Last week I wrote about organized evil that appears to be growing in the United States and other nations.
The obvious questions are “What is allowing this to happen?” and “Why now?”
Today, I’d like to discuss what is America’s gravest and most ominous threat. It is not anarchists, God-haters and communists, snowflake universities, twenty trillion dollars in debt, global terrorism or North Korean nukes, or inept and delinquent political leadership.
All these are serious problems that could hasten our demise.
But, what is the BIGGEST threat to our survival and destiny as a people?
Many years ago, two quotes from our history stirred me as to what’s vital to the survival of a free nation. Interestingly, the quotes came from one family–two cousins–who were front and center in the War for Independence.
The Adams family.
Here’s the first from John Adams, 2nd president of the United States:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
And the second, by his cousin, Samuel Adams, the activist visionary of the Revolutionary cause:
“A general decay of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous, they cannot be subdued, but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader. . . If virtue and knowledge are highly valued among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their security.”
These famous cousins gave us the secret to national freedom in these powerful yet sobering words.
John Adams believed that people live in liberty if they control their behavior i.e. “self-government.” If people are “moral,” then social controls can be small because they are rarely needed. People restrain themselves. Hence, they can live in a very free and open society.
He also noted that that the greatest producer of moral behavior is religion–which in his day, meant the teachings and power of Jesus Christ. When a man or woman becomes a follower of Jesus, His Spirit comes to live inside of them, producing many good qualities that include virtue, honesty, integrity, hard work, compassion, empathy, and serving others.
In sum, John Adam’s equation for societal success was “Faith in God plus morality equals freedom.” With liberty, by definition, being the wisdom and power to do what we ought, faith-filled moral people don’t need the heavy hand of government and large jails. They govern themselves with God’s help.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Samuel Adams was the prophetic firebrand of the cousins, possibly the major “spark” in America’s drive to establish a uniquely free nation.
In 1779 he prophesied to future Americans that the keys to liberty lay in virtuous lives (moral, serving God and others, not self) and by knowing what’s right and true (knowledge). Godly morality and wisdom were the guarantors of personal and social freedom.
He learned that from the Bible: 2 Peter 1:5.
Samuel Adams warned that once we stop being virtuous (become self-centered and uncaring) and no longer know right from wrong, then we will give away our freedoms to internal mobs or invading armies.
In other words, people who understand and live Christ’s teaching will have the discernment and passion to resist evil–what Thomas Jefferson called “eternal vigilance.” But unbelieving and immoral folks will be so numbed by sin and ignorance that they fail to grasp bad stuff showing up at their doorstep–either from neighbors or tyrants.
They simply give in to the ungodly tide.
The Adamses knew that free people must possess virtue and knowledge–that they would be destroyed by selfish living and ignorance. There is another way to word this danger:
A deficit of character.
I believe the growing character deficit of the American people portends our greatest weakness and most ominous danger. We’ve lost a good portion of our “virtuous capital,” and are in danger of losing our most precious resource.
What’s the evidence of this ominous character deficit?
- The largest growing segment today in American “religion” is the non-religious–now up to 23%.
- The death of marriage, numerous single parent homes, and a millions of Americans “sleeping around.”
- Precipitous decline in civility, manners, and respect at home and in the marketplace.
- Death of free speech on college campuses.
- Drug epidemic and violence in many cities (Chicago?).
- Ignorance: 37% of Americans can’t recall one of the rights listed in the Constitution (Bill of Rights).
This deficit of American character is deeply troubling. We’re losing the memory that what made us an exceptionally free nation is our faith in God (“In God We Trust”), strong and moral families, vibrant churches and associations, hard work and free enterprise, and limited government controls and restraints.
These foundation stones were periodically renewed over the past 230 years by spiritual awakenings and even a Civil War–possibly the only war in history fought for a moral principle. But those renewals became sparse in the 20th century. Gradually, the nation drifted from God, morality, and freedom into secularism, hedonism, and the growth of the State. Character has been replaced with selfie culture.
This deficit of character makes us sitting ducks for organized evil.
The recent uproar between President Trump and the NFL over players not standing for the national anthem is a case in point in America’s growing character deficit.
Since the Civil War, and greatly popularized during the World War II, Americans stood, put their hands on their hearts, and sang the national anthem at sporting events. It served as a moment of unity, patriotism, reflection on our history, and understanding of our liberty–under God.
It was a mark of corporate character.
I personally remember standing as an athlete before many games, thanking God for America, and relishing singing “The Star Spangled Banner. ” The moment was inspiring, invigorating, a reminder of what it meant to be an American.
A lie changed that tradition in the National Football League (NFL). It began in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 when Michael Brown, a grocery store thief who accosted a policeman, was cut down after “raising his hands in surrender.”
But that wasn’t true– as the subsequent evidence showed. Michael Brown never raised his hands and didn’t utter the words, “Don’t Shoot.” Instead, he aggressively charged the police officer who had no choice but to use his gun to protect himself.
But the lie of “Hands up! Don’t Shoot” became the mantra of the Black Lives Matter movement–inciting some Americans to call for killing cops and protesting injustice. Later, a well-known African-American quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, picked up the lie and brought it into NFL locker rooms with this pronouncement:
“America refuses to address the pervasive evil of white cops killing black men, and I will not stand during a national anthem that honors the flag of such a country!”
Kaepernick began to disgrace the American flag by kneeling during the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Other players followed.
A deficit of character–based on a lie.
President Trump waded into the issue in a rally in Alabama, calling the offending NFL players SOB’s and decrying their disrespect for the American flag.
His cause was proper. It was not right for the NFL players to be breaching their own rules as a private business (this was not a free speech issue) while dissing the nation and those who’ve fought and died for it.
But the president showed bad character by his vulgar words.
Last weekend, nearly one-tenth of the 1700 NFL players boycotted the national anthem in various ways, either kneeling in disrespect, staying in the locker room, or defiantly linking arms. They say they are promoting unity and speaking out against injustice. (Former Army captain Alejandro Villanueva was a pleasant exception.)
These words sound good, but they’re hollow. African-Americans are not being targeted in this country. The statistics of police shootings don’t lie. The Ferguson slogan did. America is one of the least unjust nations in the world because of our heritage. And when we make mistakes, we usually correct them–even if a war is necessary.
All of us experience injustice. My father went to prison for three years unjustly. That doesn’t make it right for me to disrespect the flag.
Some say that present-day America doesn’t speak for them or respect their values. But as Laura Ingraham points out, that’s more true of Christian conservatives, than secular progressives. We are the ones who’ve watched our nation kill 50 million babies through abortion, change the 5000 year definition of marriage, and create a monstrous welfare state in the past forty years.
Yet, we don’t disrespect the nation or those who fought and died for it. We appropriately and prayerfully work to change it. We invite others to do the same. We don’t destroy the nation for the sake of our cause.
That only happens through bad character.
The threat of organized evil is roaring in the 21st century because a growing character deficit (of morality and wisdom) makes anarchy and destruction more likely and possible.
“How should we then live?” (Ezekiel 33:10).
Next Week Part 3: Marching Orders for the People of God