In his Inaugural Address, President George Washington peered into the future of a fledgling United States of America and identified the one thing that would hold our people together – or tear the nation apart. He said that the foundation of “our National policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality” (emphasis added).
For much of our history, character education taught what researcher Charles Murray calls America’s four founding virtues: Honesty, industriousness, marriage, and religion. Today, these founding virtues are being destroyed, leading to the unraveling of We the People. Thankfully, we can turn to history to see how we have faced similar challenges in our nation’s past.
In the depths of the Civil War, President Lincoln found hope. He cited the source of that hope in his Gettysburg Address, when he said: “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” (emphasis added). Drawing from this line in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Dr. George Docherty preached a sermon in 1954 in which he said: “To omit the words ‘under God’ in the pledge of allegiance is to omit the definitive character of the American way of life.”
But today, things have changed. We read on our money “IN GOD WE TRUST” yet ask “So why don’t we?” What happened – why has the American character changed? Certainly, in the wake of yet another school shooting in Broward County, Florida, people are asking that question. For a host of reasons, America has gone from a society based on Judeo-Christian principles to a society whose principles are not only secular, but are increasingly anti-Christian. Some see this as a good thing, but let us ask three simple questions:
Q1: If you do not believe in a divine moral law ordained by a Creator, how can you possibly expect people to be ethical?
A1: Without coercion, you can’t.
Q2: And, if you can’t expect people to be ethical out of their own volition, how can you expect them to show up for work on time, put in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay, and view a job well done as a calling to which they aspire, rather than as work they grudgingly do to avoid threats and penalties?
A2: Again, the answer is, you can’t.
Q3: Finally, what is the logical outcome over a sustained period of time in which these two trends grow and take hold in the behavior of the American People?
A3: The answer is, you will have a society in which fewer and fewer people see the value in hard work for its own sake, or being willing to obey laws once viewed as simple application of the Golden Rule.
America has been transformed from a nation whose national policy was founded on the private morality of its citizens, to one in which we worship at the altar of “diversity,” yet can never find the equality we demand. Can we reverse course and halt the unraveling of our ideals about civil society? Yes, we can – but it will take courage to do three things:
First, we must admit that the federalization of our schools has failed.
Second, we must acknowledge the truth of II Corinthians 3:17, a verse the Indianapolis Star runs on its masthead. That verse states: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
Third, we must get back to teaching a traditional civics curriculum which not only focuses on knowledge of America’s history, its founding philosophy and the mechanisms of how our government works. But, more importantly, the creation of an inner moral virtue which President Washington felt was essential for the success of our national policy.