The War for the Soul of America

Posted on November 16, 2019

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Last week we challenged higher education’s goal of diversity rather than excellence in mission and teaching. Today, let’s rachet up the stakes a bit.

Our nation today is engaged in a war for its very soul. I don’t want to exaggerate for the sake of notoriety or getting your attention, but a speech by Attorney General William Barr to the School of Law at Notre Dame University on October 11 represented an extraordinary analysis of this ongoing war.

Bill Barr is not the only public figure to examine the stage of where this great American play is going. But he argues his case so cogently that I thought I’d share some of it.

Real wars, not just metaphorical wars, like the “wars between the sexes,” or the “political and ideological wars” between socialists and capitalists for example, are always preceded by a war of words. The American Revolution was preceded by colonial objections to what they perceived as tyranny on the part of the English King and Parliament, who were accused of specifically denying the Americans some of their most cherished rights, their “rights” as Englishmen, even if transplanted to the New World.

The Civil War was fought in words, threats, accusations, and occasionally flared into real battles and fights in such august venues as the U. S. Senate before the fighting erupted in the spring of 1861.

We are now at that stage of the war of words. Barr addressed religious liberty in America.

The gist of his argument is that “from the Founding Era onward, there was strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States. The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.”

Liberty was guaranteed in the “magnificent charter of freedom—the United States Constitution—” and now that liberty—which was the mainspring of unprecedented human progress–is being threatened.

Barr pointed to the Christian matrix, or moral structure, as absolutely necessary for the survival and prosperity of a free society. The “great experiment” was to leave “the People” broad liberty, limit the coercive power of the government, and place their trust in self-discipline and the virtue of the American people. Or, in the words of Madison, “We have staked our future on the ability of each of us to govern ourselves…”

But what was the source of this internal controlling power? “To control willful human beings,” as Barr notes,  “… moral values must rest on authority independent of men’s will – they must flow from a transcendent Supreme Being…or in short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.”

Much of his speech extends and expounds on the role of Christianity in preserving our liberty, which, in turn is the source of the great experiment with freedom.

As John Adams put it, “We have no government armed with the power which is capable of contending with 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.”

Simply argued, religion provides the framework to live by. The founding generation were Christians, and they embraced the moral principles of Christianity, among them to put God before man. Without Christianity to restrain and govern man, we turn to ourselves and away from God.

Barr examines in detail to what has been happening in the past half century and concludes, not surprisingly, that “over the past 50 years religion has been under increasing attack.” The traditional Judeo-Christian moral system has been “driven from the public square,” and I would add, schools, colleges and universities, and “we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism.” Add “diversity” to that list.

The statistics are overwhelming, but, for starters, how about this:

In 1965, the illegitimacy rate was eight percent. In 1992, it had climbed to 25 percent and today it is over 40 percent generally and in some large urban areas, it is around 70 percent.

You may think this is a trivial and insignificant factor, coming from an old white male and not really accepting the “new” America, multi-racial, diverse, tolerant, giving all to all for the benefit of all, a truly egalitarian society governed by enlightened, and liberated, politicians.

The “new” families, however, bring with them record levels of depression and mental illness, soaring suicide rates especially among the young, violence in the streets, and a deadly drug epidemic. Let’s follow this thread in a future column which lays bare much of modern America.

Published as “The War for the Soul of America” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday Nov. 3, 2019