In his book Westward Vision, David Lavender credited Swiss John Sutter as the man who did more than “every preacher” to bring civilization to California, p 322. That’s an unwarranted tribute to a man who avoided indebtedness in Switzerland by escaping to America. Perhaps Lavender saw civilization as eluding responsibility by running away.
It’s true that Sutter opened his land-grant dominion to all settlers and pioneers finding their way to his fort on the Sacramento River. But he had himself been the recipient of largesse from a caravan that included open-hearted missionaries. Did they not offer a civilizing acceptance to a penniless stranger?
It’s amazing that secular writers remain blind to the value of Christian men and women pioneering the country with the message of God’s love in Christ. In turn, they boast of any small mortal achievement. It’s as if they created the idea of the good life, and supplied the graces and the love that helped when needed, the forgiveness that made family and community life possible. Preachers made that difference.
Any open-minded historian knows that women were as responsible for civilizing the west as any mortal. Their arrival, with their children, their decency and their Christian values led to the building of schools and churches. And morals improved.
Lavender is no more wrong than others like him. But all of them are equally and badly wrong in minimizing the impact of Christianity and its Christians in “civilizing” the west. What Lavender said is what Dear Abby said to a convict writing that he wanted a better life. Her response: “get an education.” San Diego U-T, 10/19/15
Yes, an education, a degree, a career, money, housing, a pension. After which death comes and we appear before God Almighty for judgment. And if we have what the secular world says is the measure of success, but not Jesus Christ’s forgiveness, what fools we will be because of the fools we had become by eliminating God in Christ as the author of our “forgiven, civilized life.”