Editorial -- Angus MacDonald
Christianity: Lifeblood of American Free Society (1620-1945), John A. Howard. Summit Press, P.O. Box 207, Manitou Springs, Colorado, 80829, ISBN 978-0-936163-49-9, pp.136, $15 paperback.
We have forgotten the courage of those who wrote the Declaration of Independence. Nine of the fifty-six signers died of wounds or hardship during the Revolutionary War. Five were captured or imprisoned. Wives, sons and daughters were killed, jailed, mistreated, persecuted -- but they would not abandon the principles of honor they knew. "Except the Lord build the House," said Benjamin Franklin, "they labor in vain that build it."
Our fathers were blessed that George Washington, as a president and general, was a Christian gentleman. His Christianity is hardly mentioned in our day. "The General (Washington) hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country." A month later he wrote to say he deplored that cursing and swearing was growing into fashion "We can not hope for the blessing of Heaven if we insult it by impiety."
While Washington believed in national unity, he deplored the passions of party strife that tear the country into rival sections. While these passions are eternal and seem to be a natural behavior, they cause problems. We must find civilized methods of conversation. A country can be properly governed only when virtue predominates.
During the 19th century, hundreds of colleges and universities were founded by our churches. The curriculum was more concerned with the development of character and piety rather than the acquisition of skills and knowledge. The main purpose was to teach Christianity and proper behavior. This continues in our day and guides organizations that are not connected with our churches. Service clubs such as the Rotary are examples.
Notwithstanding the continuity of our Christian faith, that faith does not have priority in the teaching of our universities, print, broadcast media, or the entertainment business. Do they have basic principles? Are they devoted to entertainment only? I do not doubt teachers and entertainers impose standards on themselves, but they should be able to state those standards and live by them. We are a Christian nation, and that should be acknowledged and observed. Intellectual leaders should tell us what defines our culture. To make money is not enough. We don't have to be dull prudes but we do have to state and preserve who we are. Timothy Dwight, president of Yale University from 1795 to 1817, wrote "Without religion, we may possibly retain the freedom of savages, bears and wolves, but not the freedom of New England." *