Only a Moral And Religious People
Common Sense – Chapter 5; Part 8
The false idea that money can solve any problem isn’t confined to education. We all started to believe that notion. If we didn’t have the money, we acted like we did. We felt like we deserved to have it all—big homes, big cars, big TVs. Even as our families became smaller, our homes got bigger, with the average home size growing from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,512 square feet today. Naturally, those bigger homes came with a bigger price tag. The median home price went from $65,087 (adjusted for inflation) to $165,400 over that same fifty-eight-year period.
It’s a sad contradiction, but our homes now seem to have plenty of room for everything—except God. New technology makes us more efficient at work, but we spend less time with our children. The Internet has made the world smaller, yet we’re more disconnected from our communities than ever before.
Yet, despite it all, we eagerly lined up for more!
Tennis great Arthur Ashe described what happened to our communities back during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. “I felt sick,” he said. “That’s not us… We were once a people of dignity and morality; we wanted the world to be fair to us, and we tried, on the whole, to be fair to the world. Now I was looking at a new order that is based squarely on revenge, not justice, with morality discarded. Instead of settling on what’s right, or just, or moral, the idea is to get even.”
The truth that many people are now learning the hard way is that money isn’t the solution to our problems—we are. Good families require good parents. Good communities require good neighbors. And good government requires good citizens.
We have always been a nation who selflessly sacrifices for our families, our communities, and our country. But today we are experiencing a change in what it means to be a volunteer.
Under President Obama, the AmeriCorps program purports to be a volunteer organization dedicated to service. Each participant, however, is paid a monthly stipend adding up to several thousands of dollars annually. Service also comes with an “award” that helps defray the cost of college, another benefit worth thousands of dollars annually. Common sense tells us that if you’re paid for your work you’re an employee or a contractor, not a volunteer.
While this subtle change may seem harmless, it reflects the Progressive mind-set that it’s more important to get the youth involved in the AmeriCorps program than it is for them to experience the selflessness that actual volunteer work is all about. The reason is that Progressives are trying to redefine service, volunteerism, and charity in an attempt to further combine the secular with the spiritual. They want to erase any barrier between government-sanctioned work and government-sanctioned volunteerism. To them it’s all one and the same.
At this time of great need for values such as goodness, virtue, and modesty, religion is increasingly being targeted as the barrier instead of being embraced as a savior. This lie needs to be rejected—not by words, but by example. Religion is not the cause of intolerance any more than the lack of it is the cause of mass murder. People are responsible for their own behavior—those who kill in the name of any religion are just as delusional as those who, like Stalin and Hitler, kill for no one but themselves.
So why is religion so important to the proper functioning of democracy? Well, once again, our Founding Fathers had the answer. In a letter to the president of Yale University, Benjamin Franklin once wrote:
Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immoral, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion.
It wasn’t any one particular creed, dogma, or church, but rather about all religions that inspired men to selflessness, virtue, and godliness. Our Founders understood the thing that we try so hard to forget today: there is far more that unites us than divides us. Virtue, honesty, and character aren’t the purview of any particular congregation; they can be found in any church that has God as its foundation. We have forgotten this lesson and instead of using religion as our anchor, we use it to shame or blame. To many in this country, those who attend church regularly aren’t pillars of their community, they’re freaks or extremists.
But that mind-set can be changed by setting an example of tolerance and unparalleled acceptance towards each other. Let’s stop using our religious symbols to score political points. Are we that insecure in our own faith that the religious symbols or public prayers of a different religions cannot be welcomed with open arms? As Thomas Jefferson once said:
Question with boldness, even the existence of a God; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear… Do not be frightened from this inquiry from any fear of its consequences. If it ends in the belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise…
Religions and their followers must stop turning on each other. We are a land founded through divine Providence, a land where, as James Madison said, the “spirit of liberty and patriotism animates all degrees and denominations of men.”
But Progressives don’t see it that way. They want us at each other’s throats because a house divided cannot stand against them. They recognize that religion is a unifying force and a counterbalance to state power, so they believe that it must either be harnessed by the state or destroyed. There cannot be a rival for American’s allegiance.
As with the other issues we’ve covered, Progressives recognize that they cannot change this overnight. They understand the powerful role that religion plays and so they won’t come out and directly repudiate it. Instead, they will seek to co-opt its doctrines where they can, much as Woodrow Wilson did when he pronounced, “There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.” His Republican predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, claimed that when the people voted on who should be their president, the process should “be treated as next to the voice of God.”
By substituting the “common good” for God as the highest form of religion, they are subtly saying that your rights, freedoms, and liberties come from government instead of, as the Founding Fathers taught, directly from God, and that you lend some of those rights to the government.
French Progressive Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that religion and politics should be aligned in their goals and aspirations for the community. Allegiance to one should automatically trigger allegiance to the other.
But it’s more than simply invoking the name of God or religion; it is the devout belief that the work of government is furthering the work of God. The concept of a “social gospel” is not something reserved for history. At this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama shared that his religious conversion took place while doing community organizing work on the streets of Chicago. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it shows that, for Obama, community organizing wasn’t just a political endeavor, it was a spiritual one as well. So when Obama then called for Americans “to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth,” something he called the “Golden Rule”—it’s likely that he looks as it as his duty to use the levers and power of government to make that happen.
Evidence of that belief can be found in how our leaders look at charitable giving. Despite a six-figure salary, Vice President Joe Biden has given an average of $369 to charity each year for the last decade. Before considering running for President, Barack Obama donated about 1 percent of his salary to charity. I am not a person who will ever tell others how or where to spend their money, but given the Progressive priorities, and the way President Obama views AmeriCorps, I doubt that this reflects stinginess. Instead, it likely reflects their belief that charitable giving is secondary to charitable action, something that they fulfill by promoting a “greater good” agenda.
We must not fall into that trap and we must not become the hypocrites that our politicians already are. We cannot preach tolerance and then practice the opposite. Franklin once observed that “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” That’s because democracy requires self-regulation, a virtue that those who practice greed and hate are incapable of mastering. But the cause of freedom is too important to let those who are incapable of self-sufficiency destroy it. Remember, to us, slavery and tyranny are far-fetched concepts that history has righted—but to history, the far-fetched concept is the idea that men should be free.