Tony Blankley / December 17, 2008

Clinging to Hope

As we enter one of America’s bleaker winters – though not so bleak as the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge nor the winter of 1941-42 after Pearl Harbor and then Wake Island – please permit me to lapse for a moment from the secular and the material to an old memory.

I was out Christmas shopping with my 11-year-old daughter in empty stores last week, when the refrain of an old hymn, un-summoned, played in my head. It was a song from my youth that is not sung these days in the smart suburban churches we have attended (nor on the mall’s Muzak):

“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it someday for a crown.”

Perhaps those words will remind you of the homely but touching melody that George Bennard composed to support this beloved hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross,” almost a hundred years ago now, in 1913.

Of course, at a moment when our real estate has become worth less than our mortgages, when our stock values are cut in half, when everyone from out-of-work construction workers to until-recently billionaires is feeling the sting of material contraction, the phrase “till my trophies at last I lay down” has an added pungency. We have not so much laid them down as had them grabbed from our greedy grip.

And, yes, many will “cling” to the old rugged cross (or others to their ancestral Star of David or the words of the Buddha or the rituals of the dharma or other peaceable salvations of the soul). Of course, we should cling to our spiritual values in good times and bad. But being the fallen creatures we are, in the good times too many of us give ourselves up to the corporeal pleasures of materialism and the fatted calf. And when materiality fails and the wolf is at our door, understandably we frantically seek to keep our “trophies” in our slipping grip.

And it is good that we try. Judeo-Christianity’s triumph over the millenniums is, in part, attributable to the fact that ours is not a fatalistic faith. By our own gumption and intelligence and faith and action (being created in the image of our Lord), we can make a difference. Not everything abides in the sweet by-and-by. (Oh, what the heck, I just love the old hymns: “There’s a land that is fairer than day, and by faith we can see it afar. For the Father waits over the way to prepare us a dwelling place there. In the sweet by-and-by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore. In the sweet by-and-by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.”)

So, yes, before we get to that beautiful shore, we should continue to scheme and argue about the size and content of the stimulus package and whether to bail out our native car industry.

But the back story to Washington’s December bailout efforts is, as ever, the struggle between those who dream of “ruling” Americans with unending and intrusive diktats (i.e., liberals) and those who merely wish to govern a free and independent people (i.e., conservatives). To lapse again into ancient memory, I remember a slogan the rugged individualistic conservative Barry Goldwater had during his 1964 presidential campaign against the FDR liberal Lyndon Johnson: This country needs “a leader, not a ruler.” I used to carry that slogan around on a 12-inch ruler – to the glare of my liberal school chums.

The great, difficult question that conservatives and moderates in Washington are grappling with this winter is how to govern in such a way as to protect our material well-being without sliding into ruling us in a way that diminishes our freedom.

I believe that even we free market conservatives should support bold – even perhaps reckless – efforts to halt the slide into depression. The sheer magnitude of the human agony that would follow demands that we temper our theories with the hope that bold governmental action might yet save the material day.

But finally, the trophies of this life must be laid down. And our first duty is to the spiritual salvation of our nation. An America without freedom is an America not worth a future.

As we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, Washington is slouching toward a policy of liberal corporate fascism. Congressionally appointed “car czars” and energy policies born out of the head of that all-too-human Al Gore must be resisted at all risks.

Spiritually, I plan to cling to that old rugged cross. Politically, I will cling to that old rugged Constitution.



Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!


“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2022 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.