to a James Madison Center Symposium at Princeton
University October, 9 2002
But what more
oft in nations grown corrupt
And by their
vices brought to servitude
Then to love
bondage more than liberty,
ease than strenuous liberty!
From his drama, Samson Agonistes, 1671
The year was 1939. Nazi Germany had already seized Austria and moved into
Czechoslovakia. Europe was under a red alert profoundly fearful about which
nation would be Hitler’s next victim. In
that period of anxiety, T.S. Eliot gave a series of lectures at Cambridge
University which were published together under the title, “The Idea of a
In his preface to the book, Eliot wrote, “My point of departure has
been the suspicion that the current terms in which we discuss international
affairs and political theory tend to conceal from us the real issues of
Eliot recognized that the peril confronting Britain was of an order that
required the nation to refresh itself on first principles and set its priorities
accordingly, rather than improvise responses to enemy initiatives as it had
cravenly done in signing the Munich Pact, authorizing the German occupation of
America now exists under its own red alert.
The comfortable assumption that life lived in the continental United
States is relatively immune to enemy attack was shattered by the September 11
cataclysm. The citizens are now confronted by a nightmare of
uncertainties. Not only do we not
know the identity and whereabouts of the enemy troops and leadership, nor their
primary targets, nor the nature and extent of the weapons they possess, but we
are also unsure who our allies are and how reliable their support may be.
Moreover, there are disquieting questions about the soundness of our economy and
the integrity of corporate leadership, and the extent to which partisan politics
will compromise the government’s difficult wartime decisions.
We too, would do well to heed Eliot’s judgment and ponder the real
issues of civilization as they relate to international affairs and political
theory. This discourse will
consider one such issue, the question of whether the natural family, which has
been the great stabilizing force in the life of the American people, shall be
phased out, or revitalized with sexual morality and intergenerational
responsibility and restored as an essential and respected norm.
It was, I believe, in the dark times of our Civil War that another of
America’s preeminent poets, James Russell Lowell, was asked by the French
historian Francois Guizot how long the American Republic would last.
Lowell replied, “As long as the ideas of the men who founded it remain
Let us consider two of those ideas which bear upon the issue we are to examine.
The first one: God reigns supreme and His guidance
and support are essential to the success of the new nation.
Several generations of Americans have been short-changed in their
schooling with regard to the extent and importance of religious influence in the
history of our country. Here are illustrations of the piety of the Founders.
When the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention had reached what
seemed to be a hopeless impasse, Benjamin Franklin addressed the assembly.
have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build the
house, they labor in vain that build it,” I firmly believe this.
At the end of this speech Franklin moved a resolution that the sessions
begin each morning with a prayer asking God’s blessings and guidance.
It was later reported by Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey that Franklin’s
resolution was adopted.
It is noteworthy that more than a quarter of George Washington’s
Inaugural address was an expression of gratitude to God and prayers for His
continuing blessings. Washington
tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I
assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those
of my fellow citizens at large.
The Congress clearly was of the same mind about prayerful supplications
to God, for five months after the Inauguration, the two Houses of Congress
jointly asked the President to proclaim a national Day of Thanksgiving, “to be
observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of
In 1812, three weeks after the United States declared war on Great
Britain, a joint resolution of Congress requested President Madison to set aside
“a day of public humiliation and prayer acknowledging the transgressions which
might justly provoke the manifestations of God’s divine displeasure, of
seeking his merciful forgiveness, and His assistance in the duties of
The historical fact is that from the arrival of the earliest settlers, on
through the first century and a half of this country’s existence, America was
a western extension of Christendom. Christendom
was not a nation or region where everyone was a Christian.
Rather, it was a society in which the generally accepted standards of
human behavior were derived from the Bible. With few exceptions, those norms
were drawn from the Ten Commandments, the Proverbs, the Sermon on the Mount and
the Lord’s Prayer. Since the
source of these standards was religious, most of the people readily accepted
them. When the norms were broken,
it was simply understood that such actions were wrong.
The second idea of the Founders applicable to this analysis, really a
corollary of the first one: Only a virtuous populace can sustain a
self-governing republic. A month
before the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed, the State of Virginia
adopted a Bill of Rights “as the basis and foundation of government.” The
last two articles specified not rights, but obligations.
Number fifteen was: “That
no free government or the blessings of liberty can be preserved to any people
but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and
virtue, and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”
The final one concluded with this admonition: “It is the duty of all to practice Christian forbearance,
love and charity towards each other.”
George Washington’s Inaugural Address was brief.
After expressing hope that he would measure up to the responsibilities of
the office, and his supplication to God, he turned to what he regarded as the
most critical challenge for the new nation, the character of the people.
He cautioned against local prejudices and party animosities, which
compromise the work of the government. He
stated that the foundation of national policy must be laid “in the pure and
immutable principles of private morality…since there is no truth more
thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of
nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and
advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and
the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity.”
Why the acute concern about virtue? Civilization can only exist when
individuals learn restraint and subordinate their personal interests and desires
to what is required for the common good. It
must be remembered that a savage is a person who does his own thing. In all
civilizations, each person is subject to a continuing tension between what he
might like to do at a given moment and what he is supposed to do as a member of
a group. This polarity applies to
all of our associations--the family, the workplace, the church, the athletic
team and the kindergarten. So, too,
with a nation.
The question is: How are the citizens of a free and self-governing nation
persuaded to behave in ways that will serve the common good and produce a safe,
amicable and productive society? For
the Founding Fathers, that question was answered by the French political
philosopher, Charles de Montesquieu, whose work, The Spirit of the Laws,
published in 1748, was well known to, and substantially drawn upon by those who
drafted the U.S. Constitution. Montesquieu
analyzed and compared the basic types of government.
In the section that examined the relationship between the populace and
the government, he noted that in a despotism or dictatorship, the people do what
they are told because they are fearful of what will happen to them if they
don’t cooperate. When the people
are no longer afraid, that form government is doomed. For a republic or
democracy, Montesquieu observed, the sine qua non is the principle of virtue.
The populace must voluntarily abide by informal standards of conduct.
In the United States those norms were lawfulness, truthfulness, marital
fidelity, respect for one’s neighbor and all the other elements of Christian
When the informal restraints no longer prevail and the liberated savage
inclinations produce increasing dishonesty, corruption, bribery, vandalism,
violence, crime, deceit and maliciousness, there must be more and more new laws
regulating specific actions requiring additional compliance officers and police
and more metal detectors, surveillance cameras and prisons.
The once free society, loving bondage more than liberty, transforms
itself into a controlled despotism.
Many cultural commentators of today seem to assume that if America ever
had a virtuous populace, enlightened modernity got rid of that tiresome
condition long ago. Actually, until
the last third of the 20th Century, Americans were predominantly
virtuous people – lawful, decent and religious.
Consider several American realities that existed within living memory.
When I was young, I rode my bicycle down the front walk and out into the
street. Mrs. Prindeville jammed on
the brakes of her car, but knocked me down and my collarbone was broken.
There is no way my parents would have sued Mrs. Prindeville, nor would anyone else in our town. Such a thing was then unthinkable. You don’t sue people to get rich. Mrs. Prindeville deserved and got an apology from my parents
for the carelessness of their son.
Another illustration of virtuous America.
Until the student uprising at the University of California at Berkeley in
1964, so far as I know, every coeducational residential college and university,
public and private, had what were called parietal rules declaring that men were
not to be in women’s dormitories, nor women in men’s dormitories after a
stipulated hour. Furthermore
contraceptives and abortions were not provided by the colleges.
As a matter of policy, the entire majesty of academia was on record in
support of those standards of sexual morality essential to sustain the
institutions of marriage and the family.
It is time to consider the natural family.
The Geneva Declaration issued by the World Congress of Families in 1999
states, “The natural family is the fundamental social unit, inscribed in human
nature, and centered on the voluntary union of a man and a woman in the lifelong
covenant of marriage.”
At that Geneva Congress, Rabbi Jacob Neusner stated that the family --
father, mother, children -- is ordained by God and is so totally the centerpiece
or human life that it is only by using the family as a metaphor that
Jews and Christians even know how to talk about God, God as father and
human beings as his children. The
family, he said, predates all other associations and institutions, and is more
important than all the others, and must take procedure over all the others.
In 1948, the United Nations adopted The Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. It was issued in reaction
to the horrors of Nazism, wherein the acts of marriage, human reproduction and
child-rearing were subordinated to the demands of the racial state, with dire
and tragic results. Article I, section 16 of that declaration asserts, “Men and
women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion,
have a right to marry and found a family.”
Section 3 of that article reads, “The family is the natural and
fundamental unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and by the
In the Christian faith, it is within the family that God made Himself
physically known to human beings in the earthly presence of His son, a
revelation which dwarfs all other events of human history.
As poet Mary Glew Penn wrote, “Time split in two that starry night and
history fell apart.”
God made the family the core of human experience, and He made that primacy known
beyond any doubt. In the
instructions about how to live which God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai, the family was
given the highest human priority. Immediately
following the stipulations about one’s obligations to God, came the
Commandment to honor one’s father and one’s mother. Another Commandment
The Christmas story, itself reaffirms the priority of the family in human
relationships. God could just as
easily have presented His son as a full-grown teacher and shepherd He did not. God chose instead to give us the divine presence in the bosom
of the family, a baby with parents who were later blessed with other children.
At the christening of one of four children, in 1963, the clergyman having
taken the baby from my wife, said to the people in attendance,
“What I hold in my arms, good friends, is God’s greatest gift – a
new life. This child at this time
is a wonder of potential. How that
potential may develop, for better or for worse, will largely be determined by
those assembled here. I charge you
to remember that the shaping of this new life is in your hands, and I pray that
with God’s help, you may cultivate that which is good and kind and wholesome,
and discourage that which is self-centered, petty, and destructive in this young
life which has been entrusted to your care and nurture.” That was a
particularly moving articulation of the message often delivered at baptisms in
those days. What the clergyman was
enjoining the family to do was to raise a virtuous child.
It is tempting to embrace the message of the sentimental ballad from “South
Pacific,” “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,” but the
librettist has the thing exactly backward.
There is nothing in human nature that inclines the individual to live as
a self-restrained, cooperative member of society. Good behavior is learned behavior.
It is altogether natural for the child within a family to come to
understand the wholesome necessity of accommodating his desires to the inherent
requirements of the family group, and to comprehend and embrace as desirable and
useful the concepts of duty, commitment, humility, authority, magnanimity,
integrity and all the other elements of emotional maturity.
The natural conflicts among the family members provide a microcosm of the
contention in the larger society, but one in which the child may learn in a
wholesome and loving environment how to achieve the duality of the self-directed
individual and the willingly cooperative member of a group.
The many important benefits to the child raised in a natural family have
been established in innumerable research studies.
The child living in a home with both father and mother is far more likely
than children living in other circumstances to succeed in school, in a job, and
in a marriage, and far less likely to use illegal drugs, commit a crime, run
away from home, have emotional problems, become an alcoholic or commit suicide.
In short, the family with its daily affirmative influence on the child is
the most reliable nursery of responsible, emotionally mature and socially
compatible individuals. The
family is also far more effective than any other agency in training new
generations in the virtuous conduct required to sustain a republic.
The family is the breeding ground for both the good life and the good
Let us consider now one of the primary causes of the dwindling popular
acceptance of the natural family as the norm for living in this country.
It is the casual attitude regarding sexual habits and preferences of
other people. The sexual impulse is
so powerful that most civilizations have found that the family must be protected
by formalized restraints on sexual activity.
Any established standard of conduct acknowledges that people are inclined
to act otherwise, but this one, like loving one’s enemies, rates the highest
degree of difficulty. With all
voluntary informal codes of conduct, there is a need for general public support
to encourage people to abide by the rules. As with the Mrs. Prindeville
incident, public opinion solidly in favor doing the right thing, and a readiness
to ostracize and stigmatize anyone who did the wrong thing, were strong
reinforcements of the norm.. In the realm of sexual morality where such
reinforcement is critically needed the loss of the reinforcement of public
opinion has been devastating.
The cancellation of parietal rules on most campuses was a landmark in the
transition to today’s shoulder shrug attitudes about sexual relationships.
For the college student, suddenly the new formal campus policy not
intentionally, but very powerfully, says that as far as the college is concerned
it makes no difference whether you do or don’t shack up with your boyfriend or
girlfriend or a sequence of friends or strangers.
The college doesn’t care one way or another.
You decide for yourself. The
college-age student was immediately plunged into a situation wherein regardless
of the ideals that had been instilled by family and clergy, the professors and
administrators were saying that it really doesn’t make any difference. After the colleges and universities jumped over that hurdle,
it wasn’t long before many clergy, journalists, authors, artists,
screen-writers and others in the value-forming professions joined them.
The difficult reality is that the natural family and sexual liberation
are mutually exclusive. The more
there is of the one, the less there will be of the other.
This is not a conflict for which the sages of a society can piece
together a mutual accommodation, enabling both to thrive.
The dominant forces in the idea industries are unwilling to acknowledge
this cultural predicament, even when it is brought to their attention.
That is not the case in other countries.
There is a growing massive and intensifying concern worldwide about the
diminishing respect for, and reliance upon the family as the central and
essential institution of daily life. In
1995, some Russian scholars and Dr. Allan Carlson of the Howard Center for
Family, Religion and Society in Illinois decided to create a World Congress of
Families which could mobilize support for the family and provide persuasive,
factual, well-reasoned arguments to counteract anti-family policies and
initiatives in the various nations and in the world marketplace of ideas. The
first World Congress of Families was held in Prague in 1997.
The second Congress took place two years later in Geneva. 1500 delegates from 65 nations attended and heard 103
speakers including Mrs. Anwar Sadat, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo from the Vatican,
the Majority Leader of the Philippine Senate, and other eminent scholars and
statesmen from the six inhabited continents.
A speaker at the opening plenary session was Dr. Margaret Ogola, a
physician who founded and heads a hospice for AIDS orphans in Kenya.
The following quotations are from her address.
[B]y the late
sixties, this ideal of sex only between men and women committed to each other in the bond of marriage began to come apart.
She had mentioned earlier that
tribal taboos had effectively sustained that ideal.
Once it began, the collapse of the
ideal of the sacred nature of sex rapidly resulted in children being born out of
wedlock, marital breakdown, abandonment of children and of the elderly who used
to be held in great esteem, and of course the explosive increase in sexually
transmitted diseases of every imaginable kind.
What led to the massive collapse of
an almost universal ideal? I put forward some suggestions:
Thanks to contraceptives and their worldwide marketing--most
people could get away with infidelity and premarital sex, but deception, of
course quietly destroys relationships.
Demystification of sex: sex was no longer seen as a wonderful and
sacred gift, nor the power to beget children as anything very special.
Value-free education based entirely or how pregnancy and disease
could be avoided.
Planet Hollywood—worldwide dissemination of a culture of
pleasure as the ultimate desirable good.
This is but a segment of the
causes she listed. Her whole speech is available on the World Congress of
Families website. Remember that she
serves in a hospice for AIDS orphans. She
did not say it, but the message clearly is that the causes she listed of the
family breakdown and the AIDS pestilence all come from the cultural output of
our country and other western nations. The
bitterness, anger and fear stirred up in Latin America, southeast Asia, black
Africa and Muslim nations by our amoral culture is mounting and has grievously
damaged the moral authority of the United States in international councils.
A most unfortunate black mark at this time when we need solid allies!
The Geneva Declaration that
issued from the Second World Congress still has a growing impact.
The Emirate of Dubai asked to host and sponsor the third Congress and
plans were well along to meet there, and concurrently in Mexico City to
accommodate the much larger anticipated attendance, when September 11 harpooned
those plans. That meeting has
been postponed until 2004, probably in another location.
Meanwhile a number of regional Congresses have taken place.
The one held in New York in May of this year was especially noteworthy.
A speech from that session also
merits attention. The address was
given by Mrs. Janet K. Museveni, the First Lady of the Republic of Uganda.
The title of her remarks was: The AIDS pandemic: Saving the Next
Generation. She reported on the
dire condition of war-ravaged Uganda when her husband became President in 1986.
He realized that prompt action was needed to try to check the rapid
spread of the AIDS pestilence and mobilized all the elements of the government,
private organizations, faith-based groups, artists, the media, even tribal
healers, to spread the word that AIDS kills, that there is no known cure, that
it is transmitted through sexual conduct, and can therefore be avoided.
The multi-pronged educational program led to a reduction in the rate of
new infections among the youth ages 14 to 24, from 18.5 % in 1995 to 6.1% in
Mrs. Museveni herself led the campaign to educate the young.
She organized and heads the Uganda Youth Forum, which reaches young
people throughout the country.
In this forum we introduce the concept of Abstinence as the only viable
and preferred method of staying clear of the ugly head of AIDS.
The concept of abstinence is under girded by Christian principles.
But abstinence is also a traditional value in our cultures.
There was a time in our society when virginity at marriage was a valued
commodity. Therefore the Christian
concepts of sexual purity and faithful relationships were not alien values we
were trying to impose. It was what
had always worked until the system of values broke down through chaos and
through the introduction of foreign modern cultures…
What I want to testify to you categorically is that behavior change may
be slow and difficult, but it is possible…
The full text
is also available on the World Congress of Families website.
began with T.S. Eliot’s concern that in an era of grave crisis Britain’s
national priorities were not being determined by ultimate principles.
At the end of his last lecture, Eliot said:
“democracy,” as I have said again and again, does not contain enough
positive content to stand alone against the forces you dislike – it can easily
be transformed by them. If you will
not have God … you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin…
The feeling which was new and unexpected was a feeling of
humiliation…not a criticism of government, but a doubt of the validity of a
James Russell Lowell believed that the ideas of the Founding Fathers were
what gave validity to the civilization in America.
Lowell was much more than a poet. He
was a professor at Harvard for thirty years.
He was editor of the Atlantic Monthly and later of the North
American Review. He was also
the U.S. Ambassador to Spain and then to Great Britain.
He was respected here and abroad as a man of high intellect and wisdom.
The Founding Fathers, in whose ideas he saw the hope for America’s
future, have been repeatedly held up as the best informed, most intelligent and
wisest group of statesmen ever to provide leadership for a nation.
The question that arises is, Does the United States have leaders of
sufficient wisdom to comprehend all that is at stake in the dwindling status of
the natural family, and leaders of sufficient courage to take the needed
remedial action in the face of powerful elements opposed to such action.
Tolerance and diversity have been elevated to the highest position of
honor by academia and the press but we have already recognized that in order to
maintain standards of virtue there must be public approval of the standards and
public disapproval of whatever undermines those standards. Any effort to reestablish them, will meet fierce resistance.
Consider, for instance, the massive cultural juggernaut that has been
aggressively advancing the cause of sexual liberation.
You probably are aware that in 1993, Princeton’s President Shapiro
declared the Boy Scouts ineligible for funds from the University’s United Way
because of the ban on homosexual scout leaders.
On October 4, of that same year, the New York Times published an
editorial objecting to court decisions which had removed children from the
custody of lesbian mothers. The Times
declared, “Some children grow up in homes where they witness or suffer
physical or emotional abuse. That’s
immoral. A loving relationship between two adults of the same gender
Whereas everyone can sympathize with the agony of mothers who have been
separated by judicial action from their children, that sympathy cannot be
permitted to suppress the profoundly important question of who or what is to
determine the ideals for the society and the standards of behavior judged to
best serve the larger community. Is
the New York Times a wiser and more reliable authority in these matters
than Solomon or God speaking for Himself in the Ten Commandments? The fact is that for some years, the secular forces have been
redefining what is moral, eliminating most of the biblical norms.
Has that rejection of the Bible produced a nation of wise stable,
confident and friendly people?
The reported level of stability and confidence of the American people
today is disquieting. In August, the New York Times, reported that the
American Red Cross together with the September 11 Fund, beginning immediately,
“will make psychiatric help available to hundreds of thousands of people”
traumatized by the World Trade Center catastrophe. The cover article in the October 7 Newsweek declares
that three million kids suffer from depression.
Is the American populace that has been cradled in the laid-back rock
music culture capable of withstanding emotionally the cumulative fear and
tensions caused by America’s escalating involvement in fighting terrorism?
In World War II, the troops raised in an era when religion was
commonplace in American life, were made of sterner stuff.
In our First Infantry Division battalion, during eleven months of combat
from D-Day to V-E Day only a couple of soldiers were relieved from duty because
of combat fatigue. Family life and
church involvement had given them the moral and emotional stamina to stand up to
whatever came their way.
Another of the most highly regarded wise men of Western Civilization,
Alexis de Tocqueville, in his work, Democracy in America, evaluated the
status of the American nation and the American society in the middle of the 19th
century. Scholars still marvel at
the depth and accuracy of his perceptions.
The concluding paragraph of that work is worthy of our most earnest
The nations of our day cannot prevent conditions of equality from
spreading in their midst. But it
depends upon themselves whether equality is to lead to servitude or freedom,
knowledge or barbarism, prosperity or wretchedness.
I believe it is plain that the passion for equality among America’s
dominant leaders in the idea industries has been the primary force in negating
and neutralizing the ideas of the Founders regarding the necessity for God to be
preeminent in American life and for virtue to be held in the highest respect.
Their triumph in rendering America an amoral society has led to the
grievous deterioration of the natural family.
We began this homily with a lesson from John Milton.
Let us conclude it with a benediction from James Russell Lowell’s Poem,
“Once to Every Man and Nation.”
And beyond the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above His own.