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Minutes with Alan

A Better Life

A few months ago, I finally made time for a bittersweet job I’d been putting off for eight years—going through the accumulated papers, books, and paraphernalia of my late father. It’s a task that befalls more and more of us, as we get older: sifting through the keepsakes, the knickknacks, the pictures, choosing what to save … surprised by what we remember, and have forgotten.

He was a man of his time, my father: the World War II generation. His convictions were quiet but ran deep. He worked hard, and was gone a lot—driven, like so many parents of every era, by the desire and the determination to give his children a better life than he’d had.


He was the first in his family to graduate from college, in a day and place where many never finished high school. He spent his professional career teaching people all over the world how to prepare for, and survive, a nuclear attack. He worked with governments, armies, and ordinary citizens, telling them how to build shelters and what to place inside them, and how to live together should a group of them crowd into one of those cramped shelters for a nuclear winter.

I thumbed through the manuals he used and helped write, and was struck, in particular, by this phrase: "During the period following a nuclear attack, religious worship and prayer would be useful to people in a fallout shelter." I thought about that, opening the tiny New Testament he gave me as a child—the one I marked inside with a crayon, one long Sunday morning before the words and sermons had meaning. I thought about it, as I leafed through my 1960s high school graduation program, unabashedly featuring hymns and prayers for the students.

My father had no way of knowing that, in some ways, his life was actually better than mine, or my children’s, has turned out to be … for he lived in an era when faith was still understood and respected, not only by the people around him, but by the government that printed civil defense manuals. In that sense, the "better life" I’m trying to give my family is really a life very like the one he enjoyed.

Which is why there’s a certain irony in realizing that the work we’re doing at Alliance Defending Freedom is very like the work he did: meeting with people here in the U.S. and abroad, using every tool at our disposal to warn them of the dangers and prepare them for the once-unthinkable attacks that are now all too possible in the fragile, hostile legal environment of our time.

I pray that we do our jobs half as well as he did, and that, like him, you and I can leave our children not just a few keepsakes, but a life that is better for being lived with religious freedom. John 15:5 - Apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

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