Gabby: You Gotta Have Faith!
by COLONEL KENNETH ALLARD (US ARMY, RET.)
August 3, 2012
So you thought God didn't have a sense of humor? You had to listen closely before NBC flipped its coverage at the mere mention of the G-word, but the moment was unforgettable - beautiful young Gabby Douglas acknowledging her faith in her moment of triumph. Her job, she said quietly while acknowledging her Gold Medal, was giving God praise while His blessings flowed down on her. That inner confidence had been characteristic throughout her Olympic performances, a faith that steadied her while the other billion of us held our collective breaths as she negotiated the balance beam.
One look at her Momma in the stands, wiping away the tears, and you knew where the strength of that heroic single parent had come from and how diligently she passed it on to her daughter. If you knew what to look for, then you understood instinctively that young Gabby had learned those priceless lessons on her mother's knees. To paraphrase Proverbs, train up a child in the way she should go; and when she is old, she will remember - even on the uneven parallel bars. Of course, you can argue with every bit of that, which simply makes faith even stronger.
And maybe, in times like these, all the more necessary. The ancient Greeks traditionally observed a truce during the Games, wondering how long afterwards the full range of human conflict might be postponed. Now the countdowns include the ongoing tragedy of Syria as well as the gathering of forces - diplomatic, military and naval - in and around the Persian Gulf, a confrontation that has built steadily for a generation. The resulting bonfire of those ambiguities might conceivably include the side-lobes of terrorism, cyber-war and energy sabotage aimed directly at an already shaky economy, from Europe to points west. But especially with summer's end already approaching, we instinctively prefer to turn our eyes from such unpleasantness, much less an election barely a hundred days distant.
Trouble is, those nasty questions about values just don't fade away, no matter how hard we try. Just look around! Now you can't even dig into a sandwich with waffle fries and a lemonade down at Chick-fil-A without somehow taking a position on gay marriage - all because the president of that company voiced his personal opinion favoring family values. Now the last time anyone checked, hatred or intolerance were not included among Christian values and, to its credit, Chick-fil-A is scrupulously fair both to its employees and its customers. Basically, you only have to be hungry and have five bucks handy to get a tasty meal served by neatly pressed young people who seem genuinely glad to see you.
However, the combination of faith with uncompromising behavioral standards is something so out of phase with the moral relativism of modern life that it just drives people crazy, particularly politicians who instinctively split every difference. Before his staff could talk some sense into him, the mayor of Boston was even talking about denying business permits to Chick-fil-A, as though he had never heard of John Adams, American history or CON Law 101. Stupid and even bigoted but don't feel so smug until after asking yourself how you really feel about Mitt Romney's Mormonism. Just yesterday, Jeremy Mayer argued in Jewish World Review that Romney's best pick for a Vice Presidential candidate might be Congressman Eric Cantor: a brilliant budget hawk, a Virginian and best of all, Jewish. But the real reason: to shore up a conservative Christian base deeply suspicious of Mormons. "The truth is, conservative Christians are currently gaga for conservative Jews. The most fundamentalist Christians see strong support for Jewish Israel as a Biblical pact that America must uphold."
It's all just a little bit nuts-making - combining prejudices as off-setting antibodies - especially if you thought those questions had been asked and answered way back in 1960 with the election of Catholic John Kennedy. The answer might be that every generation has to make its own discoveries - or re-discoveries given the state of American education on many subjects including history. It is almost eerie how those breakthroughs occur during our most difficult times when, as Lincoln said, we must look to the better angels of our nature.
So maybe that is the gift that Gabby Douglas gave us during that summer evening of the Olympic Games, a timely reminder evident in her smile, her character and in her simple but profound faith. In the end, those simple things sustain us most in the hardest of times: family, courage and, most startling of all, that a belief in God might just be the most transcendent of all human experiences.
Colonel Ken Allard is a widely known commentator on foreign policy and security issues. For more than a decade, he was a featured military analyst on NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. That experience provided the backdrop for his most recent book, Warheads: Cable News and the Fog of War.