Monday, June 18, 2018

Why Delete a Link ?


For the first time ever, I've deleted a link on my home-page to a blog I used to read and recommend. 

That won't make the national news.  It's probably not a big deal to anyone but me.  But it is a big deal to me.  It feels like I'm personally rejecting someone I've considered a friend and a brother in Christ, and saying his thoughts are of no value: more than worthless, harmful.  And that's exactly what it is.

I'd followed this person's blog for some years.  His meditations were often more "pious," than I cared for, but sometimes spot-on in glorifying God, and reflecting a believer's experience of God.  "Sometimes" on those scores is probably the highest any Christian blog can achieve.

But over the past couple of years, his views of world and national events and personages had become increasingly strident and out-of-touch with reality.  In a recent interchange, for example, he asserted that the Nazis' destabilization of German society on their path to power was like America today, where "...people’s fanaticism for the previous president has caused the kind of riots we see at College campuses and so on where any speaker, not given to a certain ideology, is shut down either by intimidation or by violence."

I didn't bother to call him on that.  Strident unreality is enough of the "Evangelical" profile that I've learned to try to look past it to see if there's actually something of Christ's Spirit in "Evangelicals" we deal with.  But his claim that violent pro-Obama riots are rampant, and created to bring about a "leftist" dictatorship, doesn't seem to match up with any reality this side of Breitbart News or World Net Daily's headlines.

Such "conspiracy-thinking" is another prominent part of the "Evangelical" profile (a "profile," I'd hasten to add, Evangelicals created for themselves to distinguish themselves from their "enemies," including Christian believers who don't share their politics).  But it's a part of the "Evangelical" profile I find it impossible to "look past."

It's a breaking-point, for me, when people choose to assert a "reality" contrary to the one God created and sustains, the reality that sane people believe in and live in.  But unreality too seems to be something "Evangelicals' " have chosen for themselves.

My preference is always to try to reason folks back to reality when they go off on a self-destructive tangent.  That's how I understand Galatians 6:1's teaching on "restoring" a brother.  But to reason together, people have to share some basic point of agreement.  There has to be some shared belief that a transpersonal "good" exists, for example; and that seeking that "good" benefits an individual, but also everyone else.

When Jesus teaches how to restore a wayward brother, He emphasizes at each step that a brother will be restored "IF he listens to you..." (Matthew 18:15; my emphasis).  The unfortunate fact of people who choose a "personal reality" is that they put themselves in a mindset where they (sometimes literally) cannot hear any reasoning unless it's predicated on the "alternative facts" of their counter-reality.

Trying to reason people out of their delusions is almost always fruitless, and only makes them mad.  Affirming reality to a person vested in a counter-reality is only ever perceived as an attack.  A personal attack, most of all, on the "god" who created and sustains the "personal reality" they choose to inhabit.

So it was in this case.  And as in the case of many "Evangelicals," the breaking-point was political: a spiritual battlefield on which satan has been particularly active, and successful in capturing American Christians.  Pointing out that the current president manifests the character that Jesus said shows satan's paternity (John 8:44, Matthew 5:21-22) infuriates his "Christian" followers.

That was when the blogger responded with his claim of rioting pro-Obama fanatics (presumably in the intention of showing that what he perceives as "my side" is just as evil as the pro-Trump fanatics he seems to side with), and an angry dismissal of speculating about who anti-Christ is.

The latter I responded to, since I'd never said the current president is the anti-Christ, and I hate that kind of misleading speculation.  I pointed that out, with some scriptural reasons why I don't, at present, consider him the anti-Christ.  Pointed out too that I John 2:18 says there are "many antichrists," and that any human being who manifests satan's character must be seen as one of that "many"...which is not to identify him as THE Anti-Christ.  (A summary of my present thinking about Anti-Christ was posted here a couple days ago.)

I presume that the blogger read my latter responses, though he didn't post them.  Since they were calm and straightforward, and reasoned from scripture, I presume he didn't post my comments because he didn't like what I said.  I run into people who don't like what I say often enough not to get upset about it: I think we all have to.

But it does seem that when you maintain a public blog, you open yourself to hearing what other people think (indeed, hearing other peoples' thoughts is one of the great benefits of blogging); and you have to expect some people will disagree with you.  It seems basically dishonest to censor civil responses solely because you disagree with them: especially, on a Christian blog, civil responses based on scripture.

I re-read the interchange, to make sure all my responses had been civil.  I have strong scriptural reasons for insisting that Christians should love Truth...since that's Who Jesus says He IS (John 14:6)...and that Christians must recognize reality, since nothing exists except what was created by God's word (logos, Logos: (John 1:1-3).  I'm totally convinced of those two facts, and adamant about them.  I sometimes speak more adamantly than gently (as Galatians 6:1 commands us in restoring a brother), when I'm affirming those facts.

But nothing I'd said was more vituperative than "Surely you can see that...:" which is a gentle reminder to people that they can avail themselves of the Spirit's discernment, even when their perceptions are being manipulated by propagandists.  Certainly in "urging" the blogger " take an honest look at today’s socio-political reality" I implied he's been dishonest in that regard... but without angry accusation.  And the warning I gave, against breathing in "the spirit of the age," was deliberately phrased impersonally, in hopes of circumventing his tendency to regard criticism of his "personal reality" as personal attack: "All who do so are in very great spiritual danger."

I'm satisfied I gave the blogger no reason to cut off my comments except that he didn't like what I said.

The conclusion these reflections have led me to, about the man and his blog, make me feel I can't in good conscience recommend his blog here.  I know God sees the heart, so it may be, and I hope it is, that He sees there more love of Truth than is manifest in the blogger's words and ways.

But there is such a thing as condemning ourselves by what we approve (Romans 14:22; a scripture I recommend to those who "support" the current president).  I can no longer approve anything of that blog and its writer, when they currently manifest the spirit they do.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

I Hate to Say So, But . . .


Musing on what constitutes political popularity makes me question the basic premise of democracy.  Question even more than I already do from knowing that demos +kratia, "the people rule" is a straight-on denial that God rules.  The latter is the totality of Jesus' teaching, "The Kingdom of God."

And when "the people rule," they clearly make their decisions and choices according to their human motives.  Human beings being what they are, we primarily "rule" by self-interest.  Ideally, American human beings are educated, both by secular schools and by their churches, to think beyond self-interest; to think of themselves as a corporate body, with mutual interests that they each have an individual responsibility to safeguard and promote.  Ideally, Americans are taught to make their local and national decisions according to the "common good."

My mother, not particularly a "thinker," considered such talk "kind of communistic."  Now that communism is pretty much a dead-letter, some people vehemently attack the ideal of a "common good" as "socialism." But it was the intent of the "founding fathers" that Americans and our government "promote the General Welfare" by common effort, putting aside some of our natural self-interest.  That is the essence of our centuries-old national motto, E Pluribus Unum.  I'm thankful that I was raised and educated in a time when unity and mutuality, both under fierce attack today from deeply evil politicians, were central to Americans' consciousness of being Americans...together.

(Lest someone object that "In God We Trust" was made America's official national motto in the 1950s...I know that.  I also know that the Democratic Congressman who wrote that legislation during the Cold War promoted it as showing America's undying opposition to "godless" communism.  That "official national motto" was intended as political self-congratulation: not really a statement of religious devotion.

Pretending America's "official national motto" shows America is a "Christian nation" is entirely political spin, since that was not its intent.  More to the spiritual point, boasting of one's godliness when one's operative reality is the opposite is simply hypocrisy.)

Thankfully, many Americans still have some of that "corporate" consciousness governing their self-interest.  Many are still aware that choices which strengthen and benefit the nation are the right choices for America.  Greater than that temporal national interest, some Christians still realize that their primary personal responsibility, and loyalty, is to always do right regards The Kingdom of God: which is itself the very definition of right-eousness.

It is hard to believe...and shows the great flaw of the human governing principle of demos kratia...that America's current president is a man whose own governing principle is naked self-interest.  "Naked," because he really doesn't try to hide it...only "spin" it.  He doesn't have to hide it, as long as his followers continue to believe his "spin."

Some of his followers are completely satisfied to accept his self-interest as the "higher purpose" by which they make their choices for America.  I don't know what to call their operative mindset except "dangerous lack of commonsense."  These are the irredeemably deluded, who perfectly fulfill the idolatrous requirement of "citizens" under the Nazis' Fuhrerprinzip: that the person, word, and will of the Leader (Fuhrer) are supreme.  That is obviously the current president's own belief, and his most devoted followers pride themselves on thinking exactly as he does.

His "Evangelical" base professes to follow him for a higher "Christian" purpose, seeing him as a "godly man," who wishes to serve God's purposes.  Obviously a great deal of self-delusion is also operative for those followers.  In the few years since he began to strut upon the scene, the current president's continual lies, arrogance, hatred, corruption, and immorality have still not shaken some "Evangelicals' " self-willed belief that he is yet a "godly man," pursuing God's (and not his own very sordid) purposes.

Since my own viewpoint on things is Christian, I particularly fault "Evangelicals" for their willful self-delusion.  Fault them most of all for ignoring the basic spiritual understanding that, since Jesus identified Himself as "The Truth" (John 14:6), following a liar is emphatically not following Jesus.

But perhaps the largest component of the current president's "base" are the folks at whom he directed his trademark slogan, "Make America Great Again."  The self-professed patriots: folks whose "higher purpose" is America, and who want America to be the greatest nation in the world.

By and large, those folks' patriotism is probably honest.  "Patriotism" is quite often just empty lip-service by politicians, or a marketing ploy of retailers, or a tool for social demagogues to short-circuit their victims' ability to think.  The current president and his slogan use it all of those ways.  But I believe that most ordinary fellow citizens...probably even many who are deceived to follow the current president...actually, in some sense, honestly love our country.  By the definition of "love," these are folks who want the best for America.

Where those "patriot" followers of the current president are deceived, however, is first that America's "greatness" is a faulty "higher purpose."  It's certainly higher than any one person's self-glorification...the foolish mistake of his Fuhrerprinzip followers.  But the national self-interest of any earthly nation is, and always will be, infinitely inferior to the Kingdom of God.

The patriots also go astray in their concept of "greatness," and how it is attained.  Almost always, by "a great nation" they mean one which possesses dominant power, and the highest "standard of living," in the world.  Looked at rightly (that is, from the Kingdom-of-God view), that kind of greatness only comes by God's gift...never by man's political machinations.

The patriots' ultimate self-deception is in believing the current president is making America "great" in any sense, even in their own wrong understanding of what "greatness" is.  A nation has power among other nations only when they respect its word and trust its intentions.  Having great military power...even nuclear weapons...only makes a nation feared, as we've seen with North Korea.

Making his own reckless inconsistency, lies, and selfishness the face of America to the world, the current president has pretty completely destroyed all the credibility and respect all previous presidents worked to give America.  Our former friends despise America: treating friends as enemies has that result.  At the same time, our president fawns over nations who wish America harm: and who undoubtedly rejoice to see the harm he does to America's world-reputation and internal stability.

No patriot could believe the current president's actions "make America great again," except with ample doses of self-delusion.

All the current president's followers indulge in massive self-delusion.  And for many, their self-delusion has proved immune to correction by reality.  It is the terminal stage of self-delusion, when one's own imaginary world becomes one's only reality.

I hate to say so, but I'll be interested to see if all those self-deceptions will remain immune to reality in the near future.  The current president has put America in trade-wars with the other nations of this continent, with the European Union, and with China.  Despite his trademark lying foolishness that " wars are good, and easy to win," there are bound to be repercussions from his actions, and it's doubtful those repercussions will be "good."  They may be very bad, in very many ways, for all of America's people.

If so, we will get a glimpse of some of his supporter's true "higher purpose."  Those who follow the current president contrary to commonsense, contrary to Christ's teachings, or contrary to patriotism, may face a crisis of their delusional faith when the all-knowing, all-wise, and omnicompetent being they've worshipped does something that harms their finances.

I hate to say so: it sounds cynical, but I think it's true of many human beings: that you only see what a person really believes when their money is threatened.  Under stress, many people quickly revert to basic self-interest and self-preservation: and for many people, financial danger is the ultimate stress.  The reaction of the current president's followers to financial danger will very clearly show where their faith, and their hope of salvation, is vested.


Friday, June 15, 2018

anti-Christ Today: Beyond Speculation


Speculation about some world-figure being the anti-Christ is usually misguided: and indeed, intentionally misleading.  It's point is usually to "prove" that some world-figure, whose politics are contrary to those of the self-appointed "prophet'," is the person scripture calls "anti-Christ."  Satan loves nothing better than that we vigilantly watch for his approach, in a direction he's not coming.

I heard enough of such speculation from my "conservative" family to have become skeptical of it, long ago.  The first world-figure I heard them claiming was anti-Christ was John F. Kennedy.  But a few years later, they were convinced that Richard Nixon was a man who'd done nothing wrong, brought down by his enemies' lies.  That level of misdirecting political "discernment" remains characteristic of "conservatives" and their Christian "prophets."

I'm myself convinced that anti-Christ is pre-eminently a spiritual figure, and will only be recognized by spiritual discernment...and only at the time God is pleased to reveal him to the faithfully spiritually-discerning.  "Discerning" him by one's politics has to be the greatest self-delusion there could be: and inevitably misleading to all who accept it..

But there's substance and reason for talking about the Anti-Christ: the Bible clearly tells us definite facts about him.  That much is beyond speculation.  Revelation13 and 17, for example, say satan will give him "authority," and that he will direct the "kings of the earth" in battle.  It's therefore clear that the Anti-Christ will be a person of world-stature and fame, with worldly political power and influence.

It's misguided to interpret him, and end-time events, by politics, as most speculation about the Anti-Christ does.  It's entirely wise, however, and obedience to Jesus' command to "the crowds" in Luke 12:54-56, to analyze "the times"...including political events and the discernment the Spirit gives us.

In that discernment we probably should understand that the definitive spiritual fact about the Anti-Christ is that he will be the embodiment of satan's spirit, as Jesus was of His Father's Spirit.  And God has attested to us some truths about the spirit of satan.

Pride may be satan's greatest characteristic.  The "taunt against the King of Babylon" in Isaiah 14 is generally understood to be addressed to satan.  It quotes him as saying "‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God...I will make myself like the Most High" (vv. 13-14).  If this scripture attests that willful self-pride was satan's own "original sin:" we should probably expect it will be a prominent characteristic of his "son," the Anti-Christ.

Similarly, the two characteristics Jesus singles out as showing that spiritual paternity in those He's confronting in John 8:31-47 are "lies" and "murder."  As I've mentioned before, I think we have to understand Jesus' mention of "murder" here by His definition of murder in Matthew 5:21-22: hateful contempt for others.  (It's worth noting that He finds these spiritual characteristics of satan in people "who had believed him," v. 31.  We should therefore probably consider it possible the same could happen in our time.)

Does honest spiritual discernment call to mind any current world-figures whose manifest character is pre-eminently what scripture says is satan's character: willful pride, lies, and angry contempt for others ?  I'm sure there's always been some degree of pride, lies and violent hatred in the character of most world-leaders...and probably in almost all human beings.  But those are manifestly the character of the current American president to a degree never seen before

The politically-minded can take the above comments as scripture-twisting for political purposes.  The politically-minded, of course, inevitably perceive all things as political.  But if what I've said above is straightforward affirmation of what scripture says, as is my intention, I'd hope readers will meditate on what scripture says.  The spirit of satan is the spirit of anti-Christ.

Scripture says more.

John wrote that "...just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour" (I John 2:18).  If it was "the last hour" in John's time, our time, 2000 years later, is all the more "the last hour."  If the appearance of "many antichrists" was the notable spiritual event of John's time, we should expect there will be all the more "antichrists" in our time.  As Jesus is the Elder Brother among God's many children, so is Anti-Christ among satan's many children.

So I am not here identifying the current president as the Anti-Christ.  Clearly he manifests satan's spirit, and satan's spirit is the spirit of the Anti-Christ.  But satan's spirit is manifestly the spirit of all the "many antichrists" active in the world.  And there are scriptural reasons to believe the current president is not THE Anti-Christ.

If Jesus' words about "false Christs" and "false prophets" apply to the Anti-Christ...and surely they do, since he is THE epitome of would seem the Anti-Christ will be a world-leader "slick" enough " mislead, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24).  It's doubtful anyone who looks at the current president without political blinders can find him credible (plausibly "slick") in the least.  He has thus far been notably unsuccessful in misleading many Americans, and even less so world-citizens.

The caveat is that spiritual deception can trump natural commonsense.  We've seen that happen with the current president's followers, including many Christians.  With satan's maximum power of deception behind him, perhaps the Anti-Christ will not need even a fig-leaf of credibility to cover his naked lies.

But the greatest scriptural objection to identifying the current president as the Anti-Christ is that, to this point in time, he has not made war on the saints, as scripture tells us the Anti-Christ will (Daniel 7:21 and Revelation 13:7).  In part that's been a political calculation: many Christians are part of the current president's political "base;" hardcore followers whom he doesn't want to alienate.  It makes sense that neither he, nor the Anti-Christ, would attack those who willingly idolize, agree with, and follow him.

But this is a time which consequently demands our maximum Spiritual discernment, day by day, as events rapidly unfold.  I'm particularly watching the current president's response now that some Christians are speaking out against his policies (or rather whims) which contradict Jesus' teachings.  This week some Christian leaders have made fairly strong statements on that basis against his policy of separating the children of asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants from their families.  I don't find it at all hard to believe that if his wishes were thwarted a time or two by people speaking up for Jesus' teachings, the current president could easily become a violently implacable enemy of anyone who spoke up for Jesus' teachings.

We've all seen that's how the current president "wars" on anyone he considers an "enemy:" Democrats, James Comey, Hilary, John McCain and other members of his own party who disagree with him, "the lying media," Rosie O'Donnell, Obama...the list is endless.  If he came to regard those who spoke up for Jesus' teachings as "enemies," it's not at all hard to believe he would use every means at his disposal to destroy those saints: though undoubtedly Christians who remained part of his political "base" would be safe from his wrath.

I titled this post as being "beyond speculation," but obviously the last paragraphs are speculative; near-future events in the realm of possibility, but not yet reality.  That said, I'd urge readers to be rigorously spiritually-discerning of the current president in all his future pronouncements and deeds, especially toward those who publicly advocate Jesus' teachings.


Monday, June 04, 2018

Letter to a Christian Friend


We've been friends for a long time, and we know each other very well.  I know you're not a perfect person, and you know I'm not.  But I know you're a good person.

You're a truthful person.  You look at things honestly, and you don't pretend to be anything but who you are.  You're authentic.

There's no meanness in you.  You try to treat people right, even people you don't know, just because you believe that's the right way to treat people.

I know those are your standards because you believe Jesus' teachings, and you want to live by them.  None of us totally live up to Jesus' standard; but you and your family are some of the most upright people I know.  Your live what you believe.

So I can't understand why you believe the politics and politicians you do.  Why do you excuse their lies, and repeat their lies, and want your friends to believe their lies ?  Do liars measure up to the standard of honesty you believe in ?

You believe in treating people right.  You don't believe it's right to treat people with hateful contempt.  Why do you follow politicians who do ?

When did Jesus teach that we should follow liars and evil-doers ?  Why do you believe people who say their politics are "Christian," when their deeds show it's a lie ?

If you still believe that Jesus taught us to be truthful and merciful, please measure your politicians and their beliefs and their deeds by Jesus' teachings.

Take this as a word from a friend.  Following unrighteous teachings and people will corrupt your righteousness.  If your politics teaches you to believe liars and trust deceivers, your politics are evil.

Please rethink your politics, and turn back from it.

"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith: examine yourselves !  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test."  --  II Corinthians 13:5


Monday, May 28, 2018

Larry Vernal Claspill


(I wrote these remembrances of Larry and Roy Dean a few months ago, on the 50th anniversary of the Tet offensive in which they were both killed.  I've moved my pages about them to go with my long-pondered summary of Vietnam's meaning for our generation, and for America.

There was some detailed information on the deaths of Roy Dean and Larry, which I was glad to gather and post, to make it accessible to others who knew them.  Three other classmates who died in Vietnam; Johnie Ray Barber, Larry Thomas Moulder, and Harve Edward Brown [who quit school and enlisted before our graduation]; have memorial pages online, but I couldn't find any more detailed information about their deaths.)

Our classmate Larry Claspill was killed by "multiple fragmentation wounds" on 5 February 1968, in Kon Turn Province in the Central Highlands, about 150 miles south of Khe Sahn.

We were casual friends, and thrown together in many classes.  I used to have a (staged) photo the school-newspaper photographer took when Larry and I were lunchroom monitors together, of he and I and two others with broom and dustpan, sweeping up something from the floor in the hall outside the lunchroom.            

According to his obituary, Larry had been a Post Office letter-carrier after high school, and was drafted in early 1967.  He trained at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, as an infantryman, with advanced infantry training at Fort Polk, Louisiana.  He was in Company C 1/22 Infantry, of the 4th Infantry, and arrived in Vietnam on 16 August 1967.

There are two remembrances by men who were with Larry the day he died, one including a photo, at the website Together We Served

"Larry was with Co C. 3rd platoon on Feb 5, 1968 when a squad was attacked by the NVA using a B-40 rocket. the rest of the platoon moved up to provide assistance. Shortly thereafter we were surrounded and pinned down by a machine gun to our front. Larry move up to help establish a perimeter when he received wounds to the upper body. 1 1/2hours a tank took out the machine gun and relieved the platoon. we lost 3 or 4 good men that day.Larry was a great friend and a fine soldier. His sacrifice will always be remembered and appreciated. His memory will always be an example to me of one who was ready to be the 1st to serve his fellow men.See attached photo. Doc Shyab."

"Larry and I stood side by side that dreadful day, the burst of the machine gun came without notice I stood wounded and Larry gave up his life. I don't know why God took some and left others. I can only hope that my life has been good enough to make up for the life his family had to live without from that day forward. He was a good person and a courageous soldier.
Posted by: Michael Stoke"

That website also includes a note left at The Vietnam Wall in Washington:

"On 05 Feb 1968 C Company, 1/22nd Infantry, lost eight men in a firefight in Kontum Province:
    • 2LT Harold A. Kram, St Louis, MO
    • SSG Rembert Crawford, High Point, NC
    • SP4 Larry V. Claspill, Kansas City, MO
    • SP4 Lawrence G. Grassi, Bradford, PA
    • PFC Gary L. Campen, Washougal, WA
    • PFC Timothy J. Dineen, Vallejo, CA
    • PFC Thomas A. Marchut, Sayreville, NJ
    • PFC James E. Stover, Detroit, MI"

Larry was awarded the Silver Star posthumously.  His citation says 

"Specialist Fourth Class Claspiill distinguished himself while serving as a Radio-Telephone Operator with Company C, 1st Battalion, 22d Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. On 5 February 1968, Specialist Claspill's platoon was on a search and destroy mission a few miles north of Kontum, when the element was suddenly taken under heavy fire by a regimental-size force of North Vietnamese Regulars. Although enemy fire was coming from three sides, Specialist Claspill immediately took charge of his section and quickly set up a perimeter while simultaneously directing fire at the enemy. Through his quick actions the enemy was pushed back. Although completely unprotected from the enemy fire, he continued to direct fire at the enemy. Realizing that a few wounded personnel were lying outside of the perimeter, Specialist Claspill organized a five man team and deployed to recover the wounded. Although the enemy fire increased in intensity, he courageously moved out into the open, drawing the hostile fire while the wounded were withdrawn to safety. It was during this gallant act that Specialist Claspill was mortally wounded by enemy fire."


Roy Dean McDaniel


Roy Dean lived about 7 blocks north on the street where I grew up.  He joined the Marines the last day of June 1966, the month we graduated from East High School in Kansas City, Missouri.  He was trained as a "scout-sniper."  He went to Vietnam in October 1967 in Company A, 1st Battalion of the 9th Marines.

“On 23 Jan, the 45 men of First Platoon, A/l/9, under the command of 2/Lt ROACH, together with 20 men of the l/9 Weapons Platoon under the command of 2/Lt LOVELY established an OP position at XD 823 4l6, called 'Hill 64.' At 0445H, NVA forces suddenly unleashed the fury of a mortar attack on the outpost and launched a 3-prong assault on it. By 05l3H, NVA were inside the wire...

"CPL McDANIEL asked for my grenade pouch. As I was handing the pouch to him another grenade landed between us again. This one must of been a frag because it knocked the hell out of me and the CPL. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. CPL McDANIEL’s face seemed to lift off, leaving a bloody mess, and then he fell backwards into the trench.”

--This and other remembrances of the 45 men killed February 1968 at Khe Sahn are online at the website Khe Sahn Veterans, from information compiled by Chaplain Ray W. Stubbe in his book Battalion of Kings.

"...three companies of the NVA 101D Regiment moved into jump-off positions to attack Alpha-1, an outpost just outside the Combat Base held by 66 men of Company A, 1st Platoon, 1/9 Marines. At 04:15 on 8 February under cover of fog and a mortar barrage, the North Vietnamese penetrated the perimeter, overrunning most of the position and pushing the remaining 30 defenders into the southwestern portion of the defenses. For some unknown reason, the NVA troops did not press their advantage and eliminate the pocket instead throwing a steady stream of grenades at the Marines. At 07:40 a relief force from Company A, 2nd Platoon set out from the main base and attacked through the North Vietnamese, pushing them into supporting tank and artillery fire. By 11:00 the battle was over, Company A had lost 24 dead and 27 wounded, while 150 North Vietnamese bodies were found around the position which was then abandoned."

One source says Roy Dean was killed at "Khe Sanh Near the Rock Quarry." His unit had first been stationed near Hill 689, and the map shows a quarry between there and the main Khe Sahn base.

The NVA wanted accress to Route 9, which ran east from the north-south Ho Chi Minh trail just across the Laotian border.  Their Tet offensive was in preparation, and they planned to use Route 9 to transport troops to the coast, and south on connecting highways.  The Marine base at Khe Sahn, overlooking the Demilitarized Zone and Route 9, blocked the way.

The NVA easily captured Khe Sahn village on 22 January 1968, cutting off the US Special Forces and ARVN base at Lang Vei.  On 23 January they captured Ban Houei Sane, a 700-man Royal Laotian Army post about a mile west across the border from Lang Vei.  The NVA threw 2000 men and (their first use of) armor against Ban Houei Sane, overwhelming its garrison in hours.

Lang Vei was effectively surrounded, and the major U.S. base at Khe Sahn under siege, when the NVA launched their Tet offensive on 30 January.  Lang Vei was overrun on the night of 6-7 February 1968. Roy Dean was killed February 8th.

President Johnson was worried that Khe Sahn would be "another Dien Bien Phu," (the besieged post whose capture marked the defeat of the French in Vietnam), and ordered Khe Sahn held at all costs.  The base was the western anchor of the American defence-line that paralleled the Demilitarized Zone, and directly faced North Vietnam's border.  General Westmoreland even briefly considered using tactical nuclear weapons against the NVA besieging Khe Sahn.  He believed the rest of his life that the Tet offensive was a diversionary maneuver, and Khe Sahn the real NVA target.

An Army operation broke the siege of Khe Sahn in April, but the decision was made to evacuate the post in June.  The NVA claimed victory.  There was continued fighting in the area afterwards, but the base was not occupied again until January 1971, when it was used as an American support-base for ARVN troops who unsuccessfully attacked west down Route 9 into Laos.  Khe Sahn base was again abandoned in April 1971.


Thinking Vietnam


To slightly paraphrase William Faulkner, "The past isn't dead. It's not even past yet.”

The Vietnam war is not past.  It's part of the life-story of every American of my generation.  But it's also part of America's story, and is not past for anyone who is part of America's story.  Somebody once said that "things are the way they are now because they got that way."  Vietnam is part of how America got the way it is now, and part of how America will be in all the future.

Ken Burns' Vietnam documentary on P.B.S. last Fall did a masterful job of presenting the many kinds of people and stories that were part of the war.  But he left it for us to think about what the war meant, and continues to mean: the past isn't dead, or even past yet.  It continues having meaning for us, and historical perspective gives it new meaning.

But like everything in life, we get the past wrong when we're not honest about it: especially, honest about our part in it.  There was recently a striking example of getting it right and getting it wrong, when a couple well-known newspaper columnists both happened to write about Americans' lack of faith in government.  Both looked at our history to explain how things got that way.

Leonard Pitts highlighted Vietnam as the event that caused many Americans to begin doubting what our government told us, and what our government did.  The events of Watergate, taking place as the war was winding down, convinced many more that our government could not be trusted.  (And Pitts didn't say...but I will...that Ronald Reagan's Inaugural proclamation that "Government is the PROBLEM" both captured and gave Presidential imprimatur to Americans' lack of faith in government following Vietnam and Watergate.)

But Vietnam (and Watergate) was prominent by its absence from the musings of hard-line conservative George Will.  Will argued instead that Americans lost faith in their government because New Deal "Liberalism" failed.

Since he was of military-service age himself during the Vietnam war, it's impossible to believe Will was unaware of how Vietnam effected people at the time, especially those who served in the war, and those who protested it.  (Will himself did neither).  But Will serves as an exemplar of how we get the past, and the present, wrong.  Reading our preconceived meaning into the past, as Will does his conservative ideology, falsifies history...and current reality.

Will is not alone in getting Vietnam wrong.  Anyone who believes America "won" in Vietnam gets it wrong.  If America's purpose was to keep South Vietnam from falling under communist rule, we failed.  If North Vietnam's purpose was to re-unite their country under communist rule, they succeeded.  Arguing otherwise is delusional.

But there probably aren't many who'd argue America "won" in Vietnam.  The question for most Americans is why we lost the war.  And like the war itself, that retrospective question of meaning requires honesty.

I had to admire Robert McNamara.  Secretary of Defense during the first part of the war, he was later able to look at the reasoning by which he and the others who directed the war got into it, and stayed in it.  Even in retrospect it's rare that anyone, especially those who've been leaders during disastrous events, admit they were wrong: but McNamara had that courage.

McNamara said (in his 1995 memoirs, in the movie "The Fog of War," and in numerous interviews) that America's planners and leaders chose to enter the war, and made bad decisions in its conduct, because they believed "the domino theory."  America's leaders were convinced that if South Vietnam fell to the communists, Communism would infect the bordering countries, and then the countries bordering them. Their theory was that the nations of the world would thus fall to Communism sequentially, like dominos, until America was surrounded and engulfed by world-wide Communism.  McNamara had the integrity and courage to look back and say, "we were wrong."

America's first leaders in the war gave the war false meaning, with disastrous consequences.  And there are still false "meanings" being read into the war, retrospectively; such as Will's ideological view that it had nothing to do with Americans' losing faith in their government.

But the false retrospective "meaning" of Vietnam I hear most often is that "the media," and anti-war protestors, turned Americans against the war, and made America and its soldiers lose the will to win...causing America to lose the war.

It was originally Richard Nixon's "meaning," after he took over the war's conduct.  Like Lyndon Johnson, Nixon feared being "the first President to lose a war."  Johnson's solution had been to escalate the war, in the belief that defeat could be staved off that way.  Nixon tried escalation too: but as it became increasingly clear victory was not possible, Nixon found it politically expedient to deflect failure onto someone else.  Not surprisingly, he blamed those he considered his "enemies," the media and anti-war protestors.

It was a self-serving political ploy, then and now.  Nixon lied self-servingly in his ascription of defeat, which can surprise no one.  And with everything else we know of Nixon's character, it's hard to understand why any honest person would continue to believe the "meaning" he gave the war. 

The media simply did their job.  They told us and showed us what was happening: on battlefields, and, as the Pentagon Papers came out, in American government councils.  People saw that what was happening was horrible...knowingly purposeless destruction and death, and criminal political manipulation of our people and government.   People rightly demanded an end to the horror, for the good of our people and country.

Complaints that "the media" lost the war by not falsifying it as glorious and good was Nixon's ploy to disguise political self-interest as "patriotism."  No one, those directing the war most of all, believed we were winning, or could win, the war.  No one believed that it was in the best interests of America and its soldiers to spend more of their blood in Vietnam.  Politicians who pretended to believe they could lead America to victory in Vietnam, but were being undermined by the media and anti-war protestors, "played" the war in the most evil way possible, for their own cynical political advantage.

But Nixon's lying "meaning" of Vietnam is still fixed in some people's minds.  I still hear it from them.  As a political ploy, it has worked well.  The people who still believe that lie are largely the same self-deluded people who were once Nixon's, and are now Trump's, "base:" as if lying to ourselves about Vietnam's meaning will "make America great again."

More disturbing is that Americans' giving a false "meaning" to defeat in Vietnam has a historical parallel in Weimar Germany.  Like America, Germany lost a war.  As in post-Vietnam America, many in post-war Germany questioned how it could have happened, for the spirit of nationalist pride (American or German) is always that our soldiers, our courage, our will, and our purpose are so superior to any other nation's that we can never be defeated.

Many Germans would not give up their nationalistic pride; but could not reconcile it with Germany's undeniable defeat.  They chose to believe the comfortable lie their politicians told them, that Germany lost the war because the nation and its soldiers were"stabbed in the back" by the machinations of enemies at home.  (And Hitler wasn't alone in telling them the Jews were that enemy.)  Many Germans chose to believe that lie, and believed that Nazism would restore Germany to greatness.

It has yet to be seen what will be the outcome of Americans believing the "stabbed-in-the-back" lie about Vietnam, that "the media" and ("liberal") anti-war protestors lost the war.  But we already see that hatred of Nixon's scapegoats is an article-of-faith for supporters of the current president; and that his deceived "base" believes his immoral and corrupt rule is the only thing that will "make America great again."

Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin spoke wisdom about war: "you don't win a war any more than you win an earthquake."  Satan is the spiritual author of all man's wars; and only satan ever wins them, gaining his purpose of destroying people physically, psychologically, and spiritually.  And on the rubble of war he builds toward further destruction: confirming the "winners" in their self-pride (satan's own sin, which is under God's heaviest judgement), and fomenting murderous self-delusion on the thwarted national pride of the defeated.

But satan never gets the final say.  God holds out repentance, for people and for the nations they are.  If we can be honest enough to admit to ourselves that we lost in Vietnam, we can be as honest with ourselves as Robert McNamara was, and admit that "we were wrong."  The only way people or nations begin to free themselves from the consequences of their wrong-doing is admitting it to God and to themselves.

We were wrong in our pride.  Wrong that scripture's judgement on pride somehow didn't (and doesn't) apply to America the same as to any other person or people that ever existed; and wrong to disbelieve God that pride goes before a fall.  Wrong to believe the politicians who told us that we can restore America's pride by blaming other people for our fall.

Continuingly wrong to want America to be proud, and wrong to believe those who tell us that restoring pride will bring God's blessing on America...and not God's judgement on America.

Nations are people, and people make mistakes.  We were mistaken in what we thought we were doing in Vietnam.  God is merciful to those who admit doing wrong, and stop doing wrong.  If we instead tell ourselves lies about Vietnam, in order to maintain our pride, we delude ourselves about the war's meaning, and about current reality.  Most significantly, we continue doing wrong.

God promises no blessing to the self-deluded, and willful wrong-doers.