Some thoughts about our country as Christmas and the new year approach.
In his Farewell Address to the nation in 1796, America’s departing first president, George Washington, observed: “It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring to popular government.”
And what is the basis upon which we define morality?
Washington answers, “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Per our first president, for a democracy to function properly, it must be guided by moral principles. And the guidelines and rules by which we define what is moral are framed by principles of the Bible.
This is not exactly what we have going on today.
Rather than our democracy following prior moral principles, our moral principles now are defined by our democracy. What we deem to be moral — good and evil, right and wrong — now arrives to us not from heaven but from Hollywood.
Consider how, over the last 20 years, our idea of what is morally acceptable has changed.
Twenty-two years ago, in 2001, per Gallup polling, the following percentages of Americans viewed these activities as “morally acceptable”: gay/lesbian relations: 40%; birth to unwed mother: 45%; polygamy: 7%; suicide: 13%; pornography: 30%.
In the latest survey in 2022, following are the percentages calling these same activities “morally acceptable”: gay/lesbian relations: 71%; birth to unwed mother: 70%; polygamy: 23%; suicide: 22%; pornography: 41%.
What exactly happened over 22 years that, on average, the percentage saying each morally sensitive area is morally acceptable has more than doubled?
One thing that has happened is that the percentage of Americans that think the Bible is relevant to their life has dramatically dropped.
Per Gallup, the percentage saying that religion is “very important” in their life has dropped from 70% in 1965 to 49% in 2021.
The percentage saying they attended church in the last seven days has dropped from 49% in 1960 to 29% in 2021.
Certainly contributing to this is a long series of court decisions in which interpretations of the First Amendment have been more about purging religion from our public spaces than about protecting religious liberty.
The 1962 decision banning prayer in public schools was just the opening salvo producing our reality today in which traditional values and morality are gone from the instruction our children receive in public schools. Those values have been replaced by the secular humanism of the far left.
It is very popular to think about public policy in terms of the social agenda and the economic agenda, as if these are two separate worlds. But they’re not. As religion declines, government grows.
Perhaps George Washington’s point that a moral and virtuous culture enables popular government can be best understood in that a free society cannot function when individuals cannot govern themselves through personal responsibility.
Tens of trillions have been spent on anti-poverty programs with practically zero impact. Substantial research shows that what really combats recurring poverty is the so-called “success sequence.” Those who finish high school, do not have children before marriage and work overwhelmingly move out of poverty.
Government and politics have become our new religion, despite their dismal track record of success in improving the human condition.
The Penn Wharton Budget model, an economic research group at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, projects now that by 2050, our national debt will be 225% of our GDP.
A national culture increasingly rooted in falsehoods is spending itself into oblivion and bankruptcy.
How about we Americans who still pray direct our prayers that in the upcoming year we see a revival of truth in our nation? Let’s pray that all our citizens see that the only path to freedom is each embracing eternal truths that enable all of us to successfully govern our own lives.
Star Parker is president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education and host of the weekly television show “Cure America with Star Parker.” To find out more about Star Parker and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.