My guess is that Alaska is a state most Americans know little about. For example, one Alaskan commented that he has met people from the lower 48 who didn’t even know his home was a state. (I can relate. When I lived in Finland, one American asked me,”Where is that? In the Pacific Northwest?”)
We do know some things, however. For most of us, we know that it is far away.
Politically savvy folks are aware that controversial former governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin comes from Alaska. In addition, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the state is cold. All a person has to do is look at a map.
Some might even know it has oil reserves and lies across the Bering Strait from Russia (only if it is because Governor Palin is alleged to have said she could see the country from her house).
Like a lot of the US landscape, Alaska once belonged to a foreign power. The United States bought Alaska from Russia back in 1867 for two cents an acre. The purchase was called “Seward’s Folly”. William Seward was the American secretary of state at the time who engineered the deal.
Seward was actually an able politician who many thought would become the Republican nominees for president in 1860. Instead, Abraham Lincoln got the nod. As far as I know, Seward’s negotiations under President Andrew Johnson to buy Alaska from the Russians involved no collusion.
If we know anything about the state, it’s probably from the media or televisions shows such as the Discovery Channel. For some reason this land mass, the largest state in the Union, has been front and center in my own media experience of late. Unfortunately, the digital fare I have viewed has been of the tawdry variety.
My first recent encounter with Alaska involved a viewing of “The Far Country”, a 1954 film starring American hero Jimmy Stewart. (He’s a personal luminary of mine, too.) In this flick , the “everyman” star plays a 19th century Old West cattle drover named Jeff Webster who can’t seem to avoid trouble.
After a long cattle drive in the lower 48, one in which he shoots two men working for him, Webster boards a ship with his herd and arrives in Skagway, Alaska. He immediately is arrested by a corrupt judge named Gannon for interrupting one of the man’s hangings.
Webster drives his cows through town, right by Gannon’s gallows. The bovines jostle them while the judge is attempting to execute “justice”.
Stewart avoids jail time, but Judge Gannon fines him a sizable amount. He makes the cowboy turn over his herd to “tbe government”.
Not to be outdone, Webster steals his cows back and drives them across the border into Canada.
He lands in the Canadian gold mining town of Dawson, which compared to Skagway is a place of virtue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the vile criminals from the American village to show up in Canada. They want to make an ill-gotten fortune off of the hard working and law-abiding gold miners and shop keepers in Dawson.
The epitome of American “can do” spirit and individualism, Stewart in the role of Webster tries to take on the gangsters on his own. He does have allies in the form of his old cow hand (Walter Brennan), a teenage girl with moon eyes for him, and a femme fatale saloon owner who can’t decide whether she wants to stay with the crooks or connect with cow poke.
In the end, after losing his aging partner to murder at the hands of evil thieves, and with the help of the mixed-up female saloon owner Ronda Castle, Webster wins the day. The lady gives her life to save Jeff.
Jeff not only learns a big lesson from her about about his “leave me alone” stance on life, but he also gains wisdom from the previously cowardly townspeople. They show up en masse with weapons drawn to shoo off the bad guys while Stewart lays wounded in the street.
“The Far Country” kept me riveted to the story in a kind of prurient way. I couldn’t look away from the scurrilous activities of the criminals. I began to detest them so much that I hung around to make sure they got their just desserts.
Only Chuck Norris and his old “Walker, Texas Ranger” TV series could make me hate fictional thugs so much. When that show was on, I was always happy when Walker beat the hell out of them (figuratively speaking) at the conclusion of the story.
My experience of sleazy behavior coming out of Alaska hasn’t been limited to this old movie. The news recently brought us a story in which an Alaskan Airline female pilot accused a colleague of drugging and sexually assaulting her on one of their jobs.
The news describes her allegations in much detail. As with the creeps in “The Far Country”, I wanted the alleged perpetrator male pilot punished after I read this story.
Even if I wanted to partially excuse the Alaskans for the scandalous acts revealed in these stories by writing “The Far Country” off as an act of fiction, I can’t. The town of Skagway was indeed a place run by a criminal element in the late 19th century.
However, any Alaskan could rightfully protest that I am singling out their beautiful northern region unfairly. The could say that not the only ones with an inclination to sin, and they would be right. Human law breaking is universal and goes back a long way, probably thousands upon thousands of years if the scientists are correct on the dating of the origins of man.
As I watched “The Far Country” I was reminded that what the Bible says about mankind is true. Contrary to modern popular belief, the Scriptures indicate that all of us have hearts which are prone to produce evil.
Our evil practices have had dire consequences and still do. One of the reasons that God brought on the Flood at the time of Noah was because of the slimy aspects of human nature. Genesis tells us that “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” He instructed the only righteous man alive to build a boat because He had had enough.
Things haven’t changed much since the Noah account laid out in the Bible. As exemplified by the pilot story from Alaska, opening any news site today will attest to that.
The United States is currently swamped with the degrading actions of human beings who act like animals. We have come a long way from our beginnings.
Purportedly, America was founded by a religious people. I hedge because in our day this civic doctrine has been disputed, but I believe history shows that many of our early leaders were Christians.
What has happened over the last 2.5 centuries to turn the US into a moral quagmire that resembles the state of affairs God encountered at the time of Noah?
According to J. Vernon McGee, a pastor who still has quite a following despite having been deceased for 30 years, a nation’s decline begins with the collapse of religion. This crash leads to moral awfulness and eventually to political anarchy.
“Where did our trouble begin?” asked McGee. “Our trouble is primarily spiritual. Actually it goes back to the church.
“The church went into apostasy. Then it entered the home,”said McGee on one of his radio programs.
Many Americans today put their faith in political leaders. However, McGee called the hope that a political party can solve the issues facing America “perfect nonsense.”
His recommendation? “What we need today is to get back to a spiritual foundation,” said the pastor.
McGee suggested that without this spiritual revival, the resulting political anarchy will lead to America succumbing to the will of a “strong man”, i.e. a dictator. History attests to this scenario. The fall of the weak German Weimar Republic resulted in the rise of Adolph Hitler.
The story of Skagway, Alaska portrayed in “The Far Country” shows this process, also. Judge Gannon ran the town as his own personal fiefdom. Not surprisingly, the film says nothing about the presence of religion.
No priest or deacon is shown standing up to the wickedness of the nefarious people in the film. By default, Skagway was a town ripe for the misrule of a wicked ruler like Gannon.
At the end of the second decade of the 20th century, America is far worse morally than it was 30 years ago and appears to be moving toward the political anarchy of which McGee spoke. The idea of the United States having a dictator as a leader was once stuff of fiction. But if McGee is correct, the United States is now in a conditon that the impossible is now possible, if not probable.
America is moving toward the same kind of culture which was ancient Isralel once possessed present when the nation was ruled by individual judges. During that period, the Scriptures say that people “did what was right in their own eyes.”
God raised up ordinary men to rescue them, but only after they cried out to God. Once Israel was saved, the people reverted back to their wicked ways. McGee called this pattern “the hoop of history.”
In “The Far Country”, Jeff Webster was similar to one of the biblical judges in “The Far Country”. He was not the best of men himself, but he had enough decency in him to take a stand and provoke the the folk of Dawson to stand up to the invaders from Skagway.
Saloon keeper Ronda Castle was also an unlikely heroine. An ally of Judge Gannon, her love for the inherently good Jeff and her own flicker of goodness led to the rescue of the people of Dawson.
America could use a Jeff Webster now. For that matter, we could even use a Ronda Castle kind of person. Maybe the rescuers of the United States won’t be paragons of virtue, but God has used many to accomplish His purposes. Once, he even used a talking donkey to save Israel.
If heroes or heroines do not arise in the United States, we could be toast. However, I haven’t personally lost hope. I realize God can bring them from anywhere, even a far country.
For example, refugees entering Europe, aren’t all radical religious fanatics. Some are godly believers in Jesus Christ. Today I read of a family of Iranian Christians in spiritually entombed Sweden who are active in their faith.
Most of Europe is thought to be like Sweden, i.e. dead spiritually and in many ways farther along in the moral awfulness and political anarchy of which McGee spoke. Perhaps God in His wisdom has directed the hands of the continent’s leaders to open their borders so that His people can bring Europeans to faith.
It is possible that God has allowed similar open border politics in America to do the same thing in the United States. Could it be that God is implementing His wisdom in this way?
Solomon wrote of this kind enlightenment . He penned this verse in the biblical book of Proverbs:
“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”
May God bring His good news to our own spiritually parched land. It’s up to Him how He does it.