America’s Future: Glory or Profound Obscurity

June 6, 2010 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment

   The other day I plucked a volume from my collection of older titles, Getting Acquainted with the Bible, by Martin Hegland, Ph.D., copyright 1936.  The book’s introductory chapter includes quotes supporting the thesis that understanding scripture is “an intriguing prospect,” and range from Henry Ward Beecher’s insistence that, “Religion is but the expression of man’s deepest and noblest nature,” to John Quincy Adams’ assertion, “The first and almost the only book deserving of universal attention is the Bible.” 

Dr. Hegland’s comments reminded me that I have long been dismayed by forces in contemporary secular society which strive to re-frame the concept of “freedom of religion” – an energizing principal for our country’s founding fathers – as if the original yearning had been to establish an American culture guaranteeing “freedom from religion.”  Historical documentation shows this to be false, but the movement gathered great momentum in the jadedly “sophisticated,” intellectualized post-World War II era.  That “old time religion” was, as it turned out, no longer “good enough” for many of grampa’s progeny. 

Another significant effort to shove all things religious off center stage and into the wings of daily life, and thus a co-contributor to our present state of anomie, is a misinterpreted remark made by Thomas Jefferson, which originated as a political statement meant to assure Baptist constituents that their religious freedoms were not under threat.  “I contemplate with sovereign reverence,” Jefferson wrote, “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 & State.”  Yet while in office, he endorsed the use of federal funds to build churches and to support Christian missionaries, belying later claims that his intent was to define a chasm between government and religion. 

This fleshed-out context inserts a large space between historical fact and the garbled misrepresentation of the quote as, in the words of Daniel L. Dreisbach on the Heritage Foundation web site, “a pithy description of the constitutionally prescribed church-state arrangement, [which] has become the sacred icon of a strict separationist dogma that champions a secular polity in which religious influences are systematically and coercively stripped from public life.” 

The linking of these related realities of modern western culture led me to thoughts about the massive social problems faced by the United States in this period of 21st century “enlightenment;” to thoughts about the correlation between our rejection of traditional biblical values and the rising tide of violence, insolence, and loss of both self-respect and regard for others that washes across the nation, with erosive effect. 

To encourage a recapturing of the mood of the country at its inception and a more accurate picture of the hearts and minds behind our development as a Republic, I offer the following snippets from luminaries of times past on the topic of that much-maligned tome so quaintly revered by believers to this day, the Bible.  As the saying goes, from their mouths to God’s ears.  

Daniel Webster:  “If we abide by the principles taught in the bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”  

I have read it through many times; I now make a practice of going through it once a year.  It is a book of all others for lawyers as well as divines, and I pity the man who cannot find in it a rich supply of thought and rule for conduct.” 

          William McKinley:  “The more profoundly we study this wonderful Book, the more closely we observe its divine precepts, the better citizens we will become and the higher will be our destiny as a Nation.”  

Woodrow Wilson:  “A man has deprived himself of the best there is in the world who has deprived himself of [a knowledge of the Bible].  There are a good many problems before the American people today, and before me as President, but I expect to find the solution of those problems just in the proportion that I am faithful in the study of the Word of God.  It is very difficult indeed for a man, or for a boy, who knows the Scripture ever to get away from it.  It haunts him like an old song.  It follows him like the memory of his mother.  It forms a part of the warp and woof of his life.” 

            Andrew Jackson:  “It is the rock on which our Republic rests.”

Entry filed under: Advice For Life. Tags: , , , , , , .

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