Saturday, November 11, 2006

"In Selecting Men for Office"

By Garry J. Moes

"IN SELECTING MEN FOR OFFICE let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate ... look to his character. The scriptures teach that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of (Respect for) God, able men, men of truth (faithful to their promises), hating covetousness (greed). "It is to the neglect of this rule that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, breaches of trust, and embezzlements of public property which tarnish the character of our country and disgrace government. "When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility; he sacrifices not only his interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country." -- Noah Webster, 1823


The rancorous mid-term elections of 2006 are history, and the victorious Democrats are (secretly gloating and plotting their revengeful counterattack for the past six years of humiliation while) positing statesmanship and bipartisan cooperation with the Administration on all things good for the country. Republicans immediately have opened their post-mortem and begun a sorry ritual of self-flagellation. Conservative pundits are asking what has gone wrong with the GOP; liberal pundits have no doubts.

What is wrong with the conduct of the war is really not the primary explanation for the election results, despite what the liberals would have us believe. What is wrong with the Democrats is too vast to address here. What is wrong with too many of the men and women of the GOP who have held high legislative office in the past 12 years might be discovered in the words of Noah Webster quoted above, especially in the area of "breaches of trust."

Whatever is wrong with the current crop of public "servants" (pardon the expression), however, pales in comparison with what is really wrong in the American civic realm: the American voter.

What I have feared for some time now is becoming painfully obvious: Americans are no longer qualified to govern themselves. And if they persist in trying to do so without some fundamental changes, life in this country will grow increasingly weird, even hellish. If our own vices, crimes, ambition, lying, injustice, fickleness and stupidity do not become the hallmarks of our existence, the highly motivated vision of our terror-striking enemies will. Until that frightening prospect happens, though, we will still increasingly become the helpless victims of every moment's political whim, polling vagary, demagogue and entertaining loony.

In words that now sound utterly ludicrous to many in our midst, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, set forth the essential foundation for American society when he stated in 1778, "We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future ... upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to sustain ourselves, according to the Ten Commandments of God."

Another patriot observed that the success of the American system depended wholly upon the existence of a moral people and that it was wholly inadequate for any other.

The statesman-orator Daniel Webster put it plainly when he said, "Lastly, our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted to any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits."

In 1851, Webster cautioned: "Let the religious element in man's nature be neglected, let him be influenced by no higher motives than low self-interest, and subject to no stronger restraint than the limits of civil authority, and he becomes the creature of selfish passion or blind fanaticism (emphasis added).

"On the other hand, the cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licentiousness ... inspires respect for law and order, and gives strength to the whole social fabric, at the same time that it conducts the human soul upward to the Author of its being." Alas, these are values which are now of little consequence to the majority of the American people.

An earlier Webster, Noah, predicted our day when he wrote, "All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible." Noah Webster argued that the "moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis" of all our civil laws and life.

"America is great because America is good," the French observer Alexis DeTocqueville said in finding the America of the mid-19th century "aflame with righteousness." But he warned: "...if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

Near the turn into the last century, the U.S. Supreme Court could still declare: "Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of The Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise...." Our courts now find it necessary and constitutionally mandated that it be otherwise.

In the early part of 20th century, we could boast a president who recognized the absolute necessity of adherence to the Biblical system of morality and ethics if the American vision were to survive. Said President Calvin Coolidge, "The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country." Though we have recently been blessed with another president who could affirm that idea, it is clear that such faith is far from universal, and the foundations of our society and government can clearly be expected to crumble, either under the weight of our own corruption or the determination of our enemies.

It is hard to say when exactly Americans lost this vision. It was probably sometime before Bill Clinton. In America today, in politics, in social life and in the church, Biblical absolutes and objective truth no longer govern nor even serve as norms.

The Republican Party, for example, has abandoned the notion that parties are formed to advance principles. The party, born of principle, has now agreed to financially support candidates who openly flout the party's platform. It has forgotten the ideal noted a more than a decade ago by conservative historian Robert J. Nagle, "The formation of any political philosophy is basically an attempt to transform personal moral and social values into a platform acceptable to a great mass of people." In the place of parties based on political or moral principle, we now have parties that are nothing more than power blocs. Whosoever will join, enrich, empower and cultivate the power bloc is welcome; principles be damned.

The future is bleak as well, when the coming generation is examined. An analysis by Bryan Hayes, marketing director for Mount Hermon Association Inc., finds that 60 percent of Christian teenagers "say there is no such thing as absolute truth." Worse, in the realm of ethics, fully 90 percent of Christian teens say that "right and wrong depend on the individual and the situation." The Nehemiah Institute, which surveys youthful attitudes and beliefs, finds that both public- and Christian-school teens share worldviews which are thorough unbiblical, secular and even socialist ... and are deteriorating yearly.

Samuel Adams admonished religious, educational and political leaders in 1790 about their obligations to the young: "Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age, by impressing the minds of men with the importance of ... inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy, and, in subordination to these great principles, the love of their country; of instructing them in the art of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the government of societies, great or small; in short, of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system..." (emphasis added).

By all of the historic measures quoted herein, and many others which could be cited, Americans have now lost their ability to conduct a just and moral political system and will increasingly lose their right to governmental sovereignty.

What lies in store for us is increasingly becoming too grim to contemplate. As commentator Thomas Sowell recently put it: "Corruption of the government is not a private matter or a transient scandal. It is dry rot that either has to be cleaned out or else allowed to undermine the whole structure in the course of time. But if we cannot see that, then our problems are much bigger than [any individual corrupt politician or lobbyist], and will be with us long after they are gone."

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