Conrad Hilton, the founder of the Hilton Hotel empire, spent money out of his own pocket to run the following prayer in many major American magazines on July 4th, 1952:
Our Father in heaven,
We pray that You save us from ourselves.
The world that You have made for us, to live in peace, we have made into an armed camp. We live in fear of war to come. We are afraid of “the terror that flies by night, and the arrow that flies by day, the pestilences that walks in darkness and the destruction that wastes at noon-day.” (Psalm 91)
We have turned from You to go our selfish way. We have broken Your commandments and denied Your truth. We have left Your altars to serve the false gods of money and pleasure and power.
Forgive us and help us.
Now, darkness gathers around us, and we are confused in all our counsels. Losing faith in You, we lose faith in ourselves.
Inspire us with wisdom, all of us of every color, race and creed, to use our wealth, our strength to help our brother, instead of destroying him. Help us to do Your will as it is done in heaven, and to be worthy of Your promise of peace on earth. Fill us with new faith, new strength and new courage, that we may win the Battle for Peace.
Be swift to save us, dear God, before the darkness falls.
Again, Hilton ran that ad in major American magazines in 1952. For many of us today, that period of time represents an era of nostalgic Americana we are striving to return to. Yet Hilton looked around at what seems to us an idyllic era and saw many of the exact same evils and threats to freedom we are wringing our hands about today.
There’s a lesson here.
American Christians like me are faced with a temptation to think shortsightedly that I don’t believe any other Christians in the history of Christendom ever had to deal with. That’s because as Americans, we are blessed with a level of prosperity, freedom, and mainstream acceptance – yes, even under President Obama – that no other era of Christians has ever had. This provides us the luxury of thinking primarily about the next election, the next fiscal quarter, or the next job review.
Before and outside America, Christians worldwide faced a level of persecution, pestilence, and oppression that compelled them to think long-term because otherwise, there was no hope.
I understand Obama represents an unprecedented lack of respect and agreement with the traditions and values that created American Exceptionalism. I also remember when we were told the same things about Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis, too. The other side of this debate does not agree or understand American Exceptionalism; otherwise, they would support policies that support it. That will always be the case until we win the day, and that requires a long-term plan.
Part of that long-term plan is realizing that the battle isn’t over on Election Day but is just beginning. The other side has more diligence and perseverance. Whether they win or lose on November 6th, they will be right back in the fight on November 7th.
Will we do the same? Yes, Mitt Romney has more respect for American Exceptionalism than Obama, and he clearly has a better idea of how a real economy works. But given Obama’s failures, that’s not a tough threshold to clear.
Romney has shown repeatedly that, left on his own, he cannot be trusted, as have most Republican politicians who talk a good game on the campaign trail. We must do a better job of being diligent in holding their feet to the fire while in office, rather than spinning their failures as “not as bad as the other guy.” For once they’re in office, there is no “other guy,” for they are the ones taking the oath of office. Thus, responsibility for leadership falls on them alone. The past two election cycles, we have thankfully been willing to wield the ultimate weapon against the ruling class—the threat or realization of a primary. We have mounted casualties of spineless and untrustworthy Republicans around the country, and this trend must not only continue but be ratcheted up all the more. Politicians don’t see the light until they feel the heat; and no amount of blogging, broadcasting, or blasting impacts a politician as much as the threat of losing their job.
The price of liberty remains eternal vigilance. We must be willing to pay it; otherwise, Hilton’s prayer will be as sadly relevant 60 years from now for our children and grandchildren as it was for Hilton 60 years ago.