We Are the Music Makers…
Without exalting all the particulars of the film, or advocating movies in general, I must confess that I adapted this blog title from a line in the original Willy Wonka movie (1971). The scene involves the character Veruca Salt making a snide comment about Wonka’s “lickable” wallpaper. Wonka squeezes her face, turns her face toward his, and then says very firmly, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
I realize it is just a line from a movie, but I’ve often thought about it in light of our Christian lives and witness. As children of God, and as those who possess His “DNA” (via the Holy Spirit’s regenerative work), we are children of the One who is the living source and origin of all things. Romans 8:16-18 tells us:
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
The apostle Paul refers to Christians as the Lord’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). Christians are also characterized as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” who proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). As ambassadors of Christ, children of God, a chosen generation, and a royal priesthood, would it be incorrect to assert that we should be the music makers, and that we should be the dreamers of dreams? Wouldn’t it be accurate to say that we (born-again believers) should be the most compassionate, innovative, and the most intuitive people on earth?
Due to my fascination with the 18th and 19th Centuries, I’ll list a few examples of Christians who made significant contributions during those eras.
- Alessandro Volta (1745–1827): Italian physicist who invented the first electric battery. The unit Volt was named after him.
- James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879): He is known for his contributions in establishing electromagnetic theory (Maxwell’s Equations) and work on the chemical kinetic theory of gases.
- Asa Gray (1810–1888): His Gray’s Manual remains a pivotal work in botany. The preface indicates his adherence to the Nicene Creed in concerning these religious issues.
- Louis Pasteur (1822-1895): French biologist, microbiologist and chemist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization.
- James Prescott Joule (1818–1889): Joule studied the nature of heat, and discovered its relationship to mechanical work. This led to the law of conservation of energy, which led to the development of the first law of thermodynamics. The SI derived unit of energy, the joule, is named after James Joule.
This list represents a miniscule amount of the thousands of significant contributions in all disciplines (law, economics, psychology, etc.) made by Christians throughout mankind’s existence. If we agree that Christians are recreated in the image of God (i.e. via the born-again experience), then what “music” [literally or metaphorically] is the Lord of the universe desiring to bring into the earth through us? What dreams will our Heavenly Father give us to build upon in order to make a significant contribution to our fellow man?
We must keep in mind that along the way it’s important that we never give in to the worldly temptation of accomplishing things simply for the credit. Many Christians of past centuries were regarded as unusual, and they were not given the credit they deserved until after their deaths. Christians shouldn’t be chasing accolades. We should provide contributions for the purpose of being a blessing in the world and glorifying our God. Nevertheless, I pray that we will humbly adopt the idea that as children of God, we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
I will conclude with the source of Willy Wonka’s statement. It is from a poem entitled, Ode, by Arthur O’Shaughnessy.
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;
World losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities.
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
The Absence of Manhood
Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth. – John Wesley
In the last one hundred years of America’s history we’ve witnessed what some might suggest have been unprecedented peaks and valleys in the cultural landscape. In the 1920s and 30s we read about downtrodden men searching for work of any kind only to be pushed lower into despair, while others were accumulating massive wealth. Then the “Greatest Generation” came alive as they were assigned the task of freeing the world from the onslaught of totalitarianism and mass genocide. One might propound that their greatness is somewhat tarnished by a short-sighted desire for their children to have a much easier way of life, thereby being spared the sufferings of war and economic hardship. Still, the postwar economy soared as the 1950s and 60s produced a better educated and more affluent middle class. The postwar era also invoked a spiritual renewal with the rise of many renown evangelists.
Following many years of ease, luxury, and lack of hardship, the culture fell into a predicable condition of discontentment and moral decay, followed by another war and recession. Thus, history repeats itself. The moral decline of the 1960s, along with a war and recession, pushed the culture back toward spiritual renewal. That renewal grew in strength for a decade and a half during the 1970s and 80s. On the surface, this historical pattern appears to be somewhat predictable, even though the peripheral nuances vary (i.e. influence of technology, variances in religious identify or thrusts, etc.).
Within this historical context, there are two cultural necessities, which, in my opinion, are nearly always lacking proper and ongoing coverage. While secular historians focus on the political, economic, and sociological aspects of the culture (“sociological” referring to discrimination against the poor, underprivileged, or “disenfranchised”), we forswear any discussion of the most destructive ideology in our culture. Ironically, while the culture descends into moral and religious chaos, secular elitists (political, judicial, and academic) celebrate the very thing which rots our culture from the inside out—that is the redefining of the roles of a father and a mother.
Someone once said that we don’t realize we have a void until we begin to fill it. The American culture has suffered from a lack of fatherhood, and subsequently a lack of manhood, for many decades past, and into the present. One might argue against this point by asserting, “We have plenty of ‘fathers’ in our culture.” As we know, there is a distinct difference between fathering a child and being a father.
There are several biblical characteristics of manhood which are evident in creation. Since they are identifiable at the beginning (when man was created), they could be spoken of as being innate. Nonetheless, these characteristics must be reignited in order for the void of manhood to find its equilibrium. A cursory study of God’s original design (for man, marriage, and procreation) helps provide solidity concerning the role and godly expectations of a man. Here are three explicit excerpts from scripture (both pre and postlapsarian):
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28).
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:24).
Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread… (Gen. 3:17-19).
These brief biblical excerpts help us form a picture of true biblical manhood, and they even provide answers for many “non-idyllic” scenarios. Here are some important facts we learn from God’s original plan and design.
1. Family and children were part of God’s plan since the beginning. This does not imply condemnation to those who do not have, or for some reason cannot have children. However, it reinforces the reality of the sanctity of human life, the ideal of marriage (a man and a woman being joined as one flesh), and the federalism of the home.
2. A confused individual, for example a male who thinks he might be oriented toward a female lifestyle though he possesses a male physiology, is obviously created by God for male orientation and reproduction. In other words, since multiplication is one of God’s first design priorities, then having male reproductive parts means a “confused” individual no longer needs to be confused. They should move both spiritually and physically (e.g. if hormonal intervention is necessary) toward the male gender role of which they were endowed by their Creator (vis-a’-vi this example).
3. Man was created to have dominion over God’s creation. This is a position of both responsibility and authority. Man was created with the strength to exercise dominion. This is contrary to the tenets of the feminist movement of the past five decades. The feminist movement has worked very hard to make boys into girls and men into villains, while at the same time promoting the idea of promiscuity and even lesbianism. The best way to combat the feminist ideology is for husbands and wives to study the Bible and walk in their God-designed roles.
4. Within the confines of marriage, a man and a woman become one flesh for the purpose of companionship, unity, and procreation. This is not possible for a man and man or a woman and a woman. An honest assessment of the last four decades of failed social values only proves that the foundation, future, and strength of any culture will depend upon the ongoing advancement of the biblical family. I would like to offer a few “scientific” reasons to support this rational. I’ll offer them in a satirical fashion as an anticipated response to our culture’s ever-present anti-Christian sentiment.
In order for a society to continue to grow, there must be a union of a male and a female. The Bible refers to these two individuals as a husband and wife, with the result being offspring. The Bible refers to their offspring as children.
In order for a society to ensure future growth beyond the first generation, the offspring (the progeny of the union of male and female parents—husband and wife) must have proper examples to follow so they will continue to reproduce.
If, in fact, a society determines the biblical model of the family is outdated, and should not be the proper standard, it will require only a short amount of time to discover progeny is not possible for a man and man or a woman and woman.
When number three begins to occur, even our very scientific anti-Christian antagonists should recognize something is not functioning the way it was designed.
5. A man shall “leave” his mother and father. This speaks of a young man growing up to accept responsibility for his life while securing a place for his wife and family to be nurtured and grow after marriage. Sadly, America has descended into a sorry state of what has been described as “extended adolescence” among young men. This term describes what we see so often—a young man in his late twenties sitting at home playing video games while mooching off his mother and father. God tells the man just the opposite.
6. A man is expected to work, sweat, and to earn a living. At some point in their development, a father should facilitate opportunities for his son to get his hands dirty and sweat to earn a wage. Regardless of a family’s financial status, this biblical principle will be one of the most beneficial experiences for a young man during his transition from boyhood to manhood.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man, he wrote: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful.” Lewis’ excellent point should become a clarion call for this present generation of fathers. Biblical manhood is just that—manhood built upon the truths of the Bible.
We accept responsibility over that which God has given and provided.
We are not confused about “what” He has created us to be based upon the logic, physiology, and the divine purpose for His creation.
We teach our young men to someday be independent of their parent’s pocketbook, while never dishonoring the wisdom of the aged.
We raise young men with the high expectation that they will treat their future wife with love, honor, and a readiness to lay down their lives for the well-being of their family.
We teach our young men never to shrink back from hard work, and to never retreat from being true to their word.
These virtues are the fabric of any truly successful culture. The godly traits of a real man will always transcend politics, economics, and the judiciary. Jesus’ life and ministry stand as proof. Strong and godly men raise strong and godly young men who are not fearful of the future, and who work hard while trusting the Lord for their ultimate success. If true manhood is not revitalized in our culture, our culture will continue to disintegrate into a sissified “no-one-wins” culture where young men are nothing more than boys in grown-up bodies.
Lastly, if this type of tough talk is a turnoff to a young man, then he’s not ready to be a man.
And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse (Malachi 4:6).
The Illogic of Nothing Being “Right” or “Wrong”
Postmodernism: Of or relating to art, architecture, or literature that reacts against earlier modernist principles, as by reintroducing traditional or classical elements of style or by carrying modernist styles or practices to extremes.
It is beyond disheartening to listen to postmodern/liberal ideologues (both Christian and non-Christian) rant about how no one has the right to assign the words “right” or “wrong” to personal actions or lifestyles. Of course the irony normally encountered in these often unfriendly conversations is exposed in the liberal’s adamant assertion that someone is “wrong” for stating that something is right or wrong. When the ire of a liberal is raised, it’s not unusual to witness a further discrediting of their own character as they lash out in anger at anyone who disagrees. Thus, even though an “enlightened” postmodernist/liberal will rail against the idea of moral absolutes, their obvious frustration concerning the subject (and very often their angry outbursts) reveal just the opposite. David Horowitz explains this phenomenon as he states:
“Inside many liberals is a totalitarian screaming to get out. They don’t like to have another point of view in the room that they don’t squash and the way they try to squash it is by character assassination and name calling.”
Personal attacks are the only alternative for an upset liberal who is vacant of any substantive argument. This stands as further proof of the presence of ideological conditioning and framing within those who hypocritically point their finger and shout that it’s wrong to suggest there are such absolutes as right and wrong.
Within this discussion there seems to be two essential questions which need to be explored: 1) Can we actually know if an action or lifestyle is wrong? 2) What criteria would determine right and wrong? Here are two common ways these questions can be addressed.
I. An Individual’s System of Beliefs
An individual’s system of beliefs will always mold, shape and determine their answers to these two fundamental questions. For instance, if an individual is an atheist, then he will view the answers through the lens of no god, and thus no moral absolutes. Again, irony surfaces if the atheist disagrees with that statement by saying, “I believe in moral absolutes even though I don’t believe in a god.” Yet, if there is no god, then there cannot be moral absolutes because there is no source for such dogma. If the atheist responds by saying, “My source is my own personal beliefs,” then this will result in: a) no possibility of consistency amongst his fellow humans; and b) no authority to enforce his dogma. As a result, the atheist’s beliefs will only be valid within his own mind and enforceable within his own life. This reasoning is based upon the fact that an individual’s beliefs concerning morality and ethics void of a source greater than themselves (i.e. a higher moral authority) is not only untrustworthy but also unenforceable. For this very reason there’s no consistency or believability among “faith perspectives” that welcome all other religions as truth in tandem with their own. Conversely, this is also why the truth of the Bible stands alone in its power and authority.
Other religions (apart from Christianity) typically lean strongly toward self-salvific teachings such as: 1) Love everyone; 2) Don’t judge or do any wrong to others; or 3) They lean heavily toward the radical side of religion (such as Islamic fundamentalism) in which they exercise forcing others to believe their religion or face execution. Unfortunately, the Eastern “peaceful” religions (i.e. Buddhism) are intrinsically fatalistic. They offer little hope of eternal peace after requiring their adherents to live a pious earthly existence. Their gods are mystic, impersonal, and they offer no hope on any earthly or eternal level. Paradoxically, if one follows these forms of religion their lives are oriented toward judging others to life or death based upon strict religious requirements; or, on the other end of the spectrum, their lives are inherently introverted and they’re always seeking peace internally by working to be a better person. The latter generally leads to immense frustration and doubt.
These two religious extremes (peaceful coexistence or confess or die) involve intense delineation of right and wrong. One is mainly internal and self-salvific and the other is external as its tenets are forced upon others. Christianity is neither. Albeit, the Holy Book of Christianity (the Bible) clearly states what is right and wrong. The difference is, the God of the Bible loved sinners so much that He gave Himself in order to empower those who believe in Him to walk the path of righteousness. Therefore, even though a true Christian belief system (i.e. that which is based solely upon the teachings of the Bible) outlines what is pleasing to God (e.g. “moral absolutes”), it also assures we have salvation and help in-and-through Christ who gave His life for all mankind. It’s analogous to a loving earthly father lining out expectations for his son concerning what pleases him, and then lovingly helping his son achieve those goals.
II. The Distress of Negative Personal Encounters
This second answer is not only beneficial for the Christian, but also for those who reject the Christian’s belief that moral absolutes exist. It has always fascinated me how those who fight so furiously against the idea of proclaiming right versus wrong will summon a police officer when their house is being burglarized or when their child is bullied in school. The liberal/postmodern ideologue might respond by saying, “Yes, we called the police, but we didn’t press charges.” This would be an example of “feel good” postmodernism (which is the number one reason for its existence). What a liberal/postmodernist will not admit is that calling for a police officer to stop a “crime” is an admission that a “wrong” is occurring. They may not sign a complaint to initiate a criminal prosecution (only so they feel better about calling the police). However, if what occurred was not wrong, then why were the police called to stop the incident? This is part of the hypocrisy we discover when dealing with those who claim there are no moral absolutes.
Moral absolutes require consequences for actions. This is what is accepted in any reasonable and orderly culture. This standard is desired by atheists, liberal/postmodernists and Christians alike. The only difference is the Christian acknowledges this maxim while those opposed to Christianity’s tenets pretend to be more enlightened and tolerant. Nevertheless, to ignore moral absolutes and their necessary outcomes is to ignore our conscience and forsake the love for others which God commands we exhibit.
It’s understood that the “ends” do not always justify the means. Man is fallible, and therefore many of the past judgments made upon the premise of moral absolutes have failed to be carried out in a godly form or fashion. Failures in judicial judgments, failed religious excursions, or moral failures in leaders from all walks of life are continually being used by liberals to justify their negative views of moral absolutes. In their minds, no one has the right to judge anyone else because everyone is a hypocrite (that is, everyone except them). They claim moral superiority based upon the idea that their judgments are rooted in tolerance and care for their fellow human beings. This quote from Dennis Prager describes the liberal attitude very nicely:
“That is one reason ‘feelings’ and ‘compassion’ are two of the most often used liberal terms. ‘Character’ is no longer a liberal word because it implies self-restraint. ‘Good and evil’ are not liberal words either as they imply a moral standard beyond one’s feelings. In assessing what position to take on moral or social questions, the liberal asks him or herself, ‘How do I feel about it?’ or ‘How do I show the most compassion?’ — not ‘What is right?’ or ‘What is wrong?’ For the liberal, right and wrong are dismissed as unknowable, and every person chooses his or her own morality.”
Christianity is the only true basis for moral absolutes. The principles and commands in the Bible did not come from men. They came from God who stands eternally as the sovereign governing authority. Therefore, they can be trusted, tested, relied upon, and implemented by the grace, wisdom and power of God. Over and over they have proven to be the only true template for societal equity and tranquility.