Saturday, January 31, 2009

Where Do We Go From Here?

In 1776 the nation's population was over three million, yet it produced leaders like Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and Adams. These were men of integrity, inner-directed, with a strong moral sense. Today America's population is over 300 million, 100 times larger, but our leaders lack vision, integrity and understanding. Part of the difference may be the transition from inner to other directedness that occurred beginning in the late nineteenth century as the media and centralized banking became dominant. This transformation led to professionalization of work, increased specialization, larger scale enterprise and personality that tends to be reflecting instead of visionary. Leadership is not a trait associated with fashionableness or consumerism.

America traded its moral vision for a Model T Ford and a radio broadcast.

The question is not so much where do we go from here, but rather what in ourselves inhibits greatness. America is only as great as its people. But a people addicted to mass consumption, groupthink, conformity and fashionable trends cannot be great.

Americas' coming economic decline is a product of the spiritual mediocrity to which America has been committed since the Progressive era. It is a product of the exchange of consumption for morals. It can be repaired only when Americans insist on thinking for themselves; on educating themselves as to liberty; and on freeing themselves from the addiction to fear, consumption and conformity that has dominated urban American society for the past century. From that transformation leadership and greatness will evolve.


Anonymous said...

Mitchell, you hit the nail squarely on the head.

We must stop thinking the problems are too big and start believing in "the power of one." The remedy is to begin thinking generationally instead of about me and today. The remedy is to start individually working within your own sphere of influence.

Individuality will look different on each one of us, but that is precisely the point! Find your niche and make a difference.

Our family has chosen to get off the conveyer belt and home educate our children. The day-to-day humdrum often seems unremarkable, but mighty oaks grow from small acorns.

As Margaret Thatcher once said, "Think relentless incrementalism."

CAPT-DAX said...

Patriotism is not blind subservience to government, nor loyalty to a particular leader or party.

Patriotism is vigilance in protecting and preserving the US Constitution from all who would pervert or overthrow it, or in any way diminish our many rights, liberties, or sovereignties; and, is a willingness to pay a price for our freedom.

Benjamin Franklin said:

" Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

Thank you my friend.

Anonymous said...

Yes CAPT-DAX. Our home-educated children will actually know what the Constitution says and the important history leading up to it.

Anonymous said...

Non-Christians like Washington, Franklin and Jefferson would be unelectable today. Revisionists pretend they were Christians instead of Deists but they were great men because they were heretics to the Crown and to Jesus. Add Smith, Hume, Paine, Locke, Madison etc. because America only accepts a comforting orthodoxy. Our dumbest masses limit our smartest leaders.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Dear Anonymous: I think you're overstating the non-Christianity of Washington, Franklin and Jefferson. While Franklin was not a believer he was certainly raised as one and he shared important ethical values with most Christians. His moral ideas were important and are still remembered by most Americans today.

Jefferson was a Deist, but that does not mean non-Christian. In fact, Jefferson created an edited Bible that retained the facets of Jesus' teachings that he admired (if I recall from my college days, they were mostly the aspects of Jesus's teachings that did not involve miracles). Thus, like many of today's Unitarians, he was not a fundamentalist but rather believed in Deism, in God as broadly defined. Formally, Jefferson was an Episcopalian, but the two Adamses, Fillmore and Taft were all Unitarians, so if you count Jefferson five presidents were Deists or Unitarians. I took the following quote from this site on Unitarianism:

"Faith, freedom, reason – the motto of the AUC defines the core values of American Unitarianism. Those same values can be found in a religious philosophy that shares much in common with American Unitarianism – Deism

"The word Deism is derived from the Latin word for God, Deus. Simply defined, Deism is the belief in God based on the use of reason and the observation of the natural world, as opposed to belief in God based on supernatural revelation.

"Generally speaking, Deists:

"Believe that God is Uni-personal God (no Trinity).

· Reject the divinity or deity of Jesus.

· Reject the validity of any scripture based solely on its status as "revealed."

· Believe that the magnificence and natural order of the Universe is testament enough to the existence of the Creator.

· Reject that God punishes humanity infinitely for finite acts.

· Believe that God respects human free will, and does not interfere in human affairs.

· Believe that God governs the Universe via natural laws, and does not therefore perform miracles.

· Believe in the importance of reason in religion, and that reason can produce a practical morality without resorting to revelation or dogma.

To say that Deists were not Christians overstates the point. Where does Christianity end and non-belief begin?

Moreover, the culture of American society in the period of the Revolution was religious and Protestant. The debate was not over whether to be Christian but whether government should financially support Christian churches.

A few generations previous to the Revolution, membership in a colonial church was mandatory in many colonies and non-believers were not permitted. All of the major universities, Harvard, Yale, Princeton Brown, etc., were founded as Christian colleges and most of America's intellectual life through the 1830s or so was dominated by religious figures.

There's a John Adams quote on this blog:

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

As far as Washington, Wikipedia writes:

George Washington was baptized as an infant into the Church of England,[3][4] which, before the American Revolution, was the state religion of the colony of Virginia.[5]

Washington regularly attended Sunday services and purchased a family pew at several churches. Rev. Lee Massey, his pastor in Mt Vernon, wrote: "I never knew so constant an attendant in church as Washington."[8]

"Whether Washington partook of communion is a question of tremendous controversy. An 1833 statement by his adopted daughter, Nelly Custis-Lewis, states of her mother Eleanor Calvert-Lewis (who resided in Mount Vernon for two years), "I have heard her say that General Washington always received the sacrament with my grandmother before the revolution."[9]

Jefferson was a thoughtful, rationalist philosopher. I think a bigger question than his affiliation with Deism is why no candidate of his stature as a thinker has appeared in the twentieth century.

Anonymous said...

Accepting Christ as Savior and Lord = Christian to most Christians. Sharing important ethical values doesn't make anyone Christian. Jews share almost all important ethical values with Christians since Christians directly adopted them. Hindu/Buddhist/Muslim etc. can share ethical values as well they just have different superstitions behind it. Like I said "no candidate of his stature as a thinker has appeared in the twentieth century" because our society doesn't want one. Don't think, pander.

Mitchell Langbert said...

I do not think that if a Unitarian were to run today he would be excluded because of religion. Jews are somewhat more controversial, but the country is more open minded. Witness Barack Obama.

Anonymous said...