As that great twentieth century American philosopher, Pogo Possum, observed over forty years ago, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” As we consider the post-Constitution, totalitarian oligarchy modern America is fast becoming, millions of Americans are awakening from their slumber and asking, “What happened?”
What happened is that we ignored the warnings sounded loud and clear by our Founding Fathers who designed our system of government and allowed a fifth column to grow in our midst like a giant malignant cancer. Consider the warnings issued by some of our first Presidents and compare them with the President now sitting in the White House with his advisers planning for the “fundamental transformation of America”.
Elias Boudinot, President of the Continental Congress, 1782-1783: “Good government generally begins in the family, and if the moral character of a people once degenerates, their political character must soon follow.”
George Washington, first U.S. President, 1789-1797: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
John Adams, second U.S. President, 1797-1801: “should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practicing iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Although Benjamin Franklin was not a President, no essay on our present day condition of political and cultural corruption would be complete without quoting from his last speech to the Convention: “Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.” (Emphasis added)
The truth clearly recognized by the Founders quoted above is that a nation’s government is always an expression of the moral character of its people. Fredrich Hayek pointed out this truth in his popular 1944 treatise, “The Road to Serfdom”, an examination of the rise of National Socialism in Germany during the 1930s. Hayek argues that the implementation of socialism with its centrally planned economy demands a concurrently planned social order enforced by a totalitarian government. Socialism and individual liberty cannot coexist and for socialism to thrive in America requires a shift in moral values so its people are willing to sacrifice liberty for vague promises of security. Although Hayek’s book was published almost fifty years ago in England, one cannot read it without experiencing the eerie feeling that he is writing about America in 2012.
In tracing the historical roots of socialism in America, we have to start with the Second Great Awakening at the turn of the nineteenth century. It was during this time that the “social gospel” with its emphasis on changing human nature through revival meetings came into vogue. In terms of the “number of converts” the Second Great Awakening was a huge success, but its utopian ambition of bringing in the millennium kingdom through social reform created a fertile ground in which socialism could thrive. By the time the effects of the Great Awakening began to fade at the end of the nineteenth century, socialism was already well entrenched in America. Among the groups responsible for our cultural decline and the corresponding growth of socialism we have to include the Christian Churches and the Christian clergy.
During the last century the “church” made a Faustian bargain with the government, –“You leave us alone and we will leave you alone”–, expressed in the often heard slogan, “separation of church and state”, which is based on a misunderstanding of the First Amendment that says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” An objective reading of the First Amendment without the preconceived assumptions fostered by the constant drumming into our consciousness, the cliché “separation of church and state” shows, not a separation between government and religion but rather, a declaration of the independence of religion from the coercive powers of government. What the Founders were attempting to accomplish with the First Amendment was to free religion from the symbiotic relationship between church and state and establish its rightful independence from the despotic powers of government that had plagued the Christian Church throughout its seventeen hundred year history.
Certainly the Founders quoted above did not consider the First Amendment in the same sense in which it is understood today. Even James Madison who is generally considered to be the Father of the Bill of Rights, but was not as fervent in his religious beliefs as some of the others, frequently called for special days of national prayer and fasting during his eight years as our fourth President. In 1813 Madison even supported and signed into law a bill to rebate the import duties on printing plates used by the Bible Society of Philadelphia to print Bibles.
“An Act for the relief of the Bible Society of Philadelphia. Be it enacted, &c., That the duties arising and due to the United States upon certain stereotype plates, imported during the last year into the port of Philadelphia, on board the ship Brilliant, by the Bible Society of Philadelphia, for the purpose of printing editions of the Holy Bible, be and the same are hereby remitted, on behalf of the United States, to the said society: and any bond or security given for the securing of the payment of the said duties shall be cancelled. Approved February 2, 1813.”
Our current application of the doctrines of church and state relationships is not supported by the Constitution or the Bible. The ministry of Christ, the Apostles and the early churches were conducted in large part in a public venue and often before hostile crowds; a far cry from today’s Sunday morning services in the comfortable sanctuaries of elaborate church buildings before congregations of adoring believers. When Jesus did teach in the Temple and Synagogues, His messages were often directed against the religious leaders and teachers of the day, the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. Today they would probably be directed against the Pastors and teachers of our modern evangelical Christian churches. Unless we are willing to work to restore the Biblically moral foundations of our culture there is little chance that we can survive as a nation with our liberties intact. America is sorely in need of a spiritual revival, and that revival must start with the Christian Church and its ministers.