All Sail, No Anchor

I read George Will only sporadically, but I did catch his Wednesday article on Ignoring History In Iraq in the Washington Post. (Note: the link requires registration and will only work for two weeks or so when it will go into the paid archives). One sentence in the article caught my attention:

A government that is all sail and no anchor might produce popular choices that lead through anarchy to civil war, or national fragmentation, or fragmentation forestalled by Bonapartism, Francoism or some other variant of authoritarianism. [emphasis added]

That phrase jumped out at me: “all sail and no anchor”. I immediately remembered Paul’s lament about his Jewish brothers in Romans 10:2 “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” Zeal without knowledge, all sail and no anchor—what an appropriate image for the danger our nation now faces.

As I watch the political process, with its attendant media frenzy, both Will’s and Paul’s images strike home, not about the danger inherent in Iraq’s fledgling political process, but the danger facing ours. Everywhere you look there is zeal. The messages scream at you, tease you, upbraid you, and if you believe the charges and counter-charges, lie to you. What appears to be missing, at least from my perspective, are the anchors, the requisite knowledgeable discourse that would bring a reasonable perspective to the whole process. Even those who are supposed to be analysts don’t really analyze, but instead apologize and propagandize for their chosen position. They all spin, spin, spin. (See my previous article on spin entitled Verbal Manipulation.) Whose fault is this? Personally, from a sociological perspective I blame the traditional media and the institutions of learning that have produced the current crop of journalists. To again use George Will’s image, they have produced a generation of journalists that approach their craft with the utmost zeal, their sails filled with the wind of purpose, but they have no anchors. Instead, they have rhetoric without the constraints of logic, slipping into propaganda without even noticing it. There is an arrogance in their pontifications reminiscent of the charge made by Isaiah, “You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’ (47:10).

How did we get to this point? Frederick Turner examines the problem in detail in Media Matters: A Devil’s Bargain, an insightful and damning article at Tech Central Station. It is a must read to understand the hurricane on the horizon and the damage it is leaving in its path. One wonders where are the wise men to guide us through this morass? Who can we appeal to rescue us from this destructive slide?

As a Christian, I hear an echo of Paul’s cry in Romans chapter 7:24 in my own lament. Paul painfully asked, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” His answer is the answer that we all need, the answer that many will reject, because it is a spiritual answer; his answer is Jesus Christ, the anchor for our sail, the knowledge to temper our zeal.

With that in mind, I call all of the Christians I know to repentance and prayer. The solution is not out there, instead we must start with our own souls, our own unbridled zeal. We must first anchor ourselves in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ and in his righteousness. We must repent. Only then can we pray the prayer that James tells us will be heard and answered, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (5:16). Effective prayer for healing, and in this case it is for the healing of our nation, comes only from the mouth of a penitent and forgiven sinner, not the self righteous and zealous advocate. We must start with ourselves. If we do that, and then pray earnestly and righteously, the rest will take care of itself, because God will be the author and finisher of the work.

Let he who is wise listen and do.

  6 comments for “All Sail, No Anchor

  1. Terry M.
    August 22, 2004 at 8:46 am

    Your last paragraph really grabbed me since we are now in a period of Teshuvah in preparation for Yom Kippur. And to top it all off, there is this current media frenzy over the ‘Swift Boat…’ controversy and it actually made my head (or heart) ache this morning. We are in such a mess – all I can say is ‘Father have mercy on us!’

  2. August 22, 2004 at 1:37 pm

    >We are in such a mess

    Yes, we are. Not just externally, but also internally, in our Nation’s soul. O Lord, hear our prayer.

  3. August 22, 2004 at 6:14 pm

    Effective prayer for healing, and in this case it is for the healing of our nation, comes only from the mouth of a penitent and forgiven sinner, not the self righteous and zealous advocate. We must start with ourselves. If we do that, and then pray earnestly and righteously, the rest will take care of itself, because God will be the author and finisher of the work.

    The solution is not out there, although we keep looking for it. As a Christian, I’m sometimes ashamed for looking to the world to solve problems, knowing that it is spiritual sickness that needs attention. Political advocacy and zealousness are what sell, and speaking for myself, I’m guilty of it daily. I should be doing more evangelizing, prayer and outreach, and less pontificating and ranting. Wowl. I guess your post is convicting me!

  4. August 24, 2004 at 5:05 am

    “When you don’t know what harbor you are making for, no wind is the right wind.” – Seneca

  5. August 24, 2004 at 9:50 am

    La Shawn. I seem to be making a lot of demands lately in my posts. I pray that I only facilitate conviction by the Holy Spirit of what is needed. By the way, was wowl an intentional word or a mistype for wow! or something else?

    Neil. I guess you would agree with a title along the lines of “All Sail, No Compass” or “All Sail, No Charts”. 😉

    As Christians, that is why our diligent study of the Word is so significant. It is the anchor, compass, and chart to our sails. That reminds me of the early critiques of the Charasmatic movement, where in this analogy the Spirit would be the spiritual sails.

  6. August 25, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    It was supposed to be “WOW!”

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