Monday, January 24, 2011

Christianity, baby boomers, and government- a guest post by Ken Krout

Question posed by college professor:

Are you comfortable with political leaders bringing their God to meetings about their country? Should political leaders use their belief systems to make public or political decisions?


The short answers are yes and yes.

Cultures are formed by groups of people with similar values living and working together. These form societies and are the basis for civilizations. Many cultures were formed by ethnicity and geographic location. Shared religious beliefs were an integral part of what formed many cultures. Today, a culture can be as different as a group of bloggers united in a particular cause joining together by the internet. Our history as a species is a story of the rise and fall of cultures and societies.

In the ancient past many leaders based policy decisions on the religious rituals. Consulting the Oracle at Delphi, casting runes, or other primitive methods of deciding how and what to do are not what today’s leaders should be doing. Increasingly whenever a political debate arises the opposing sides try to paint those who disagree as extreme. To the modern atheist who is intolerant of religion it is easy to claim that those of faith are going to base life and death decisions about our country on little more than superstitious hocus-pocus. Nothing could be further from the truth.

America and western civilization was predominately based on Judeo-Christian values. The founders of the United States frequently referenced God in their documents and laws. Our culture is founded on the bedrock of the values put forth in the Bible, but with an interesting twist. Where other western nations had an established official form of religion, America chose to be tolerant of religion. People could worship, or not, as best suited themselves. Thomas Jefferson said;” Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.” America has been a great society, rising fast and strong among nations, guided by the values of Judeo-Christianity while preserving religious freedom for all of its citizens. Several of the founding members of our nation clearly believed in God, but were not Christians or members of any denomination. George Washington rarely attended church and never mentioned Jesus. Yet he said to the nation he founded; “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."

What is needed is a core value system to be maintained throughout our society. And the Judeo-Christian one put in place by our founders has served us well in the past. People had a certain degree of understanding as to how to behave and what was expected of them. This was reinforced by religion but was also a general understanding of what constituted acceptable and unacceptable behavior. For many generations this system has worked. For the most part, any leader of good character will choose the proper course of action because they understand the difference between right and wrong. Religion is a vital part of instilling good morals in people. Again, Washington said; “And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion."

It is of course evident that there were people that were dishonest and immoral throughout the history of any nation or society. These people were usually shunned, punished or in some other way made to understand that behaviors that were unacceptable were just that-unacceptable. The important point is what is considered “normal” behavior by the members of a culture. What is normal evolves as a society ages and new ways of looking at things emerge. What does not evolve is right and wrong. Looking back at the first 180 years of the United States shows a nation that has prospered whenever society has generally adhered to moral behavior. During times of strife it can be argued that the problems were caused by people not following the standards of Judeo-Christian values. The Civil War was a result of an immoral system of slavery that the founding fathers failed to resolve. The injustice done to Native Americans is a stain on our history that will not be erased. Clearly America was not a perfect nation, but it was based on the proper foundation.

In 1948 the United States had saved the world from Fascism and freed millions of people. This was the era of the so called “Greatest Generation”. It should be remembered that this was the time that the “Baby Boomer” generation was being born. The United States was in a very impressive position globally. Over half of all the worlds manufacturing capacity was in the United States, along with almost 2/3 of all the earth’s gold reserves. Exports were well in excess of imports. The per-capita income of an American worker was 4 times that of a French, British, Italian, and German worker combined. There is an endless series of anecdotes that can establish that those were the good old days. People could leave the keys in the car across most of America and expect it to be waiting for them in the morning. Politicians were still slinging mud, but they were working for the people. And it was expected that the company you worked for would treat you well if you did a good job. Things were looking good for the baby boomers as they were born into what could be arguably the best situation on average that any generation had ever arrived into (saving freedom).

Also in 1948 the Supreme Court ruled in McCollum vs. the Board of Education that religious teaching in public schools is unconstitutional. This was followed in 1962 with the banning of any kind of prayer in school; in 1963 with the banning of reading the Bible in schools over the intercom; in 1968 with the ruling that it was unconstitutional to ban teaching of evolution; in 1980 with the banning of the Ten Commandments from being posted in schools; in 1985 with the banning of a “moment of silence” as it might be deemed to promote prayer; in 1987 with the ban on teaching of “creation science” along with evolution; a 1989 ban on all nativity scenes in public buildings; and finally with a 1992 ruling banning schools from providing any type of clergy to hold prayer at any type of graduations. It was quite an evolution from the Declaration of Independence, with its references to our Creator that started our nation, to the current climate that bans a moment of silence in fear that some child might pray (

Taking a look at the emergence and growth of the Baby Boomers that grew up under this now religion free school system is quite revealing. First of all it must be acknowledged that many parents took their children to church or tried to instill values in them. Still, a large part of a persons development is based on who their peer group is and how that peer group behaves. Children of the sixties are largely remembered for being the generation of drugs, the sexual revolution, and rebelling against society. A large emphasis was placed on doing your own thing. If it feels good- do it was the mantra of the day. Along with banning religion from the schools, it seems that morality had been marginalized. Many things that were once unacceptable behavior in our culture are celebrated. This obsession with ones self and disregard for others or for what society expected of you has had some interesting consequences.

After expelling religion from the schools and raising a generation that refuses any type of judgment, it is little wonder we are not in 1948 anymore. It is not the advances in science and technology that are the most striking, but the collapses in integrity and character of the American citizen. It is not a lack of religion that caused the massive out-sourcing of jobs to exploit low cost labor in third world nations. But a lack of ethics that went a long way in rationalizing that behavior. Enron, Goldman Sachs, corporate raiders emptying pension funds, Fannie Mae, Bernie Madoff, Food for Oil, Acorn, Adelphia, etc. are all the result of one singular problem. Immoral Baby Boomers with no integrity and no guiding principles taking advantage of whatever and whoever they can. They never experienced judgment and do not grasp that some behaviors are unacceptable in this or any other society. America suffers because of it.

The latest banking scandal is very illustrative of this. Start with an unethical realtor selling an over priced house to an unethical buyer who can not afford it and is lying about his income on a no-documentation loan. Throw in an unethical home appraiser giving an inflated value to secure the loan from an unethical mortgage broker. The loan is then sold to an investor or retirement fund, while the firm selling the loan goes short and bets on the loan defaulting. Inevitably reality happens and the whole house of cards falls in. Everybody runs to the government and gets the legislators to force the neighbors to pay for it all through taxation. No accountability, no judgment.

In 1961 President Kennedy said; “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” The Greatest Generation was loathe to accept charity and would refuse out of pride. The fierce independent spirit of the American people was a driving force behind this nation’s rise to greatness. Today, the Baby Boomers have taken the entitlement mentality to a whole new level. Not happy with emptying the treasury to indulge themselves, they have wrecked the lives of generations to come with debt of an unimaginable level. It is hard to imagine how one generation caused a civilization to fall so hard so fast. If we consider that they were denied the moral compass that our founding fathers knew was essential for a capitalistic, free, democracy it offers some explanation. President John Adams said; ”Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Our political leaders are there to lead us. They set the example for the nation to follow and decide where we will be in the future. There has always been a level of scandal involved with politicians, the very nature of the money needed to get elected means that there will be favors to re-pay after election. However, it was interesting to watch the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. He was the first Baby Boomer president. His supporters openly declared that character did not matter. This change in what was acceptable in our leaders has been of some impact on our society. Today, character is a rarity among our leaders. Our politicians are usually lawyers. If one looks at how lawyers operate it helps explain why we are where we are at. A lawyer is hired to advocate for someone in a legal dispute or contract. They are trained to get the best possible outcome for their employer. Today, with most of our representatives being lawyers, they are still following that template. The employers are the political parties, labor unions, large corporations and other groups that “hired” them by funding the election. So they govern with the intention of getting the best possible result for the sides that backed them. This has resulted in the average American being lost along the way. Wealthy special interest groups battle for power using our government leaders as their champions. Meanwhile, the United States is not that united.

It would be a joy to have a child who based his decisions on sound moral principles, a business partner that could be trusted, a company that one could count on to do the right thing, a teacher who knew what was acceptable and what was not. In every part of life an interaction with someone of sound integrity and character is preferable to that of dealing with someone who lacks an understanding of right and wrong. What this country needs more than anything is leaders of unshakable moral principles grounded in Judeo-Christian values. Leaders in corporations, sports heroes our children can look up to, community leaders, union organizers and people of all sorts would build a better culture if they held themselves to a higher standard than the one established since the early 1960’s. Most importantly, we need men and women of character doing the right thing in all places of government. And if religion is what guides them to make those choices, it would be preferable to whoever donated the most money in the last election. George Washington started this country by making the decisions based on his own guiding principles that were religion based. We could use a few more people like him.

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