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Religion, morality in decline

June 15, 2012
By ERIC RETZLAFF , The Leader Herald

While media pundits say the 2012 election is all about economics, I say the nation is a house divided against itself on deeper issues.

I was raised in a life of faith and moral absolutes in a country where many are uncertain of any kind of truth. Maybe I was born too late.

If I were an adult on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, I would have fit right in.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident," intoned Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration. These universal truths-"the laws of nature and of nature's God" - include being created equal, the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and to a government that is responsible to the people "to secure these rights."

Jefferson and the other founders, despite theological differences, believed in a God who created an orderly universe with understandable moral laws that have consequences when violated. The historical record is clear that the founders lived in a Christian milieu which saw the scriptures as upholding a natural law, as stated in Romans 2:14-15: "When Gentiles, who do not have the law [Ten Commandments], do by nature things required by the law they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them."

The founders were also fond of quoting such secular philosophers as the Roman Marcus Tullius Cicero. In The Republic, Cicero says, "True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting ... and there will be one master and ruler, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature ..."

I was in college in the '60s when doubting any authority, human or divine, and "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" were the vogue. Morality was relative - what's true for you may not be true for me.

Were it not for his tainted reputation as Jesus' unjust executioner, Pontius Pilate could have been an icon for that era: When questioned by Pilate in John 18:37-38, Jesus asserted, " the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

"What is truth?" Pilate retorted.

The idea that truth is undiscoverable and everyone should do as he pleases did not start or end in the '60s. Especially when it concerns issues of life, sexuality, marriage, children and the family, this self-centered attitude is no better for the well-being of the nation than throwing a grenade into a kindergarten is healthy for children.

What the founders understood is that, as Benjamin Franklin states, "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they are in more need of masters."

Hence, the growth of big, socialistic government parallels the decline in religion and morality. These two forces are allies against any institution, such as the Catholic Church, that says both individuals and governments are accountable to a higher law. This is why Pope Pius XI warned the German people in his encyclical against Nazism, Mit Brennender Sorge ("With burning concern"), that "to hand over the moral law to man's subjective opinion, which changes with the times, instead of anchoring it in the holy will of the eternal God and his commandments, is to open every door to the forces of destruction."

Economics may decide the election, but not the nation's fate.

Eric Retzlaff, a guest columnist, is a former news writer and publicist living in Rotterdam.



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