My son Jeff has been blessed with three beautiful children. Like all responsible fathers, he is deeply concerned about the kind of world they are growing up in. He, like I, sees it as a world awash in moral swill – a place in which the Bible and its ethical teachings have fallen on hard times. He, his wife Tracey, and his children seek to become an oasis of godliness in a desert of moral relativism. The question is how to accomplish this in a world that seems to conspire against it?
One of his strategies has been to collect videotapes of movies that reflect traditional values. John Wayne’s films play a big part in his collection. In his films, John Wayne stood for, and fought for, traditional American values. His characters exhibited a clear sense of right and wrong. He relentlessly pursued and defeated evil. In an earlier era of the silver screen, he wasn’t alone.
This past week, another icon of traditional virtue bit the dust. Clayton Moore, who for years played the Lone Ranger on television, died at the age of 85. Moore believed in the character he played. The Lone Ranger’s values were Moore’s values. Moore created what he called “A Ranger’s Creed.” Here are some excerpts:
That to have a friend, a man must be one.
That God put the firewood there, but every man must gather and light it for himself.
That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
That sooner or later, somewhere, somehow, we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
That all things change but truth and that truth alone lives on forever.
Compare these values to the following verses from Scripture:
“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, KJV).
“When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ [Hebrew – Manna.] For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: “Each one of you is to gather as much as he needs…” (Exodus 16:14-16 NIV).
“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).
“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong…” (Exodus 23:2).
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows…” (Galatians 6:7).
“…his truth endures to all generations” (Psalm 100:5 KJV).
In personal appearances, Moore told his young audiences, “I believe that all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.” Moore treated his Indian sidekick, Tonto, as an equal, not as an inferior. He sought to live his ideals throughout his life and in his acting. In his role as the Lone Ranger, Moore “was the purest of the white hats of the era and favorite of both the young and their parents. He spoke precisely, acted nobly, didn’t drink or smoke and showed no interest in women, money or creature comforts. He always cooperated with the duly constituted officer of the law and never, ever seriously harmed anyone…” (LA Times, 12/29/99).
Compare that with the modern day movie characters known as “Dirty Harry” or “The Terminator” who leave in their wakes trails of death and destruction as far as the eye can see.
Moore was so attached to the Lone Ranger character that he once said; “I never want to take off this white hat again. When I take off to that big ranch in the sky, I still want to have it on my head.” Actors like Clayton Moore — who was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1990 — are a vanishing breed. Today, in a veritable sea of pulsating flesh, morphing monsters and deadly pyrotechnics, the white hats are few and far between. Characters like the Lone Ranger are viewed as quaint relics of a simply, sappier time. The coursening of American movies and culture continues apace and the sounds of the William Tell overture are seldom heard these days. Clayton Moore and his character, the Lone Ranger, have passed into cinematic history. But the world was once made a little better because it heard the stirring sounds of “Hi-yo, Silver, Away….”
Jeff, how’s your Lone Ranger collection coming along?