“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” George Washington
“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion.” George Washington
“When people are universally ignorant, and debauched in their manners, they will sink under their own weight without the aid of foreign invaders.” Samuel Adams (Not the beer company)
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams
“Thus, while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust.” Alexis de Tocqueville.
I was blessed to get an early education that emphasized the beliefs, stated above, of many of America’s founding fathers. (Yes, I know Tocqueville was not a founding father.) As a result, I see misplaced faith today on the part of many conservative political zealots (think talk radio where they are legion) and liberal political zealots (think Bill Maher, most news media, and Hollywood). Many conservative zealots publicly place an inordinate faith in liberty, small government, and capitalism (noble dictums indeed). Yes, I know that liberty, a properly proportioned government, and capitalism provide, to date, the best possibilities to achieve improved lifestyles for the most people. But their long-term outcome, without the participation of a predominantly moral and religious citizenry, will be no better than the abhorrent systems of monarchy, socialism, and communism. Tis arrogant to believe that liberty and capitalism are immune from the sinful nature of humanity. Too many conservative zealots talk a big game about freedom and capitalism, but the necessity of religion and a moral people . . . not so much. The success of a nation depends more on its citizens embracing, at the very least, the reality of a constant moral standard that comes from a higher source than humanity.
On the other side of the political spectrum, we find the same fatal flaw where dwell liberal zealots such as Bill Maher and his acolytes (oh the irony of that term used in conjunction with Maher). Maher decries religion and God, and therefore does not understand the indispensable connection between religion and a government of free people. Many liberals like Maher believe that substitutes—such as the evolution of human morality and the law—for religion and God work better in the governance of the people. In other words, marginalize or eliminate religion, pass enough laws, and release government as a force for good to fight injustice, and the human condition will improve. Bull excrement! (Which is what the likes of George Washington and Samuel Adams would say.)
Our founding fathers were genius. Certainly they had human flaws, but so did Steve Jobs. Don’t get me wrong, our founding fathers did not advocate for a theocracy. They understood that religion can’t be shoved down the throats of the people by their government. They understood that citizens must be free to exercise their conscience in the engagement of religion, or not. If citizens refuse, the country is more apt to crumble. And based on history, national crumbling can be abrupt or, more likely, a gradual decay.
So, is the church dropping the ball in American religious society, or is the average citizen dropping the ball by abandoning religion in pursuit of something shiny in pop-culture? Granted, the institution of the church, along with many other institutions, has earned the disillusion and mistrust of many. But fighting the battle for America in the political arena alone will not succeed. My fellow citizens will need to swallow their pride and return to religion, aka God and the church. We are fortunate in that the church in America has many styles and venues to choose from. There is something for just about everyone.
Our brilliant founding fathers understood these things. I wonder how brilliant we are. Are you listening, millennials? Now would be a good time to scale back your daily devotions with Twitter, start reading the Bible now and then, and explore religion and the church. Politics and economies will be a little easier to fix if you do because you’ll be more likely to have God’s support.
Several weeks ago, my wife rushed to the hospital emergency room where her grandmother, nickname Grandma Great, had been transported after a fall. Fortunately, Grandma Great did not break any bones when she fell. However, the doctor determined that she fell because her heart was malfunctioning and her blood pressure would randomly plummet. The doctor said Grandma Great would not be with us much longer. She passed away a couple weeks ago at the ripe old age of 99 ½. (I wonder why we refer to the elderly as “ripe.”)
Anyhow, I was disappointed because I had rooted for Grandma Great to make it to one hundred. But bodies wracked with age eventually wear out on their own timetable. Time is not our ally. Thankfully, Grandma Great had a simple childlike faith in Christ. She was humming and singing old Christian hymns nearly up to the day she passed away. Grandma Great had lived a colorful life and I suspect she would freely admit mistakes made along the way. I anticipated her funeral would be ripe with stories of her exploits and the times in which she lived.
Her funeral was arranged at the church where she had attended before dementia forced her to scale back her way of life. Family members came from far and near, some of whom had rarely, if ever, set foot inside a church.
The pastor stuck to a formal funeral liturgy that was a lot like a Sunday morning service. It was a beautiful service complete with prayer, singing, Scripture reading, responsive reading, doctrinal instruction, and a dose of proselytizing. Yet one family member reported hearing an occasional sigh of impatience from one or two folks in the pews. (That’s my wife’s side of the family.) Yes, Grandma Great was mentioned in her funeral. And she was also honored at the reception after the service. But Grandma Great’s actual funeral service made me cringe a little. Not because I was embarrassed to have Christ openly proclaimed to believers and unbelievers alike. It is just that we sometimes don’t know when we are overdoing it. How so? Here is an example.
I have attended weddings where the entire service, as well as the reception, was almost exclusively about Christ and matters of faith. Don’t get me wrong . . . they were beautiful weddings with elegant receptions. But nearly all the talk from those at the microphone was religious in nature. Before you call me a heretic for suggesting that Christ not take center stage at milestones in our lives, hear me out. When I go to a wedding I look forward to hearing about the young couple getting hitched. I like to hear about their romance and courtship. (Yes, I know that is a little odd for a manly man like me.) I like the celebratory and emotional toasts to the couple. I like to hear humorous stories about the newlyweds. It is also fun to hear about their childhood exploits. Then, at the perfect time, a strategic and well placed Scripture or example of how Christ has influenced the lives of the newlyweds can have a powerful effect on those in attendance. (Especially if they’ve already knocked back a couple glasses of wine.)
If we focus excessively on religious talk we can come across as . . . well, like a couple going on a first date where the guy talks exclusively about himself. (Ladies, you know the type of dude I’m talking about.) Weddings and funerals can be great opportunities to share the good news of Christ, just so we don’t drone on to the point where peoples’ eyes glaze over. I am not suggesting we exalt ourselves. I know the message of Christ is the most important thing non-Christians need to hear in this life. But religion speak in bulk is not always the best way to go about it, especially on a first date. I’m just sayin.’
Now that I’m well into middle age, I can definitely tell that my body is wearing out. Gone is that exquisite feeling of youthful immortality and energy only to be replaced by . . . what? Wisdom, insight, maturity? Perhaps! I used to think many people turned to God, the Bible and religion as they grew old because of the feeling of death looking over their shoulder. In other words, people need a comfort as time runs out and they approach that step into the unknown. But I recently read something that changed my perspective on why we draw close to God in our latter years. It’s out of the book “Brave New World,” by Aldous Huxley. I’ve included it below. I hope you enjoy it and meditate on it.
“A man grows old; he feels in himself that radical sense of weakness, of listlessness, of discomfort, which accompanies the advance of age; and, feeing thus, imagines himself merely sick, lulling his fears with the notion that this distressing condition is due to some particular cause, from which, as from an illness, he hopes to recover. Vain imaginings! That sickness is old age; and a horrible disease it is. They say that it is the fear of death and of what comes after death that makes men turn to religion as they advance in years. But my own experience has given me the conviction that, quite apart from any such terrors or imaginings, the religious sentiment tends to develop as we grow older; to develop because, as the passions grow calm, as the fancy and sensibilities are less excited and less excitable, our reason becomes less troubled in its working, less obscured by the images, desires and distractions, in which it used to be absorbed; whereupon God emerges as from behind a cloud; our soul feels, sees, turns towards the source of all light; turns naturally and inevitably; for now that all that gave to the world of sensations its life and charms has begun to leak away from us, now that phenomenal existences is no more bolstered up by impressions from within or from without, we feel the need to lean on something that abides, something that will never play us false—a reality, an absolute and everlasting truth. Yes, we inevitably turn to God; for this religious sentiment is of its nature so pure, so delightful to the soul that experiences it, that it makes up to us for all our other losses.”