"Behold, I am sending you forth as sheep among wolves.
Be therefore wise as serpents and innocent as doves."
(Matthew 10:16)


A personal 'mission statement.'
I see myself as called as a teacher to help prepare those students whom God has put in my trust - by helping them discover the particular role God has called or commissioned them to perform as servant-leaders, and to prepare them to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves in carrying out that commission.
 
My particular goals [in order of increasing importance] are to help them develop
1) basic knowledge concerning our world and its ways – and techniques for adding to that knowledge as future needs arise; 

2) the wisdom to know how to use that knowledge to make wise decisions as servant-leaders; 

3) the character to ensure that this wisdom will always be used in the service of mankind and to the glory of God.

The two paths. 
I am a teacher - though mostly in the style of a preacher (and vice versa: I teach when I preach and I preach when I teach).  When called to speak about what I know to be true I have but one thought in mind:  to invite others to consider with me the world that lays at our feet - with the choice before us to either approach it God's way or man's way

I know the choice well.  I have, at various stages of my life, pursued one course - then the other.  I have played it man's or the world's way: a very successful organization man as a university professor, a government administrator, an IBM systems analyst, and as an ordained Presbyterian minister and contributing member of a great corporate church.  But I have also played it God's way, living on life's edge, doing street ministry, jail ministry, church revitalization, and Christian school teaching - trusting in God to help support a family of six while I devoted myself to his ministry. 

Between the two, the better choice by far has been to play life God's way.  I learned this at an early age - even when it wasn't very clear to me who exactly God was.  But I did have some sense of a higher hand on my life - and thus lived boldly.  Now I play it with the clearest of understanding, teaching young Americans about how choosing for God will fill their lives with vision, significance, and a deep sense of being alive to life.

Often I put the matter a different way - in contrasting what I term the 'mysticism' of the Christian life, versus the mechanical process of living the life of worldly 'materialism':

MYSTICISM
MATERIALISM
Other labels Christianity - in particular the variety that strives to be more than a mere nominal version of Christianity and instead truly to follow Christ Secularism ... or its subcategories,
  Humanism ("man is naturally good")
  Darwinism ("man is naturally a
     dominator")
Vision of life ... life as a network of vital inter- personal relationships encouraged and supported by a loving God .. life as a perfect mechanical order of material things (including humans) functioning precisely according to natural design
The reach of life ... as far or high as human thought / dreams / imagination can go ... the visible world of material things
Life’s goal ... harmonization with life ... through love and the quest for partnership with both God and fellow man ... dominance over life ... through the mechanical control of both man and his material environment
Path to the goal ... mystic union with the Supreme Source (God) of all life, which offers man the power to embrace life fully, even in the face of hardship and opposition ... scientific and technological know- ledge, which ideally offers man (as his own God!) the power to control life and even eliminate hardship and opposition
Society ... a cooperative community (demo- cracy  of equals) founded on well understood or 'traditional' values shared widely by all a chain-of-command system (status hierarchy) operating according to the utopian or 'progressive' plans and programs of a ruling elite
Leader a prophet or teacher; a person who teaches and inspires right behavior in others a governor or manager; a person who commands and enforces right behavior in others
U.S. examples Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - appealed to Americans to do what they well knew was 'the right thing' - to get past our prejudices and open up our middle class democracy to all alike, regardless of skin color. President Lyndon Johnson - created a new' Great Society' program directed by equally new Washington experts (he did not trust Americans, especially fellow Southerners, to do 'the right thing' on their own)
"Extreme" examples Jesus Christ - his teachings and example led the way to a sense of unity with God and fellow man Josef Stalin - his brutal dictatorship imposed industrialism on Russia ... executing and starving millions of Russians in the process
Personal goal to find ways to fit in; to find ways to contribute to the life of the community ("keep up with the Jones") to find ways to achieve elite status; to find ways to climb to the top of the social order ("get ahead of the Jones")
Preparing for success Studying, learning in order to gain the knowledge vital to being the best possible contributor to the well-being
of the world
Studying, learning in order to qualify for entrance into the elite institutions (such as colleges and professions) that lead to power, fame and wealth
Social reward the joy of belonging the joy of owning, directing, control- ling, dominating
Greatest fear isolation losing possession or control
Recovering a 'Christian political science.'
I am one who rather late in life came to understand the world we inhabit in Biblical terms.  I have become a 'Christian political scientist.' Over time I grew increasingly amazed at how the Bible – especially the Jewish Scriptures or 'Old Testament' – speaks so powerfully about the social condition of man ... the heart of social dynamics that pose themselves to all humans, Americans, Jews, Persians, Greeks, Romans - or whomever. 

My academic background – my university studies at the University of Geneva and the University of Illinois, my doctoral studies at Georgetown University and my 15 years of university teaching (international studies) in Alabama – was largely within the field we call 'political science.'  Typical of professionals in the field of political science, I was a complete secularist during most of those years. 

However ... I was by no means a 'utopianist' as has been typical of most American (secular) political scientists since the mid 20th century.  My year at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, my years of master's and doctoral work at Georgetown, particularly my master's study of the (failed) African nationalist movement of the 1960s in South Africa and my doctoral study of the endless linguistic/cultural problems afflicting bi-cultural Belgium, had made me a through-and-through 'Realist.'  I had no fancy ideas about the instinctive nobility of man nor the belief in the natural historical path to 'democratic' utopia that afflicts American political science.

I well understood the tough side of man displayed endlessly throughout human history.  This left me little to cheer about as a student of society.  As a 'Realist' I understood that man was fated to struggle, thrive for a while, then weaken and die on this planet - in an endless cycle.

Then God showed up.
Through a marvelous set of circumstances, I began to discover that the greatest of all political science textbooks, far above all others, happened to be the Bible.  I quickly recognized that the God who created the universe according to a precise set of principles we call 'physics,' 'chemistry' and 'biology' had also created the principles for human life as well.  We were biological creatures.  But we were more than that.  We were complex creatures of a free will and tremendous mental capacity - given this biological principle largely, it seems, to be able to be the one thing in creation able to share with God in the glory of all creation.

But the complexities of human life, especially social life, are way above our ability to clarify in the same way we have been able to clarify the laws that guide the physical universe around us.  We have tried to understand (and thus manage) human life the way we do the physical world around us.  But we have failed again and again (that's the 'Realist' in me speaking).

But God did not leave us clueless about the principles by which he designed human life.  He was much more forthright in setting these principles in front of us.  He presented these to us through the ancient wise ones who learned how to connect with the 'voice' of God so that they could learn and pass on to us these principles.  We call these 'prophets.'  But actually they were 'scientists' ... social and psychological scientists, laying out for our clear understanding the 'Laws' by which God designed life, or at least what he intended for life in all its glory to be for us if we used our free will to live by those principle

Having made this discovery in the mid 1980s, and having a a deep hunger to learn more about this divine wisdom, I left my post at the University of South Alabama to take up seminary studies in Princeton – still ever the student ... and hardly with the thought of ever pastoring in mind at the time.  But God continued to show me ever deeper these (Christian) principles as he directed my path to become a pastor in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (everything from street and prison ministry to standard Presbyterian ministry!), and finally a Christian high school teacher in Eastern Pennsylvania. 

In short, what I came to discover in the story of ancient Israel and in the life and teachings of Jesus is how life works under the hand of the One who made all heaven and earth  The patterns are clear – and as unshakable as the laws of gravity, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, etc.  There in the pages of the Bible is the very clearest explanation of how man is to live in accordance with the 'natural' social laws of God.

The American way. 
I am through and through an American, loving deeply the great Anglo-American cultural legacy that has been ours for 400 years - though I have lived, studied and worked abroad much of my life and find compelling reasons to be deeply impressed with the cultures of other peoples as well.  I truly appreciate and celebrate the accomplishments of other cultures: European, Middle Eastern, and Asian in particular.  I enjoy exploring the philosophies, arts and life histories that they generated over countless centuries. 

But most of all, I enjoy surveying work that God has done among us in America since he first planted an Anglo nation on this continent - one which continued to take in waves of immigrants and risk takers who would flourish because they dared to help build our nation to the glory of God - receiving in return blessing upon blessing of an awesome nature.   I take great pleasure in reflecting on the social and cultural miracles by which God and man together moved forward this unsophisticated, but nonetheless very inventive American culture.  And I especially love to invite others to share in that reflection with me.

The call to restore America's forgotten Christian political legacy.
I today teach not only as a matter of great pleasure, but also as a matter of great urgency.  Somewhere along the way America chose to forget that this country was founded by people who understood clearly the principles of a 'Christian political science' and who, well equipped with this wisdom, boldly brought our nation to greatness - against great adversity.  The Puritan New Englanders of the early 1600s who carved 'Yankee' America out of the forests of America understood these divine principles of political science very well.  They worked consciously in accordance with the laws and the ever-revealing will of God to build 'a city upon a hill.'  150 years later, the Fathers of our hard-fought independence and the world's first truly lasting republic also were well aware of these principles of God's political science - quick to affirm that nothing of America's new experiment in national 'democracy' would ever work apart from the people's continuing awareness of the overriding or ultimate supervision or judgments of God.

But (as happened with ancient Israel) we Americans, who are sinners like the rest, from time to time haven fallen in love with our own logic rather than God's.  We like the feeling of 'freedom' - that is, not having to be accountable to anything other than our own private or personal wills. Today we are caught up big time in one of these great love affairs with ourselves.  And our social institutions are suffering terribly as a result.

So I teach - and preach.  It is never too late to do something about our sins.  After all, sin is not a new or unexpected condition that we suffer from.  God has dealt with man's sins for thousands of years.  Nonetheless, without the wisdom of understanding the problems of sin, we will likely misuse the freedom God has given us to block rather than aid God's redeeming work among us. 

This is the great tragedy of human history: a people who once walked mightily with God and thereby found greatness, but in that greatness forgot God as the source of that greatness, listened to the flattery of the Deceiver who convinced them that their greatness was from their own cleverness and special gifts, and were led away from that God-given greatness into social decay and collapse.  It's not a new story.  But it does not need to be repeated in America.  So I teach - and preach. 

The need to free the sense of "soul" from its bondage to 'mechanism.'
I am old enough (I am in my mid 70s) to remember when America was not what it has become today.  I remember when 'America' referred to its people, its homes, its local communities, its countryside and cities - and not essentially its Washington, D.C., government, as it seems to today.  I remember when America was stirred to action through the popular appeal of charismatic leaders, able to inspire the volunteer spirit in Americans to do the right thing.  I remember America when it was not run by faceless social programmers or 'managers' such as those today who have come to assume the responsibilities of life for us so that we are now left 'free' merely to pursue life's many 'entitlements.'  I remember America before multitudinous insurance programs and battalions of lawyers. 
The need to recover a deep sense of social responsibility and moral integrity.
I remember when we were led by 'the Greatest Generation' – before we became socially lazy and culturally vulgar.  I remember when life focused on family rather than personal profession, when we lived in communities, when we faced our social problems and tried to overcome them rather than escape them.  I remember when schooling was focused on 'education' - or the cultivation of wisdom - rather than on vocational or professional 'training' (it is important to understand the difference between education and training:  you can 'train' dogs but you cannot 'educate' them; dictatorships train their people but dare not educate them).  I remember life before SATs and ACTs.  I also remember when character counted more than celebrity as the measure of a person.  And most importantly, I remember when piety was a trait we esteemed and not despised as some form of bigotry.
The need for great American leaders.
So I teach - and preach.  I teach the youth who will be America's leaders of tomorrow.  I teach them not just facts.  I teach them about life's problems - and its long-standing solutions.  I tell them stories about situations similar to ours today (history!).  I teach them about great individuals whose sense of destiny shaped huge social outcomes - both good and bad.  I teach them the value of bravery and the tragedy of arrogance.  I teach them about the sources and possibilities of social power - and the great accompanying dangers if not handled well.  Most of all, I teach them about the rules or laws of human life, individual and social, that God set out for us, rules and laws that must never be disregarded, just as with any other laws in Creation.  With respect to the ways of the world, I teach them to be wise as serpents.
The path to greatness.
I teach them to be Alpha males and females - but 'Alpha' only as Jesus showed us what it means to be 'Alpha' - for Jesus was/is the ultimate Alpha (and Omega).  The Alpha person is the servant to all - as Jesus was the servant to all.  Service to others above concern for self - the makings of a true warrior or one of the greatest of leaders - is what I teach them.  I stress again and again the importance of surrendering self to such service - in order to receive in exchange a greatness of character that produces the true leader.

Of course in our ego-soaked culture of personal self-sufficiency and personal self-advancement this is a virtually impossible task.  But not for one who has turned his/her life over to a power greater than self.  Faith (as Jesus taught and modeled) not in self but in God is the absolute key to such power.  Without faith in a higher source of life there is nothing to life but a shallowness of purpose (or total lack thereof), an 'existentialist' emptiness.

After all, we are, in all of creation, uniquely crafted to be more than just mere creatures, mere 'things' living a rather tightly bounded physical existence.  We have been given souls and spirits that can soar in our thoughts and feelings to the outer reaches of the universe – and even beyond.  We can in our imaginations exist in a time that once was and a time that will someday be - as if it were the time we now inhabit.  What awesome creatures are we - if we do not fall into the materialist spiritual trap of seeing ourselves as mere mammals and just so much genetic material confined to the here and now of existence.

Being truly a great person is counter-intuitive.  Everything about the ego we are born with wants to fight any form of surrender to others.  We want to stand apart from others where we can provide for our own 'protection.'  And thus our own logic (where Satan prowls) does us in. 

It is only when we escape that self-serving logic that we finally take hold of the greatness that makes us sons and daughters of the Most High God whose plans, thoughts, and words (God's Logos) direct all existence.  It is only when we reach toward God as our 'Abba' (Daddy) - as Jesus constantly directed us to do - and become joined with his Logos that we attain greatness.  In this self-surrender we take on the quality of becoming innocent as doves - and achieve true human greatness.

The 'teachings' offered on this website.
I do not propose to offer on these web pages the complete picture or even significant portions of what I teach.  What I teach can be learned only through actual personal contact - in class or wherever.  What is posted here is some small portion of those teachings - a factual backup of sorts.  However it is wisdom and not just mere knowledge, character and not just mere fact, that ultimately is what my teaching strives to pass on to my students (and what my students pass back to me in exchange) - something very much alive, something that cannot be found on these pages.

Nonetheless, I hope that what is offered here can be useful - useful in putting a perspective on life that is otherwise largely lacking in modern Western or American material-secular culture.  Hopefully this perspective will stir within you key questions - and in this raising of questions, stimulate a spiritual pilgrimage of your own, a pilgrimage that might direct your path to the feet of a great teacher or teachers, a pilgrimage that will lead you to want to become yourself a great teacher some day.  Then you too might show others - how to become wise as serpents and innocent as doves

Finally:  What it is specifically that I am trying to teach my students ...  
                    or:  "what any well informed American needs to know about our world."
Thesis:  Societies are founded/held together/moved ahead by social ideas or ‘grand dreams’

Vital historical background:

1.  English America was founded in the early 1600s not on one but on the two very different social dreams of Virginia and New England.  What were they specifically?

2.  How did the European Enlightenment of the late 1600s and the 1700s challenge the traditional dream of the entire Christian West?  To what extent was the Enlightenment’s grand dream effective in producing social change in both Europe and America?

3.  Was America indeed founded in the late 1700s by a ‘Revolutionary War’ and the subsequent creation from scratch by the Founding Fathers of an entirely new constitutional Republic ... or were those events simply the determined protection by Americans of a political dream and related political habits already a century and a half old at that time?

4.  Both England and France were the great imperialist powers of the 19th century (1800s).  Each was led forth by their own grand imperialist dream.  What were they?

5.  At the same time that England and France were playing out their imperialism, America was practicing its 'Manifest Destiny.'  How did that underlay not only America’s western expansion but also bring the Northern and Southern halves of the country to bloody conflict?

6.  In the 1700s and 1800s Russia was trying to emerge out of an Eastern isolationism produced by centuries of hostile neighbors overrunning it because it possessed no natural boundaries protecting its heartland.  How did that work out for Mother Russia?

7.  Germany suffered from much the same problem as Russia.  How were Germans finally able to construct a German 'nation' in the latter part of the 1800s?

8.  Socio-political progressivism produced from a blend of Christian evangelism and secular humanism moved up alongside English, French, American, German, Russian nationalism at the turn of the 1800s into the early 1900s.  What exactly was its social agenda?

9.  How did nationalism, imperialism and progressivism combine to form the underlying political, economic, social, intellectual and spiritual momentum of the 20th century?

10.  What was President Wilson’s social agenda in trying to make sense of a ‘Great War’ that had mired down in a bloody stalemate among competing European nationalisms?  How effective was he in implementing his social agenda?

11.  The 1920s marked a period of intense distrust of anyone’s larger social agenda.  What focused the lives of the post-war world in America and Western Europe?

12.  How did Stalin take Lenin’s dream and transform it into a powerful social vision for Russia?

13.  The early 1930s collapsed even the feeble social-moral foundations of America and the West.  How did that affect Asia?  How did that affect Western Europe ... especially Germany?  How did that affect America?

14.  How was World War Two a test of strength among traditional and rising grand dreams of societies in Europe, Asia and America?  How did that work out for everyone?

15.  How did a 'Cold War' arise out of the political rearrangement of global power following World War Two?  How did Americans see this less a matter of geopolitics and more a question of intense ideological rivalry?  How did the Cold War reshape American society? How did the Cold War affect the revival of Europe?  ... of Asia’s emergence into social independence? ... of the Middle East? ... of Latin America? ... of Africa?

16.  America went through a major shift in its grand dream in the 1960s.  What was Kennedy’s dream?  What was King’s dream?  What was Johnson’s dream?  What did the 1960s do to these dreams?

17.  How did Nixon attempt to reverse the course of Johnson’s legacy and set America on a more 'Realist' course?  How did that work out for him?

18.  How did Carter propose to push America ahead on a more 'moral' course in spreading American constitutional or 'democratic' ideals abroad?  How successful was he in seeing his ideals planted around the world?
                                
19.  What was the cause of the collapse of Russia’s Communist or Soviet empire in the late 1980s/early 1990s?  How did that impact Russia?  How did that impact the rest of the world?

And now ... today:

20.  How did 9-11 change the optimistic picture of the 'post-Cold-War world'?  How did America under Bush Jr. respond to the perceived challenge coming out of the Middle East?  How did Obama set up his own response pattern?  What was the Arab Spring all about?  What grand dream seems to drive the Muslim world today?  What are its challenges?  How is the West trying to answer the world of Islam?

21.  How did the Russian-American 'reset button' of Obama-Clinton work out for America?  What dream has Putin put before the Russian-speaking world?  How have America and the West responded to the Putin challenge?

22.  How did China move forward from the days of the Maoist 'Great Leap Forward' and 'Cultural Revolution' into full membership in the international industrial and financial community?  What is China’s grand dream today?  How will this likely reshape the international status quo?

23.  What was the grand dream of the 'New Europe'?  What were its successes?  What have been its shortcomings?  Where is this once great sub-continent headed today?

24.  Domestically, America seems caught up in a fierce cultural war between Christian traditionalism and secular-humanist progressivism?  What social forces are behind this conflict of grand dreams?  How has this played out politically, socially, morally and spiritually for the nation?  What do you think lies ahead for the nation ... ten years from now, 25, 50?

Miles H. Hodges - 2017