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The Way We Were

Posted Monday, July 4, 2011, at 11:23 AM

"Edward Gibbon (1737-88) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasm pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state. It all sounds so familiar. We have come a long road...we are back in Rome." (From "How Should We Then Live?" by Francis A. Schaeffer)

Two-hundred-thirty-five years ago, 56 men met one last time and affixed their signatures to a document declaring the bonds of the American colonies "dissolved" from Great Britain. In this they pledged "our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor." Whether it is now politically acceptable or not, what they created that fourth day of July was a Christian nation.

True, the word never appears in either the Declaration of Independence signed that July 4th, or in the Constitution that would later follow. But, in the world in which those 56 men lived Christian was the only nation conceivable.

This is not to say, as some would now like to believe, these were necessarily devout, rightwing, conservative Evangelicals. It is most likely many of these men were Deist (who believed in a god who created the universe and then went off to do other things). It is fair to say they were Christian in the sense that this was the community in which they lived; Christianity being the view of the world they held as regard to man's dealings with man; and, most importantly, holding that Biblical principles were absolute truth. On this latter was a nation brought forth. To this Francis Schaeffer comments, "To whatever degree a society allows the teaching of the Bible to bring forth its natural conclusions, it is able to have form and freedom in society and government."

It was on the basis of these so-called Biblical absolutes we formed a nation. Whatever we became, whatever we are, it is based on these absolutes. Then as a people we spent two centuries and 35 years finding out what that meant and how much fortunes and honor were at stake.

We fought a Civil War, making the United States a singular noun and righting a terrible wrong. On the basis of right and wrong absolutes we sent young men to die around the world to fight for other people's freedom. Along the way there were bitterly disputed elections, yes; but, rarely revolutions or riots in the streets. There were sins of commission and omission, but we knew them to be wrongs.

Nationhood turned out to be a long and hard journey; but worth the taking because of a sense of certain things being right and others wrong, whatever way the winds blew.

Sometime, possibly even in this writer's lifetime, another generation arose which knew not the founding fathers, nor the moral absolutes on which they established a new nation. The Way We Were drifted into the aloofness of time and space and science and civil rights and political necessity. In the name of looking forward we stopped looking back. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, martyr to anti-god Communism tyranny, speaks in "The Gulag Archipelago" of an old proverb: "Dwell on the past and you'll lose an eye." To which he adds, "Forget the past and you'll lose both eyes."

Thus, to those who seek no absolutes beyond the will of the majority and refuse looking back to The Way We Were, I present a caveat: If nothing is either absolutely right or absolutely wrong, then anything can be called right...and we are back in Rome.

David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at kayanddavid@frontier.com.

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The Declaration was superseded by the Constitution: From Article VI:

...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

From the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

-- Posted by Larry Linn on Mon, Jul 4, 2011, at 3:12 PM

Yes, and the second half of that amendment states what so many try to forget. Which means that a local school, which is operating in a community that approves can choose to pray at a commencement speech. Even if someone in the audience doesn't like it, since Congress doesn't have any authority to prohibit it. That same school also has the authority to prevent it from happening exactly because they are not Congress. Our society so often likes to extend the restrictions to our federal government on to the states, which is neither in the wording of the Constitution, nor in the framer's intent. In fact, it delegates those responsibilities not given to the federal government down to the states. It has only been in the last 100 years, and principally the last 75 that people have misinterpreted and manipulated the wording of the Constitution to fit whatever agenda they seek to promote.

-- Posted by theoneinthearmy on Wed, Jul 6, 2011, at 10:19 AM

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