Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Morality of a Nation

During this past holiday season, my wife and I were discussing the so-called "Black Friday" and the effect that commercialism and society's new approach to morality have had on our country. During our growing up years, stores would be closed all day on Thanksgiving and usually would not open until  mid-morning or later the next day. The same would take place during the Christmas holiday. Now, however, the trend moving in the opposite direction is astounding for its speed and seeming disregard for anything other than the bottom line. Now, I'm not one who decries profits or that believes that commerce should be done without regard to the bottom line. But the greater point here is not about profits, but about how our country's moral moorings have eroded in little more than a generation.

During his farewell address, our first President, George Washington argued that "’self-government is dangerous if disconnected from conservative principles.’ He feared the ‘intoxicated modern smugness that the spirit of the budding Enlightenment threatened to unleash on the country.’ He warned that ‘the abandonment of religion and morality, in the name of a self-sufficient humanism, would lead to a vicious and decadent citizenry and tyrannical government. Disorder would replace order, with whoever is in power preying upon those without power.’"

Contrast that with the now former president and ruling class which, by and large, went out of their way to undermine the very moral principles that will make any country great. Although we should not confuse a moral nation with a "Christian Nation," we should realize that, when a society has the proper moral compass, the results will be greater benefits and blessings. Washington's fears find a real life example in today's America where former President Obama can boast of a “fundamentally transformed America, where judges, bureaucrats, and pols liberated from the constraints of religion and morality invent bogus rights that collide with God-given ones, starting with the right to life of unborn children." We are no longer interested in the "inalienable rights" to which our Declaration of Independence pointed. Instead, we are more interested in not offending anyone or speaking against evil when we see it.

Going back to my wife's and my conversation, although we cannot know what's in the mind of those who decide when and for how long particular businesses are to remain open, it cannot be a coincidence that the trend has been going in one definite direction. When those who make such decisions become increasingly secular and humanistic, reflecting the society in which they were bred, the importance that people attach to religion and morality become a secondary consideration to anything else. If your worldview is such that you believe that we are the result of mere chance and that there is no such thing as an intelligent, personal Creator, then you're likely to be out for all you can get while you can. Slowly, but surely, what makes a country great becomes less and less important as we become more and more hedonistic in our pursuits. As apostle Paul put it “let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

It could be said that Washington was prescient in his speech. It doesn't take a prophet, however, to realize that as another of our country’s fathers, John Adams, put it "the constitution is a document created for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other." As we have seen, the limits that the Constitution places on government have been turned on their heads, especially when it comes to religion. Whereas the Constitution restricts the federal government from meddling in the religious affairs of its citizens, we now have courts doing that very thing by declaring just what religious activity the population can engage in publicly. 

Washington again, “where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?” How much can an oath of office taken with God as witness influence an individual, if the religious and moral precepts that underpin that oath are jettisoned in the name of tolerance or expediency? Every day we witness judges and legislators going out of their way to deconstruct our laws, all in the name of "equality." In the end, Washington understood what so many today ignore, the fact that "morality cannot be maintained without religion" and that “national morality” would suffer “in exclusion of religious principle.” 

As the church of Jesus Christ, we cannot afford to allow ourselves to be led by the currents of change and expediency. Although we are exhorted to be "all things to all people" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), we should not mistake that concept with the idea that we can compromise our message and our stance for the truth. If we do, we will be no more effective than those churches who today are little more than an echo chamber for the current culture. Our influence depends on our convictions and such convictions stand or fall on our willingness to hold fast the word of truth.




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