Location: Brunswick, ME
Psalm 127:1 (NKJV)
1 Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.
Squat and ugly, the old outlying fort probably fulfilled its role more through prevention than by actual defense. Like I read somewhere about home security systems where their biggest advantage is the sign out front that says "this site protected by ...." so this strategically located little post would have been more trouble than it was worth to take out. I doubt it could have stood for long against a serious bombardment but the attacking ship would have had to get pretty close in that narrow harbor and by the time they had to "haul their flag" I imagine the defenders would have done some serious damage to their enemies.
Now it just sits there... the flag still flying defiantly but only as a testimony to previous vitality and usefulness. The two boats provide somewhat of a metaphor for the passing time of its watch. The age of power has passed the age of sail and the old ways are now only useful for recreation and nostalgia. So it must be... but not without regrets.
Somedays it seems to me that this image represents the condition of our national circumstances here in this country. The "old" institutions are still there, standing guard, but without very much effect. It is generally supposed that time has passed them by.
Take, for example, the institution of "freedom", properly defined rather than as it is now colloquially understood, and its corollary "self-reliance/responsibility". These were national hall marks of the American culture. We should not look back on these things through rose-colored glasses... with nostalgic longing that is mostly ill informed. A social order that emphasizes "freedom" and "self-reliance" is messy in the extreme. It is prone to chaos at times and even violence on occasion. The idea of cultural "safety-nets" is antithetical to its premise. A "free people" are those for whom individual "failure" is a definite possibility. "Self-reliance" is essentially a personality trait rather than a absolute fact. A "self-reliant" person is not adverse to "help" but it is understood in terms of "helping me do something... helping me accomplish the goals that I have set out to do". Such a person does not value success or the attainment of a better life situation unless it reflects, above all, the results of his or her own endeavors. "Gifts" are nice... but a person who lives off the gifts of others, whether through a social program funded by taxes or through on going charity by misguided philanthropists, is viewed as being morally deficient.
To be free is to live at risk. It is somewhat akin to standing on a mountain peak... breathing the fresh air and rejoicing in the view, but knowing that one wrong step means disaster.
This is one "institution" that for all practical purposes now is honored only as a relic of another day as modern social ideas pass it by powered by a redefined idea of freedom that attempts to minimze risk by guaranteeing certain levels of social support.
Another "institution", far more fatal to long term security, which now lies mostly in ruins is that of morality based on transcendent principles. This is usually spoken of as a "common" or "national" religion. It is an aggregate mentality rather than an ideological synthesis. One can speak of a time when the US was a Christian nation only when we use this basic sense of the word "Christian." From the Founding Fathers down through the mid-20th century, about the only way to describe this "national religion" was by using the term "Providence" and keeping the capital letter. It was not congruent with the Christian faith in its doctrinal or dogmatic assertions in virtually any category. Jesus was honored among some... with their lips more than their hearts most of the time.. but otherwise the prevailing "institution" was a vague notion that there was a "God" out there and that morality was derived from that proposition. This produced a sense, very similar to the ancient idea of the "Fates", that if a person or a nation deviated in a significant way from moral virtue, then "God would get them." There would be an accounting, sooner or later, and the righteous would triumph over the wicked.
Did this idea hold at every level with the same force? Absolutely not! But it was the generally held consensus and it acted, in the majority, as a significant hedge against what was tolerated within the culture. It was the framework in which moral issues were addressed. The race issues of past years were worked out within this culture and on this foundation. The War Between the States can only be understood within this prevailing context. No other foundation would have held up under those massive casualties and the extreme hardship that those four horrible years worked on us.
This "institution" is not isolated from the others. "Freedom" and "self-reliance/responsibility" cannot be maintained for long without this form of morality to encourage it and to temper its sharp edges.
And it is this fundamental premise, this foundational sense of morality, that is in ruins.
The void will be filled by something else. Perhaps another religious core, such as Islam, will gain prominence and then season the social order as Christianity once did. That will be a disaster for only Christianity promotes and fosters true "freedom." At present, the void is being filled by a form of philosophical minimalistic materialism. It is virtually without intellectual coherence and is advanced more on soggy propaganda and bumper sticker slogans than by any kind of internal consistency. An "unthinking" people follow the pathways of least resistance. That's why the road to perdition is wide and many walk it.
But, unlike that old fort in that harbor, Christianity is not in ruins... it has just suffered loss. And it can be rebuilt. It can again become the leaven in the loaf that serves to bless the city in which it dwells. It can again become the light that shines in the darkness and offers fresh air to those who are gagging on the stench of a rotting culture.
"It ain't over till it's over" - that old sage, Yogi Berra, famously remarked. Such is the case in our land. "It ain't over" till the Lord say so. As long as we have a voice we must use it. As long as we have disciples we must communicate to them the truth, not only of their future benefice, but of their present assignment - to live for Christ as a witness to Him according to the principles of His Kingdom and not the kingdom of this world - and to make disciples as we do it.
That is our freedom... and it cannot be taken away from us even if we are in chains... it is guaranteed by our Lord.