Friday, March 10, 2017
We Cannot Be GREAT Without GOD
What would happen if, tomorrow, the national debt could be paid off with no inflation or other ill effect, and if the per capita income of our nation could be doubled, and if we discovered a means of extending human life to 100 youthful years, and…well, put in whatever else you wish. What would happen? In twenty-five years, we would find ourselves again bedeviled with problems that seem insoluble and crushing, and we would again bemoan our wretched state.
After we won the Cold War, there was an immediate peace dividend that allowed us, if we would, to run budgetary surpluses until the national debt was paid off while lowering tax rates and leaving social spending unchanged. What happened? That toxic stew of materialism, nihilism, and instant gratification corrupted everything.
Our problems are not economic. We live in an America in which the greatest health problems are obesity and inactivity and our greatest mental health problems are boredom and an attendant addiction to drugs or games or other things that make the tedium of life bearable. The vast majority of "stuff" we seek in life is not really needed at all.
What we lack and what the world lacks is a spiritual benevolence that will incline us to be happy with what we have and to seek our peace and joy in honorable and just ways. What we lack and what we need is the religious commitment that was the foundation of our republic and that outsiders visiting America saw as the most remarkable aspect of our life. Without regard to a particular branch of Christianity, and many branches flourished in America, we were an intensely religious people. We connected our future with the will of God.
Such faith proved the perfect tonic for the grim disease of anti-Semitism. The same visitors to our nation who saw a genuinely religious Christian population also saw the most harmonious relationship in the world between Jews and Christians. Jews served in the Continental Congress; Jews were elected governors of our first states, and senators as well.
Men like Price Collier, writing in 1913 just before the Great War began, noted the anti-Semitism in Germany and the almost complete abandonment of Christianity by most Germans and also noted that the deeply religious American Christians had formed a land in which anti-Semitism was almost nonexistent.
American commitment to God led to that horrific but necessary surgery, the American Civil War, because slavery was intolerable to the ideals of Americans. No nation has put itself deliberately through such hell to end a great evil. Decades before that war, Americans formed in West Africa the land of Liberia as a self-governing homeland for freed slaves from America.
Our insistence on the defeat of Nazism and our insistence upon the defeat of the Soviet Empire were motivated by moral, which is to say religious, motives. Neither empire really threatened America, but both were seen as intolerable evils that we must end, which was the only principled alternative and which we pursued at great cost.
America is sneered at and mocked by much of the world (and by the elites of the left within our borders) because so many of us see God as the indispensable nexus of our lives and our attitudes toward politics. The right-to-life movement is not connected to any selfish interest; it is, in fact, a sacrificial movement, which is to say that those who have placed God above the state, when the state is immoral, gain nothing in this world but contempt and abuse.
The strongest support for Israel in the world comes from the most devout Christians in America, who care much more for the Jewish homeland than many hyper-secular Jews, who live in the godless land of leftism. The men in uniform who have died for us in foreign wars over the last fifteen years are also disproportionately deeply religious men, motivated to fight and to die for something greater than their own lives.
Seeking God also leads, as a byproduct, to those very goods most politicians profess to seek for voters today. Those groups that follow God seriously comprise law-abiding, honest, hardworking people who marry for life and avoid destructive vices. This pattern of living leads to a stable middle class, which makes the engines of national wealth run.
We cannot be great without God, and when we aim for God, a cornucopia of other blessings follows naturally behind.