ďOf all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.Ē Ė George Washington, Farewell Address 1796
Where has our great American morality gone?† Where is it going?† Or, is it the same as it always was?† Iíve been having this self-debate for quite sometime although more intensely in light of recent events.† President Washington shared with us his opinion on the basis for morality and itís importance as the underpinnings of our country.† I seriously doubt that my words will endure, as did his, but Americans must have this debate.† What is the state of our national morality?† Do we need to change direction and if so how?† There is too much to examine in trying to answer these questions here, so weíll scratch the surface a little.
Ö reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principleÖ
This is an intriguing statement coming from our countryís most prominent founding father, especially considering our countryís ongoing deliberation concerning the separation of Church and state.† It leads me to believe that it wasnít too much of an issue in his day.† Outside the Church house, a discussion of religion (especially Christianity) is often considered proselytizing and offensive by vociferous groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union.† Those claiming offense, however, welcome discussion about the acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual marriage and other behavior that might be offensive to others or even considered immoral by them.† The effort it appears is to put Christianity into the closet and bring homosexuality out of it.† In our public schools, itís OK for your children to have a homosexual club (law suits have demanded them), but not to discuss religion.
We have the right to choose in our country.† We can choose religion or not.† The point President Washington was trying to make, if I can be presumptuous, is that religious principles (inclusive of all religions) teach morality and if morality is cast off, our society (country) is in danger of failing.† Wasnít moral decay one of the arguments made for the fall of the great Roman Empire?
I donít mean to imply that the only basis for a moral society is religion.† No, there are other important influences, which have much to do with the state of morality in our country.† The family comes to mind and the values one learns or not in the home.† Together with family, is the example of acceptable morality portrayed to impressionable youth (and the rest of the world) by purportedly responsible adults.
Where do we begin the discussion?† Look at the political process in our country.† Civil debate about issues has disappeared, if it ever before existed.† Our most prominent citizens treat vying for the seat of power in the free world as a game.† One they bet on winning by presenting the most contorted view possible of the other side.† Sadly, they play the game this way because that is what the American public accepts.† Take some time to study the politicians and their supporters.† Compare what they say (all of them) with what theyíve done in the past and what they propose to do in the future.† Integrity is the foundation of morality and every day the polls taken show us who is the best distorter of truth at the time.† The art of persuasion and the grasp for power trumps integrity.† Morality be damned.
I know that comparing generations is not always good when trying to measure the state of a society, but Iím going to anyway.† Not being a trained sociologist, I can get away with it.† People of my generation grew up without the Internet, cell phones, satellite communications and cable television.† When we came home from school, the Mickey Mouse Club was on television.† The most violent thing we saw was The Three Stooges hammering on one another or Roy Rogers in his inevitable saloon fight where the good guy always won and never lost his white hat in the process.† You didnít find us in front of television much, however.† There were only a few stations then, but mainly it was because we were outside playing sports, riding bicycles or trying to learn how to fix cars.† Shocking behavior for us was the Beatlesí long hair.† Oh, did I mention that through much of that time, prayer was acceptable in school as was the Pledge of Allegiance.† This is my generation, which was supposedly shocked by a recent costume malfunction.† I find that quite interesting.† I missed the boob seen around the world, although Iíve seen plenty of replays as well as other parts of the show leading up to the malfunction.† Why should Janetís bare breast shock anyone?† After all, no one complained about the sexual bumping and grinding, the lyrics of the song that said Iím going to rip your clothes off, or the actual act of a man forcibly ripping the clothes from a woman.† I suppose all of that other behavior was acceptable.† Would my generation (would anyone) have said anything if the breast hadnít bared itís nipple ringed self?† Probably not.† Weíre complacent, which only contributes to further deterioration of our society.
Janetís generation had their MTV.† They also had cable which brought them MTV, and a steady dose of violence, nudity, profanity and other behavior some would consider deviant.† They also had, many of them, parents that allowed the television to baby-sit for them, uncontrolled.† The costume malfunction did not shock this generation.† This generation thrives on shock.† Thatís why Britney and Madonna shared an open mouthed kiss for us.† There are too many examples to list, but hereís some questions for you to ponder.† What does it tell you about a society when: People line the sides of a street and cheer a man facing his second charge of child molestation?† When a celebrity facing a rape charge receives an award as a model for teens?† When lawyers openly attack and discredit possible victims of rape and child molestation?† When the highest grossing movie for a particular week is Kill Bill or Freddie versus Jason?† When a 14 year old cuts the throat of another 14 year old and leaves him dying in a school bathroom?
Janetís generation is merely acting out, aided and abetted by my generation, the morality portrayed to them as acceptable.† This is the morality we show the rest of the world.† We show this new American morality to Islamic fanatics who in their extremist view believe it is their mission to remove it (and us) from the face of the earth.† These wild men think itís a killing offense to see a piece of a womanís bare skin much less than what Janet shared with them.† Some Mullah probably got hours and hours of preaching material from Janetís little boob Ė boo.
The youth of my time were not tame by any stretch of imagination.† Moral decay was already taking hold, I assure you.† It was my 1960ís drugs, sex and rock and roll generation, which produced Janetís generation.† If things continue to progress, costume malfunctions wonít even raise eyebrows.† In 1971, from this generation already losing it moral foundation, I enlisted into the Army.† The Army gave back to me discipline, values, acceptable standards of behavior and adult role models that cared about my conduct and me.† To this day, the military continues to put young people back on a respectable path.† Sure, the military has its warts, but it serves as an excellent model for a society to emulate and right now, our great American society needs all the help it can get.
The problem facing us is where do we go from here?† Or, is there even a sense that we need to correct our course.† I suggest all Americans take a long gaze into their moral mirror and gage how they truly feel about the reflection looking back at them.
Copyright© JD PENDRY, 2004, All Rights Reserved