Someone asked the question not long ago, after discussing the social and moral landscape of our country, “Where’s Bill Bennett when we need him?” Some may recall, Bill Bennett was Secretary of Education under President Reagan, former Drug Czar, TV news contributor and radio talk show host. Some have described him as the “morals maven.” He has written far and wide on a variety of cultural, educational and moral issues, and has long been the darling of conservatives and nemesis of progressives and liberals. In 1992 he sounded a clarion voice about the continued crisis in American education, and the widening cultural gap between religion and political life, and the moral consequences.
In his book, America’s Revolt Against God, Bennett maintains that it is the “corruption of the heart” that inflicts our nation, and the result is a litany of social pathologies-crime, rising illegitimacy, unbridled pornography, and a mercurial rise in dependency on the role of government. As a result, many from both sides of the political isle agree on the moral and cultural decline. The disagreement is how to “fix it.”
We are accustomed to the “rollercoaster ride” of the Dow Jones and it seems elementary that the economic path we now pursue will plunder the free market as we know it, at some point, sending us headlong into a monetary chasm. Bennett agrees that material abundance only hastens the moral decline, and political or economic reform won’t reverse the demise.
Many of us have watched our 401( k) shrink, while the demand on our budget has burgeoned. That is less painful than the shrinking of the moral fiber that reflects a greater loss of vibrant faith that once occupied the public square, individually and corporately. The woeful cry, “Wait until the market comes back,” offers little solace to the morally faithful. We are both skeptical and pessimistic.
The internet is both a bane and a blessing. Having instant access to the photos of grand-daughters in Indiana is gratifying and heartwarming. Simultaneously, young girls in their teens, perform erotically on websites, seemingly without a wince of conscience. Where are their parents? Who’s watching out for their souls. Sadly, these moral failures cut across economic, political and religious backgrounds, and are no respecter of one’s station in life. Too, there was a time when children found a safe haven in the presence of priests and clergy in their community.
Some have proffered, “Let the whole thing fail, and we’ll get back to what matters!” Not all agree with such quixotic conclusions. There has been no “golden age” morally. We are fallen and in need of redemption. Bennett himself confessed in 2003 that his gambling habit had spiraled out of control. Such pronounced lack of self-discipline soon follows a protracted moral decline, and the United States is not exempt from the cause-and-effect that God has put into place for such violations of His Law. As a nation, many believe, we are unique; but not exempt from crossing moral barriers that ultimately usher in an idolatrous culture. Filthy lucre won’t loose us from of these “immoral shackles.” Even billionaire George Soros can’t write a check to cover this deficit.
In our nation’s over-reaching emphasis on tolerance and diversity, we now tolerate that which was unfathomable and unspeakable generations ago. The loss of absolutes renders us morally impotent to do battle against a growing onslaught of moral attacks. We now face a culture where the only absolute is “there are no absolutes.” Some claim that arguably there is a moral component to economics. However, if the economy should “turn around” please hold off on the celebration.
In the late 1950’s, school principals were faced with such daunting dilemmas as gum chewing in class(students stuck it under their desk and chairs), truancy, and the brass brads on Levi’s that scratched and marred the desks and chairs. Today, many school districts must be concerned with the brass bullets in the guns that eluded the metal detector. Many conclude it is spiritual, not economic impoverishment we face.
Rather than “cursing the dark,” how are we, who oppose this moral slide, to live and behave? Think, speak, write, vote and act. We must continue to voice our moral outrage by speaking into the public square and, as someone said years ago, “do right until the stars fall.” It’s an urgent call to be prepared and willing to be agent for moral change in our sphere of influence, committed to inculcating those values from ancient days to our immediate families and beyond, while simultaneously encouraging other co-belligerents to join us in our battle. This is not the season for timidity or intellectual and spiritual impotence.
It will require an indefatigable mind, a resolute temperament, and patriot’s heart to prevail in these tempestuous days. Protests, boycotts and rallies have worked in the past and should be considered as part of our arsenal. Just ask the Civil Rights marchers and the Tea Party members. And, for those so inclined, don’t forget to pray that He continues to shed His Grace on us. What else can we do to confront such vexing pathologies and reclaim our heritage? What do you think?