Moral Decay of American Politics
By P.T. McClure, 1993
America became extremely disturbed as they heard and watch the barbarous behavior of those who rioted in Los Angeles this past April 29, 1992. The robbing, looting, killing and destruction of property was appalling enough to all who viewed the disturbing riots. What was even more appalling was to hear some of our leaders and officials tell us that “America must understand the rage of the rioters.” Many kept trying to understand what the news media and the “pro-rioters” meant by “understand their rage,” as if understanding their rage did away with the crime or changed the offense. Daily, America views another disturbing news bulletin that shocks the public by an even more hideous debauchery than the day before. Millions of Americans are retaliating with protest against the slaughter of America’s traditional moral values. Especially the moral values that shape America’s legislation. The legislative principle of law in America was established upon Biblical standards of morality. Church and Christianity played a major role in formulating the values of American politics. However, during this past twentieth century, morality has suffered serious decay.
Given that American government has been established upon traditional moral values, how has the moral decay come about within the past two generations? Evidence first points to the decline of the church and clergy involvement in the insistence of moral legislation. At the turn of the industrialized twentieth century, American morality turned its focus upon economic concerns rather than religious family oriented concerns. The consequences however, has been devastating to both the morality and politics.
David Barton points out in his masterful work, “America: To Pray or not to Pray?”, that America’s first president, George Washington, warned in his Inaugural Address: “We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained” (17). There are some who believe, or would have us believe, that the founding fathers of America were anti-Bible, amoral advocates. However, after eight years of proficient presidential leadership, George Washington contends that America’s political morality was founded upon religious principles:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports … reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles in America (Barton 17-18).
Barton argues this matter further by citing a Supreme Court ruling of South Carolina in 1846 where the ruling confirms that the principles of Christianity were the “foundation of morals” upon which America had its beginning (92). In The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom acknowledges that Friedrich Nietzshche equated the possession of values as the possession of God or religion (Bloom 195 Clearly, early American politics was greatly influenced by religion.
Within the first generation of America’s Declaration of Independence, standards of morality came under attack. John D’Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman point out that the American traditional “family-centered” colonies suffered eroding decay in “response to the economic, social and political growth” (Intimate Matters 39). The decay of morality in American politics started when churches and clergymen diverted their attention from preaching moral laws in their communities, to minding their own business inside the four walls of their churches (D’Emilio 40). The Church’s reluctance to preach against the sins of immorality began to change the Christian community itself. Furthermore, D’Emilio confirms: “Even in the Churches, moral regulation no longer took the same form” (49). Sigmund Freud wrote that the early 1900’s found “civilized morality” suffering from pressure by “diverse influences” (qtd. in D’Emilio 172). It became evident that moral decadence among legislation flourished when preaching against sin diminished. D’Emilio illustrates this argument:
Moreover, with the post-Revolutionary dis-establishment of the Churches, state regulation of morality declined noticeably. Legislatures and courts had once responded to the clergy’s jeremiads about moral laxity by passing and enforcing laws that punished sexual relations outside of marriage. Now, however, courts less frequently enforced moral laws and showed more concern about the economic implications of illicit sexual activity (49).
D’Emilio notes further that society’s answer to the immoral sins against the family gives evidence of the decaying changes that America suffered. Laws were changed, which placed more concerns with the economic implications instead of the moral problems that sexual sins placed upon America. D’Emilio illustrates: “with the formation of state and local governments during and after the Revolution, and the gradual separation of church from civil authority … the prosecution of sexual offenses lost the central place it had held in early colonial society” (49).
As a result of silent sermons against immoral politics, America has suffered severe consequences during this twentieth century. President Harry S. Truman once said:
The basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days. If we don’t have a proper fundamental moral background, we finally end up with a … government that does not believe in rights for anybody except the State! (qtd by David Barton, The Myth of Separation, 260).
America is suffering morally because her people have ceased to “emphasize” the rules of right and wrong according to the Bible. It was during a centennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence that President James Garfield admonished that the character of the Congress would be predicated by the people. President Garfield said that if Congress became “ignorant, reckless and corrupt,” it would be because America would tolerate the same (266). The question then must be raised; has the moral decadence of America’s politics come because her Christian moral commitment has first decayed? Dr. Donald R. Howard, in his classic, “Crisis in Education,” confirms: “Clearly, a new cultural consensus came to replace Biblical morality and traditional values. Humanism expressed itself in the “new morality,” and this increasingly wrought havoc on society with the passage of time” (80-81). Howard blames the rising “drug abuse, pornography, sexual permissiveness, witchcraft and Satan worship” on America’s abandonment of Biblical moral values (81-82). Gene Antonio also graphically illustrates in “The AIDS Cover-up?,” that America’s moral acceptance of homosexuality as the “major causative factor in aggressive and rapid growth of AIDS” (58).
In conclusion, no one can argue that America’s political process was founded upon moral principles. However, the apathy of churches and the industrial shift of concern on the economic matters has brought about the moral decay of American politics. It is evidently clear that American politics has suffered a major moral decay over this past century. It appears with all the evidence, that America’s legislative salvation will only return when she returns to the Biblical standards of morality.
Antonio, Gene. The AIDS Cover-Up?.
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986.
Barton, David. America: To Pray Or Not To Pray.
Aledo: Wallbuilder Press, 1988.
Bloom, Allan. The Closing Of The American Mind.
New York. Simon and Schuster, 1987
D’Emilio, John, and Estelle B. Freedman. Intimate Matters: A History
Of Sexuality in America. New York: Perennial Library, 1988
Howard, Donald R. Crisis in Education.
Green Forest: New Leaf Press, 1990