Jerry C. Brewer
Institutions are what they are because of what the individuals who compose them are. The family, the nation and the church project collective personae that only mirror those of their individual members. As the smallest unit of organized society, the individual’s moral condition bears a fundamental relationship to the moral health of the whole society. Consequently and cyclically, the causes of moral ills that permeate and afflict society are traceable to individual conduct.
Social upheavals in America and a climate of confrontation and violence in the 1960s created what many termed “a sick society.” Response to that “sickness” consisted mainly of the symptomatic treatment of social legislation by Congress such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That led to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs and related attempts to eradicate poverty within certain classes of citizens, with the assumption that its eradication would cure society’s ills. Six decades later, millions still live in self imposed squalor while those very programs, ostensibly designed to eliminate poverty, have become incentives for a dependent underclass to remain in those conditions.
More than twenty-five years later, Johnson’s War on Poverty has been an unqualified failure. Despite spending trillions of dollars, it has had the unintended consequence of making welfare more attractive than work to many families… (Contract With America, Ed Gillespie and Bob Schellhas, eds., Times Books, Random House, NY, 1994, p. 67).
The causes of society’s problems do not spring from the body politic. Without exception, they find their genesis in the sinful conduct of the individual. The problems of hatred, illegitimate children, child abuse, drugs, alcohol, homosexuality, incest, pornographic “entertainment,” gambling, violent criminal behavior and a host of other evils that plague society do not constitute the illness. They are merely symptoms of a moral virus which attacks society’s cellular component—the individual. When the individual is evil, the family, the church and the state all suffer and immorality in those institutions exists only to the extent that it is tolerated in the individual. The physical body becomes feverish and ill when a virus invades the cell. Remove the cause of illness from the cell and the body returns to a healthy state. So it is with society. Remove immorality from the individual and replace it with godliness and society will return to moral health.
That society ails cannot be denied. When children bear children out of wedlock, sodomy is legalize and celebrated at the highest governmental levels, elementary school children carry guns to class, the killing of unborn children is sanctioned by the highest court in the land, fathers abandon their families, a welfare check is preferable to an honest day’s work, murderers receive “life” for sentencing their own victims to death and evil is called a “psychological disorder,” then society is indeed sick. When religion is prohibited in public institutions, the wages of honest working people are confiscated by a paternalistic government to support those who refuse to work, pornography is fed to children via the internet and television, fornicators holds the office of national, perverted minds in the television and film industries set the nation’s moral tone, then our society is sick. How did we come to this?
The answer is found in Romans 1:18-32 which describes the unrighteousness of man that springs from his own ungodliness. Tracing the descent of men—and nations—into the abyss of moral depravity, Paul says it begins with, and is sustained by, ungodliness, a word which is explained by R. L. Whiteside.
The meaning of this word (ungodliness, JB) has been obscured by trying to make it mean godlikeness. It has no such meaning in the Bible; the Greek word from which it is translated has no such meaning. Godliness is piety, reverence. A godly person is one who has respect for God and sacred things. Ungodliness is impiety, irreverence, a lack of respect for God and sacred things. Godliness is a right attitude toward God; ungodliness is a wrong attitude toward God (A New Commentary on Paul’s Letter To The Saints at Rome, Miss Inys Whiteside, Denton, Texas, 1945, pp. 23-24).
Ungodliness in the individual is the well-spring of all societal ills and the progenitor of all that is evil among man. The primal sin of man, ungodliness remains that from which all else springs. Made in the image of God, (Gen. 1:26), man was united with his Maker until he was attracted to the serpent’s lie and disobeyed. That first sin amounted to ungodliness—a rejection of godly leadership and its replacement with man’s desires. Bound up within that account is the first recorded practice of humanism. Man rejected God’s perfection for his own wisdom and, with that as his chart and compass, began his descent into the abyss of heathenism.
Society, according to Webster, is “…a community, nation or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions and collective activities and interests.” American society is a nation built upon traditions, institutions, activities and interests that derive from Biblical morality embedded deeply in our collective past. American civilization emerged from those beliefs and our abandonment of them has led to the ills of latter twentieth century America.
For more than two centuries America has existed upon the foundation truths of a belief in God, Divine revelation, the priesthood of the believer and that, by virtue of birth, we are endowed by God with the inalienable rights of free men. Our civilization arose on the fundamental belief that the rights we enjoy are tempered by responsibilities to family, community and nation and it is this sense of ought, derived from our religious past, that produces what is orderly, right and harmonious in America. Antithetical to our roots, libertinism, hedonism, anarchism and humanism which exalt self above all others—including God—are the causes of today’s immoral society.
In the American nation’s beginning, the home and the church provided the impetus for the its rise and strength. While the nature and purposes of the home, the church, and the state are different, the former two provide the moral climate that prevails in the latter, as Allan Bloom pointed out.
Attending church or synagogue, praying at the table, were a way of life, inseparable from the moral education that was supposed to be the family’s special responsibility in this democracy. Actually, the moral teaching was the religious teaching. There was no abstract doctrine. The things one was supposed to do, the sense that the world supported them and punished disobedience, were all incarnated in the Biblical stories. The loss of the gripping inner life vouchsafed those who were nurtured by the Bible must be primarily attributed not to our schools or political life, but to the family, which, with all its rights to privacy, has proved unable to maintain any content of its own. The dreariness of the family’s spiritual landscape passes belief…The delicate fabric of the civilization into which successive generations are woven has unraveled, and children are raised, not educated (The Closing of The American Mind, 1987, Simon & Schuster, NY, pp. 56-57).
A sense of right moral conduct, inherent in the Bible and believed and taught in the homes and churches of the earliest settlers in the English colonies of North America was the guiding philosophy of the nation’s founders. That sense of moral right, upon which the endurance and stability of any nation depends, has been lost in America because of the failure of the home.
Moral righteousness transcends human law and reasoning. It comes neither from legislative bodies nor ecumenical societies, but from the perfection of divine revelation. Becoming inured to the evils of fornication, adultery, homicide, genocide, infanticide and suicide, we have become an amoral nation. A steady diet of murder, rape, robbery, child abuse and abandonment, on the evening news has numbed our moral sensibilities until we consider those things normal rather than aberrant behavior. Bombarded with appeals for the rights of sodomites, we are no longer outraged at those things upon which the moral wrath of society would have once descended. That’s the very point made by Bloom when he drew a comparison between a morally desensitized America and the Weimar Republic which spawned Adolph Hitler’s atrocities.
…anything was possible for people who sang of the joy of the knife in cabarets. Decent people became used to hearing things about which they would have in the past been horrified to think, and which would not have been allowed public expression. (ibid, p. 154-55).
Prodded by religious skepticism and the non-biblical religion of humanistic ideology, we have loosed ourselves from the moorings of absolute right and set ourselves adrift upon the uncertain sea of human reason. Abandoning their responsibilities as society’s basic institutions, the home, the church and the state have formed an unholy alliance and created a generation which perpetuates a morally chaotic society.
The only solution to the problem is a frontal attack on the cause of the illness. The home must assume its place as the primary nurturer and the foundation block upon which society stands. The church must refocus on spiritual matters and the state must abandon its paternalism. Standing upon the foundation of its homes, the state has almost destroyed its own foundation by lifting familial and benevolent religious obligations from the individual and appropriating those to itself under the guise of “social legislation.” The state cannot replace the family. The family cannot replace the church, and the church cannot replace the state or the family and the family cannot replace the state. Each must function within its own sphere of influence and obligation in order for society to be made whole again.