Part 6 in the Series:
Is America a Christian Nation?
By Don Enevoldsen
The greatest challenge to America today is the question of whether or not we will continue to be a Christian nation. The criteria are not in the polls that track how many people consider themselves Christians or how many meet the definition for being born again. The test is in whether or not we deviate from the moral foundation described in the Declaration of Independence and inherent in American law. All segments of modern society justify their positions by declaring themselves constitutional and their opponents unconstitutional, but few today understand the moral fabric of the Constitution. The test, as the Founding Fathers conceived it, was a very simple thing. If any law or any action violates the individual rights of life, liberty or possessions, it is unconstitutional. Period. In the minds of early Americans, such violations are also un-Christian.
Many examples could be described that indicate America is rapidly losing its Christian foundation, but two will demonstrate that the problem is not a matter of liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican, or even evangelical versus non-evangelical. The problem is a mindset that permeates society as a whole.
The recent Occupy Wall Street Movement has highlighted the levels of corruption in corporate business circles. So many cases have been publicized in the past couple of decades that the public no longer sees them as anything out of the ordinary.
There have always been corrupt people willing to ignore the law and the rights of others for the sake of personal gain. As the Enron scandal unfolded, however, we saw virtually an entire corporation participate at some level in the deception. It began at the top with the willful manipulation of innocent people’s lives to artificially drive up energy prices. CBS News reported tapes of Enron energy traders celebrating as they gloated over the fact that they had helped create an artificial energy crisis, complete with black outs, that increased their profits. Most of those in the company who benefited from the rise in stock prices, at the very least, turned an unseeing eye away from the problems.
This is just one example of the corruption of the 1% indicted by the Occupy Wall Street people, and certainly not the most recent. New scandals emerge with such frequency that we have grown numb to the stories. Of course, not everyone who is rich got that way through dishonesty, but many did, and the number seems to grow steadily.
Of great concern, however, is the change in the culture that allows money to wield such influence over the moral convictions of so many. Two hundred years ago, one of the defining characteristics of Americans was the insistence that criminal activity be identified and stopped, no matter how rich the perpetrator. De Tocqueville made special note of this trait:
“In no country does crime more rarely elude punishment. The reason is, that every one conceives himself to be interested in furnishing evidence of the act committed, and in stopping the delinquent… In Europe a criminal is an unhappy being who is struggling for his life against the ministers of justice, whilst the population is merely a spectator of the conflict; in America he is looked upon as an enemy of the human race, and the whole of mankind is against him.”
As the Enron case suggests, Americans have become far more like the Europeans of de Tocqueville’s day. They are likely to believe that they don’t want to be bothered with the difficulties involved in speaking up, so they choose to remain oblivious to anything that no longer directly affects them.
Even the government agencies that have been assigned the task of watching out for the interests of the citizens are likely to ignore their responsibilities in return for power or money. The Charles Keating case in the 1980s blatantly demonstrates how easy it has become in the past century to purchase immunity from prosecution. An audit of Keating’s Lincoln Savings and Loan showed numerous illegalities. Keating began his defense by trying to hire the people who audited him. He commissioned a study by Alan Greenspan, at the time an independent economist, to prove the harmlessness of the kinds of investments Keating had done. When those tactics failed, he donated a total of $1.3 billion to five U.S senators, who actively obstructed the investigation. Then Keating sued the government. In 1988, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board forgave Lincoln Savings and Loan all of its violations.
The ensuing two decades have not shown any real improvement. Huge government bailouts end up in the pockets of corporate executives in the form of bonuses. Members of Congress profit from insider trading. And the average American shrugs his shoulders as if to say that everyone knows government is corrupt and there is nothing that can be done. That elected officials and the population in general would not rise up en masse and prosecute every form of elite corruption indicates a departure from the morality of early America. Two centuries ago, there would have been no need for Occupy Wall Street. Most corporate crimes were generally dealt with long before they could become so completely entrenched.
The Occupy Movement rightly criticizes corporate and political corruption, but the solution offered indicates just how far America has drifted from the Christian concepts of the first Americans. The 1% are criticized for little more than being rich, assuming that if someone is rich, he must automatically be corrupt. On that assertion, the Occupy Movement has jettisoned any regard for individual rights to property. The mere suggestion that the possessions of the 1% should be confiscated and redistributed to everyone else would have horrified early Americans. Two centuries ago, such a movement would have been quickly labeled unconstitutional, a violation of unalienable rights, and laughed out of existence. The fact that it now attracts enough attention to be an ongoing news story indicates a departure from the morality of early America.
Next: America’s Heritage
To go to the beginning of the series: Part 1, A Schizophrenic History
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