What went wrong in Los Angeles? Why did the outrage triggered by the Rodney King verdict go much further than being merely a race issue? As President Bush and Governor Bill Clinton pointed out, many used the outcome of the King trial as an excuse for pillage, loot, murder, and anarchy. It was what Bill Clinton referred to as “the actions of a segment of people in America who are disconnected from the shared values that the rest of America holds.” What are these basic shared values of law and order, of certain moral absolutes that allow men and women to live together in harmony in society? To some they are an unknown entity, to some they are a vague set of principles, a sort of memory from an era that has now gone by, a sort of lingering Christian consciousness. Where did these values come from and how did we come to share them as a nation?
History reveals that America from its inception was founded as a Christian nation. The foundations of these shared values are rooted in the Ten Commandments, and the teachings of Christ. Values such as these: honor your father and your mother, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, you shall not covet your neighbor’s house or anything that belongs to your neighbor, love your neighbor as yourself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you – these values make civilization possible, and have been foundation stones that have made America great. To show how much they were a part of the founding generation’s thinking, these commandments appear engraved in stone behind the head of the Chief Justice of the Supreme court to signify that American law and order are based on The Ten Commandments of the Mosaic Law.
The founding generation held to the Christian idea of man and human nature. Cleon Skousen writes in The Making of America, “The founders were optimistic as well as realistic about human nature. They realized that all human beings are a mixture of sunshine and shadow. The sunshine consists of the perfectibility of human reason. This makes government possible. The darker side of human nature is the imperfectibility of human passion and man’s faulty sense of judgment that make government necessary. As James Madison states, ‘As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.’
“The founders’ goal was to revive the ancient principles which would allow the sunshine side of human nature to enjoy virtually unlimited freedom, while setting up appropriate safeguards to prevent the doleful shadow of human passion, greed, and lust for power from spreading a permanent ‘dark ages’ across the face of the globe. As Clinton Rossiter wrote, there is ‘no happiness without liberty, no liberty without self-government, no self-government without constitutionalism, no constitutionalism without morality – and none of these great goods without stability and order.’“1
Passing Down Our Heritage
A brief perusal of early American school books, even books in the early part of this century reveal that these moral principles were taught in the public schools of America and were imbibed by every school child. Civilization is not transferred by osmosis. It is not inherited. Its very advancement depends upon the ability of each generation to fully communicate and teach its children the great heritage of the past ages. The recent uprising in Los Angeles is our most current reminder that the basic tenets upon which our nation was built are not being transfered or adequately taught. Man instead of evolving upward appears to be in a state of rot and decay on a downward spiral, while beneath the surface waiting to erupt lies barbaric behavior and and a reversion to the savage laws of the jungle.
As we poke beneath the ash heap, we don’t have to move too many charred remains to find the apparent cause of our very present danger. The biblical philosophy that once filled America’s classrooms and was reinforced through American textbooks has now strangely disappeared and has been replaced by an altogether different philosophy. The riots in Los Angeles are only a small part of the fruit that America is now having to eat as a result.
The seeds of depravity and anarchy appear to have begun to take root when John Dewey, rightly called the Father of Progressive Education, began to impart his philosophy into the American public schools. Dewey clearly states in his book, The Price of Liberty, why he believed there was no place for moral absolutes in the curriculum:
“There is no God and there is no soul, hence, there is no need for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then immutable truth is dead and buried. There is no room for fixed and natural law or permanent moral absolutes.”
It took over fifty years, but Dewey’s philosophy began to erode away at the foundations of our political and economic institutions until this ideology found its way into every public school in America. Moral absolutes and the Biblical teaching of right and wrong, good and evil, have been replaced by “Values Clarification” which according to authors Simon, Howe, and Kirschenbaum, is to help young people “build their own value system.” Sidney B. Simon, in his book, Meeting Yourself Halfway, states:
“Values clarification is a process which helps people arrive at an answer. It is not concerned with an ultimate set of values (that is for you to decide), but it does stress a method to help you determine the content and power of your own set of values.”
The result? Each student leaves the classroom becoming his own arbitrator of right and wrong!
The Christian Idea vs.
The Christian idea of man has been replaced by evolutionary theory which teaches that man stands at the pinnacle of evolution in his long climb up from the pit and from his ancestors the apes. He has become, “the star” performer in the “zoo,” so to speak. On the other hand God declares that man was made in the image and likeness of God, created a little lower than the angels and is crowned with glory and honor. God declares that He has appointed men and women over all the work of His hands, and has commanded them to rule the earth and subdue the earth for God’s glory.
The evolutionary view presents man as a product of his environment. Academically, evolutionary views dictate the idea of “fixed intelligence” producing distinctions between the “slow learners” and the “gifted” classes. God presents man not as a product of his environment, but as the master of his environment who is able to overcome his circumstances. Man made in God’s image, is capable of thinking God’s thoughts after him. God who has given every man intelligence, is the One who gives man understanding and wisdom. If man is ignorant it is only due to his lack of seeking wisdom from the Living God, who gives to all men liberally. His intellectual ability and understanding will grow according to the law of use.
The Creator-creature distinction produces stalwart men and women, real heroes who overcome impossible obstacles and come out on top, having mastered their circumstances and made valuable contributions to the human race. As some one so aptly observed, Abraham Lincoln was not great because he was born in a log cabin, but because he found a way to get out of the log cabin. As God’s image bearer, man is to show forth God’s glory.
Evolutionary ideology has brought about a crisis of meaning. Evolution has banished the idea of God from the fields of knowledge. Evolution has sought to divide the worlds of fact and meaning. The natural world is not seen as meaningful; it just exists as bare fact. If we want to attribute meaning to it, that is our choice. The meaning however is personal and a somewhat sentimental matter of opinion. Meaning is seen as something we “bestow” on the world around us. Apart from our bestowal, the world is without meaning, to us at least.
Of course, on this basis it becomes impossible to judge one man’s meaning as more “true” than another’s. We can only express our personal preference about it. Since the world of meaning and value is subjective, and takes meaning only when each individual person bestows his own meaning to it, the individual is severed from any meaningful system or basis for his actions. Educator Dr. William Glasser revealed the true reasoning behind most modern educational theory when he said, “ In order to prevent failure, children must be taught to tolerate uncertainty. We must let students know that there are no right answers.“2
Centuries ago, Thomas Aquinas warned teachers never to dig in front of the steps of the student a ditch that you fail to fill up. Aquinas knew that to raise clever doubts, to continually pose problems without ever solving them, to prefer searching to finding are the great enemies of education.3
God declares that there are moral absolutes in life. God sets down laws and limits to man’s activities. God defines what is good and what is evil. He gives His laws to protect man just as a fence would hedge one in from falling off a cliff or a precipice. His law when properly taught have the power to restrain the evil hearts of men. As Creator and the One who holds man’s life in His hand, He commands that all men and women everywhere repent, and worship Him.
Evolution steers men and women into a life project of self-gratification. Christianity calls men into a life of service to God and fellowman. Evolution teaches that history is just one fact after another, without any framework of meaning. God proclaims that all of history is marching toward an era of rest and peace where justice and liberty will be the heritage of all who believe. God proclaims that history is moving toward the day when all the nations of the earth will stream into the kingdom of God and when His kingdom will be established on earth as it is in heaven and ultimately to the Great Judgement Day when every man and woman will be judged according to their actions.
Very simply stated Christianity teaches men and women to love God, to serve Him, and to enjoy Him forever. The evolutionary teaches man to establish himself independent of God, to free himself from God’s laws, to cast off all moral restraint, and his duty to obedience. The end results of this doctrine are devastating.
To live without moral absolutes is to live in doubt and uncertainty – which produces perplexity, frustration, and confusion. There are many things which we can be absolutely certain of, and to teach otherwise is sheer deception. “This aimless uncertainty makes the young a prey to every evil vice.” To deny that there are basic absolutes in this world is like pulling a rug out from underneath a child, thereby causing him to reel to and fro without aim or purpose.
Where is the Plumbline?
If there is one thing that is needed today among students, it is a plumbline. A plumbline exists for two purposes: one, it reveals what is straight, true, and perpendicular. Secondly, it exposes that which is crooked, askew, and deformed. It might be well to stop for a moment and consider what the founders of America had to say about education and moral absolutes. It was their sincere belief that, without education and instruction in morality, a free republic such as ours could not continue.
Thomas Jefferson wrote: “A people can become so demoralized and depraved as to be incapable of exercising a wholesome control…. Their minds are to be informed by education what is right and what wrong, to be encouraged in habits of virtue and deterred from those of vice by the dread of punishments, proportioned, indeed, but irremissible: in all cases, to follow truth as the only safe guide and to eschew error which bewilders us in one false consequence after another in endless succession. These are the inculcations necessary to render the people a sure basis for the structure of order and good government.“4
In 1787, the very year the Constitution was written by the Convention and approved by Congress, the founders also passed the famous Northwest Ordinance. In it they emphasized the essential need to teach religion and morality in the schools of the new territories. It stated: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Notice that according to the Ordinance formal education was to include among its teaching responsibilities these three important subjects:
1. Religion, which might be defined as: “a fundamental system of beliefs concerning man’s origin and relationship to the Creator, the cosmic universe, and his relationship with his fellowmen.”
2. Morality, which may be described as “a standard of behavior distinguishing right from wrong.”
3. Knowledge, which is “an intellectual awareness and understanding of established facts relating to any field of human experience or inquiry, i.e. history, geography, science, etc.“5
Benjamin Franklin summarized his religious beliefs in a letter to Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University: “Here is my creed, I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to His other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. This I take to be the fundamental points of religion.“6
The Founders of America believed that it was the duty of the school to communicate these fundamental points of religion to future citizens of America. Those expressed or implied in Franklin’s statement are:
1. Recognition and worship of a Creator who made all things.
2. That the Creator has revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living which distinguishes right from wrong.
3. That the Creator holds men responsible for the way they treat each other.
4. That all men live beyond this life.
5. That in the next life, individuals are judged for their conduct in this one.
“All five of these tenets,” says historian Skousen, “run through practically all the founders’ writings. These are the beliefs which the founders sometimes referred to as the ‘religion of America,’ and they felt these fundamentals were so important in providing good government and the happiness of mankind that they wanted them taught in the public schools along with morality and knowledge.“7
George Washington re-emphasized this in his Farewell Address. He wrote: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion … reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of religious principle.”
There is nothing that has shaken our security today as the philosophy of no absolutes. Against this weak and spineless ideology, the Bible stands majestically with it absolute standards of truth. By it we may test all of our convictions and conduct. The Bible is a book of absolute values, and in it God is not vague or elusive about what is right and wrong. Christ’s instructions were absolute. The Ten Commandments are absolutes. They were not engraved in sand but on tablets of stone to signify their permanence. They are certain, unchanging and applicable to every age.
To deny that absolute truth can be known is to destroy the very cornerstone of independent, individual judgment, thus destroying the processes upon which true thinking and creativity are based. This only produces weak, spineless people who are unable to come to a conclusion or to summon enough energy to act upon their thoughts. If all knowledge is “situational,” if there are no “right answers,” it is because this principle delivers men absolutely from God to Whom men do not wish to answer, yet before Whose judgement seat every human being will inevitably stand.
Who can doubt but conclude that this departure from the basic Christian values on which this nation was founded is responsible for a great majority of the crime, violence, sexual license, pornography, rape and the various and sordid depravities of society that have swept across our nation like a whirlwind? History reveals that it is virtue and knowledge that walk hand and hand. Unrestrained moral depravity has, on the other hand always preceded the fall of every empire.
Breaking the Monopoly
What can be done about a school system that holds a monopoly and is so diametrically opposed to what America as a nation is to be about? Perhaps the most innovative idea and a real sign of hope on the horizon is President Bush’s call for tax-funded schools of “choice” that he hopes will help “re-invent” American education and open up a whole new era of learning. In these schools of choice Bush has made an appeal for schools to be started that will return to the values of an earlier era, traditional values of patriotism, strong morality and strict disciple.
Senator Graham Rudman who has put forth four amendments to try to re-institute school prayer stated that the schools of choice will leap frog completely over the prayer amendment idea. As soon as these new schools are offered, Rudman believes that the majority of Americans will leave the old schools in droves that have long been dominated by liberal agenda and ideology in droves. Evidently, our liberal Congress fears the same thing as it is making a “last ditch effort to put the breaks on change.”
In a recent speech to the School Community in Allentown, Pennsylvania, President Bush stated: “Far too long we’ve shielded our schools from competition – allowed the system a damaging monopoly-power over students. Well just as monopolies are bad for the economy, they’re bad for our kids…. When our students are a captive audience, our schools have no incentive to improve. Say what you want about reforming our schools, if you’re for change, you are for school choice. These … ideas are generating interest and enthusiasm among governors and mayors, teachers, parents, students … everyone, that is, except the leaders of the United States Congress. At a moment when the consensus for change seems to be reaching critical mass, on Capitol Hill you can watch the last stand of the status quo … they want to funnel more federal dollars into these existing mandated business as usual, state bureaucracy – the very same bureaucracy that put us where we are today.
“Congress said no to school choice…. So today, let me just serve notice on the lobby, on the education lobby and their friends back on Capitol Hill: One year ago, I asked you to join with me in a revolution – a revolution to be a part of America 2000. The time has come to get on board, or get out of the way and stay behind. No more business-as-usual. Congress can drag its feet, but it cannot stop change … there is a time early in every revolution when the status quo looks steady and strong – and the forces that challenge it weak and without effect. And there’s the moment when the forces of change carry the day – the bankruptcy of the status quo stands revealed and the whole, hollow house of cards collapses.”
Perhaps this is the little cloud on the horizon, an answer to the cry of God’s people. It may be as small as a man’s hand right now, but coupled together with a Holy Ghost outpouring of Revival, there is a promise of a downpour of rain that will cause the overthrow of the liberalized schools of today as parents across this nation abandon the liberal schools in favor of those which honor God, which teach young people right from wrong, which uphold the principles that once made America great.
Whatever America decides, the Russians have already decided what doesn’t work. They have throw out all their atheistic, communist curriculum that has produced the static, impoverished, socialistic state and have for the entire city schools of Moscow instituted a curriculum which teaches the Ten Commandments, strong moral principles, and the Bible. In the majority of the Eastern bloc nations the Bible is now being taught as part of the curriculum. Every school child is given a Bible. Because perhaps they realize more than anyone else that they cannot build a lasting society and a strong and good government without the great pillars of Biblical morality and truth.
After all is said and done there remains one immutable unchanging truth that no amount of “progressive reasoning” or “values clarification” can erase from the conscience of man. Every individual, in the depths of his heart, knows beyond a shadow of doubt that there is a God, that he is not right with Him, that he deserves death, and that if he does not repent he will perish eternally. The dilemma that all men and women face is whether to acknowledge this truth, repent of their sins, and come into a right relationship with God … or to spend all their energy in denying Him.
1 Cleon Skousen, The Making of America, (The National Center for Constitutional Studies, P.O. Box 37110 Washington, D. C., 1985) pp 4,5.
2 JoAnn K. Abrigg, “In the Name of Education” (3915 Windsor Road, Youngstown, OH, 44512).
3 Opal Moore, Why Johnny Can’t Learn (Milford, MI: Mott Media) 1975 p 8. 4 Skousen, p 234. 5,6,7 Ibid., pp 676,677.
Copyright © Bob and Rose Weiner 2007, All Rights Reserved