He painted the true Colorado

[photopress:allen_true_fm_rotunda.jpg,thumb,pp_image] (Denver Post, Mar. 7) “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” mutters a world-weary American to his paramour at the end of a Hemingway novel. The acid dismissal of love typifies suspicion of idealism in any form, a timeless temptation for humankind. Hemingway gave his story a modern setting but borrowed its title, “The Sun Also Rises,” from Ecclesiastes, a world-weary classic of 2200 years ago. Since the novel’s publication in 1926, Americans have gone on to conquer the Depression, defeat Hitler and Tojo, end segregation and polio, win the Cold War, computerize earth and explore space. Still the stance of cynicism toward nobility and goodness is widely fashionable.

To enter the new wing of the Denver Art Museum, for example, you walk past a huge whiskbroom-and-dustpan sculpture and make your way into a jarring, angular Daniel Liebeskind structure that resembles a glass skyscraper felled by an 8.8 earthquake. Don’t assume you know what beauty is, the objects seem to say. Not so fast with your delight in the human spirit and your pride in our civilization.

After running this gauntlet of the unpretty on a recent afternoon, however, I was more than rewarded by the DAM’s enthralling exhibit of the works of Colorado painter and muralist Allen True, 1881-1955. His heroic depiction of man and nature in the older and newer West may not tell the whole story, but it immortalizes a proud part of it that we should gratefully cherish. You need to see our state’s past through True’s eyes.

Trappers, prospectors, pioneers, cowboys and Indians, builders and aviators come to life under his imagination and brush in a way that celebrates their “men to match my mountains” vision and purpose while escaping Hollywood cliché. And equally striking as the art itself is the self-confidence of an era that could give it a public place of honor all across the city and region, not so very long ago.

“More people, more scars upon the land,” the gate-closing grumble of John Denver in “Rocky Mountain High” (named an official state song in 2007), was not the way Allen True’s generation viewed the human settlement and beautification of this vast territory previously written off as the Great American Desert. A good example is the specimen of his art most familiar to Coloradans, the water saga with True’s murals and Thomas Hornsby Ferril’s verse in our State Capitol rotunda. The theme is people flourishing as modernity advances – rather than the depopulation grimly sought by leftist scolds.

Under the painted, silent gaze of True heroes and heroines, lawmakers not only in our capitol but also in those of Wyoming and Missouri (from which Lewis and Clark, Pike and Fremont started west) make decisions for this new century. You’d like to think the vitality, generosity, and optimism of his art – and of Ferril’s poetry, sure that “beyond the sundown is tomorrow’s wisdom” – would guide them more than the cramped and gloomy green ideology now ascendant.

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” said Shelley. The way we visualize and verbalize our sense of possibilities has more power to limit or liberate us than any government. Sentimentality is no substitute for reason and reality, of course, as Hemingway’s scorn for “pretty” thought reminds us. But there is a realism in the American success story, captured by the painter True and the poet Ferril, superior to the sentimentalism of frightened Gaia-worship. Let’s embrace it.

The West portrayed in old songs, an open range and Front Range with never a discouraging word, mountain majesties near gleaming cities undimmed by tears, may lack practicality. Yet it’s a better ideal to strive for than anything in Al Gore’s lugubrious poetry – and Allen True depicts it gloriously. The True exhibit runs through March 28, not to be missed.

Why I'm skipping 'Avatar'

"Avatar" with its leftist plotline, where capitalism and America are villains, is amusingly debunked by Mike Rosen in his Denver Post column today. Reviews in National Review, Weekly Standard, and Commentary did likewise. I'll be skipping this overhyped dud. After posting the above on Twitter and Facebook a short time ago, I was informed by one Victoria Livingston on FB that: "Americans have had a history of being bullies; it started with overrunning the Indians before the 'settlers' were Americans." To which I then replied:

America a bully at times, Victoria? Of course, what did you expect? Strong nations, like strong individuals, may be tempted to use their strength irresponsibly. That's not confined to our country - it's the human condition, the tragic flaw, original sin, fallenness. But show me another country that has been half as earnest and noble as America in trying to atone for that irresponsibility in the past and to prevent its recurrence in the future.

With "Avatar," James Cameron - like so many others in entertainment and mass media - has bitten the hand that feeds him with liberty and opportunity, affluence and indulgence, privilege and prestige. Ingrates one and all. Fie upon them.

Is Christmas still relevant?

As Christmas comes, reactions abound. Since the fourth century AD, when Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity, church service attendance in Western Civilization is greatest at Christmas and Easter. Prior to Constantine, Christianity was illegal and thus did not attract people who were not deeply committed. Ironically during this period of intense persecution the number of Christians grew at a phenomenal rate, with an organic underground-style network of small home-based churches (much like China has been experiencing since the rule of Mao Zedong). That amazing growth, before Constantine, laid the foundation for Christianity’s widespread acceptance leading to a more organized Christianity.

Yet in many ways organizing Christianity stifled the life-transforming power that grew the earlier organic Church. And in more recent decades the spike in attendance at services for Christmas and Easter has decreased, while critical reactions toward or around these two special Christian days has increased in both number and intensity.

The name CHRISTmas forces most people to consider at some level: Who was Christ and why should his living two-thousand years ago make any difference to us today in our hectic modern life where we are bombarded with ideas trying to answer life’s most basic questions?

Many find this season warm and joyous. Yet others respond from indifference to an outright repulsive reaction to Jesus Christ’s claim to be God, the creator, sustainer and restorer of humanity and the world.

Some reject Biblical moral boundaries, while other rejections are connected to horrific acts done in the name of Christianity, or at least by self-identified Christians. While it is important to acknowledge such acts as horrific, it is just as important to ascertain if such acts are condoned or condemned by Biblical teaching, lest we throw baby Jesus out with the filthy and corrupt bath water.

As Americans, does the Christmas story have anything to do with: our freedom to think and express ideas; our freedom of religion; the equality of people; or even ideas like the size and reach of government?

Clearly the individual rights and freedoms that have long-defined America are not because of where America sits on the globe, but rather they fall directly from a worldview that sees humanity as unique and special and worthy of protection. And Christianity, which teaches that people are created in the image of God and that God came in human form and gave his life to provide a means for every person to have a restored and harmonious relationship with their Creator, puts a value on human life that is arguably much higher than that of any other set of ideas.

Cultures, which have embraced the Biblical value of humanity, have delivered the greatest level of individual liberty. While not all American founders embraced orthodox Christianity, they did embrace the Biblically-based view of human nature and that every person is created equal “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The American experience, just like our own life experience, has had its struggles putting these profound ideas into practice. Yet had these ideas not sprung from a real foundation the American experiment in liberty would have been a futile effort, like every other culture that does not value humanity.

In recent decades some in America have been pushing America away from its foundation, with the result being increased chaos. Chaos has been answered by increasing the size and reach of government, leading to a decrease in personal liberty and making our personal and national future much less secure. We would be wise to look at the results of godless national experiments before we take the leap.

If atheism or any other set of ideas is true then by all means let us live life accordingly, but let us not take that jump without first investigating the idea which arguably has most radically and positively changed the lives of people and civilizations: Biblical Christianity.

Granted Biblical Christianity, unlike most other sets of ideas, does not align well with human logic, where might makes right, or utopia is achieved through personal effort. Does that not suggest that Biblical Christianity is not a human creation, but more likely revelation from our Creator? Even apart from the continual historical and archeological validations of Biblical history, Biblical teaching on human nature, the human condition, and the path to restoration, ring incredibly true with human experience.

Humanity is creative and desires to express that creativity. True faith cannot be forced upon someone. Vast power (control of resources) invites corruption, whether in business, politics, government, or religion. Left unbounded by inner moral guides or external militant guides, people and cultures self-destruct. Incredible transformation and healing does result when people bond with their Creator. Indeed these human experiences align with the Biblical presentation of humanity.

Ideas do have consequences. Ideas that ring true with life experience yield better results for us individually and for cultures. This Christmas, consider investigating genuine Biblical Christianity directly from its source document and resting your future in ideas that ring true and truly transform.

Mark Shepard writes from Vermont, where he formerly served as a state senator.

Doubly betrayed: By Hasan & PC elites

Less than two hours after the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil since 9/11, FBI Director Robert Mueller announced that his investigators were “definitely not discussing terrorism”. Soon after President Obama urged Americans “not to jump to conclusions”. When reporters asked what the President meant by that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had no coherent answer. The initial stories by both the New York Times and the Associated Press gave great prominence to reports that the killer had been “harassed because he was a Muslim”, that he was “dismayed” by U.S. Policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he was “upset” about the “terrible things” he heard from soldiers returning from the war zone.

On the afternoon of the tragedy Americans channel surfing for updates on the massacre found an odd mix of reportage. Chris Matthews of MSNBC offered an impassioned monologue on the “horrible costs of war”. Other commentators amplified this theme of “the soldier as victim”.

Shepherd Smith of the much reviled Fox News obtained a live interview with Army Colonial Terry Lee who knew the killer from his time at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. Colonel Lee related how the killer “seemed pleased” when a Muslim had shot and killed a U.S. Soldier in front of an Army recruiting office in Arkansas, and had also likened Muslim suicide bombers to those soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save their buddies. Colonel Lee also stated that any harassment the killer experienced was not because of his Muslim faith but due to expressing these kind of view in the presence of men who had seen friends and fellow soldiers killed in combat.

Apparently no other news outlet had been able to find Colonel Lee or any similar purveyors of “an inconvenient truth”.

On Friday when it was confirmed that before commencing his slaughter, the killer jumped on a table and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) the media story line began to shift, but not too much.

As soon as they learned that the killer was still alive various commentators began to pose the following weighty questions: “Why was the killer moved from a civilian to a military hospital?” or “Would wide spread prejudice make it difficult for the killer to obtain a fair trial or adequate legal counsel”? or “In light of Guantanamo, should the killer be tried in a civilian or military court? “ or“could a possible death sentence create a martyr and inflame the Muslim world” or “ does the fact that the killer purchased his handguns legally mean we need tougher gun control?” or “Was the Army culpable in failing to prevent this”

Perhaps the most bizarre line of inquiry was the assertion that if the killer acted alone and not as part of a conspiracy then the massacre cannot be viewed as an act of terrorism (See, Director Mueller was right!) but rather a case of a “stressed” or “demented” individaul who just “snapped”.

This rampant political correctness and willful blindness too facts is not just coming from the loony left like the Huffington Post which initially denied the killer was a Muslim or The Nation which denounced any mention of his religion or ethnicity as “Homophobia”, but from mainstream media and public officials who are responsible for the nation's safety.

Days after the massacre the N.Y. Times and the Washington Post still insisted the killers “ motives were unclear”. Even when it was known that the killer had praised suicide bombers, declared himself a Palestinian, sought to proselytize his patients, and carefully prepared for his atrocity- even giving away his possession- a Denver Post heading read “Clues Elusive in Killing”, and not a single public official from President Obama on down uttered the word “terrorist” or traitor or made the obvious connection to jihadist fanaticism- the preferred terms offered being “shooter” and “act of violence”.

In keeping with the summons and prediction of Obama bin Laden a Muslim fanatic perpetrated the worst act of domestic terrorism since 9/11 but our political leaders abetted by a craven media don't want you to know it, say it or even think it, and if you do “jump to conclusions”-however obvious- you will be called ignorant and bigoted.

If the next home grown jihadist gets hold of a chemical, biological, or nuclear weapon, and kills thousands, will the reaction or story line be any different? How many Americans must die before our people in their righteous anger decide its time for a new story line and new leaders to honestly pursue it.

William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, U.S.A. Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun , Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post.

The decline of Western civilization

The West has been warned with increasing frequency, most recently by Netherlands MP Geert Wilders, that radical Islam is making such great strides that Europe will become "Eurabia" in a few decades and that the United States is not far behind. In a speech he gave at Columbia University on October 21, Wilders spoke alarmingly of numerous incidents and ominous trends as evidence that a dynamic Islam is growing at the expense of what used to be called the Christian West.

Wilders himself has been caught in the middle of this rise and fall. For his outspoken opposition to radical Islam, he was even barred from the United Kingdom until the British courts intervened.

Because the "cultural sensitivities" are so great on this issue, it has become virtually a crime to speak frankly and truthfully about what is going on. Here is a sampler that Wilder provides, taken from the mass media reports over the last several years:

The Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard made a Muhammad-cartoon and all of a sudden we were in the middle of the so called 'Danish cartoon crisis'. The Italian author Oriana Fallaci had to live in fear of extradition to Switzerland because of her book 'The Rage and the Pride'. An Austrian politician, Susanne Winter, was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence because she spoke bluntly about the prophet Muhammad. The Dutch cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot was arrested by 10 policemen because of his drawings. And the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered in the streets of Amsterdam by a radical Muslim.

This discouraging trend can only be explained by the dynamics of radical Islam as contrasted with the decline of European Christendom. This, in turn, points to the likelihood that religious conviction, thought to be some to be irrelevant in the "post-modern" world, is decisive. Islam, after several centuries of decline, has been reshaped into a messianic force. There is nothing comparable to this among Christians.

As ominous as the constant threat of violence may be, the long term trends in Europe may be more worrisome. For decades, Europeans have permitted large-scale immigration of Africans and Asians to provide cheap labor. Unlike the United States, European nations do not encourage assimilation or movement toward citizenship. As long as Americans pledge loyalty to the principles and institutions of our country, anyone can potentially become a citizen. Not so in Europe.

As a result, millions of largely Muslim inhabitants have no compelling reason to adopt the customs of their host countries. Indeed, as their numbers increase, it is their customs and their laws that take root. Those periodic riots in Paris among unemployed Algerians or Moroccans stem from their permanent outsider status. Increasingly there is pressure to allow Muslims to govern themselves by Sharia law, a repressive code that is the rule in the despotic Muslim nations today.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has even suggested that the United Kingdom acquiesce in the establishment of Sharia there, indicating that preemptive surrender is the proper response.

Europeans generally have acted as if the Christian religion which gave their continent its distinctive identity for centuries can be abandoned without consequences.

In Europe there are many massive–and empty–Christian cathedrals. Meanwhile, Muslims are increasing their numbers through birth rates far in excess of the Europeans’, which have fallen below the replacement level of 2.1 per family.

Another way of putting this is that one cannot oppose something with nothing. If the Europeans altogether abandon the faith that inspired millions of people before them, they can be sure that Muslims will not. Some analysts have predicted that the UK, France and Germany will lead the way into a Muslim future by 2050. Major cities are already dominated by Muslims.

The American birthrate among citizens has fallen below 2.1 as well, with the vast influx of illegal aliens from south of our borders keeping that figure up for all inhabitants. The percentages of Muslims are still far below Europe but the official deference to their sensibilities is strong.

The evidence is overwhelming that as this trend continues in Europe, the change from Christianity to Islam will not be peaceful but increasingly violent. There will be increasing persecution of non-Muslims wherever Muslims are sufficiently numerous to impose their will. The Western world’s half-hearted response is not working. One can pray that a powerful spirit returns to Western civilization, but it will not come as long as it holds that what men believe about God makes no difference.