A New Tone in Washington

During its first five months, the new presidential administration has
successfully re-injected faith issues into public discussions on a number of
fronts. For example, when was the last time a nominee for Attorney General was
criticized for his outspoken faith convictions?

Also, it has been some time since an inauguration was so faith-filled. First,
President-elect Bush stopped at St. John’s church (see cover) for a time of
personal prayer before proceeding to the inauguration. Then the Rev. Franklin
Graham opened the inauguration with a powerful Christ-centered prayer. (In fact,
that prayer was even attacked in a West Coast editorial, wherein university
educator William Edelen decried Graham’s prayer as “disgusting”
because “he dedicated the inauguration to Jesus Christ.”) The
inaugural benediction by the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell was equally powerful. (The
text of these two prayers appears at www.freerepublic.com/forum)
Then, following the inauguration, President Bush announced a National Day of
Prayer and Thanksgiving, declaring in part:

Nearly 200 years ago, on March 4, 1801, our young Nation celebrated an
important milestone in its history, the first transfer of power between
political parties, as Thomas Jefferson took the oath of office as President. On
this bicentennial of that event, we pause to remember and give thanks to
Almighty God for our unbroken heritage of democracy, the peaceful transition of
power, and the perseverance of our Government through the challenges of war and
peace, want and prosperity, discord and harmony.

President Jefferson also wrote, “The God who gave us life gave us
liberty at the same time” and asked, Can the liberties of a nation be
secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are of God?”
Indeed, it is appropriate to mark this occasion by remembering the words of
President Thomas Jefferson and the examples of Americans of the past and today
who in times of both joy and need turn to Almighty God in prayer. Times of
plenty, like times of crisis, are tests of American character. Today, I seek
God’s guidance and His blessings on our land all our people, I ask all Americans
to join with me in prayer and thanksgiving.

Now, Therefore, I, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America,
by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States,
do hereby proclaim . . . a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving. . . .

(To
see the entire text of this proclamation, go to www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20010123-2.html.)

Yet another faith aspect of the Bush administration was the opening of an
Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI), with coordinating
offices subsequently opened in five cabinet level departments (Health and Human
Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Justice, and Education). The
purpose is to allow government to enjoy the benefits achieved by faith-based
organizations (e.g., Prison Fellowship’s successful criminal rehabilitation
programs; Teen Challenge’s successful drug rehabilitation programs; Project
Zero’s successful church programs to help individuals exit welfare; etc.).

The Framers would have strongly supported this proposal. As Framer Oliver
Ellsworth (CT), a member of the Constitutional Convention and the third
Chief-Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, explained:

The primary objects of government are the peace, order, and prosperity of
society. . . . To the promotion of these objects, particularly in a republican
government, good morals are essential. Institutions for the promotion of good
morals are therefore objects of legislative provision and support: and among
these . . . religious institutions are eminently useful and important.

Signer of the Constitution Abraham Baldwin (GA) similarly declared:

A free government. . . . can only be happy when the public principles and
opinions are properly directed. . . . by religion and education. It should
therefore be among the first objects of those who wish well to the national
prosperity to encourage and support the principles of religion and morality.

While the President’s faith-based goals are highly commendable, some
nevertheless fear that such programs might compromise the messages of
faith-institutions that choose to accept federal assistance. President Bush,
however, understands this danger and has pledged to try to prevent such
compromise from occurring. As he correctly points out, faith-based organizations
are effective because of, not in spite of, the religious element; to remove that
element would be to remove the reason for the programs’ successes and make the
programs just as unsuccessful as many government programs.

President Bush instituted similar faith-based programs in Texas several years
ago, and the religious message of those groups has remained intact throughout
that time. In fact, in a similar program in Arkansas (one of 13 States that has
now enacted faith-based programs), Gov. Mike Huckabee is able to demonstrate
that following the adoption of these faith-friendly initiatives, many religious
organizations were actually freed from pre-existing State intrusiveness rather
than vice versa.

President Bush’s current proposal is excellent and conforms with both
original intent and early American practice. However, it is still premature to
endorse the federal proposal; the specific details of the program have not yet
been formulated and delivered to Congress. As the old adage correctly notes,
often “The devil is in the details.” But even if the White House
proposal is completely entanglement free, it still must survive what undoubtedly
will be a plethora of amendments offered in the House and the Senate.

Only when the legislative process is complete will it be known whether the
plan can be embraced or rejected. Nevertheless, the current proposal is praise
worthy, as is the attempt of this administration to lessen and remove government
hostility toward religion. (For more details about the President’s faith-based
office, go to www.whitehouse.gov/news/reports/faithbased.pdf.)

The Changing Face of American Culture

It appears that many cultural values are continuing their
shift towards a Biblical perspective. You may recall the overall improving values
of college students (see the Fall
1999 WallBuilder Report
, and that support for abortion among students has
reached its lowest level since 1966. Recent polls affirm that a similar shift
is also occurring throughout the nation at large:

  • Fifty-one percent now believe that abortion destroys
    a human life and is manslaughter, with only thirty-five percent rejecting
    that position.
  • Only nineteen percent oppose school prayer.
  • Sixty-nine percent state that religion is the best
    way to strengthen moral behavior and family values.
  • Seventy-four percent say that “it’s a bad idea
    for families to raise children without any religion.”
  • Sixty-four percent are dissatisfied with the media’s
    overall treatment of religion, and fifty-six percent believe that
    journalists are biased against believers.

Beyond such polls, however recent voting trends in
typically liberal New England suggest that the winds of change may be blowing
ever there:

  • In Maine, a State represented by some of the more
    liberal Members of Congress, voters recently rejected physician-assisted
    suicides and special-rights for homosexuals.
  • In Vermont, seventeen incumbent State legislators
    who had supported homosexual marriages or civil unions were voted out of
    office, but not one legislator who opposed civil unions lost his seat.

All of this demonstrates that those values which
critics so often attach to “the radical religious right” are actually
the mainstream values of the overwhelming majority of Americans!

Specific Bible Knowledge Declining

The Bible is the unrivaled all-time bestselling book in
the world, and Americans hold that book in high esteem:

  • Ninety-two percent of Americans own a Bible.
  • Two-thirds of Americans say that the Bible holds the
    answers to the basic questions of life.

However, as pollster George Gallup point out,
apparently “We revere the Bible, but we don’t read it.” That is, while
general esteem of the Bible is high among Americans, knowledge of its basic
content as well as the specific use of the Bible are on the decline:

  • Less than half of Americans can name the first book
    of the Bible.
  • Two-thirds do not know who delivered “The
    Sermon on the Mount.”
  • One-fourth do not know what event is celebrated on
    Easter.
  • Twelve percent of Christians thought Noah’s wife was
    Joan of Arc.
  • Eighty percent wrongly thought that the phrase,
    “God helps those who help themselves” was found in the Bible. (It
    is actually from Benjamin Franklin’s writings.)
  • Over the past two decades, those who read the Bible,
    at least occasionally, has dropped from seventy-three percent to fifty-nine
    percent.
  • Only fifteen percent of Americans participate in
    Bible studies.
  • Two-thirds of Americans say that they are just plain
    “too busy” to read the Bible.

This growing Biblical illiteracy causes pastors too
much time explaining common Bible stories to parishioners rather than teaching
what those stories mean for daily living. Pastor Andy Dzurovcik of Faith
Lutheran Church in Clark, New Jersey, is on target when he declares, “The
Bible is the bestselling, least read, and least understood book.” As he
correctly notes in an adage posted on the church’s sign, “A Bible that is
falling apart usually belongs to a person that isn’t.”

Our early American leaders understood the benefits
which resulted from knowing God’s word. Chief-Justice John Jay (NY) therefore
urged:

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the Word
of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and the next. Continue,
therefore, to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.

In fact, the guidance once offered by John Quincy Adams
(MA) is still pertinent today:

 

I have myself, for many years, made it my
practice to read through the Bible once a year. I have always endeavored to read
it with the same temper and spirit of mind which I now recommend to you: that
is, with the intention and desire that it may contribute to my advancement in
wisdom and virtue.

 

If you are part of that group of two-thirds of
Americans who say they are “too busy” to read the Bible, I urge you to
rearrange your priorities. As Jesus reminds us in Luke 9:25, “What benefit
is it if a man gains the whole world but loses his soul?”

Not only do we need to spend time in God’s word, we
also need to make sure that our children do so as well; they are the leaders of
the next generation and need to be firmly rooted and grounded in God’s word.

 

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking
heed to your word. . . . Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not
sin against you.Psalm 119:9, II

 

The Continuing Effects of Election 2000

As noted in the January
2001 WallBuilder Report
, because of the delay in declaring a presidential
winner, significant evidence of voter fraud surfaced in several States. As a
result, many States initiated efforts to correct the problems–including Alabama,
where just a decade ago, voter records showed that more than 100 percent of
the adult population was registered to vote!

Alabama just removed from its voter rolls 117,000 names
of individuals who could not be located, whose addresses could not be confirmed,
or who were registered to vote in two or more counties at the same time. This
effort to prevent future voter fraud is a continuing positive fallout of
Presidential Election 2000.

And speaking of purging dubious registrations from
voter rolls, Paul Bettencourt, County Clerk in Harris County, Texas (Harris
County, which includes Houston, is the largest county in America and has a
population larger than 23 of the 50 States!), has recently removed 171,000 names
from the rolls and suspended another 429,000 names due to incorrect addresses.

And while we are on the issue of how easily fraud can
occur, a recent undercover “sting” by Congressional investigators at
gunshows found that false IDs and fake drivers licenses could be easily
obtained, thus enabling individuals to elude the mandatory background checks.
This “discovery” caused congressional Democrats to call for
identifications other than drivers licenses to be used when buying a gun. Yet,
if fake drivers licenses are so easy to obtain, then perhaps those congressional
members should similarly call for the elimination of motor voter registration
and halt to the use of drivers’ licenses as the basis for voting. Surely,
protecting the integrity of the vote is as important as protection the integrity
of background checks on potential gunbuyers!

A New Flag for An Old State

Georgia, one of the original thirteen colonies, now has
a new State flag.

Following years of criticism because of its inclusion
of the “Stars and Bars” as a primary visual element of the State flag,
Georgia legislators decided to make a change. Their new flag was to feature the
Great Seal of Georgia in the middle with a banner below showing miniatures of
the five different flags that have flown over Georgia.

State Representative James Mills, however, proposed one
additional element: adding the words “In God We Trust” below the
five-flag banner. When some objected that the new flag would then be too busy,
Mills responded, “If it’s too busy to include ‘In God We Trust,’ then maybe
we need to slow down.”

When his proposal came to a vote, it passed
overwhelmingly by a margin of 102-67, and “In God We Trust” has
officially become part of the new Georgia State flag.

 


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