The De-Moralizing Of America Is Demoralizing America
I wish to read for you these words Jesus delivered in the Sermon on the Mount. This is the Word of God.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house and yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell with a great crash. When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching because He taught as one who had authority not as their teachers of the law.”
May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His Holy Word.
Pray with me please. Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen.
A friend of mine recently shared a joke with me. I think I’m going to withhold her name for her own protection. You will understand when I tell you the joke. Here it is. An old man was sitting on the bench in the mall and suddenly a young fellow came up and sat down on the same bench. The young man had spiked hair with every conceivable color. Red, yellow, blue, orange. The old man turned and stared at the young fellow. And in a minute, the young fellow wheeled around and said, “What’s the matter, old timer? Never do anything wild in your life?” Whereupon the old man replied without batting an eye, “Got drunk once. Had a fling with a parrot. I was just wondering if you were my son.”
Now, do you know why I won’t give you her name? And what does that joke have to do with today’s sermon? Nothing. I just like the joke.
But wait a minute. Wait a minute. On second thought, maybe it does have something to do with today’s sermon. You see, I wish to speak to you about the fact that the de-moralizing of America is demoralizing America. Catch the play on words please. I am suggesting that we in this nation are in danger of losing our morals and therefore we are in danger of losing our morale as well. We are in danger of losing our virtue and our goodness and thus we are in danger of losing our national spirit and soul as well.
It’s interesting to me that right at the very end of Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told this little parable. It can apply to any number of circumstances but I believe it also applies to this particular circumstance. Jesus said, if you build your house on solid rock it can withstand any storm. But if you build the house on shifting sand, the house will fall and great will be the fall of it. Therefore I am trying to suggest to you today that we are in danger of losing the rock-solid moral foundation upon which this nation was built and that, I believe, is contributing to the demoralizing of our national spirit.
Now, let me assert very quickly. I am not seeking to put blame on any particular political parties or any particular political leaders. No, no, no. A thousand times, no. I am simply trying to remind us that all of us are a part of the American family. We are all in this together. And therefore I think it’s high time for us in the American family to rise up and address these matters both creatively and redemptively. We must, I believe, reverse our tendency to devalue the moral force of good.
Here in this nation we seek to be tolerant and believe me, that is an amazingly wonderful thing to be in it of itself. However, it does seem to me that in our effort to be tolerant, we may be letting the pendulum swing just a bit too far so that we now are in danger of losing the rock-solid moral absolutes that made this nation great. Virtue, integrity, truth, compassion, goodness, and personal responsibility. Those are the rock solid stones of the foundation upon which this great nation was built.
Paul Harvey, before his death in 2009, in his radio broadcasts would occasionally present a feature called “The Rest of the Story.” In one of those presentations, he told the true story of an older man who had a great love both for democracy and for public education. It became the dream of this older man’s life to create a university which would be founded upon those two loves of his. It would be a college where there would be no rules or restrictions or regulations. There would be only the good judgement and the wise substance of the students that would govern the college. It would be self-governed by the students. That was his ideal and he worked so hard to have it come true.
Finally, after years of preparation, the college was opened. And this older man was so excited about the prospect. However, as the months passed, it became clear that those young students were not the models of wisdom and judgement and discipline that the older man envisioned. They began to skip classes consistently. They drank to excess. They gave themselves to all kinds of frivolous pursuits. And then on one occasion fourteen of the students disguised themselves with masks, filled themselves with alcohol and went on a drunken rampage that ended in a bloody brawl where a number of innocent people were injured. Consequently, the college’s trustees were called to a special meeting. At that meeting, this older man, now 82 years of age and in failing health, asked if he might speak to the students. And so it was arranged. And in his remarks he set forth lofty principles upon which the college had been founded. And he expressed his regret that the students had failed to measure up to his expectations. And he then went on to say that as a matter of fact this whole experience was nothing less than the most painful experience of his whole life.
And with that, tears welled up in his now failing eyes. And he was so overcome with grief that he couldn’t continue. And so he just sat down. The students were touched by that so much so that the fourteen offenders actually then came forward and admitted their guilt. But the problem was the damage they had done could not be undone. And so a strict code of conduct with all kinds of rules and regulations was instituted at the college. And that college ultimately went on to become one of the great universities in America. But this older man’s heart was irretrievably broken. His great dream had failed. Why? Because those young students were not sufficiently mature enough spiritually or in any other way to secure the freedom that he desired for them. He neglected to remember that democracy’s success is always dependent upon the virtue and the goodness of the people.
Shortly thereafter, it was on the 4th of July as it turned out this older man died. On his tombstone are engraved these simple words. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the father of the University of Virginia. Now, as Paul Harvey would say it, now you know the rest of the story. Dear friends, let me say this plainly. Both the freedom and the future of this nation are dependent, totally dependent upon the goodness and the virtue of the American people.
You will remember no doubt that back in the 1830s a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to the United States. He was so enraptured of this country. He wanted to learn what made it work and he traveled extensively in the search. And after the experience and long reflection, he then wrote these memorable words. “I looked for the greatness of America in her fields and did not find it there. I looked for the greatness of America in her industries and did not find it there. But then I looked for the greatness of America in her churches and there I found it. America is great because America is good. If America ceases to be good America will cease to be great.”
My dear people, we must recapture goodness in this great land for it is the goodness of a people that is the lifeblood of a free society. And then we must, I believe, reverse our tendency to devalue the moral force of faith.
I am by nature optimistic. And I am certainly optimistic about our future in this nation of ours but I have to tell you, it troubles me to see the sliding away of the Godly faith that has been the rock-solid foundation of this nation’s life. And I am convinced that if we lose that Godly faith, we shall sooner or later lose this nation we love. Mind you, I do not believe that I am fearful of America’s future because of forces from the outside. No. No matter how militant or murderous they may be. Yes, we are engaged in war against those who seek to destroy us any way they can and for the sake of our children and our grandchildren we must do whatever must be done in order to try to stop them. But let me tell you what I believe to be true. Even if every malevolent dictator, even if every corrupt government, even if every terrorist organization were suddenly removed from the face of this earth, we would still have our worst enemies with us. Those are the enemies within.
The enemies like a deepening unconcern for the sacred. A subtle disregard for the law. An increasing breakdown in family life. Here in America these days, it seems to me that Patrick Henry’s great and noble cry, give me liberty or give me death, has been shortened to just give me. It seems to me that there are too many people saying don’t fence me in. No rules, no regulations, no restrictions, forgetting that freedom is not the license to do as we please but rather the liberty to do as we ought. It seems to me that we may become a nation where anything goes, forgetting that in a nation where anything goes, sooner or later everything is gone.
Hear me, please. I am not suggesting some mindless return to the old-fashioned ways of doing things. No. The only good thing about the good old days is that they are gone. I am simply calling us to renew, to re-energize, to regenerate the kind of faith in God and the kind of shiny ideals possessed by those who founded this great country. They believe that they had been called to forge a new nation on the face of this earth. A nation like no other nation had ever been. And they believed in the midst of it that somehow God was with them and God was in it all. That cannot be denied. And that is our heritage of faith in this great land. We are to see ourselves as by faith engaged in partnership with God in order to build a better world. And so I call us to do what we can to help America become everything God intends for it to be. I call us to try to make America beautiful again.
I have to tell you; I keep thinking today of the remarkable words of the great Professor Phelps of Yale. Listen. Jesus knew more about politics and economics than all of the world’s political leaders and all of the world’s economic and university professors. Jesus knew more about the human heart than Shakespeare or any other poet or all of them taken together. Jesus is the greatest leader; the most absolute right person the world has ever known. And so I say without hesitation, the only way the world can be saved today is by following Jesus Christ. I say, amen to that. Those words translated into action mean that you and I as followers of Jesus Christ are to be constantly engaged in working and praying and struggling to finish the great unfinished American Revolution. That you and I as followers of Jesus Christ are called to confront and address the great problems of our time, the tyrannized and the terrorized, the downtrodden and the disabled, the poor and the oppressed, the sick and the lonely, the alienated and the afraid. We’re called to address those problems, to use our Christian faith and our Christian resources to try to find solutions to them.
You and I as followers of Jesus Christ are called to demand, yes, to demand the highest possible moral and ethical standards from our leaders, our civic leaders, our political leaders, even our religious leaders. You and I as followers of Jesus Christ are called to live faithfully, to serve compassionately, and to avoid any national arrogance or any other thing that might stain or blemish the heart, the soul, and the character of this great land. Oh, yes, my dear people, let’s make America beautiful again.
Beautiful not just for spacious skies and amber waves of grain but beautiful for shining ideals and strength of spirit. Beautiful not just for fruited plains and purple mountains majesties but beautiful for truth shouted from the housetops and honesty and goodness held high. Beautiful not just for pilgrim feet and heroes proved but beautiful for people of every race and circumstance standing together and walking together without fear. Beautiful not just for patriot dream and alabaster cities gleaming but beautiful for homes and hearts where hope and love and faith and joy prevail. Yes, let’s make America beautiful again. You see, I dare to believe that God stands ready to lead this nation under God, this nation under God to lead us into a new and bright tomorrow.
So tuck this away please in your heart. The great Methodist Bishop Charles Jordan once told how his paternal grandparents had been born into slavery in Alabama and then they were sold to a plantation owner in Mississippi. That’s where they were when the Day of Emancipation came. When the Day of Emancipation arrived, Jordan’s grandmother was out in the fields working picking cotton. When his grandfather heard what had happened, he went running out into the fields to find his wife. And when he saw her, he called out to her, “Virginia, you won’t believe what’s happened. We’re free.” The words didn’t even seem to register with her. She kept right on working. Kept right on picking that cotton. He then rushed up to her and he grasped her by the shoulders and he turned her around to face him and he said, “Virginia, did you hear me? Our prayers have been answered. We have been set free.”
Suddenly, it dawned on her with a huge force. She dropped to her knees on the ground and buried her face in her hands and began to cry. After a few moments her husband said to her, “Virginia, let me help you up.” “No, no, no,” she said, “No. You get down here with me. We’re going to get on our knees and we’re going to thank God for this gift of freedom and we’re going to pray for the strength and the guidance to use our freedom well.”
Isn’t that beautiful. Isn’t that beautiful. We’re going to get down on our knees and we’re going to thank God for this gift of freedom. And we’re going to pray for the strength and the guidance to use our freedom well.
My beloved people, this Thursday, on our day of National Thanksgiving, may you and I, may we do the same.
Soli Deo gloria.
To God alone be the glory.
Amen and amen.