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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Washington's Farewell

Today is the anniversary of George Washington's farewell address in 1796. Back in the day, many schoolchildren studied this speech as one of the landmarks of early American history; today, there are but few educated adults who are even aware of its contents. The only people who ever seem to discuss it outside of academia are conservative Christians, and for good reason. Within this speech Washington chides those who would divorce our nation from its religious underpinnings.

The US was not founded as a sectarian nation. (Thus, there is no Church of the United States.) However, a cultural consensus existed that this was a Christian nation. Not in the theocratic sense, as today's leftists pretend to fear - as though American Christians today were the equivalent of the Taliban or the Iranians. But clearly our public life was founded on religious principles and no amount of historical varnish - or outright lies - can obscure that fact. From Washington's lips:

Of 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.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government.

Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Washington's words are a rebuke to the modern trend - and the modern interest groups - who have been vigorously working for 50 years or more to destroy every vestige of Christian influence (or even morality itself) in our nation. According to Washington, no man could claim the label of patriot if he worked to overthrow religion or morality. But today, 210 years later, those who attack religion in public life are frequently lauded as the best kinds of patriots and guardians of the liberties of their fellow citizens. Nothing could be further from the truth, either in 1796 or today.

Pray for a return to a true understanding of the role of religion in the American system, and pray against deceit in this area.

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