As I age, my capacity for turmoil diminishes. As a result I check on national and world news in tiny segments of time. I want to remain informed, but about five minutes is all I can tolerate at a time. From the horrors of war to terrorism, homelessness, the economy, illegal immigration, politics, drugs, crime, human trafficking, and wayward youths, the turmoil increases. With each report, I imagine the devil’s ever-growing glee. He loves to wreak havoc amid God’s creation. Unfortunately, we let him.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 NIV
As a matter of fact, we have let the devil inflict his chaos since the beginning of time. From Adam and Eve in the Garden, to Babel, Noah, and beyond, human beings have bought into the evil one’s lies. And ushered in turmoil.
Turmoil Then and Now
Political turmoil is a grim reality of more recent times, as well. Take for example the case of South Carolinian, U.S. Representative Preston S. Brooks, one of my very distant cousins, who attacked Senator Charles Sumner in the U.S. Congress on May 22, 1856.
According to an account of the event at www.ushistory.org, Republican Senator Sumner of Massachusetts, an avowed abolitionist, gave a bitter speech in the Senate after the sack of Lawrence, Kansas on May 21, 1856. In his rant, he blasted the “murderous robbers from Missouri,” calling them “hirelings picked from the drunken spew and vomit of an uneasy civilization.”
Part of his speech was a bitter, personal tirade against South Carolina’s Senator Andrew Butler whom Sumner declared an imbecile. “Senator Butler has chosen a mistress. I mean the harlot, slavery.” Stephen Douglas predicted that a fool like Sumner would likely get himself killed by another fool. The speech went on for two days and another two days passed before the prediction proved true.
A Prophecy Fulfilled
Two days later, U.S. Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina was a Southerner raised to live by an unwritten code of honor. Defending the reputation of one’s family was at the top of the list. As a distant cousin of Senator Butler, Brooks entered the Senate chamber where Sumner was working at his desk. “You’ve libeled my state and slandered my white-haired old relative, Senator Butler, and I’ve come to punish you for it.” Brooks struck Sumner over the head repeatedly with a gold-tipped cane. The cane shattered as Brooks administered blow after blow on Sumner, but Brooks could not be stopped. Only after being physically restrained did Brooks end the pummeling.
Northerners were incensed. When they were unable to garner the votes to expel him, the House levied Brooks a $300 fine for the assault. He resigned and returned home where South Carolina held events in his honor and reelected him to his House seat. Replacement canes were sent to Brooks from all over the south. This response outraged northern moderates even more than the caning itself. (Shades of politics today?)
The physical and psychological injuries from the caning event kept Charles Sumner away from the Senate for most of the next several years. The voters of Massachusetts reelected him and let his seat sit vacant during his absence as a reminder of southern brutality. The violence from Kansas had spilled over into politics in the national legislature.
Turmoil Lives On
Which brings us back to today. Physical brawls have erupted in the legislative bodies of other countries around the world and in connection with peaceful political gatherings in the U.S. We’ve seen the extremes to which political and religious fanaticism has taken some. And we’ve turned off our TVs to find peace amid the turmoil. But so far we haven’t seen a physical attack among U.S. legislators since the one perpetrated by my very distant Brooks relative. Thank God for that. May He keep the canes out of Congress. And give us the insight to elect men of wisdom and honor in our U.S. Congress.
Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.
Proverbs 15:16 NIV
~ ~ ~
Lord, deliver us from the devil’s lies.
~ For Jesus’ sake ~