Supply Chains

Michael Metzger

On this holiday weekend America commemorates its war for freedom. But American Christianity would be wise to recall why the British lost that war.

I had lunch with a friend the other day where the topic of church came up. He’d been asked to describe—in one word—what he’d most like to do in a church. His word: Mobilize. It reminded me of two books addressing mobilization, both by Rick Atkinson.

Rick Atkinson is a terrific historian and bestselling author. His most recent book is The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777. Atkinson describes perhaps the main reason why the British lost the war. It had to do with home turf.

The colonial army fought on home turf. Resources to fight were generally accessible, so mobilizing an army only required short supply chains. They provided the colonial army with sufficient resources to skirmish with the British, then retreat and wait out a long war.

The British army couldn’t afford to do this. They were fighting on foreign soil. The army had to invade, conquer, and hold territory. This required more men and materiel than the colonial army, requiring more supplies and much longer supply chains stretching from Great Britain across the Atlantic Ocean to the colonies. Whew. Big challenge.

British General Commander William Howe recognized it. Early in the war, with his troops bottled up in Boston, he calculated that moving “his 32 regiments beyond Boston would require 3,662 horses—plus nearly 50 tons of hay and oats daily to feed them—and 540 wagons. That was almost 3,000 horses and 500 wagons than he had.”[1]

And that’s largely why the British lost the war. Insufficient supply chains. Which brings us to Christianity in America. Its supply chains are insufficient. We see this in our elite colleges and universities. Most were founded to promote the faith. They were home turf for the faith. That’s hardly the case today, especially when it comes to being the land of the free.

Listen to Yeonmi Park, a 27-year-old who risked life and limb fleeing North Korea. She attended Columbia University. Park was immediately struck by what she viewed anti-Western sentiment in the classroom and a focus on political correctness.  “I literally crossed the Gobi Desert to be free and I realized I’m not free, America’s not free.”

Her professors gave students “trigger warnings” so they could opt out of classes if upset. Every problem was due to white men, Parks says. It reminded her of the caste system in her native country, but her experience made her think “even North Korea isn’t this nuts.”

This nuttiness is why our country’s elite schools are not only not free, they’re no longer the home of the brave. I’m referring to Ivy League students acquiescing to the nuttiness in order to graduate. This includes Christians, who don’t appear to be resourced to do much else.

That’s the conclusion of R. R. Reno, editor of First Things. He stopped hiring Ivy League graduates, largely due to “the silent acquiescence of most students.” They allow themselves to be cowed by charges of racism and other sins. “I sympathize,” Reno writes. “The atmosphere of intimidation in elite higher education is intense. But I don’t want to hire a person well-practiced in remaining silent when it costs something to speak up.”

This undoubtably doesn’t apply to all Christians, but my sense is it applies to most. “In a world which less and less reflects God,” writes Charles Taylor, these students “are thrown back on their own resources.”[2] Those resources are insufficient in a post-Christian age.

And that’s partly due to our supply chains being insufficient. Most ministries seem to supply resources for issues that are hardly issues anymore (ex: science vs. faith). Issues today swirl around sexuality, gender, identity, inclusion, diversity. Where are the resources for addressing these? Where are the supply chains for delivering these resources?

Here’s my two-fold answer. First, a wise man once said the gospel never changes, but the address does. We must develop better resources for today’s address: the post-Christian world. These resources already exist in small quantities (see the work of Christopher West) or are in R&D (I see Clapham Institute’s work as an example).

I owe the second half of my answer to another wise man who told me years ago that robust supply chains don’t yet exist for the kind of work that Christopher and I are doing. I saw this firsthand in India, just before Covid-19. The gospel does well in rural India, poorly in India’s cities. The foundation that flew me over asked for a report. I sent one. I felt the work Christopher and I are doing would require at least three years of building supply chains.

That’s too long for most foundations. It’s too long for most high-net-worth individuals who could invest in the infrastructure necessary to mobilize Christians in a post-Christian society. But it wasn’t too long for the Allies in World War II.

In Rick Atkinson’s World War II trilogy, he notes how it took the Allies three years to create supply chains sufficient to resource troops taking the war to Europe, foreign turf held by the Nazis. Supply chains weren’t built overnight then; they’re not built overnight now.

In my opinion, American Christianity is losing on today’s issues. If Christians recalled why the British lost the war, we’d see we lack sufficient resources for winning on these issues, or the few good resources that exist are not yet in supply chains. Both can be fixed. It requires a collective will on the part of Christians, a collective will the British lacked. On this July 4th, I’m hoping we remember this, resolving to invest in building necessary supply chains.

 

[1] Rick Atkinson, The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 (The Revolution Trilogy, 1), (Henry Holt and Co., 2019), 134.

[2] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (The Belknap Press of Harvard University press, 2007), 143.

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One Comment

  1. Supply chains are important so it’s a good argument you make that urges us to realize what real supply is and a real chain is and what threatens to corrupt both. So much goes into making good people and good ideas. Only one part am I going to disagree with you: you say that students are acquiescing to the nuttiness in order to graduate. They may be – but they don’t have to. If they are, they might have been before they got there – in acquiescing to their wrong-headed Christian elders – in which case they were always a part of the problem in their acquiescing to whomever held a particular upper hand. Fight to think, think to fight, never let someone tell you what to think or do. Collaborate in good works but let every man hold his own counsel – and deliberate, talk, argue – it’s the only way you’ll learn anything. That supply and that chain isn’t “truth” – it’s 1.) an open mind and willingness to 2.) ask and 3.) receive good questions. If you don’t have 1 & 2 & 3 you wouldn’t know you had the truth and you wouldn’t know what to do with it even if you had it. As you know my ministry is to the faculty of these universities – and I count on you Mike as good healthy rations and ammunition in my supply chain.

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