But you ever hardly hear anyone mention August as their favorite month. And I can’t quite figure out why. O.K. I’ll concede a few salient points. August comes in the middle of the dog days of summer, and even the dogs don’t like it. It’s hot, humid, languid and slow. People who aren’t on vacation aren’t working very hard, and those who are, are hardly working. Kids who couldn’t wait to get out of school eight short weeks before are bored to tears. And life seems to be on hold.
But something happens in August that portends of perhaps more desirable things to come. The days get a little shorter. The shadows get a little longer. In rare instances when the summer sauna takes a brief hiatus, the air seems almost crisp. Note to my fellow Californians: If you don’t live above the snow line, you don’t know the meaning of the word “crisp”. You can’t imagine the relief it affords the rest of the country after the non-stop summer steam bath has afflicted everyone not fortunate enough to live in earthquake country. Trust me, “crisp” is a good thing.
Something else happens in August. Along with the heightened sense of anticipation of life’s return to a more traditional structure and pace, is a phenomenon that makes the competitive juices pump through the veins of many a combatant made dormant by the summer lull. And it affects both male and female alike.
Did you smile a little just now? Did you get a little tingle? Did the goose bumps rise up on your sweat-soaked arms, unrelieved by the portable fan trained on your desk right now? Me too.
There’s just something about this time of year that puts a spring in the step of football fans who have suffered through the long cold turkey cure of basketball, baseball, tennis, golf and hockey (finally) to fill the idle hours until the main event returns.
And it’s finally here.
As a proud graduate of the University of Southern California, the anticipation of the season – particularly the last four years – has been greeted with nothing less than shrill cries of joy from faithful followers of the Cardinal and Gold. USC head coach Pete Carroll has rewritten the Trojan record book. He has taken a wretched, threadbare, joke of a football program to the heights of college football excellence. Under his leadership, USC has stood atop the Mt. Olympus of the game, and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has become the center of the college football universe. Even ESPN Gameday had to shake the cobwebs out of its production crew and show up in Exposition Park at 7:30 on game day morning. And that’s never happened in their history. Not even the late, lamented John McKay, who piloted the Trojan powerhouse teams of the 60s and 70s accomplished so much, so fast.
Yes, these are heady days indeed for USC fans, not the least of which was last season’s run up to the Rose Bowl and their national championship clash with the Texas Longhorns.
I’ve been a season ticket holder for ten years now. During my younger years, I was caught between the twin constraints of either not having enough a) time or b) money to indulge in a season ticket subscription. But I did promise myself that later in life, I would definitely partake of the totality of the USC football experience I missed out on in my early adult life.
Ten years ago, I decided “later in life” just got here. I wrote a check to the USC Ticket Office, and the rest, as they say, is history. I took my place, firmly ensconced high above the northwest end zone of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the rest of the blue collar contingent of Trojan faithful. And there I remain to this day.
While I am an alum, and have ten years “seniority”, so to speak, as a season ticket holder, that does not automatically qualify me for post-season tickets. For that, I would have to be a donor. And one thing I’ve learned in rubbing elbows with my fellow alumni is this: No matter how big a check I can write, there is always someone who can write a bigger one. It’s one of the many hazards of being a graduate of an institution whose alumni rule the world.
But, the University of Southern California is many things and nothing if not egalitarian when it comes to passing out football tickets. They offer a ticket lottery for the meager handful of post-season tickets that go unclaimed by the big dogs. That way, the great, unwashed scum who are not willing or able to pony up thousands of dollars in voluntary contributions can fight over the scraps from the master’s table. And as one such graduate who chose not to cough up five-figure donations for the privilege of sitting in the end zone at the Coliseum, I figured I had nothing to lose by a roll of the dice. So, I registered for the lottery . . . and voila! I came up a winner! Christmas came early last year. If I was doing as well in life as I have been in the last three USC ticket lotteries, I could retire.
So there I was, in mid-December, with two Rose Bowl tickets in my hot little hand, deciding who was going to be the recipient of my largesse. Who would be anointed worthy to accompany me to arguably the biggest college football championship game since . . . well. . . the year before?
Right about that time, I received an email from a fellow graduate and long-time friend who lives in the DC suburbs of Virginia. He sent out a group email, trolling for available tickets from our large alumni base, loosely connected by the Internet. It was more of a lament than a serious inquiry. So when I responded that yes, I did indeed have an extra ticket, and yes, I was perfectly serious about letting him have it at face value, he promptly opened a second tab on his Mozilla Foxfire browser and booked passage to California while we were busy instant-messaging each other.
And thereby hangs the point of this prologue. . .
My friend – Patrick is his name – graduated from USC a few years after I did. We were not acquainted during our student days. We met through a mutual friend and fellow SC grad when the Internet was in its infancy. And we remain close to this day.
While Patrick was the product of private Catholic schooling right through high school, neither he nor his family were Catholic themselves. They were early attendees of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, and as a result, Patrick learned his Bible from none other than Chuck Smith himself. And that’s a very good teacher to have, when it comes to learning Scripture. That point will take on increasing significance as this weary tale drags on.
So, when I arrived at Patrick’s family home in South Orange County around sunrise of game day on January 4 – his father still lives in the home the kids grew up in – we were off to commemorate two significant developments. First and foremost, of course, was USC’s run at an unprecedented third consecutive national championship. Second, Patrick had just announced his retirement from the U.S. Air Force as a full Colonel after twenty-five years of service.
Along the way, we stopped at a Carl’s Jr. in Anaheim to get something to eat before assaulting the teeming hordes of grimly obsessed football fans, all relentlessly determined to get a parking spot on the golf course north of the Rose Bowl without getting stuck in the mud. After some multi-cultural, bi-lingual attempts at placing our order with the illegal alien cashier at the counter, we settled in to chow down on a fast food breakfast filled with lots of trans-fat and get caught up on recent events.
I’m not sure exactly what Patrick’s job was during his Air Force career. He is, I would guess, purposely vague about what his responsibilities were. Judging by his reticence, I surmise that he served some kind of intelligence function. Still, I don’t know. But he did share with some of his closest friends that he was stationed at the Pentagon the day death rained from above on 9/11. Obviously, he was not stationed in that particular wing of the building, but to be anywhere in the vicinity was to live through history.
After we both arrived at the inevitable conclusion that nothing could stop USC in its undeniable quest for a 3-peat and that Texas didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of prevailing on this day, we got around to the events of the day.
I remarked about the counter service at the Carl’s Jr. we were in, and how common it is in California to run in to hired help who don’t speak English. He countered with how his wife would be lost without their Guatemalan nanny for the kids back in Virginia, how essential their Salvadoran cook is to preparing three square meals a day for the family, how much time their Mexican lawn service saves them, and how inexpensive all this is to their household budget.
When we got around to the international news of the day, Patrick said something that I had literally never heard before and made my jaw drop to the floor.
He went on to point out that at his final duty assignment before retirement, he was congratulated by the president for his years of service. This is nothing to write home about for him, since, by virtue of his jobs in the Air Force, he’s met every president since 1980. But Patrick was nothing if not effusive in his open adoration of the current chief executive.
He said it was his privilege to serve under the greatest leader the world has ever known. He was convinced that the president’s domestic and foreign policies were visionary, and inspired by God as part of the End Times global geopolitical alignment that is currently taking shape. Accordingly, Patrick’s first and best service to the country he loved and served faithfully for a quarter of a century was to “see to its destruction” (his words).
Patrick was very reasoned in his analysis of how he came to this conclusion. The United States was an apostate country, fallen away from the one true God. Abortion on demand, gay marriage, blatant pornography, and women in positions of authority were but a few excellent examples of this condition. Biblical eschatology gives no hint of a nation resembling the U.S. in the End Times scenario. Patrick has no idea if the U.S. will fall under the dominance of the now-emerging Indo-Chinese super state, or simply implode in an orgy of self-indulgent sin. But, he argued, America will play no role in the End Times political scenario.
As such, he continued, George W. Bush’s prescient political leadership is the only way for God’s will to be accomplished. As a consequence, our national borders must be abolished, along with our national identity. Our citizens must be reduced to little more than working slaves, for such is the judgment of the Lord on a sinning, apostate nation. The invasion of Illegals from Latin America – something Patrick openly admits is happening, without the customary Neocon spin – will serve both ends nicely.
Our technological and scientific expertise must vanish from our shores and take shape on foreign soil. Our universities must facilitate this erosion by providing the finest education available to the best foreign students in order to weaken and dilute the vitality of the United States. Providing U.S. government funding toward this end is nothing less than serving the will of the Lord.
The war on terror is a righteous and just cause, Patrick reasoned, and the president is right to prosecute it in exactly the way he has. Nothing is more important than the financial health of our largest Fortune 500 corporations, he explained. And the senior executives of these institutions have been ordained by God to rule the world. The tremendous wealth we see around them is proof positive of their righteousness in the sight of God. Radical Islam clearly threatens the continued health of international commerce, and must be stamped out utterly and totally. Such is the will of God.
George W. Bush has been given a vision of God’s kingdom in much the same way as Paul the Apostle was during his three days of blindness following his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road. In this perilous time of transition the president will lead the world down a path that will ultimately lead to Christ’s return in power and glory. After Jesus judges the nations, He will rule them with a rod of iron and George W. Bush will sit at His right hand. As such, the president is not merely the greatest chief executive the nation has ever seen, nor is he simply the greatest world leader in history. The president is the greatest living human being since Jesus Christ and God’s holy prophet of the truth on earth.
So concluded my friend, Air Force Colonel, and fellow graduate of the University of Southern California.
And there we sat – early on the morning of the Rose Bowl game, at a Carl’s Jr. where the only two people in the place who spoke English were the patrons – listening to a 25-year Air Force officer talk about how his ultimate service to the country he loved was to see to its obliteration.
Patrick asked me what I thought. I told him we better get going or we were going to have to park at the Arcadia Public Library and hitch a ride to the Rose Bowl.
During our drive to Pasadena, we set aside the issues of global hegemony and took up the more important issues of the day. Yes, Reggie Bush was the greatest running back since Gayle Sayers. Yes, Vince Young was as dumb as a post, and would whither under the relentless Trojan onslaught. Yes, we agreed that Texas was a worthy opponent, but no match for a USC team of destiny that broke Notre Dame’s back on the final play of the game of the century. Any team that could win in South Bend under such adverse circumstances, wasn’t going to lose on this day.
But Patrick’s unique vision of God’s will for the U.S. to be destroyed never left me. From that day to this, it has nagged at my sensibilities. We have not spoken of it since. Clearly, he did not learn his unique view of history at Calvary Chapel. I attended one for ten years, and I know such dogma is not taught there.
I did, however, marvel at the reasoning of a classically-educated evangelical Christian and how well his political, cultural, and spiritual orientation lent itself to a globalist, Neocon mindset. What surprised me – no, astonished is a better word – is how a traditional, conservative, Christian career-military officer could speak of the destruction of his country with such unvarnished passion. It was like watching Billy Graham at his most intense talk about the grace of God and forgiveness of sin by faith in the Risen Lord.
I have always operated under the belief that regardless of how the country itself deteriorated, the commitment to defend it, along with the conviction of the country’s value, would remain an unshakable faith of the U.S. military. If this faith has somehow been compromised, then all is lost. If this globalist mentality is common among our career military officers, not to mention our most committed evangelical Christians, this nation is truly doomed.
Over the months since January, I have attempted to formulate a rebuttal to my friend’s passionate contention that the country must be destroyed to serve God’s will.
I can’t. And a careful examination of Scripture yields nothing but support for Patrick’s radical contention.
- 1 But know this, that in the last days, perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! – II Timothy 3:1-5
- 4 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. – Matthew 24:4-8
Note: Patrick emphasized to me that this was not based on any classified Intel he might have access to, but simply his personal take on the world situation.
- 12 "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful." – Revelation 17:12-14
Still, I can’t go there with him. I cannot partake of the evangelistic zeal of a true believer when it comes to tearing down my country. And I simply cannot worship at the altar of George W. Bush, regardless of his anointing by God to bring about the Second Coming of Christ.
The founding fathers established a government based on some firmly held convictions. Chief among them, that government served at the behest of the citizens who elected them. Government was charged with the duty to protect the individual rights of each and every American citizen and to safeguard their God-given rights to live in freedom and dignity.
And the founding fathers also owned slaves.
The nation was founded with slavery as an established institution. Ultimately, that sin was paid for by the blood its citizens. 2% of the population died in the Civil War and the entire American South was destroyed. And the nation has been living with the legacy of racial tension from the moment the shooting stopped at Appomattox Courthouse to this day.
Less than a century later, the nation was dragged onto the world stage to defend itself from an attack by fascist aggressors, both east and west. The country went to war in 1941 to defend itself from Japanese and German aggression. It fought a just, albeit ghastly war to beat back the forces of those aggressors, and ultimately achieved the destruction of evil.
For half a century, America stood as a bulwark in defense of the world against global communism, and ultimately outlasted it, at least in its Soviet expression. During the course of the 20th century, Jim Crowe laws were abolished, voting rights were established, a segregated military became integrated, and opportunity abounded, if not for all, than for more people than ever in the nation’s history.
- 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, – Romans 3:23
America will stand in judgment in the last days along with the rest of the world. And as a nation, we may indeed be condemned. But on balance, I fervently believe America will fare better than most in that judgment.
To criticize George W. Bush may indeed equate to being against God and warrant a place in the lake of fire, as Patrick suggests. But for the time being, I stand by my country. I will do nothing to hasten my country’s demise. And I will not lift a finger to help those who do, regardless of whose name in which they act.
The day may indeed come when we all will have to choose between America and Jesus Christ. But that day has not yet come. It may come to a decision to serve God or serve our country. And to do one, rather than the other may result in the conflict spoken of thusly:
- 24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. – Matthew 6:24
I mentioned earlier that Patrick could not have come by his peculiar slant on world politics and Christian doctrine at Calvary Chapel. It has since come to my attention that a contingent of Calvary Chapel pastors met with James Dobson of Focus on the Family, admonishing him to get on board with the president’s policy of open border/amnesty or else. I don’t know what the “or else” part of the warning entails. And I emphasize that I have no confirmation of this meeting. Since there is no corroboration of this event, official or otherwise, I can offer it only as anecdotal speculation. But, if true, the implications are ominous indeed.
I have written earlier of the erosion of once-traditional Protestant denominations in the wake of the spiritualization of radical liberal dogma. (See “Time And A Half on Christmas Eve”, below for that exposition.) In the wake of that ethical collapse, the light of truth that filled the gaping chasm of morality left in its wake has been the conservative evangelical community. If that bastion of conservative values has sold its soul for thirty pieces of silver to the deity of a chief executive, however charismatic, then the last foundational pillar on which the country can rest for support is gone. It reduces the nation to little more than a burnt out shell serving a false god, our citizens to slaves in the hand of that capricious god, and our soldiers little more than hired guns serving the trans-national corporate interests of a contemporary Roman empire.
The Rose Bowl itself was a magnificent spectacle. The day dawned clear and sunny, peaking with temperatures in the high 70s (but with the wind-chill factor was down somewhere around 68 ). Patrick saluted the flag at the presentation of the colors, cheered during the B2 flyover, wept at the singing of God Bless America.
We cheered ourselves hoarse as the defending national champions took the field to a thunderous standing ovation of Trojan fans. We yelled, groaned, tore our hair out and rejoiced. And ultimately we found USC 12-points up with less than 6:00 to go with victory in sight. Close the curtain on Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Lendale White and company with a 35-game win-streak, two consecutive undefeated seasons, a 38-1 overall record and the sweetest thing of all, three consecutive national championships. Fade to black. . . And now some scenes from next year’s national championship.
And then the wheels came off. Texas came back. USC missed on an interception attempt by Ryan Ting. SC was stopped on 4th and 1 with under two minutes left, which would have clinched the win. Vince Young took command. Texas kept coming. USC was powerless to stop them. And with seconds left in the game, Young goes over for the winning touchdown. USC, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in a fashion more reminiscent of UCLA or Notre Dame.
Disaster, defeat, darkness and death. Proof positive we’re living in the end times more dramatically than anything Patrick ever told me about earlier that morning.
It was a bitter loss, but not catastrophic. Sometimes it’s a good thing for our collective reach to exceed our grasp. We are, after all, SC. We have Pete Carroll, for crying out loud. And we will have, no doubt, an army of Reggies, Matts and LenDales lined up and grimly determined to lead the Trojans to yet another national championship. Still, the loss hurt. It was no way to ring down the curtain on such a spectacular three-year run. But that’s football. And that’s life.
I dropped Patrick off at his father’s South Orange County home in the wee small hours of the morning, about twenty hours after our excursion began. He caught an early flight home, back to Virginia, the next morning. So I’m sure he didn’t get much sleep. We didn’t talk about his, shall we say, unconventional take on world politics and Christian theology. We haven’t spoken of it since. But he will be flying out for USC’s home opener against Nebraska on September 16, and then again for Notre Dame on Thanksgiving weekend. Provided, of course, he can get the time off from his new job as a Vice President of Administration for an international defense consortium and his role as an advisor to the Council on Foreign Relations.
As for me, while Nero fiddles in Washington and Rome burns, I’ll be doing what any self-respecting Roman would do under such circumstances. I’m going to the Coliseum. Literally. I’m poised and ready for yet another season of bone-crushing USC tackles, spectacular last-second UCLA losses, yet another heart-breaking Notre Dame loss to USC in front of a sellout Coliseum crowd of 90,000 and a national television audience of 20 million (that’s always good!), and another run at the national championship.
Call it bread and circuses for the 21st century.