of power, the basic alliance remained intact for six centuries. The
clergy served the secular nobility in reminding peasants of their "God-given
duties" while the secular Lords reinforced the church's authority, confining
dissenters to dungeons and torture chambers. Laws of the state became religion
and loyalty to the state church was enforced by secular rulers.
Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in 1440 made the Bible accessible to more
people, but it was first printed in Latin and few peasants could read. Thanks to
educated and devout religious leaders such as Luther, Calvin and Zwingli,
printed literature became more readily available in the language of the people.
Luther's German translation of the New Testament was printed in 1522 and was
expensive, but it found ready customers all over Europe. Luther and other
reformers taught that God's Word was the highest authority and that it was
intended for everyone to hear. Bible truth had long been withheld form the
common people, but now it was captivating the minds of learned theologians.
These men began to preach the newly discovered truths in the Roman Catholic
Churches and Monasteries where they served. By 1528, there were eager disciples
of the new teachings in nearly all cities and districts of Austria. Many Lords
and city officials had become converts of the new teachings.
Higher church leaders and the ruling secular powers were not at all happy about this
development. There had been numerous peasant uprisings in Europe, which were put
down by brute force, but this was equivalent to general insurrection and a
declaration of war. The leaders were most alarmed about the teaching, that we
are to obey God rather than man - including royalty and clergy. This
teaching stood in direct opposition to the statist alliance of the Habsburgers
and Catholic Church.
Now that the scriptures were available in the language of the people, there was no longer
a felt need for human translators, or for someone to interpret God's will for
man. For the first time since apostolic times, man was being reminded of his
personal responsibility to know and obey God's Word. And this was not just a
privilege, but man's Christian duty!
Luther's teachings were more successful than he had ever dreamed or hoped for. In fact,
the teaching that Christians were to obey God more than man boomeranged and
proved to be a thorn in the flesh for Luther and his Protestant Lords. Not only
was the absolute power of the Habsburgers and the Catholic Church being
challenged, but many of the protestant nobility also met strong opposition from
their subjects. The peasants experienced no relief from the burdensome taxation
and could see little change in the exorbitant life style of their masters as a
result of protestant teachings. But they did find much truth and comfort in
As peasants and common tradesmen learned to read, religious leaflets and articles
began to flood Europe. Some of these early tracts were written by protestant
dissenters, who soon became known as "Anabaptists", or re-baptizers. This
term is not a fair representation, however, for these Christians merely rejected the
practice of infant baptism and insisted that scriptural baptism was one
which took place after conversion. In German, historians prefer to call the
Anabaptists Täufer (baptizers), a name that is more fitting. Early in
the reformation, Luther too, favored rebaptism, but changed his mind rather than
risk losing a large segment of his following over such an unpopular concept.
Lutheran Pastors recognized Catholic baptism and also continued the traditional practice
of baptizing infant children of its members.
Because it could confuse readers of this essay, I will use the term Anabaptist rather
Soon after the Lutheran reformation gained traction and began to spread, Anabaptist
preachers were also traveling throughout the countryside, preaching the same gospel
and teaching from the Lutheran's Bible, but they did so with even greater enthusiasm
and gained a large following, especially among the peasants.
best educated Anabaptist teacher and writer was Dr. Balthasar Hubmeier, whose
slogan, "The truth cannot be killed!" was printed on all his books. Hubmeier
was burned at the stake in Vienna on March 10, 1528 and his wife was drowned in
the Danube River three days later. Hans Hut was another well-known Anabaptist
preacher who met a similar fate. Leonhard Friesleben published protestant tracts
in Linz, Austria as early as 1521, even before Luther's New Testament was
printed. He later joined the Anabaptist movement and died a martyr's death.
Thousands of other Anabaptists met similar fates in the next decades. It is
understandable, that the peasants readily embraced Anabaptist teachings, but not
a few merchants and handworkers and even some of the nobility also became
The baptizers began to multiply in Upper Austria until they outnumbered both
Catholics and Lutherans in some regions. Luther attempted desperately to stop
their teachings and in 1530, he wrote a decree, demanding the persecution and
execution of teachers who insisted on spreading "divisive teachings".
Soon, baptizers were being persecuted and martyred by Catholics and
A little known fact of the reformation, is that a group known as the Waldensians was a
primary factor in the reformation's success, especially in Southern Europe,
Bohemia and Moravia.
Centuries before Luther, there were thousands of Christians in Europe, who believed and
taught much as the later reformers and Anabaptists.
The Waldensians were named after Peter Waldo, whose teachings and those of his followers had a tremendous impact in Europe. Waldo
was a wealthy merchant in Lyon, France, who lived an ungodly life. He converted
to Christ around 1160 when a friend he had been drinking and joking with
suddenly dropped dead. Waldo took upon himself a vow of poverty and set out to
share his conversion experience with others. He called upon men to repent of sin
and follow Christ. He was an educated man and preferred to translate from the
Latin Bible and teach in French, something unheard of in that time.
Waldo's teaching was effective and he soon had a large following. After several
restraining orders from the Pope went unheeded, Waldo was pronounced a heretic
in 1183. Soon executions and persecutions became the fate of those Waldensians
who were caught. In 1215, 89 Waldensians were burned at the stake in Strasbourg.
In the next three centuries, ten thousands of their fellow believers met similar fates, yet the
Waldensians continued to multiply in France, Italy, Germany, Austria and even in
Bohemia and Moravia. As early as 1322, Catholic sources reported 50,000 Waldensians in the Dioceses of Turin
und Embrun and spies sent out by the Bishop of Passau found no less than 42
Waldensian groups with as many as 500 members alone in the Diocese of Passau
(primarily what is now Upper Austria). A Waldensian Pastor, Stefan of Basel,
was executed for his faith in Vienna in 1467. During the horrible
torture he experienced before being executed, he admitted that there were at
least 80,000 Waldensians in Austria alone. He said that in Bohemia and Moravia,
they were innumerable.
Jan Hus, a recognized and well-loved Professor in the
University of Prague, became infatuated with the teachings of John Wycliffe, who
translated the Bible into the English language in 1380.
Hus became a dedicated follower of Christ and preacher of God's Word,
whose teachings spread throughout Bohemia and across Europe. The
Pope forbade his teachings in 1409, but when Hus continued to preach, he was
excommunicated. On July 6th, 1415, Hus was burned at the stake. The followers of Hus were called
Hussites, but many of them departed from Hus's
teachings after his death and turned to a quest for political power. Those
faithful to the gospel became better known as "Bohemian Brethren" or simply
as "Brethren". These Brethren seem to have had close ties to the Waldensians and it is often not
clear in reports, which group was meant. It must be remembered that
from apostolic times, true followers of Christ were
usually named by their enemies, and these were not particular about the accuracy
of their identifications! Most of the brethren groups of Hussite descent later
joined either the Lutherans or the Anabaptists.
LUTHERANS AND CATHOLICS AGAINST THE BAPTIZERS
The "Counter Reformation," also called the "Thirty Years War" or "Peasant Wars" (Catholics call it "Reformation"!) lasted from 1618 until 1648 and was probably the bloodiest war ever fought on European soil to date. That is saying a lot! Most church historians teach that this was an attempt by the Roman Catholic Church to re-convert protestants and bring them back into the fold of the "true church." Under "protestants," most people understand Lutherans, but this is misleading.
The Counter Reformation was at first an attempt of both the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans to destroy their common enemy, called the Anabaptists. Political and financial factors outweighed theological issues on the part of the Catholics and Lutherans, but for the Anabaptists, it was both a theological issue and a matter of life or death. Thousands chose death rather than recanting.
Only after the Lutheran and Catholic coalition became moderately successful, did the Catholics begin to seriously go after the Lutherans.
The war against the Anabaptists lasted over a century and claimed many more lives than those casualties of the Thirty Years War. By 1529, the Lutherans held a religious majority in Austria and were quite wealthy. Emperor Ferdinand desperately needed their money and soldiers to defend his territory from Turkish aggressors. The Emperor sought and obtained financial and military support from the Lutheran nobles, but had to concede certain privileges and rights. The Catholic Habsburgers and Lutheran nobility also agreed to a cooperative effort in suppressing Anabaptism.
When peasant rebellions erupted in 1594 in Upper Austrian, it was the Lutheran General, Gotthard of Starhemberg, who was primarily responsible for their defeat. The Catholic Governor Loebl of Upper Austria joined with Starhemberg on August 25, 1597 and by the end of September, the uprisings were finally put down. Starhemberg erected no less than 27 gallows in different towns of Upper Austria, on which the rebel peasant leaders were executed. From this and similar events, it is clear that the peasants were not Lutherans, but mainly Anabaptists.
The Lutherans were in for a rude awakening, however. Almost simultaneous to this victory, Emperor Rudolph II signed a decree in Prague, which strictly forbade all protestant teachings in his entire kingdom.
It took fifty years and many similar threats, before the Catholics were successful in enforcing that decree. There was relative calm during the first two decades of the 17th century. Anabaptist preachers were still active during this period, but it seems that the Lutherans had relaxed their persecutions.
Perhaps the Emperor suspected that the Lutherans and Anabaptists had formed some kind of truce. Whatever the case may have been, when renewed uprisings of the peasants took place in 1625 und 1626, the Emperor was no longer prepared to show any lenience to the Lutherans. The Thirty Years War began officially in 1618, after a Catholic Regent was thrown from the window of a castle in Prague, but it was now bitter earnest for the
Ferdinand II, who had been crowned Emperor in Vienna in 1619, formed an alliance with the Bavarian King, Maximilian. The latter appointed Adam Graf of Herberstorff as Upper Austrian Governor. Herberstorff was from a wealthy Lutheran family, but Jesuit Priests promised him a position of power if he would convert to Catholicism, which he did. The Catholic-Habsburger-Bavarian alliance was called the "Unholy Trinity" by
protestants. Graf Franz Christoph Khevenhueller was also born into a Lutheran family that ruled vast territories in Carinthia and Upper Austria. Franz ruled an area of Upper Austria that included Attergau and Frankenburg. As the wars and threats of war increased, his relatives in Carinthia were forced to flee and seek exile in northern Germany (1628), but Franz converted to Catholicism in order to keep his holdings.
The "Unholy Trinity" found a valuable tool in Khevenhueller, who was not only
able to suppress the peasant uprisings (many thousands were slaughtered in the
process), but who convinced many of his subjects to reconvert to Catholicism. Historians have calculated that 30,000 to 50,000 Upper Austrian peasants were killed alone
in 1626. The peasants, with their hand-made weapons fabricated from farm
implements, proved no match for the heavily armed Catholic alliance. Once the peasants had been suppressed, the "Unholy
Trinity" began to systematically eliminate the Lutheran opposition.
to the fate of Anabaptist peasants, few Lutherans were killed. They
were given the opportunity to choose between becoming Catholic or leaving their
homeland. For those who converted to Catholicism, the conversion was
often viewed as a piece of paper. In their hearts, they remained Lutheran. However thousands of Lutherans chose to flee, selling their homes,
businesses and belongings for nearly worthless money.
RELICS OF THE PAST
To this day, there are German-speaking colonies in Romania,
Russia and other lands, whose forefathers came from Austria. The
same is true of many Anabaptists who fled Europe and settled wherever religious
freedom was promised. Most of the latter finally settled in North America after
a zigzag migration path throughout Europe and Asia.
The Amish, Hutterites,
Mennonites and a number of different Brethren groups have kept at least some of
their identity to this day. These chapters of history make missionary work in Austria difficult today. Christians,
who were committed to their Lord and God's Word, were either killed or driven
out of the country. Nearly all modern day Austrians are descendents of those who had either never been
protestant, or who made outward compromises in order to remain in their
We lived in a region where some of the worst incidents of the counter reformation took
place. In 1626, Anabaptist Christians who refused to return to the Roman Catholic Church, were gathered
under a large tree in an open field about two miles from where we lived. They
were forced by soldiers of the ruling Habsburgs to roll dice. Two by two, they
rolled the dice and the one rolling the lower number was executed on the spot.
Some of their bodies were hung from church steeples in surrounding towns as a
warning to others who might dare to defy the Emperor's decree.
Every two years, local citizens reenact this tragic incident in Europe's largest
open-air theater. Thousands of tourists come to see the play from all over
German-speaking Europe. About 50 horses and 350 local citizens, nearly all of
them Roman Catholic, participate in this event. The Mayor proudly states that
the object of this theatrical performance is to remind people not to allow
religious bigotry to rule their lives and actions. They should exhibit a spirit
of toleration for those who believe differently. Yet when we tried to find a
public meeting hall for a multimedia presentation on the Thirty Years War, the
first question we were asked was, "Are you Catholic?" When we replied
negatively, no one would rent us a public meeting hall!
Although the counter reformation officially ended in 1648, repeated persecution and
migrations of protestants continued throughout the 17th century. In 1655, some
8,000 Waldensians were slaughtered by Catholic soldiers in the Piedmont Valley.
Even after the Edict of Toleration, in 1781, another wave of persecution drove
the few remaining protestants out of Austria.
Anabaptists might have been tempted to conclude that Dr. Balthasar Huebmair's famous
slogan had been proven false. His words, "Die Wahrheit ist untödlich!"
(The truth cannot be killed) must have seemed like open ridicule of their faith. Not only Huebmair and his
wife, but also thousands of others were martyred for their faith, forced to
recant, or to leave their homeland. Had the truth really been killed?
Those of us who are privileged to live in America
should know the answer to that question. Most non-Lutheran refugees eventually
settled in North America and these immigrants have made great contributions to
the strong economy and cultural heritage of our nation. The counter reformation succeeded in making Austria 100% Catholic again, but the
results were devastating for the economy, education and social services. An
archive report from the industrial city of Steyr dating from 1645, describes the
typical situation in many towns and cities of the time. According to this report,
402 of 600 buildings in the city were desolate and empty. No one
wanted to take possession of the properties, because they couldn't afford to
pay the taxes.
It was 200 years before economic conditions became comparable to
those of the reformation period. The reformation also had a tremendous positive impact on Northern Europe, which
experienced no counter reformation. While Catholic Europe was struggling with
poverty and its effect on education and culture, protestant Europe enjoyed
material wealth and ushered in many educational and cultural advances. The
foundation for the industrial revolution was laid and seeds of democracy were
The spiritual situation in northern Germany was soon to change, however. Because
Lutherans baptized infants as did the Catholics, the church soon became filled
with unbelievers who strongly influenced its direction. Before long, humanistic
philosophy was being perpetrated in the northern universities, even affecting
the theological faculties.
HUMANISTS OF THE 18th AND 19th CENTURIES
Many men have rebelled against truth and reason, but it was philosophers such as
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Georg Wilhelm
Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) and later, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who
succeeded in making the rejection of truth popular and acceptable in what was
considered Christian nations. Hegel, Kant and company became the new reformers. Although well educated and raised in the Christian faith, these men dared to call God's
commandments publicly into question. The truth became a plaything and their brains served as a playground. They mixed
thesis with antithesis to create a curious synthesis. Truth was uncoupled from
the Bible, relativized and protected from scientific scrutiny.
philosophers declared that man himself could best determine what was good or
evil, allowed or forbidden. They saw man as the central figure around which
everything else revolved. The fulfillment of human lusts and desires was in
their view both natural and legitimate; the suppression of which could lead to
serious psychological or physical disturbances. The
biblical definitions of right and wrong were made responsible for most problems
in life and a serious deterrent to happiness. They claimed that the
historic arguments of "good versus evil" had only resulted in war,
hatred and division.
Eighteenth century humanism claimed to be democratic, and
in reality, it was the purest form of democracy ("self-government").
Everyone lives to please himself. This can also be called "egoism,"
"narcism" or "chaos"!
ALL DOORS AND GATES LEFT OPEN
Humanistic philosophy led the human race into a purported paradise of unlimited freedom.
Men declared themselves to be freed from the chains of Christian moral
laws and ethics, which their ancestors fought to uphold. It was the great
sacrifices and deep-rooted faith of their parents and grandparents, which led to
the founding of the universities, in which these teachings were being espoused. Once the heart and conscience of man was thoroughly brainwashed by what I call
"hegelistic compost", Darwin's evolutionary theories found a fruitful soil
in the minds of men. This soil began almost immediately to produce poison which
brought horrible death and suffering to tens of millions, and which enslaved
hundreds of millions of other human beings. Man began to consider ways to
accelerate and improve the evolutionary process. Its tenants consumed Marx,
Lenin and Stalin. Hitler dreamed of creating the human super race. Even today,
millions of abortions are performed under the umbrella of evolutionistic
thinking. The so-called "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia and Kosovo is another
outgrowth of humanistic and evolutionary philosophy.
REACTION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
One might think that the Catholic Church would energetically oppose these new
philosophical teachings which began to filter down from protestant Europe, but
this was not the case. Ironically, the church which had shed so much blood
fighting "heretics", chose an alternative method of dealing with humanism;
peaceful coexistence! As long as Catholics were not leaving the church in
droves, humanistic teaching was simply tolerated.
Actually, this should not surprise us when one considers the fact, that
during the 17th century, the Roman Catholic Church confiscated and burned
Bibles and Christian literature by the tons. Over 10,000 Bibles were collected
and destroyed alone in the city of Graz, Austria. More than 60,000 books were
publicly burned in Prague. No one bothered to count them in Steyr, but one
witness saw 20 wagonloads of confiscated Bibles and protestant books on their
way to be burned. Waldensians and Anabaptists were tortured and burned at the
stake for preaching and teaching from God's Word. Lutherans too, suffered
persecution and were driven out of their homeland for declaring God's Word.
Having destroyed God's standard, the church had no other recourse than to seek
a substitute. Tolerance became a new way of dealing with differences. Being a "European" is now synonymous with being a "Christian". Few citizens of
Europe would be confused by the headline I recently saw in an Austrian daily
paper, which read, "Thousands of Believers Leave Church". In North America, people would ask, "Did only the
unbelievers remain?" For Europeans, the word "believer" simply means
An insurance company put up billboards all over the country to warn drivers against drunken
driving. The billboards read, "The quickest way to get to heaven is to drink
and drive!" For Europeans, "heaven" simply means "death" and has little if any theological
We once lived across the street from a tavern notorious for early
morning drunken brawls. A sign over the door read: "Tavern to God's Blessing".
In 1986, several Austrian business establishments appealed to the
government to allow Sunday commerce. The Catholic Church opposed changing the
blue laws, arguing that church holidays must be kept sacred. Yet there is
hardly a church in Austria that does NOT conduct business on Sundays and
holidays. In our town, the Catholic Church sponsors Christmas Markets on Sundays and
celebrates its annual "Church Consecration Day" on Mary's Ascension
Day, one of the holiest days for Catholics. Streets are filled with market
stands, beer halls and amusement rides. The odd part is that no one seems
to see any incongruity in this.
THE NEW WORLD
Many thousands of Christian refugees migrated to North America. In spite of
sickness and hardships, which cost many settlers their lives, the colonists
began to rebuild their lives and futures. Tens of thousands found religious freedom and received land grants
(peasants had not been permitted to own property in Europe) in "Penn's
Colony," a large area which included Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and
part of Virginia. Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, Brethren and Reformed groups
cleared ground and built successful farms and businesses here.
About 15,000 Hutterites fled from Bohemia and Moravia. After futilely
attempting to settle in Transylvania and Russia, they too migrated to North
America. A score of large affluent Hutterite Colonies still thrive in the USA
When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, there were
so many German-speaking colonists, that the German language almost became the
official language of the United States! Although ridiculed by Europeans, North Americans clung tenaciously to the "old time
religion" for many years. The words In God we trust were printed on our
money and until the middle of the twentieth century; many Americans lived
according to that motto.
During the past few decades, however, Americans began to shift their allegiance from God to the flag and finally to "the rocket's red glare".
Military, technical and economic superiority led many to feel that God's
"sea to shining sea" blessings could be taken for granted. Interest
in God's Word waned and humanistic philosophy coupled with materialism took
its place. Moral decay began to permeate public life and every other facet of society.
In June of 1963, the
Supreme Court outlawed every form of religious expression in public places.
Simultaneously, statistics on crime, drug abuse, pornography, illegitimate child
births, venereal diseases, AIDS and broken marriages began to spiral upwards at
an alarming rate. Academic achievements of American students fell to all time
lows. The government retaliated by lowering educational standards, while sincere
Christians founded private schools in order to provide their children a quality
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it was encouraging to see
all members of our government united in prayer for our nation while TV cameras
rolled. A few months later, it was business as usual. Americans should have recognized their fatal mistake in banning the truth from public life
after the demise of communism. Nations formerly ruled by godless communist
dictatorships, recognized the reason for their sad predicament and invited
Christians from the West to teach their children Christian ethics.
stumbling drunk clinging to an empty whiskey bottle, America stubbornly clutches godless humanism. Having deserted the truth, God has apparently turned
Americans over to their own depraved minds.
REFORMATION OF HUMANISM
My brother, who once worked at a NASA tracking station on Ascension Island, showed
me a photo of the only vehicle on the island, which had veered off the
island's only road and hit the only tree in sight! The driver was of course
drunk. Where there is only one car on one road, one might get along without laws, but as soon
as a second car and driver is added, the situation demands a rule book. In our
society, there are many "drivers" in many "vehicles," all going in
different directions. Doing away with truth is an open invitation to disaster.
It didn't take people very long to recognize this weakness in early humanistic
philosophy. People who do as they please will sooner or later collide with
others doing the same and the situation can get quite tense. As modern methods of communication and travel brought people into a closer
proximity, the idea of humanistic tolerance began to cause big problems. The
neighbor's property rights stop where your property rights begin, but you see
and hear each other. Must you tolerate his taste for loud music and the bright
purple siding on his house? Many knowledgeable men, who would normally have embraced the humanistic teachings of
Hegel and company with open arms, drew attention to this more than slight
imperfection. Toleration with no standards is highly problematic.
In recent years, humanistic philosophy has undergone a few cosmetic changes – or
should I say extensive plastic surgery? Humanism was too closely associated with egoism, which had a negative connotation for
many. As illustrated above, humanism based upon the singular pillar of
tolerance, proved unstable in many situations. A new form of reformed humanism
has emerged under the enticingly attractive name of "Pluralism". Pluralism
is humanism with a face lift.
Pluralism has virtually replaced the concept of humanism, but tolerance still plays an
important role. Humanism rested on the singular pillar of tolerance, but
pluralism has added two more pillars, called "solidarity" and
By nature, there is little cohesion or attraction between emancipation and
solidarity. Like magnets, they tend to repel each other unless the poles are
perfectly matched. The two pillars of pluralism, however, are accompanied by
tolerance. In pluralism, the tension created in this magnetic field is be
compensated by tolerance. This idea has given birth to the term "political
Statism ruled from the top down. The state was god and the people its possessions.
Today, the order has been reversed. Under the new brand of humanism, corporate
man is god who owns the state.
The idea for this concept borrows from the idea of democracy with which western
nations are quite familiar. Elected representatives determine the rules by which
we must abide. Philosophically, a new collective form of humanism has emerged in
which anything is allowed that does not exceed the toleration level of the
status quo. In order to explain how this works, allow me to illustrate, using
recent developments in the sexual revolution as an example.
Sexual equality used to refer to male and female representatives of society. In the
past half century, equality has been largely achieved in the work place and
elsewhere. Although a few members of society, who exploited women for financial
profit may have objected, we can safely contend that most women and men view
this as a favorable development.
More recently, homosexuals and lesbians have become accepted as normal members of
society with all rights and privileges. This, although only a few claim to be
homosexual and a majority still considers homosexuality to be abnormal behavior.
This development is a result of pluralistic thinking. Most believe that we must
be tolerant of people with differing views and lifestyles in a free
(emancipated) and strong society (solidarity). Same-sex marriages are next on
the agenda and although few individuals consider such unions to be right and
proper, most will show a spirit of toleration rather than risk being viewed as
extremists, who are viewed as a threat to freedom and solidarity. This is where
political correctness comes into play.
This unprecedented sexual emancipation would have been inconceivable a few decades
ago. There are, however, certain areas which are still too controversial for the
majority to tolerate. Doing away with male and female categories for sports
contestants, and doing away with separate toilets for men and women are still
not within the toleration limits of the masses. Perhaps next year?
The pluralistic society is sometimes referred to as "multiculturalism" and terms
like "the new world order" and "the international community" are closely
associated expressions. In this paper, I refer to man's effort to build his
modern Tower of Babel as "new humanism".
The bottom line of pluralism or new humanism, is unlimited freedom as long as the
freedom of others is not infringed upon. It is expected that each individual
show the greatest possible measure of tolerance for those with differing
opinions, views and lifestyles. This new concept is gaining in popularity since
words like "plurality", "tolerance", "solidarity" and
"emancipation" have an aura of generosity and togetherness about them. New
humanists believe that the primary goals of humanity; happiness, peace,
prosperity and unity can be best achieved by embracing this new humanistic
concept. It is no longer personal Freedom, but collective Freedom which has become the decisive
factor in new humanism. One thing has not changed, however. Truth is not
desirable! The contention that truth determines "good" and "evil"
reflects religious values and poses a threat to the success of new humanism.
Truth is considered a relic of the past which should be buried together with God
and religion. Those who fail to cooperate in strengthening the pillars of new humanism are called
"fundamentalists" or "extremists". They are a detriment to peaceful
coexistence and a deterrent to happiness. Those who believe that truth is
absolute and that truth determines what is good or evil can still be tolerated
if they keep this conviction to themselves. If not, they are labeled a threat to
civilization. According to new humanism, what is allowed or forbidden is ideally determined by the will
of the majority. In reality, the majority has little knowledge of this process.
Only a selected few make the decisions, which others blindly follow.
The popularity of films that portray romantic relationships between ugly creatures
and beautiful people can also be traced to new humanistic thought. There has
always been a certain fascination with stories about the placation or
reconciliation of good and evil forces in nature and society. Nursery tales like
"The Frog Prince" or "Cinderella" are familiar to us. But any child
knows that nursery rhymes and fairy tales are not to be taken seriously, lions
are dangerous and poisonous snakes to be avoided. In books and films, one can
portray new humanism in a wonderful light, but in real life, it takes on uglier
forms. Weaker beings are abused, misused, devoured or destroyed by the stronger.
The new generation of philosophers and their adherents now seek ways to exploit their
idea without suffering negative consequences. That is not a simple matter.
Americans were strongly critical of Hitler, who sought to eliminate the Jews and
develop the perfect race, yet American politicians and philosophers seek to
achieve similar goals through equally dubious and even immoral means. Genes
manipulation, cloning, Abortion (including commercial exploitation of the
fetus), distribution of condoms to school children, "mercy deaths" for the
sick or aged and legalizing drug use are just a sampling of their ideas. The
Serb's campaign of "ethnic cleansing" was no less noble than our own brand
of self improvement!
CHANGES IN SOCIETY
Single parent households now outnumber the traditional dual parent variety in most
major cities of Europe. Homosexual and lesbian relationships have not only
received recognition as being normal, but same sex marriages are being granted
equal status in many lands. Organ transplants and modern medicine have
extended life expectancy, but an increasing percentage of funerals are of young
people. Some die accidental deaths, but many are drug related, caused by aids,
violence and suicide. In
America, Christian symbols and activities have been banned from public places
and a growing movement now seeks to ban the words "In God we trust" from our
currency. Sex and violence have made their triumphal entry into entertainment,
literature, media and taken their toll on the family and society. Abandoning
God, the truth and common logic has been an expensive and dangerous experiment,
but no one seems prepared to reconsider.
The religious situation has also been radically changed by new humanistic
philosophy. Many are leaving institutionalized churches or at least becoming
estranged and detached from them. Instead, they have become infatuated with
esoterics, New Age and various forms of "spirituality". The influx of
foreigners in many European countries has tipped the scales in ways that no one
could have imagined a few years ago. When we first arrived in Austria, 94% of
the population was Roman Catholic and 4% Lutheran. The other 2% included sects,
atheist, Jews, Muslims and evangelicals. The second largest religious group in
Austria today is now the Muslim religion and those claiming no religious belief
whatsoever are even more numerous! Catholics and Lutherans baptize babies soon
after birth, so they should show at least organic growth. But they have lost
20-30% of their membership in the past two decades. New humanism has had little influence in non-Christian religions. The Muslim
religion, for example, places little value on truth, personal freedom and human
life, of women in particular. Muslims believe in solidarity only when it relates
to measures against Israel. Otherwise, they are a quarrelsome bunch that show
little tolerance or concern for members of their own religion, let alone for
Christians. Changes in evangelical
churches are also worrisome, particularly the "feel-good" trend.
Old terminology takes on a new meaning in new humanism. Love is no longer a concern
for the other person's welfare but a reciprocally pleasing relationship. Peace
is achieved not by resolving differences, but living with or ignoring them.
EXAMPLE OF THE COLOR PALLET
Philosophers who preach new humanism like to use photography to illustrate its advantages. A
photograph is made up of many colors, contrasts and shades. If we were to insist
that one color is best and all others be eliminated as inferior, what would
happen to the photo? I will respond to this question later, but this kind of
argumentation has led to unprecedented freedom of expression. Until recently,
adultery was considered wrong but now some argue that it can keep a marriage
from becoming dull and boring. According to new humanism, it would be better to
avoid marriage altogether and "seek a wide range of pleasing relationships
which would enhance our color pallet".
PROBLEMATIC COLORS – OR IS IT OUR PERCEPTION?
As already stated, convictions and principles based on truth, on the truth of
God's Word in particular, have no place on the color palette of new humanists.
The success of new humanism depends upon the elimination of absolutes and truth
is by nature unbending and therefore intolerable.
It is not easy to eliminate truth after centuries of being "brainwashed by
religion". Some prefer to speak of "facts",
but there is really no difference between fact and truth. Others attempt to make
the truth relative. They argue that people have different perceptions of truth
which are all legitimate. As an example, they explain that some people cannot
recognize certain colors, or that some shades are very close and difficult to
distinguish. The problem lies with our perception, however, and not in the
colors. And if we fail to recognize truth, we are to blame.
politicians are still expected to keep their promises after getting elected. But
their dishonesty is soon forgiven because we are tolerant. Witnesses in
courtrooms are told to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the
truth", but many do not and the consequences are minimal, because there are
times when we too find lying convenient. Customers get irate when they buy a
product that doesn't live up to the manufacturer's claims, but they continue
buying it. "After all, it is only advertising." Christians forgive, but
there is a big difference between a forgiving spirit and the spirit of
toleration. Forgiveness is granted to those who do wrong, but according to
tolerance, there can be no wrong, so you just tolerate.
Europeans laugh about America's "religious fanaticism and antiquated puritan
attitudes" Smoking is not allowed in most public places and people are not
permitted to go naked on public beaches. There is little that a European cannot
tolerate today and European Christians have also been infected by the tolerant
spirit of new humanism. Many evangelical churches are more characterized by
solidarity and tolerance than their adherence to doctrinal truth.
Our children's school bus stop was right in front of a movie marquee that always
showed livid scenes from the pornographic films they were showing. I suggested
to the Deacons of the Baptist Church, that they formulate a letter of protest,
but they responded by saying, "The kids might as well get used to it. That's
life." Shortly afterwards, we were visiting the home of one of the deacons.
Our children quit playing with their children, but came in to sit with the
adults. We asked why, and they said, "Their kids are in bed with no clothes
on, playing adult". The parents just laughed!
Unfortunately, America is not far behind Europe. Tolerance has become the predominant religion
in this country. Some Christians were upset about Bill Clinton's sex
escapades, but the majority of Americans thought the President's behavior was
his own private matter and showed toleration. Few Christians have a problem with
worldliness and materialism, which the New Testament defines as idolatry!
Christians watch shows on TV that their parents would have called immoral or
even pornographic. Even open immorality among fellow believers and members of
the church causes little more than a raised eyebrow – and gossip. If
Christians have reservations or convictions about a situation or deed, they
frequently shut up and tolerate. If they do speak out, however, fellow
Christians may accuse them of being unloving (intolerant).
Considering the godlessness of most Europeans, some Americans wonder that they, unlike
Americans, tolerate crucifixes in school classrooms and manger scenes in public
parks. But these have no meaning to Europeans. Like the huge cathedrals, they
are simply artifacts of the past. When truth becomes an icon of the past,
Americans too will tolerate Bibles in school and the Ten Commandments in a
courthouse. But for now, these mean too much to too many and it is therefore a
WITHOUT BLACK AND WHITE, NO COLOR!
The combination of all colors may produce white or black. It just depends on whether
the colors are solids or colored lights. Solid colors are dependant on light,
however, and not vice versa. We get rainbow colors by splitting light with
water, glass or prisms. You can live in a world full of rich, bright colors, but
if there is no light, you grope in the darkness.
It is the same with the truth. When we walk in truth, we walk in the light and our
lives can be colorful and fulfilling. Those who don't walk in truth can never
find true satisfaction or purpose in life. Nor do they have any reliable means
of recognizing happiness or determining what is worthwhile, detrimental or
dangerous to their own well-being. New humanists don't like absolutes, but
tolerance without a standard is absolute nonsense!
Our world is floating and drifting aimlessly with no values, purpose or direction.
We pool our resources, float currencies and the stock markets are based on
supply and demand. Air and water are cheap because they are plentiful, so we get
wasteful and don't hesitate to pollute them. Yet air and water are our most
important and useful commodities. We can live weeks without food, but only days
without water and minutes without air. Because it costs very little to pump oil
out of the ground and refine it, this commodity too is cheap. In a hundred
years, it will be vastly different if man is still around.
There are myriads of examples of the world's truthless values system which should
shock us. But we have become tolerant and nothing shocks us anymore. Experts
estimate that over 500,000 women from formerly Communist countries are now
enslaved as prostitutes in Western Europe. Their "protectors" are wealthy
and European men get what they want, so the government is only concerned that
they pay their income tax on this legal but dirty trade. That is Europe, you
say. Have you read the want ads in your newspaper lately? Dating websites are
the second highest source of income for the internet, outflanking commercial
enterprises and only surpassed by porno peddlers.
The most dangerous place in the world today, is in a mother's womb. In
America, the chances of getting out alive stand at 3 to 1. Anyone
who damages the egg of an American eagle can be fined $5,000. But doctors earn
plenty for performing abortions and the clinics earn millions more, marketing
tissues and organs from the human fetus. The older a child is at the time of its
aborting, the more valuable he or she is for such purposes. There is of course
much more that I could mention, but these two examples must suffice.
NOT SOLIDARITY AND TOLERANCE, BUT GRACE AND TRUTH!
God demands absolute obedience to His commands and allows no room for tolerance! Nor
can he, for he is perfect. But fortunately for us, God is also love. He loves us
so much, that he sent his Son to die for us in order that we might be forgiven
and be freed from darkness to walk in the light. That is why the Bible declares
that Jesus is full of grace and truth. Grace is God's answer to man's
transgression of the truth. If we accept God's provision for grace, we can
enter into the wonderful realm of grace and truth.
The truth is intolerant, but truth does not stand alone. Since Calvary, grace and
truth are united in one person; Jesus Christ. God can not tolerate evil and
disobedience, but he loves all men and women. God's love alone was not enough
to rescue us from His judgment. God MUST judge every departure from truth and He
did just that! Jesus Christ, God's Son paid for our sin. That is why the
Apostle John wrote in the beginning of his gospel, And the Word was made
flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only
begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth…. For the law was given by
Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
The central theme of the New Testament is forgiveness. Jesus lived three intensive
years with 12 men who didn't meet God's standards. Jesus didn't tolerate
them, but he loved them and forgave them. He would have forgiven Judas, had he
asked. But Judas went to a priest to confess his sin instead. He even offered
money in hopes of undoing his sin. But God expects perfection and there is
nothing we can do to pay for our sins to make them good. All that we are and
have is a gift of God or obtained dishonestly. We have earned nothing but
judgment, so how could we do anything for our own salvation? But Jesus offers
forgiveness to all who repent and believe. One of the criminals who was
crucified with Christ repented and asked for salvation. He didn't get baptized
or join a church, but he is in heaven because he went to the right person. Jesus
is full of grace and truth.
In what we call "The Lord's Prayer" (actually an example for us), we are told
to ask God to forgive us just like we forgive others. Forgiveness is much more
than toleration. Tolerance doesn't love, and separated from the truth, it has
no value whatsoever. Grace and truth are found only in Jesus.
Isaiah wrote of the coming Christ, "A bruised reed shall he not break, and the
smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth" (Is.
42:3). Love is humble, caring and self sacrificing (I Corinthians 13). Jesus
told his followers, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples;
if you have love one for another" (John. 13:35). He didn't say we should tolerate each other or that we had to agree. We
are to love and forgive each other just as Christ forgave us.
The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had a vision (Daniel 2). He saw the giant image
of a man, with a head of gold, breast of silver, thighs of bronze, legs of iron
and finally, feet of iron mixed with clay. Like that mixture of iron and
clay, solidarity and tolerance does not make a solid foundation. Nor can
tolerant egoists attain solidarity. There
is no such thing as tolerance without a value, norm or standard. The image of
King Nebuchadnezzar's dream was crushed by a "rock not made with hands"
and it not only fell, but was ground to dust by the rock.
Jesus Christ founded his church on a rock that was not made with hands, on the Word of
God – truth. The church will withstand all efforts of wicked men to destroy it
("The gates of hell shall not prevail against it"). Jesus said, "I
am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father except through
me." That is a very dogmatic statement, but Jesus allowed no room for
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most logical, dependable and reasonable answer to
all of this world's needs and problems. The Bible is truth and I believe it. I
don't believe the Bible because millions of others down through history have
done so, although this is so. Nor do I believe the Bible because gifted and
noble personages have convinced me of its value. I believe because I have come
to know the author and found that He keeps His Word. His Word is truth!
Anyone who lives according to God's Word will have the same experience. That is not
just my promise, but God's. One of my favorite verses from the Bible is found
in John 7:17. Jesus was asked to prove that his words were from God. He answered
by saying, "If any man will do his [God's] will, he shall know of the
doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself". If you are
wondering what to believe, the key lies in the first part of this verse. If you
are willing to DO what is right in God's eyes, you can recognize the
truth. If you insist that there is no God or truth and that you yourself are the
center of the universe around which everything revolves, you have the other
option. Iron and clay.
Where is civilization headed? None of know the answer to
that question, but we can all know where we are headed!
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life; no man or woman can attain salvation and
spend eternity with God except through faith in him who paid the price for our
disobedience. He is full of grace and truth.
by Ralph V. Harvey