America, since it’s inception has been the most moral country on earth. It still is; however, the gap between moral and immoral societies is constantly growing narrower. America is rapidly losing its position of moral leadership among the nations of the world. As is the case in most examples of America’s decline, in order to understand the reasons and antecedents, we have to go back and look at how and when the decline began and trace its progress through history.
In colonial America, public morals were set by the local churches in most cases. The early churches in America were usually at least nominally Christian. The Churches and the pastors of those churches, held enormous sway in the life of the community. In most cases, the moral standards of the Church were reinforced by law, with each state having its own established church that provided moral guidance to its lawmakers. While the colonies were not, in any true sense, theocracies, Churches and their clergy were nevertheless, the most powerful influence in most colonies.
The old adage, “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely,” applies to preachers as well as politicians. In Christendom, whenever political power is concentrated in the hands of religious leaders, it eventually ends up being just as tyrannical as when it is concentrated in the hands of politicians. The Inquisitions of Medieval Europe and the Salem witch trials in Colonial America are two prime examples. Lesser evils of the church-state relationship during colonial times were evident in laws requiring compulsory church attendance and taxation to support the clergy of the established churches.
The abuses of power by the churches in Colonial America were the moving force behind the third paragraph of Article VI in the Constitution.
“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” (Emphasis added)
America was the first nation in history to place a clear distinction between established religion and government. This paragraph in the Constitution and the First Amendment abolished forever the possibility of religious tyranny by American law. However, it is a huge mistake to believe that the Founders were attempting to eradicate the influence of religion in America’s political and cultural life. Neither were they attempting to do away with the influence of Christianity over the moral standards used in governing.
Christian diversity was widespread in the Colonies. Along with that diversity there was also a widespread intolerance for those whose views were at variance with the views of the established church in each Colony. It was this problem the Founders were attempting to address in the Constitution. What they feared most was the establishment of a particular church as the “national religion” and the divisions and intolerance such an establishment would naturally engender.
The Founders were attempting to balance the influence of religion and government, not to exalt one at the expense of the other. Of necessity, government and religion must coexist in this life. Government to maintain order and protect liberty; religion to provide the moral underpinnings for society. It was this truth Christ was alluding to when he advised the disciples to “render unto Cesar that which is Cesar’s and unto God that which is God’s”. The U.S. Constitution establishes the most effective balance between the two yet devised.
There were certain precepts that were shared by the Founders and a Majority of the American people. They were the sovereignty and providence of God over the affairs of nations, and the moral authority of the Bible. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence declared, “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure…are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.” Benjamin Franklin said, “God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid…I firmly believe this”? George Washington said, after eight years as President, “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.”
I could go on, but the evidence from the writings and utterances of the Founders is overwhelming that today’s divide between our government and religion would never be imagined nor condoned by them. For over one hundred and fifty years the balance established by the Constitution between governing and a reverence for God, gave us religious peace in America. Communities were free to publicly express their devotion to God in any way they chose. Governments at all levels displayed deference to the religious sensitivities of their citizens. Today there is an unmistakable animosity on the part of government toward religion in general and Christianity in particular. What Happened?
The precepts of socialism are antithetical to the understanding of the Founders concerning the relationship between government and religion. During the last half of the nineteenth century socialism began to infiltrate the American consciousness. Over the next hundred years the influence of socialism spread throughout the institutions of government, culminating in the changed moral standards that came about in the last half of the twentieth century. A secular moral code began to replace the moral code of the Bible, only to be replaced in turn by the amoral code of socialism. A historical reliance on the providence of God began to be slowly replaced by a reliance on government.
“Do your own thing” and “if it feels good, do it” became the watchwords of the 1960s and ’70s, leading to the destruction of families and the destabilization of society. “Free love” and “open marriage” became relatively commonplace. The most destructive trend of that era was the replacement of churches as the arbiters of morality, with our education system. This trend was further aggravated by the gradual domination of the system by the federal government.
Our children no longer learn about right and wrong in Sunday School; now they learn about it in public school. At the same time public education is replacing the Church and parents as the source of moral teaching, educators are prohibited from favoring one code over another. Instead, children are taught that one person’s morality is just as valid as another, and it is up to them to choose the one that “feels” best for them. Any attempt to resist this trend is branded as an “attempt to ram religion down the throat” of others.
As these young creatures of the NEA grow up and become parents themselves the pattern is perpetuated. With each new generation it becomes more difficult to correct the errors of the previous one. That, “in a nutshell” is why America seems to be mired in a moral morass and why our ruling class seems to be devoid of such common moral values as honesty and integrity. If we are to return our country back to its founding principles and a Constitutional government, one of the first things we have to accomplish, is to return the elementary and secondary education system back to parents and the community and the teaching of morality back to the parents and the churches, to be reinforced by education under the watchful eye of the community.
Cross posted at “Christian Patriots”