CINCINNATI---Driving west in Ohio Friday we bypassed an old mining town with the great name of Coolville and bought gas at Guysville. We drove through cities with character largely determined by decisions made two centuries ago: Ohio University began in Athens in 1809 and Mead paper opened a huge paper mill in Chillicothe in 1810.
Then there's Hillsboro, famous because a temperance movement closed down the town's 13 saloons in 1873. If those saloons had stayed closed, life might have been better for the late Johnny Paycheck, famous for "Take This Job and Shove It" and infamous for shooting a man in Hillsboro's North High Saloon (and then doing time in prison).
Then we were in Cincinnati, once known as Porkopolis for its hundreds of slaughterhouses. (Procter & Gamble got its start in the 1830s by making soap out of leftover animal fat.) We parked in a garage next to the Great American Ballpark, which has a view of the Ohio River past center field and an emphasis on baseball. (At some other new ballparks, the assumption seems to be that baseball is boring and fans will only enjoy the game if they are distracted from it at every possible moment by a scoreboard's flashing lights and flatulent sounds.)
The game's class struggle was absorbing: The Royals (of Kansas City) beat the Reds (of Cincinnati) 6-5 in 11 innings. In each of the last three innings the Reds had a runner on second with either no one or one person out but---like Trotsky in the 1920s---could not score. The WORLD readers who joined us were once again impressive. Among them were a chemist, an environmental waste manager, a pastor, and two young would-be writers, one of them fresh from two tours of duty in Iraq.
The chemist is one of the expanding contingent of Ph.D. scientists who have not bowed the knee to Darwinist materialism. The environmental expert is one of a similarly growing platoon of rebels against the established religion of global warming. The pastor is also a thoughtful man who started his graduate studies at a liberal seminary under the guidance of an ardent feminist. Then, as he read the Bible and studied hermeneutics, he realized that he was being taught unbiblical notions. He switched to Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.
Those are people with established careers. The two beginning writers are also smart Christians eager to learn and with much to say. Ben Liebling---homeschooled, then Hillsdale College, then teaching for a year in Korea---is reading Calvin's Institutes and Francis Schaeffer's The God Who Is There, and writing freelance music reviews. He likes passionate pastors like John Piper and political leaders who are "willing to rattle the cage."
Timothy Boggs, back in the USA after two tours of duty in Iraq, works in his dad's machine shop. He studied philosophy and history at Ohio University and his dad graduated from Ohio State with a degree in Hebrew and philosophy, so he jokes about opening a philosophy bar so that both father and son can return to their roots. Now, he works while listening to sermons by Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, and others.
Boggs' actual plans are to help plant a church and to go into politics. He'll have his Iraq experience to draw upon: I looked at his two blogs---T.F. Boggs (when in Iraq) and Vox Veterana (current)---and was impressed. Then again, the WORLD readers I'm meeting on this trip are regularly impressing me and making me more optimistic about America's future.