Have We Lost the Underlying Moral Compass of our Political System?

“We have no government armed in power capable of contending in human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” – John Adams

“The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Where, say some, is the king of America? I’ll tell you… He reigns above.” – Thomas Paine

“The great pillars of all government are virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.” – Patrick Henry

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Man and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.” – George Washington

The quotes above are but a few of the hundreds of recorded instances in history outlining the Founding Fathers’ belief in a divine origin of the precepts of liberty that shaped America. A fairly strict sense of underlying Christian morality and a biblical mandate for freedom of conscience in action and ideas influences much of the political thought from their era. In his recent comments at the national prayer breakfast on February 5th, President Obama made remarks condemning action of radicals in the Middle East. But he then, most curiously, couched his condemnations in a reminder that the Christian roots of America are seemingly not without their stains:

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

The comments themselves are innocuous enough, though not entirely accurate in terms of historical realities. What is troubling is the underlying personal, political and intellectual sentiment that would give rise to such perspective. Such sentiments, particularly expressed by the leader of the free world, would suggest an underlying perspective counter to the moral underpinnings that drove the early patriots toward the creation of the world’s greatest experiment in freedom. Such concepts of personal liberty, coupled with personal responsibility, must be united under a fairly common code of moral conduct to ever be successful long-term. History is replete with examples showing the moral code that guided the Founding Fathers was nothing less than the gospel itself as taught primarily in the New Testament.

Among the many freedoms on the minds of the citizens at the dawn of our country was freedom of worship. The entire history of the territory, then state, of Utah is an ongoing object lesson in the exercise of such freedoms. Brigham Young knew well from experience in 1847 how flinty the soil of religious freedom was even then. And that the underlying moralities that seek to defend the liberties of every American faced opposition, both from without and within, from the inception of our country. The early pioneers came to our valleys in search of safety and freedom to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. Branded by the dominant religionists of the day as strange and separatist, the early saints craved the opportunity to guide their own destiny without the interference of a supposedly more enlightened elite that inevitably yearned for their destruction based on those perceived differences.

The lofty idea of liberty for all has been under attack from its inception by those who would posit that a more enlightened elitist minority offers a better scenario than an accused and outdated moral code ever could. This was certainly the power behind the feudal system of Lords and Ladies in England that led initially to the American Revolution. But what are the consequences if our own system of government begins to push its way towards a similar elitism, in this instance perhaps clothed in the garb of a sort of secular humanism? Are many of the ideas of the far left, replete with the mantra that traditional Christian values are obsolete and inapplicable in a modern society, truly infiltrating the federal system at such a level that such traditional foundations of morality initially associated with our freedoms are being swept aside?

What are the implications for the states if the federal system is indeed hijacked by doctrines that seek to scrub away the moral underpinnings that have been the assumptive basis of a government founded in personal liberty? For example, the Alabama Supreme Court is ignoring a Federal District Judge’s ruling and is fighting all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to block same-sex marriage in the state. While defendants of the practice cite human rights violations, the state’s highest judge counters with the idea that the practice is offensive and detrimental to the overwhelming majority’s values within the state, thus seeking to maintain the political will of the people. A will that is rooted in certain moral ideals surrounding marriage and family. A will that seeks to protect the long-established values of a majority, even if it stresses the perceived rights of a small minority. To the Alabama Supreme Court, it is an issue of morality as much as an issue of law or human rights. Such scenarios are playing out in Utah and many other states, over this issue and others. Will states eventually be forced to stand in defiance of overarching federal mandates that run counter to the moral and political will of their citizens?

Declaring a system of morals outdated is, in essence, declaring that all morality is simply relative. And at a federal policy level, recognizing no underlying moral code is the equivalency of political anarchy, which will be expressed in increasing social upheaval. Such moral bankruptcy can only be filled as it has always been filled throughout history. By a new, dominant and dictatorial elite who rise to power under the guise of restoring order to an inevitably chaotic system. Every concerned American would be wise to seek leadership that can clarify and re-establish the moral building blocks that sustain and defend the responsibilities inherent in our liberties. This applies equally to local, state and federal officials. Without leadership that can recognize and compassionately enforce such moral maxims, our experiments in liberty are greatly at risk. And, on this very President’s Day, such a situation would undoubtedly cause great concern to those Founding Fathers who may well be watching this great experiment still from an even loftier viewpoint.

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