[Warning: the following contains graphic language in some historical quotations which some might find offensive.]
General Patton’s “Speech to the Third Army” on the eve of Operation Overload often comes to mind when I reflect on the legion of alarming events transpiring across our nation. Patton had a way with words that just sticks with you. In fact, this is why he never held back when it came to using profanity in his speech. When asked about this particular hallmark of his, Patton responded to a nephew, “When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can’t run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight it’s way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.”
The only bits of Spanish that stuck with me while I was wasting my education during high school were inappropriate slang words and scatological references. In a similarly mature fashion during my seminary Greek courses I was struck by Paul’s use of “sh*t” in Scripture. The term skuvbalon has an emotive connotation of revulsion making it likely that an English translation ought to be closer to “crap” or “sh*t” than “dung” or “refuse.” Thus, Philippians 3:8 could read, “More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as sh*t! – that I may gain Christ.” Paul was probably intending some shock value especially since he just accused his opponents of mutilating their genitals a few verses earlier.
A particular passage from Patton’s speech flashes through my thoughts when I’m confronted with the overwhelming state of affairs in our nation. Just take this past week as an example. We have a government shutdown because the legislative and executive branches could not come to terms on a continuing resolution. They’re only discussing a continuing resolution because our elected officials continue to ignore the law by not passing a budget. Less than 20% of the government is actually “shut down” but the parts that are being shut down are selected according to the script of a destructive, self-serving political drama.
Cancer trials through the National Institute of Health are shut down while the First Lady’s fitness program remains unaffected. Death benefits to fallen soldiers are cut off while the President’s golf course at Camp David remains open. The National Mall is closed down for World War II and Vietnam veterans but open for an amnesty for illegal aliens rally. Meanwhile, these staged events continue to distract from a non-stop flood of statutes, policies, and procedures which are stripping away our liberties, privacy, and life’s blood while fattening an insatiable governmental beast.
Addressing his troops before the Allied invasion of France, Patton barked, “There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you won’t have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, ‘Well, your Granddady shoveled sh*t in Louisiana.’ No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, ‘Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and Son-of-a-G**d**ned-B*tch named Georgie Patton!'”
Our country continues to rapidly change at a fundamental level spiritually, politically, and morally. Christians have a choice: we can withdraw, assimilate, or persevere. God placed us within this moment of history for a purpose and it wasn’t to disengage. Some Christians have chosen to separate themselves from politics and focus exclusively upon Gospel ministry. If we had to choose only one form of social engagement, that is the right choice as Jesus instructed us to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach everything he commanded.
However, whether we like it or not, the spiritual is becoming more and more political as our religious liberties are being eroded. Religious liberty can serve as the offensive line keeping attackers at bay while the quarterback is free to deliver the Gospel message to receivers. When that offensive line is taken away, the opposing team can create havoc at will.
Do we need legal sanction in order to preach the word? Certainly not. We obey Christ regardless. The final outcome is clear, Christ has won and his servants are overcomers through him. But there is no temporal safety in being an overcomer. Christians in the first century bravely and faithfully hailed Christ rather than Caesar. As a result, many lost their businesses, their ability to buy and sell in the marketplace, and even their lives through the persecutions of the Roman empire.
When real persecution comes to America and my grandchildren ask me what I did with my liberty, I’m not going to have to say, “Well, your Granddaddy shoveled sh*t in Louisiana.” We may arrive at a similar predicament as Christians in 1st-century Rome but we’re not there yet. There is no doubt about it: social engagement is a messy business. As messy as it gets, though, disengagement is not an option. Let us all choose the best, most effective way to engage the culture for Christ and do the work of Him who sent us while it is still day, for night is coming.
Topics: General George Patton, Profanity, Apostle Paul, Culture Wars, Church