On this day in 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward signed a treaty with Russia to acquire Alaska for $7.2 million—or roughly 2¢ an acre. Though Seward passionately promoted U.S. expansion before Congress, a skeptical Senate ratified the treaty by a meager one vote. In October, Russia formally handed over Alaska to U.S. control even before receiving full payment. Critics blasted the purchase, branding Alaska as “Seward’s Folly,” “Seward’s Icebox,” “Icebergia” and “President Johnson’s polar bear garden.”
Had he lived long enough, Seward would’ve had the last laugh. In 1896, three adventurers struck gold on Bonanza Creek, sparking the Klondike Gold Rush. The stampede for gold birthed many communities in Alaska, including Fairbanks. The continental mainland would soon discover that Alaska was rich in natural resources, including fur, fish, timber and oil. In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced Alaska’s entrance into the Union as the 49th state. Alaska commemorates the last Monday in March as “Seward’s Day,” a legal state holiday.
Some decisions that we make as Christians will seem foolish to others. When we struggle with our bills but continue to tithe, forgive someone who has deeply hurt us, or continue to worship God in the midst of tragedy, a friend or family member may think we’ve gone crazy—and say so. We must face the fact that our Christ-based choices will always be the square peg in a round-hole world. We are, indeed, fools for Christ (I Cor. 4:10).
No matter. When the world kicks us out, we must remember that we are not part of this world. We live in a kingdom with different priorities that make perfect sense to us. One man’s foolishness is known as “discipleship” by those who follow hard after Jesus.