As a Christian, I believe God is the source of all life. In my view, humanity was created by God for us to enjoy a relationship with Him and to take care of the world He made for us. This gives me a clear explanation of where I came from, a job description as a man, and firm foundation for my morality. When I am in need, I take my requests to God. When I am in trouble, I can seek the help of other believers, and I feel a responsibility to help them in kind. From a Christian perspective, it is natural to reach the conclusion that God created Man to be free to pursue life as he sees fit, provided he abides by the rules God laid down.
Most people don’t feel that way these days. Most people these days think that every problem is a government problem. If someone is doing something you don’t like, the answer is to make them stop with the force of government.
Do you ever wonder how we got here? How did this once free nation which highly valued individual liberty degenerate to such a state? With all the problems we face as a society these days, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the constant barrage of bad news and social turmoil.
People no longer seem to have respect for each other anymore, but instead only think about what is best for them. There is no longer great respect for law and order: instead there is a great desire to use the tools of government to achieve some personal benefit. The land we live in – which is our single greatest resource – is no longer cared for by most people who are instead content to let the “authorities” handle conservation and management. People no longer value the opinions of their neighbors; instead we seek to impose laws upon them limiting their freedom to disagree. No longer do people believe that God gave them the land and with it, the responsibility to manage it justly.
How great, indeed, is the fall of Liberty?
When this land was settled, it was initially settled by people looking for a land where they were free to live according to their principles. Those principles, though flawed, were Christian principles, and the overwhelming majority of Europeans who came here shared them.
Though their ideas regarding gender and race were still pretty primitive, the values they held in common allowed them to build a society that was capable of self-government. Throughout the colonial period and into the early stages of the Republic, the people of this land enjoyed the greatest economic and personal freedom that any society has ever enjoyed. In turn, this freedom led to the country becoming the most prosperous nation this planet has ever seen.
The bedrock value that allowed all this to happen is the idea that all people were created by God, and thus it is only He who can curtail human liberty. The early Americans believed this very strongly, and this belief was reflected in the Government they formed, and the people they elected to represent them.
Originally, the government was seen as a necessary evil. The founders were deeply worried that they would create a government that would turn out to destroy Liberty. Thomas Jefferson, in his 1801 inaugural address quipped:
“Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?”
George Washington seemed a little more worried:
“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”
Because of these beliefs, these men created a government designed to be as small as necessary to provide for common defense, keep the civil peace, and guarantee an impartial legal system. From Jefferson’s address:
“A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and all that is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.”
Almost immediately forces began to act upon the newly created nation to influence the people towards a more control oriented model of government. The newly elected government passed the “Alien and Sedition Acts” in 1798, outlawing criticism of the government and setting the legal framework to allow the imprisonment of US Citizens during war time, (see FDR and Japanese internment camps).
There were various other attacks on Liberty over the years, including the Whiskey Rebellion, Federal Reserve Act, and two World Wars. Despite these attacks, this country remained relatively free and prosperous, in large part due to the principles that most Americans shared.
You see, as a rule, Christians tend to feel a moral responsibility to be good stewards of God’s gifts. Because children were seen as a gift from God, Christian parents took upon themselves the task of educating them. Because reason was seen as the chief physical gift God had given humanity, training the intellect was a seen as a worthy pursuit. Because the Constitutional government was seen as a gift from God people were motivated to be involved.
The end result of these beliefs is that this country had, for generations, a well-educated and involved citizenry capable of critical thinking. This, of course, is a big problem if you want to control people.
Make no mistake: there are forces that seek to control people: all people.
The fact that forces are acting upon the population of this country can be demonstrated clearly when looking back at history and examining the big-picture view of American society. Where once Christian values reigned supreme, now individual values take precedent in the minds of each person. Where once there was a clear, objective standard of morality that most people agreed upon and had easy access to, there is now constant bickering and fighting over what is right and what is wrong.
How did this all happen? It happened by slow, gradual processes, not overnight.
As previously mentioned, the process of decline began immediately, but it began a rapid acceleration beginning with the First World War. Initially, Americans were not willing to be dragged into the European conflict; but after the Germans sunk the Lusitania, they were convinced to support the war. This left a generation of American youth without a father for much of their formative years, and with mentally damaged fathers after the war if they were lucky enough to return. Thus, the main attack was actually against the family unit.
In the 1920’s, social progressives began attacking Christian ideals. They began challenging the prevailing cultural norms and pushed for acceptance of various forms of behavior widely thought of as abhorrent. Smoking, drinking, and casual sex were becoming widely accepted and families began to suffer from the fallout of those activities.
At around the same time, emerging technologies such as radio, movies, and later television began to take over American free time. People become content to sit and be entertained. Attention spans suffer and cognitive ability inevitably declines. The new media used the story format to insinuate challenges to cultural values, thus circumventing cognitive challenges to the presuppositions presented. In other words, people tend to take a story at face value and they fail to exercise critical thinking. There is actually scientific evidence suggesting that the brain enters an altered state of functioning while viewing television and movies, called an alpha state, whereby individuals are more likely to take the information being presented at face value and forgo critical analysis. (see Passive Learning From Television, Herbert E. Krugman and Eugene L. Hartley, The Public opinion Quarterly, Vol. 34, no. 2. Summer 1970, pp. 184-190) Families are depicted with boorish fathers and disobedient children. Women are gradually moved out of the home and into the workplace. Drinking, smoking, and addictive food are advertised constantly as normative and desirable.
Gradually, people begin to accept the new culture that is presented to them. The goal of life becomes more food, more beer, more sex, more tobacco, more football, and more consumption.
Following a second devastating World War, the pace of social degradation accelerated. Television took over the role of moral barometer. No longer did people look toward the Bible for guidance, instead they looked to what Tom Brokaw has to say.
Then the sexual revolution and counterculture movements of the 1960’s arrive. The idea that God created man, thus there is an objective morality we all must abide by was gradually replaced by evolutionary morality. People began to see themselves as a highly evolved accident of nature. There is no objective morality, only what is right for one at the moment.
Inevitably, God was replaced by “science.” Scientists became the new high priests of society. No longer do people look to God for answers about life, origins, purpose, etc., they now look to science. The average American could no longer distinguish science from fantasy because of degradation of their education and were left to blindly believe the science priests explaining the world to them.
The high priests told the people what to believe, and the beliefs dictated how the people behaved. People are now obsessed with possessions and spending vast resources and time in the pursuit of more. Now, most people are only concerned with themselves, and they are willing to use force of government in order to get more. People no longer feel that humanity is entitled to live relatively free, instead they feel that everyone should be forced to live equally. To this end, people begin using government to pass laws which take from those who have by threat of imprisonment and give to those with less.
Passing laws regulating behavior leads to a divided society. Political parties find they can control people’s votes by picking sides on emotionally charged issues. People pick sides and eventually come to hate each other based on political ideologies. Fear is used to steer public opinion away from Liberty and personal responsibility and toward safety and security.
People now accept the idea that the government is the source of human liberty, and thus is the entity with the power and wisdom to curtail it as needed to provide for the common good. Every aspect of human life is now turned over to the government: education, social welfare, environmental care, infrastructure, etc.
In effect, government has become god for most.
Isn’t it interesting that even people who claim there is no God are still able to find one?
Images courtesy commons.wikimedia.org