Optimistic but Dead Yankee Generals & The Distinction Between Optimism and Realism

Yankee General John Sedgwick was an Optimist of the first order. At the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House Gen. Sedgwick moved up to where the battle was running hot. When Gen. Sedgwick’s men warned him to take cover, Sedgwick responded by joking, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at that distance.” Just as those words fell from his mouth, a Confederate sharpshooter’s bullet crashed into his skull, right below his left eye, killing him instantly.

This story was repeated with Union General Philip Kearny:

In a violent storm with lightning and pouring rain, Kearny decided to investigate a gap in the Union line. Responding to warnings of a subordinate, he said, “The Rebel bullet that can kill me has not yet been molded.” Encountering Confederate troops, Kearny ignored a demand to surrender and, while he tried to escape on horseback, a “half dozen muskets fired” and he was shot with a Minié ball that entered his hip and came out his shoulder, killing him instantly.

The moral of the story?

An Optimist is a fool who doesn’t understand the nature and terrain of his circumstances. It’s one thing to be positive. It is an entirely different thing to ignore reality.

This applies to eschatology. Postmillennialists have always been known as and indeed are optimists. They know that Christ reigns and so because of that are optimistic regarding history. However, there is a subset of postmillenalists I call “Pollyanna’s” who have the optimism of Generals Kearney and Sedgwick. They have moved beyond optimism and have entered into the territory of reality ignoring.

As a Postmillenialist I am supremely optimistic but I refuse to allow my eschatological optimism to trump my realism. When for example, I see the World Economic Forum putting all the planks in place to set up their New World Order I remain optimistic that in the long run such plans cannot succeed. However, I embrace realism to realize that in the short term it is very likely that they are going to be successful.

Admittedly, it is difficult at times to identify the line between optimism and realism. I am routinely told by friends and acquaintances that “you are the most pessimistic optimist I’ve ever met.” Actually, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve seen up close and personal the disaster that has been the consequence of foolish Pollyanna Postmillennialism. Pollyanna Postmillennialists are forever trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Better to identify a situation for what it is rather than lie to yourself and everybody else and so breed massive discouragement once the reality is unavoidable and inescapable.

This is not to be taken as being in support of the Gloomy Gus’s of the world whose motif seems to be always and all the time; “We’re all gonna die.” It’s merely a plea to look at situations with the steely eye of realism while at the same time retaining the confidence that with God all things are possible.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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