Friday, August 1, 2008

Advice from a Wise Man

Perhaps you've heard of Tony Snow. He was a journalist, a radio talk-show host, a musician and a past presidential press secretary. He was also a husband and the father of three children, and he died a few weeks ago after battling cancer for several years.

My husband and I admired Tony Snow immensely. His wit and charm made even his political opponents his friends, and he spoke and wrote clearly and winsomely about his life and faith as well as his political beliefs.

Here's a transcript of a speech he gave last year at a college graduation. I don't know of many people who could pack that much wisdom and love into one brief talk, but he could. One of my favorite parts:

American culture likes to celebrate the petulant outcast, the smart-aleck with the contempt for everything and faith in nothing. Snarky mavericks. The problem is these guys are losers. They have signed up for an impossible mission. Because they’ve decided they’re going to create all the meaning in their lives. They’ve either decided that no moral law exists or they will be the creator, the author of those laws. Now one road leads to complete and total anarchy. Life is solitary, nasty, brutish and short. The other is to insanity, since it requires playing God. We know in our hearts, intuitively, from our first years as children, that the universe unfolds with a discernable order and that moral laws, far from being convenient social conventions, are firm and unalterable. They predate us, they will survive us. Rather than admitting our weakness a lot of times, we just decide we’ll try to get by. And maybe rather than giving God credit, we’ll try to look for a cheap substitute.

Walk into a bookstore, you’ll know what I mean. The shelves are groaning underneath the trendy tomes promising salvation — medicine balls, herbs, purges, all sorts of weird stuff. In politics, there’s a variant that elevates government to the status of God. It says that it is the source of love. It ought to be the recipient of your tithes, but government, while it does pursue compassionate ends, cannot be loving and personal. It treats all of us as completely equal rather than uniquely divine. The point is you can’t escape the question of God and you can’t escape the question of commitments.

When it comes to faith, I’ve taken my own journey. You will have to take your own. But here’s what I know. Faith is as natural as the air we breathe. Religion is not an opiate, just the opposite. It is the introduction to the ultimate extreme sport. There is nothing that you can imagine that God cannot trump. As Paul said “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And once you realize that there is something greater than you out there, then you have to decide, “Do I acknowledge it and do I act upon it?” You have to at some point surrender yourself.

Do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing. You'll be glad you did.


Melissa Markham said...

My husband and I are also big fans of Tony Snow's. What a loss to the world of journalism and to the world in general. My hubby follows politics and news way more closely than I do, but as I watched the shows following his death, it was obvious that he was a man who knew and understood the grace of God.

Renae said...

Thanks for sharing the link. I enjoyed the speech. Good advice that decades ago.

Have your read his article about cancer? Cancer's Unexpected Blessings
When you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change.

Barbara Frank said...

Melissa, I agree with you completely.

Renae, I have read that article. I'm glad you included the link for anyone who might want to read it. I've lost two friends to cancer in the last four years, and he mirrors many of the things they said.