Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
America's Moral Condition
Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
How is traditional Christianity faring in America today? There is good news, and some not so good.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life interviewed over 35,000 adults in order to sketch our religious profile. 75 percent of us claim to be Christian. But only 51 percent, and slipping, say they are Protestant. Twenty-five percent of those from 18 to 29 have no religious affiliation at all, and nearly one-half of all Americans have left the faith in which they were raised for another faith.
About one-third of all Americans were born of Roman Catholic parents. However, less than 25 percent of them affirm they are still Catholic. Finally, almost 10 percent of those who call themselves "just a Protestant," rarely attend any church services.
The survey confirmed that though the main-line Protestant denominations have declining memberships, many non-denominational churches are growing. Of less relevance, but still interesting, is the fact that most members of conservative evangelical churches were raised in a Protestant denomination. "The American religious economy is like a marketplace -- very dynamic -- and very competitive. There are net winners and losers, but no one is standing still," said a Pew Forum executive.
In America, the doctrines of each of our major denominations have been transformed -- altered -- in the years since their inception. Events in the world, plus the leader's perceptions of what is Truth, have caused these changes. As with all political parties, some of these religions' ideologies, whether they are Christian or another faith, have moved to the left, becoming more liberal, while others have shifted to the right, staying traditional, or becoming more conservative. An example of the latter would include the Presbyterian Church in America, and many independent Baptist congregations.
Separate from Christianity, but equally traditional, is social conservatism. It is still strong in the United States, and is our only political doctrine that reflects the basic philosophy of our Founders. The opponents of this belief do not accept the principles from the Declaration of Independence, such as, "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . ." Their view is that they are nice sentiments, as are the Ten Commandments, but they are not realistic.
We are currently locked in political combat with these ideological liberals. Their objective is to eliminate all religious practices -- especially Christianity -- from our daily national life. The liberal media, including many of our "progressive" politicians, have subtly been portraying the advocacy of traditional ethics and mores as a threat to our freedoms. Yet, these virtues and principles are the foundation of our liberties. Those conventional rules, manners, and routines teach us how to control ourselves, and what actions and practices are acceptable in society. Freedom with no limits is anarchy.
In Europe, political parties with religious or conservative names still exist, but their ideology is no longer conservative or Christian. They capitulated long ago to social liberalism. This is what President Obama wants to change us into: a socialist democracy.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the author of the liberal-left's goal, which is the rejection by society of our standards of behavior -- especially our moral codes. Monsieur Rousseau proposed absolute individual freedom, with no restrictive laws or mores. I personally doubt that most American progressive-liberals are even aware of the chaos that could develop from their support of "relativism." There would no longer be any moral, ethical, or religious truths.
Due to the offensive undertaken by the liberal wing of the Democratic Party against the Judeo-Christian's position regarding same-sex marriage, and the party's embrace of the progressive agenda, columnist Dennis Prager, have labeled them "The Political Party Without Values." Their collaboration with organizations such as the ADA, NOW, the ACLU, and Act-Up confirms that the title is apt.
Robert Redford, Elizabeth Taylor, and Sean Penn are three of their well-known members. They have publicly espoused same-sex marriage, have characterized conservatives and Christians as "judgmental and narrow-minded," and Mr. Redford has described Fidel Castro as "a great leader and humanitarian."
Cal Thomas wrote, "Many Americans are growing tired of a government and culture that fails to produce the basic moral and spiritual necessities of life." And a Chilton Research Services poll found that lack of morality in the United States "is a greater problem than the lack of economic opportunity." Add to that the fact that over one-third of all births are out-of-wedlock, and it is evident that our challenge is to get off the slope that can only lead to our nation's moral collapse. But, as our culture has been sliding towards the abyss, too many Christian conservatives have withdrawn into the safety of their own fellowship. There, they have their own radio stations, TV shows, magazines, and subculture.
The real world should not be ignored. It is the duty of the morally and spiritually strong to lead the campaign to re-capture our culture, and to bring our nation back from the brink of economic and moral disaster. The United States is, thankfully, not an explicitly Christian country, as Saudi Arabia is an Islamic nation. Yet, as the Pew Forum poll disclosed, most Americans consider themselves to be Christians. Further, several years ago, a Gallup survey learned that 40 percent of them identify themselves as being "born again."
Why then have we allowed America's culture to become so vulgar, violent, and sleazy? We should be able to have a greater impact on the laws and regulations coming from the U. S. Congress, and our state capitals. We certainly out number the 25 percent who say they are not Christian.
However, liberals now control the reigning elite institutions of academia, the media, the entertainment industry, and the law. They are better organized than are we. In addition, 75 to 80 percent of print journalists are also liberal Democrats.
Conservative and Christians voters have been quite successful in electing legislators at the national and state levels who share many of their values and views. Why then don't our laws and regulations reflect those standards?
Because "politics is downstream from our culture," as was written by my son, Bill Wichterman. Our culture is formed and molded by the film and TV entertainment industry. There is rarely any movie or TV show produced whose lead character has a strong, positive presence, and whose conservative or Christian stance is central to the story. Lately, the media is even presenting our national heroes with a negative slant. It was recently written, for instance, that George Washington should not be honored, as he owned slaves. There was no mention, though, that he and Martha had set aside enough money so that their slaves would be freed, after their deaths.
In order for us to recapture our culture, and attempt to restore it, we must fight. The members of the conservative and Christian communities are as intelligent, discerning, and probably better informed than those of our adversaries. Groups of Christian lawyers have been defeating and thwarting the ACLU, for example, in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, by basing their defenses on the First Amendment's Freedom of Speech guarantee, rather than its Freedom of Religion clause.
Further, we must show the world that our lives reflect our faith. The national media was amazed at, but still gave extensive coverage to, the Lancaster County (PA) Amish, and how they were able to forgive the murderer of their children in the massacre at the Nickel Mines school. Then, as he had committed suicide, they also helped his wife and children with their needs.
We all know, intuitively, what is right, and what is not. This will be a long and sometimes bitter conflict. But, if we want to save our country and our freedoms, it is an engagement in which we must prevail. America was conceived and born as "One nation under God." Trusting in His wisdom and strength, we must complete, with confidence in His support and guidance, that which will bring many of our countrymen to also follow His path. *
"Doesn't it seem strange that President Obama, whose Administration orchestrated the most expensive bribery scheme in history in order to procure passage of his health care bill, soon thereafter flew to Afghanistan to insist that President Karzai work to eliminate the corruption in his government!" --John A. Howard
Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Should we all be tolerant and accepting of other's ideas and views, even when we disagree with their beliefs and solutions? If their sentiments were expressed politely, of course. We must be open minded and friendly. We should then present our own thoughts on the matter being considered, in an equally affable manner. If they cordially maintain their position, we should then move on to a "safe" subject, such as the weather.
That is how differences of opinions are handled in, what is euphemistically known as, "polite society." However, if the issue is the role of religion in our nation's daily life, there is rarely a civil discussion between the secularists, and members of any mainstream faith, but especially Christianity. Perhaps that is because there are more Christians in America than any other belief, and as Christians share their faith more than do those from other denominations. It appears that the secularists, supported by the media, are no more tolerant of Christianity than they are of Rush Limbaugh, or the NRA.
They are attempting to drive religions, not only from the public square, but also from any involvement whatsoever in education, healthcare, and welfare services. The methods employed to remove them are anti-discrimination statutes. The secularist's intent is to neutralize our freedom of religion.
The conflict is basically with a theological question: Did God create everything in existence, or did the divers religions create a god to suit their own ends, as the secularists contend? Whatever the answer is, as long as the secular state is able to maintain virtual control of these faiths, they will tolerate them. But should they attempt to influence the culture, and the state's legislative policies with their positions, the secularists will fight. Their strategy is to use existing laws to rally public opinion.
For example, the public reacts negatively to Islam's ban on equal civil rights for women. Christianity's and Judaism's practices and regulations are generally acceptable, although there are many who are opposed to those faiths that will not ordain women and homosexuals. The secularist's aim is, using the support of those who oppose these beliefs, to have anti-discrimination bills passed which will no longer exempt religions from having to comply with them. In Great Britain, for instance, the New Equality Act makes it illegal for a church to discriminate against a non-believer by hiring one of its own members, assuming they are both qualified for the position.
The current anti-discrimination laws in the United States have usually excluded all religions, so that they may continue to exercise their preferred employment practices. Actually, these exemptions are protections of our religious freedoms. The secularists are working to have them redefined, so that a church or religious organization that provides services to, for example, the homeless, or single parents, will not be able to employ only those who share their beliefs. Their ambition is to brand all religions, and their supporters, as intolerant towards those who disagree with them. Obviously, no faith with intolerant ideologies and standards should be sanctioned by society. The message put forth by the ACLU, and other left-leaning humanistic groups, is that many religions, but especially the fundamentalists, are hostile to our culture.
This idea is also being used to shape the public's perception of marriage. They want it redefined to accept any and all relationships as a "family." This view has been swallowed by many Western European nations, and is being forced on us here as "same-sex-marriage." Some lower-level courts have forbidden public schools in their districts from using the definition of "family" to be only a "man and a woman." It must be broader, and less specific. It has been reported that if, in answer to the question, "What constitutes a family?" the student's answer is a "Mother and a Father," it is graded as incorrect.
Another reason the secularists want to undermine all religions is to eliminate any restraints on sexual activity. This removal would include the methods and manners of procreation, and, as above, the definition of a "family." Those who oppose this standard are being characterized as "intolerant."
Two ambitions of the liberal left, the secularists, and the homosexual lobby, are first and most important, the rescinding of the Defense of Marriage Act. Passed under, and signed by President Clinton, it limits marriage to only a man and a woman. The second goal is to defeat the 1996 Charitable Choice Act, which makes it unlawful for federal agencies controlling anti-poverty grants to exclude faith-based organizations, because of their church's regulations, doctrines, and employment guidelines.
Finally, the New York Times has been urging President Obama to cancel President George W. Bush's executive order extending the statutory employment protections from the above 1996 act, to apply to all federal anti-poverty spending. As of the end of September, 2009, though, the President has not acted on any of these issues.
It would be difficult, at this time, for the homosexual and far-left lobbies to have a legalization of same-sex marriage bill pass through both houses of Congress, and then be signed by the President. One of the unintended consequences, if it were adopted, would be that there could no longer be any laws prohibiting any other form of matrimony. If homosexual weddings were now the law of the land, there could not be a ban against polygamy, or other types of open marriages. In fact, additional courts would have to be established in order to deal with the many lawsuits these new unions would engender.
Therefore, how should we respond, if necessary, to this potential persecution because of our beliefs? We must publicize our maltreatment by the state, describing the nature of the threat. Call on the leaders of the other national religions to stand with us, communicating to them and the general public that the secularists' objective is to reduce our impact on American society, and what the ramifications would be if they were successful. An example of that harassment comes from a recent case in a lower Texas court. The judge declared that two public school teachers were guilty of praying to God in front of (presumably) impressionable students. Thankfully, this decision will be overturned on appeal.
The 1966 UN International Covenant on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights, directs the nations to "respect the liberty of parents to ensure the religious and moral education of their children, in conformity with their own convictions." The United States endorsed this declaration.
In spite of those marvelous sentiments, we are only able to enjoy all of our freedoms, including that of religion, because of organizations like the Alliance Defense Fund, who know how to have the protections of those rights enforced by the courts, as the threat to those rights and privileges is constant.
The secularists' antipathy towards all religions is genuine. It must be confronted openly, so that everyone will know that there are those in positions of authority in our government who would, if they were able to, limit all of our freedoms. It is written "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." It is as true today as it ever was. *
"The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time." --Thomas Jefferson
The Myth of a "Wall of Separation" Between Government and Religion
Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
What is known as the Establishment Clause, which shields all religions in America from government control, is part of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. It reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." The first half of the phrase simply means that the U.S. Congress has no authority to use the government's powers to promote one religion over another, nor to authorize or create an "Official American Church."
In 1947, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote in the case of Everson vs. Board of Education of Ewing Township, N.J., "The Establishment Clause was inserted [in the First Amendment] as a bulwark to keep out the evils which have afflicted Europe." In England, for example, Quakers were imprisoned, and dissenters [to the Church of England] were compelled to pay taxes to support that government-sponsored church. In other countries, Jews and Roman Catholics were persecuted by the authorities, and often forced to recant their beliefs. In Spain and France, the Protestants faced the same treatment. Thankfully, our Founders, and most Americans, accept the premise that everyone's faith is sacrosanct.
Justice Black's assessment that the Establishment Clause erected a "wall of separation" was supported in the same 1947 case by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge, who wrote:
The First Amendment aimed to create a complete and permanent separation of the spheres of religious activity and civil authority by comprehensively forbidding every form of public aid or support for religion.
Fortunately, that never happened.
Justices Black and Rutledge had been influenced by a letter President Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Baptist Association of Danbury, CT. Jefferson asserted:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
His letter was in reply to the Baptist Association's concern that the phrase "free exercise of religion" meant that "free exercise" was given to the people by the government, and therefore, could also be removed -- taken back -- by them. If "free exercise" had been given by God, the right was inalienable, and could not be rescinded. If it came from the state, it was alienable, and could be deleted. That worry is still quite strong in some evangelical Christian fellowships.
In President Jefferson's 1805 Second Inaugural Address, he stated:
In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution, independent of the powers of the general (federal) government.
Jefferson believed that God, not the state, was the author and source of our rights, and the government was to be prevented from interfering with those rights. The "wall" in the Baptist Association letter was not to restrict religious activities in public, but to limit the power of the state to interfere with or prohibit them. During the September, 1789, Congressional debates about the First Amendment, the phrase "separation of church and state" was never used. Yet, it is accepted by the public, including many influential jurists, as a virtual rule of Constitutional law.
Moreover, the use of Jefferson's private letter to set national policy is a first in American history. The only motive for employing it here is, to my mind, to lower the positive perception the public holds regarding religions in general, and especially Christianity.
Justice Black's 1947 opinion has generated many lawsuits, as everyone has sought to learn exactly where are the boundaries of that "wall." Further, with every decision relating to this partition, the subject has become more muddied. As the courts have attempted to explain exactly what the Establishment Clause permits and denies, the issue is more convoluted. The Clause was included to avoid religious controversies; but the courts, with the aid of lawyers, are the obstacle to achieving that goal. The "separation" phrase is being implemented by the courts today in an opposite manner from what the Founders intended, and how President Jefferson understood it.
These are a few of the thorny inquiries being raised: May a state provide books and other services to "special needs" students attending private or parochial schools? May a student, or faculty member, give a non-denominational prayer to a Supreme Being at a public school function? Or may a school district rent any of its buildings to a religious group? The questions are endless, and the hair splitting is eternal.
There are instances when certain actions taken by religious groups do call for government or local police involvement. In 1878, the U.S. Supreme Court's majority opinion in a Separation of Church and State suit read:
The rightful purposes of civil government are for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order.
Some of those situations noted were possible human sacrifice, or bigamy, or polygamy. They should be stopped, as they were "subversive of good order," and were "overt acts against peace."
The paramount debate is whether there should be an absolution separation between the government of the United States and the many diverse religions within its borders. The obvious answer is "No." On the national level, the government and all active religions already cooperate with each other. It is to the government's advantage to maintain a strong religious community. Thus, as "non-profit organizations," neither the church's income nor their members contributions are taxable. These policies promote religions, as those who attend regularly are the more responsible and law-abiding citizens. Additionally, the government provides the G.I. Bill and Pell Grants to church-affiliated colleges.
During the War for Independence, General Washington recognized that church services for his men would help them cope with hardships. He wrote to Congress, asking them to supply and pay for chaplains from every denomination. Today, the chaplains in all branches of the military are paid from tax receipts.
George Washington's views regarding the church-state issue are close to those accepted by most of our country's Founders, including Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Washington realized that our nation needed faith in Divine Providence in order to survive. In 1763, he noted, "The establishment of civil and religious liberty was the motive which induced me to the field of battle." He also respected the Quaker's refusal to be involved in our fight for independence. Expressing his belief in the freedom of everyone's conscience, he maintained, "God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to Him only are they answerable."
In his first inaugural address, President Washington said that, "God was active in human affairs," and, "He would not smile on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right." He therefore asked Congress to formulate policies based on, "The pure and immutable principles of private morality," and to "acknowledge our infinite obligations to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe."
Believing that the health of the new republic would benefit from the strong morality of its citizens, President Washington saw a mutually beneficial relationship in which the government protected and encouraged the free exercise of religion, with the churches cultivating the values that supported the country. From his 1796 Farewell Address, he affirmed, "Of all of the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."
Despite the efforts of the secularists to remove religion from our everyday life, Presidents Clinton and G. W. Bush actually strengthened the connection. In 1993, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, forbidding the federal government from putting "substantial burdens" on religion, was passed. The 1996 Charitable Choice Act made it unlawful for federal agencies controlling anti-poverty grants to exclude faith-based organizations from consideration because of their religious practices. It also gave them the same rights as a Jewish synagogue, a Christian church, an Islamic mosque, or any other house of worship to be allowed to use an applicant's religious beliefs as an acceptable reason for employment.
Currently President Obama is being pressured by Democratic Party leaders, the ACLU, and other left-leaning activists to have these acts either repealed or amended. In late February, 2009, the New York Times prodded the President to overturn President Bush's executive order extending the statutory employment protections from the 1996 bill, to apply to all federal anti-poverty spending. However, given the current economic problems facing the nation, it is unlikely any action will be taken in the foreseeable future.
What now is the status of the alleged wall of separation of church and state? There are, as noted, many breaks in it. There are those who would close all of those openings in order to completely secularize our society. And, probably over 50 percent of our citizens do not care, one way or the other. I pray that our government will never demand that our religions must obey a court's ruling as to what they may preach. I thank God for our Constitution, for the Bill of Rights, and for having the foresight to include the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. And we must be ever vigilant to defend our freedoms. *
"Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of pubic liberty and happiness." --Samuel Adams
Manners and Morals
Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
If I were to comment at any social gathering that I believe that our society has become coarse, vulgar, and ill-mannered, most of those who heard me would agree. There has been a breakdown in the societal order. People no longer care about their actions, or how their behavior impacts others.
A survey by both U. S. News & World Report and Bozell Worldwide, a global advertising firm, says that nine out of ten Americans believe incivility to be a serious problem. Further, 78 percent think it has worsened in the last ten years. They also worry that continued disrespectful actions could cause a splintering of our society.
As people interact on a daily basis, their conversations are both crude, obscene, and often illiterate. Perhaps they've been educated by the typical low-brow situation comedies and talk shows on television. A Gallup poll recently claimed that a large majority of Americans agree:
The United States has become a country in which the very notion of a "good person" is often ridiculed, and where retribution is the operative word.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of manners states that they are "habitual conduct or deportment in social intercourse evaluated according to some conventional standard of politeness or civility." In the 18th Century, Edmund Burke said, "Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend." Thomas Hobbes commented that: "Manners are small morals."
I believe that the general decline in manners can be traced back to the demise of our Judeo-Christian convictions regarding personal behavior, which was followed by a waning in the teaching of what is acceptable social conduct.
In fact, as the use of "good manners" has deteriorated, so have our morals, as manifested by the 35 percent out-of-wedlock births. This is revealed as many of our citizens no longer care about the consequences of their actions. Judith Martin, the American journalist known as "Miss Manners," claims that Americans have come to accept the idea that "any behavior not prohibited by law ought to be tolerated." Yet, those same people often try to use the court system to rectify what proper manners would not have allowed in the first place. Ms. Martin continued, "People who found rude but legally permitted behavior intolerable, have attempted to expand the law to out-law rudeness." "These initiatives," she says, "are a threat to the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution."
In the late 18th Century, the British MP William Wilberforce, wanted to abolish slavery in Great Britain. He knew that, given the culture and the attitude of the English people, Parliament would not pass it. In order to complete his mission, he had to transform their society. At that time, public drunkenness was rampant, there was a high crime rate, and low moral standards. Further, official corruption was widespread, and there was a broad disregard for the law.
Mr. Wilberforce became involved with 69 benevolent groups that promoted social reforms, aid to the poor, education, etc. One of those associations was the Society for the Reformation of Manners. As he worked with these secular and religious organizations for about ten years, British society was reformed, and Parliament did end slavery in the Empire. (That law prevented them from being able to help and diplomatically recognize the Confederate States of America, during our Civil War.)
Don Eberly, the civil society commentator and head of the Civil Society Project, wrote that:
The responsible use of manners, coupled with the aid of social rules and restraints, serve important purposes in maintaining an ordered freedom in a democratic society.
The English judge, John Moulton, called manners "the domain of obedience to the unenforceable." They are about "doing right when there is no one to make you do it, but yourself."
Unfortunately, we (the taxpayers) and our government, must deal with the effluent from the death of the Judeo-Christian ethics and morals standards. The consequences of that collapse are poverty, inferior education for the children of single, low-income parents, drug addiction, and the felons who prey upon us.
Thomas Hobbes also noted:
Manners contribute to the maintenance of order and balance in society; they safeguard society from the nasty, brutish conditions that characterized man in his uncivilized state, while minimizing the need for a highly intrusive state.
In order to help himself to control his potent temper, and to assist him to move ahead socially, George Washington kept a notebook in which he listed 110 "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation." The first principle was, "Every action done in company ought to be done with some sign of respect for those who are present." By following this book Washington honed his leadership qualities.
How can we restore manners to a society that emphasizes individualism in which "any behavior not prohibited by law ought to be tolerated"? It is axiomatic that we cannot legislate morality. The maxim of what are accepted as "good manners" is also true.
Judith Martin, "Miss Manners," defined manners as:
. . . that part of our fundamental beliefs or wants that includes such notions as communal harmony, dignity of the person, a need for cultural coherence, and an aesthetic sense. Etiquette is the set of rules which emerges from those beliefs.
They -- those unenforceable "good manners" -- have waxed and waned many times in these United States. In the 19th Century, there were 236 books being sold regarding them. Currently, there are only a few books with manners as the principle subject. I have read of one, The Rules, by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, which lists new guides -- which were actually in use in the 1940s and 1950s for women to follow in order to gain the respect and loyalty of their suitors. Such works are badly needed to correct the excesses of those who, during the 1960s and 1970s, rejected all of society's graces and restraints. A revulsion against the repudiation of those Judeo-Christian standards may be why many young people are searching for truth, and are picking abstinence over "hooking up."
The problems caused by a lack of manners are now being addressed by many in both the private and public sectors of American life. Hopefully they, like William Wilberforce, will lead us out of this desert of incivility and into the garden of proper manners. *
"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." --Charles Dickens
Is America too Religious?
Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The United States is the only major democratic nation with a social-religious-conservative political movement of any importance. We are different -- truly atypical! Many of the E.U. nations, though, hope we will abandon our Judeo-Christian ethics and worldview, and adopt their relativism and secularism.
The editor of an Austrian publication wrote that tensions between the European Union and the U.S. "are caused by the fact that Americans have double standards, while we have none." An American commentator, who writes in Germany for Die Welt, observed that the European elite ". . . are yearning for an end to American unilateralism, their moral crusades, and the influence of the fundamentalists and evangelicals." It appears that the Europeans want us to be like them: secular, socialists, pacifists, and post-nationalists.
President Bush's predicament is that he is "too American." They dislike both his moral standards and his piety. My rhetorical question is: If we were to become, morally and ethically, like Western Europe, who would protect them, and us, from the world's bogeymen? Russia? China?
In addition, we are disliked for other reasons than just our moral/religious values. In 2004, a Pew Foundation survey in Spain determined that 73 percent of those responding held an "unfavorable" or "very unfavorable" view of the United States. In both France and Germany, 60 percent had that same conviction, but in Great Britain, only 33 percent felt that way. In the same Pew review, 76 percent of the Spaniards condemned "American customs and ideas." The words used to describe us were "greedy, arrogant, and violent."
An explanation of these extremely negative impressions, advanced by a Spanish academic, is, "Young Spaniards think they know the United States without having ever been there." (Compared to other E.U. nations, relatively few Spanish tourists visit the U.S.) As he noted, Hollywood's films about America, which are quite popular there, depict a country in racial turmoil, with a coarse, unhappy, and violent society.
In 2006, when the Democrats recaptured the U.S. House and Senate, the socialist members of the E.U. parliament celebrated it as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world." The French author, Bernard-Henri Levy, hoped their victory "would rid America of the moral values maniacs."
Some American political commentators/experts were predicting recently that the social-religious-conservatives would retreat from the political arena. Their reasons are that they will listen to Dr. James Dobson of the Focus on the Family, and the talk-radio superstars, and neither help nor vote for Senator John McCain for President. In my memory, there has not been a greater difference in the publicly stated positions, aims, and doctrines of the Republicans and Democrats. I cannot imagine many loyal Americans not going to their polling place and voting for their choice for President.
The results of this election, for both Congress and the Presidency, will determine the political direction of the United States, both domestically and internationally, for the foreseeable future. If I am wrong, and the values/evangelical voters do not support Senator John McCain for President, then the European elite's wishes will have been fulfilled.
America, though, still has an attribute that Europe has lost: a moral compass. It has been, and is still, being battered, bruised, and beaten by the secular forces that want either its total extinction, or a new civil religion. Our Judeo-Christian principles have given us a firm foundation on which to build our nation, and a bright beacon with which to lead us on the right course.
Approximately 60 percent of Americans attend the worship services of their faith every week. In Europe, that figure is less than one percent. This is why Islam, with its Sharia law, is becoming stronger there. As G. K. Chesterton observed, "When people stop believing in God, it is not that they believe in nothing, but they will believe in anything." Columnist Cal Thomas wrote recently "A society that forgets what it stands for, quickly loses its ability to fight against threats to its existence." In Europe, there is no longer any truth worth dying for.
The answer to the earlier rhetorical question about who would protect Europe, and us, if we were to become morally and ethically like they are, is no one. Truly, without a strong, committed United States to have kept them free, there would be no European Union today. We saved them from Soviet domination during the Cold War, when the motto of many Europeans and British was "Better Red than dead." France and Italy still resent us for having restored their countries with Marshall Plan money. (No good deed goes unpunished.)
Perhaps it is human nature to despise the person, or nation, who saves you from a catastrophe because you are unable, or too weak to save yourself. I don't completely understand that reaction; but it is the world in which we live. *
"Everything that deceives can be said to enchant." --Plato
How Our Political Parties Differ
Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Cynics claim that there is no difference between a Republican or a Democrat elected official. They are both "politicians" (a negative title), and both are for sale. There are rotten apples in every barrel, but I disagree with the above view.
There are differences, though, among office-holders, and between the major political parties. Obviously, no characterization is equally valid, but I will broadly depict each one.
The Republican Party's platform and agenda are Pro-Life, while the Democrats are Pro-Choice. As noted, not every candidate fits into this niche. But, due to this perception, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are usually Republicans.
With the exception of Congressman Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidates are supporting President Bush's judgment that we have to fight the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan; all of the Democrats oppose our involvement in Iraq, and have vowed to bring our military home ASAP.
Recently, there was an evangelical Christian conference in Washington, DC. Most of the GOP presidential contenders spoke there, for this bloc represents about one-third of their constituents. The Family Research Council are to the Republicans what NARAL, the ADA, the NEA, and "moveon.org" are to the Democrats. (This is why none of their candidates criticized moveon.org's "General Betray Us" advertisement.)
Even before the "Surge" of troops in Iraq took place, therefore, Sen. Harry Reid declared that the war had already been lost, and it was time for the Democrats to take control. Some others intimated that Gen. Petraeus's statements had been crafted by the White House, in order to reduce his credibility. They were afraid that the General's and Ambassador Crocker's testimony would increase the Iraq war's approval rating.
Do the Democrats really want us "thrown out" of Iraq? Being Globalists, and quite Euro-centric, our defeat there would confirm that their doctrine is correct: We should never act unilaterally, but only when we are in total conformity with the UN's and our European allies' assessments. Now, the European Union, and many of the world's "free" countries, are pacifists and appeasers. (There is no longer anything worth dying for.) Yet, to be consistent with their Globalist stance, the Democrats have adopted these concepts without publicity.
Moreover, being forced from Iraq is the liberal left's best chance to convert us from our traditional Americanism to European pacifism. Their major concern is that if the Iraqis continue to join us in the war against al-Qaeda, and the insurgents, and the resulting success allows the Iraq government to attain sufficient control throughout the country for our stated goals to be met, the United States will have achieved its objective. Despite all of our obvious mistakes, President Bush will be vindicated, as will those Republicans who stood by him. The "losers" will be those who vocally opposed him.
As we approach the 2008 elections, the question is, what philosophy or direction is best for America now, since "The Kingdom" has not yet arrived? Will we have "Peace in our time" if the Democrats control both the Congress and the White House? Are the Republicans the "War Party" who will send our military into all of the world's "hot spots," to bring democracy to them?
The answer to the latter two queries is "No." The explanation, though, is more involved.
Neither the national Democratic Party, nor any of their elected or appointed officials want to see the United States in bondage to any foreign power or doctrine, whether it is Islamofascism, Russia, or China. Yet they are Globalists, which is evidenced by their deifying the UN, by their Euro-centrism, and their multilateralism. President Bush is their number one enemy; he is a unilateralist, who does not care whether the French or any other nation approves of him. The Democratic goal is to cause each one of President Bush's initiatives to fail.
These are the principal differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties. They are rarely given the publicity needed to make them as well known to the public as are the "Liberal" and "Conservative" concepts. *
"Don't you think the road commissioner would be willing to pay my wife something for her recipe for pie crust?" -Calvin Coolidge
The Way We Were
Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
When I was in grammar school, 60 plus years ago, there was a young person's newspaper sent to the schools, known as The Weekly Reader. In addition to the world and national news that would have been of interest to us, there was often an article about a scientific development, which would improve our lives, when it was completed.
For instance, superconductors would transform railroad travel. In the future, trains would hover above the rails, moving at several hundred miles per hour. Plus, there would be ocean kelp farms, which would eliminate hunger and famine everywhere in the world. Underwater cities would then be built to house and service the farm workers and their families. The UN was to operate and administer the latter two predictions.
Obviously, these forecasts never came to be. Most of the advances we have are just improvements to existing technology. (i.e., cell phones, personal computers, televisions, etc.) After Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969, recommendations were made that we build a Luna City there. For, given the Moon's minimal gravity, it would be easier for space ships to take off from it, than from Earth. Results? None.
In 1938, a train ride from Chicago to New York City took 16 hours; today, it takes Amtrak 21 hours. During the Depression of the 1930s, the 1,472 feet high Empire State Building was built in 410 days; in Philadelphia, PA, the 975 feet high Comcast Center was started in early 2005, and will not be finished until late 2007, barring any other problems.
Considering the computers, calculators, and much-improved machinery, I'm not sure why the advances have slowed. Can we blame it on the laws restricting where we may build, and what materials we may use? Those regulations have helped clean up the environment, made the workplace safer, increased our leisure time, and lengthened our lives.
Perhaps, confirming all of the above, we have become too satisfied with our recreations, and content with our life-style. There is no longer enough of a challenge to be encountered, and all of our needs, and most of our "wants" have been met. A more relevant question is, are there enough young people who are willing to fight, and if necessary die, for our freedoms?
If the answer to my query is "No," and the prior analysis is correct, then I believe the best days of our republic are behind us -- they are past. We have become like Imperial Rome, with nothing to work for other than more pleasure. May God help us and bring another Great Awakening.
Otherwise, with nothing worth working and dying for, we, as a free nation, will die. *
"In stirring up tumult and strife, the worst men can do the most, but peace and quiet cannot be established without virtue." --Cornelius Tacitus
The Second Time Around
Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, PA.
How many Americans are aware that the current action in Iraq and Afghanistan is our second undeclared war against radical Islam?
The first confrontation began in 1790, with the Barbary pirates demanding that the new United States pay them "tribute" to not attack our commercial shipping in the Mediterranean. These Muslim marauders were from Morocco, Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers. The future presidents, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were serving as European ambassadors at the time, attempted to negotiate with a representative from Tripoli, and were told that:
The Koran demanded that all nations acknowledge Islamic authority. If they did not comply and pay, it was the Muslim's right and duty to make war upon whomever they could find, and make slaves of all they take as prisoners.
The United States thus paid 20 percent of its annual revenue to these Barbary States.
In 1801, President Jefferson bypassed Congress, knowing they would not vote for a declaration of war, and ordered "a policing action" (as with the Korean War), in order to end those states' aggression. Our Consul in Tunis had warned him, "In the Middle East, power alone is respected, and the only language they would understand is terror." Nothing has changed.
The Marine Corps' hymn tells of their contribution to our victory with the line, "to the shores of Tripoli." A regiment of U.S. Marines had marched over 100 miles across the desert to attack Tripoli from the land, while our Navy blockaded and bombarded the city from the harbor. From 1802-05, it cost us $3 million to defeat them. We also earned the respect of the European nations, many of whom were still paying them "tribute."
Over 200 years have passed, and the militant Islamists have not altered their beliefs one whit. We are still confronted with their efforts to undermine and subjugate our system of law and order, and replace it with their theocratic dictatorship.
To those who would bring our military home from the Middle East tomorrow, an inconvenient truth is that in late February, 1998, Osama bin Laden, and four other caliphs, issued a Fatwa -- declaration of war -- against the United States. Muslims everywhere were to kill Americans if we did not remove our military from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and end our Air Force's domination of Iraqi air space. In addition, we also had to terminate our unequivocal support of Israel.
Al Qaeda subsequently bombed several of our embassies in Africa and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, plus the U.S.S. Cole in Southern Yemen. Then, on 9/11, they hi-jacked four airplanes, and attacked us in New York City and Washington, DC, hitting the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center, and the Pentagon. Had it not been for the heroic actions of the passengers on Flight 93, which crashed in Somerset County, PA, there may have been more devastation in our nation's capital. Those who believe that radical Islam will allow us to exist in peace, if we will only pull our forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq, are making a fundamental, and possibly costly, mistake.
It is clear that the elite news media of the West is attempting to persuade the U.S.-led coalition to leave Iraq as rapidly as possible. This goal distresses our friends and allies, while it allows al Qaeda and Hezbollah to be more confident.
Cal Thomas quoted Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Israeli Prime Minister, who had testified before a House committee: "What is at stake today," he warned soberly, "is nothing less than the survival of our civilization. Our values are hated with an unmatched fanaticism, which seeks to destroy our societies, and our way of life."
Therefore, be careful what you wish for; you may get it. *
"Imagine this war as a sort of grotesque race. The jihadists and sectarians win if they can kill enough Americans to demoralize us enough that we flee before Iraqis and Afghans stabilize their newfound freedom. They lose if they can't. Prosperity, security, and liberty are the death knell to radical Islam. It's that elemental. --Victor Davis Hanson
Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, PA.
It has become evident as we consider the last two presidential contests that a profound cultural and political fault line has opened between these Red and Blue states. The majority of voters in the Red states hold conservative, traditional Judeo-Christian values, while those in the Blue states have a more secular and liberal philosophy.
Only time will tell how much this split will affect our nation. But compared to the chasm Abraham Lincoln encountered after he won the November, 1860, presidential election, our differences of opinion are probably minor.
The situation facing President Lincoln even before his March, 1861, inauguration, was that an entire portion of the country was reacting to his victory by voiding the Constitution, and withdrawing from the Union. Moreover, these states had an economic and social structure that could only survive with the support from the rest of the country and their acquiescence of its slave system.
Mr. Lincoln had hoped that slavery would gradually die; however, led by South Carolina, that prospect disappeared, and a rival government was formed.
The conflict that ensued, as President Lincoln fought for the life of our nation, was terrible. It is ironic that in order to preserve our free country, we had to wage war against other Americans. We also "learned to kill efficiently," as one of my history professors commented. In fact, during World War II, about 440,000 Americans were killed; about 640,000 died in the Civil War.
In addition, Mr. Lincoln did whatever he deemed necessary to win, as did all previous and subsequent wartime presidents. For instance, in spite of a Supreme Court ruling against him, he suspended the writ of habeas corpus, and imprisoned southern sympathizers without a trial. (In 1942, President Roosevelt interned many Japanese-Americans for the duration of the war, and President Bush has confined suspected Islamic terrorists in the U. S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay.)
As an addendum, F. D. R. had to deal with a serious foreign policy difference of opinion in the early days of World War II, especially after France surrendered, and Great Britain was "on the ropes." The isolationists had looked at the political predicament brought about by the 1919 Versailles Treaty, and decided that we should never again involve ourselves in Europe's self-inflicted disputes. The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, reunited us. And another successful Islamic strike on U.S. soil, a la 9/11, would have the same effect.
In the midst of waging a total war against the Confederacy, Mr. Lincoln recognized that the cause of the Union had to be decided by the electorate. Thus in 1864, there was a full, hard fought campaign, with the war as the central issue. The Democrats nominated Gen. George McClellan, who promised to stop the war, but preserve the Union. The Democratic Party, though, had been captured by the anti-war faction known as the Copperheads. Their platform was not only to end the war, but to also allow the South to go its own way. Fortunately they lost.
Sixty years apart, both Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush faced the voters during a war, and both were, as was Mr. Lincoln, successful.
Finally, as we fret over "The Great Divide" between the values voters in the Red states and the liberal secularists in the Blue states, we should remember Abraham Lincoln's conviction that free institutions and the rule of law, will hold America together.
He also observed, cogently, that:
All the armies of the world could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio River. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author.
In other words, we, like Rome, will fall from within.
In order to protect America from itself, Mr. Lincoln recommended:
Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap--let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;--let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars. --From the January 27, 1838 Lyceum Address
"In our own time the whole of Greece has been subject to a low birth rate and a general decrease of the population, owing to which cities have become deserted and the land has ceased to yield fruit, although there have neither been continuous wars nor epidemics. . . . For as men had fallen into such a state of pretentiousness, avarice, and indolence that they did not wish to marry, or if they married to rear the children born to them, or at most as a rule but one or two of them, so as to leave these in affluence and bring them up to waste their substance, the evil rapidly and insensibly grew." -Polybius