It isn’t always fun being a conservative activist. There are some days I want to throw in the towel and find an easier job – like selling flannel shirts at Indigo Girls concerts or booking campus speeches for Noam Chomsky. Just a few weeks ago, I had one of those days.
It all started when I took a long road trip to try and resolve a First Amendment issue with a university attorney. That was a big mistake. I not only failed to resolve the issue but had to sit and endure personal insults from someone bent on defending the indefensible, simply because he knows the burden of losing the case will be shouldered by the taxpayers. University officials are like that. They do stupid things because they are shielded from the consequences of their stupidity.
To make matters worse, I started itching unbearably during my “discussion” with the statist employee – Oops! I meant the “state” employee. I wasn’t sure what that was all about until I got home and changed clothes – only to discover I was covered with rashes. I had gotten into poison ivy again. Just another reason I should have joined the Boy Scouts instead of picking up that third sport in grammar school.
So, instead of going to bed at a decent hour, I was headed to the Medac to beg for a steroid shot. Steroids have never made me huge. In my experience, they’ve only made me into an insomniac. I knew it was going to be a sleepless, itchy night. I was completely miserable and dejected about the future of our constitutional republic, too. That’s a pretty bad combination. So I decided to take some advice I had given my readers a few years before. Living in accordance with your own teachings is a good way to avoid being called a hypocrite by liberals who can’t be hypocrites because they don’t believe in anything.
The advice I followed was simply to make a list of things for which I should be grateful. Actually, my advice required making a list of 26 things for which I should be grateful – one for each letter of the alphabet. I got started on “A” because that’s the first letter in the alphabet. I only know that because I went to public school in Texas. My list looked something like this:
A: I thank God I was born in America where I have the right to criticize public officials who can only insult me because they can’t send me to summer camp in Siberia during the middle of the winter.
B: I thank God for Glenn Beck who flew me to New York City to let me criticize hippies who broadcast anti-corporate musings on their I-pads. Oops, sorry, they had I-pad 2s. That’s the cool thing about America, though. Stupid people also have a right to speak. And that gives the smart and humble people something to talk about on Glenn Beck TV.
C: Back in the 1990s, Coral Ridge Ministries used to broadcast anti-ACLU sermons by Dr. James Kennedy. When I was an atheist, I used to watch Dr. Kennedy on TV – swearing and shouting at the TV screen every Sunday morning. Dr. Kennedy later helped found the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). After I converted to the right side, literally and figuratively speaking, my employer tried to strip my weekly opinion column of First Amendment protection. I appealed and won a unanimous decision before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. I was represented by none other than the ADF – co-founded by the pastor I used to curse on Sunday mornings. What a blessing to be reconciled with the Truth. I was also blessed when Dr. Kennedy’s former ministry flew a film crew up from Florida to interview me on the topic of anti-Christian bias in higher education. I understand the phenomenon well. I used to be Saul for it. Now, I find it a Pauling.
D: David French is a good friend and a great First Amendment attorney. That victory in front of the 4th Circuit never could have happened without him. David Noble, president of Summit Ministries, is another great David who slays Goliaths. He changed my life when he asked me to join the Summit faculty in 2008. Of course, there’s also my Dad. He gave me my passion for refusing to accept non-sense and refusing to tolerate foolishness. Plus, he gave me all my wild hand gestures that help distract the audience whenever I lose my train of thought in a speech. What was I just saying?
S: I’ve found that when you get to the Wheel of Fortune part of the alphabet, counting your blessings gets pretty easy. I’ll take an “S”, please. And I’ll take time to thank God for my American Vintage 1962 Fender Stratocaster. Enough said.
T: I am also thankful for my American Vintage 1952 Fender Telecaster. Enough said. I really mean it this time. The people over at Gibson Guitars might take exception.
Z: I almost had to thank God for ZZ Top but I was fast asleep with pen and paper in hand before I finished my exercise in gratitude. It was fitting that the exercise really did end with ZZs – badly needed sleep for which I could be grateful.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Gratitude and self-pity make for bad neighbors. When they move into your neighborhood they are never content with their initial property lines. They both have a tendency to grow like confederate jasmine. They consume everything in sight. They cannot coexist so we have to choose between one and the other.
Every now and then we must also catch ourselves and make sure we recognize our blessings instead of mistakenly labeling them as curses. No man can win a culture war all by himself. But that is actually good news. It also reminds us that no man is strong enough to subvert God’s will for another man’s life. That includes your own.
Our great constitutional experiment may occasionally be plagued by setbacks. But freedom is a process, not a result. It wouldn’t be worth defending without the prospect of losing. Just being a part of the fight is among life’s greatest blessings.