Friday, December 15, 2017

Our Nation’s Present Moral Situation

Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 0:00
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A Christian Observer editorial from sixty years ago – the Christian Observer, October 10, 1951 – Harry P. Converse, Managing Editor – William T. McElroy, Editor.


The final report of the Senate Crime Investigating Committee [Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce – Chairman – Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver (D)] made public last month, the recent unhappy revelations at West Point [Eighty-three West Point cadets expelled for cheating], and figures issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding youthful crime, together with other less publicized facts indicate what J. Edgar Hoover defines as “a breakdown of the moral fiber of the country.” The whole nation is shocked– for the moment at least–over the proven alliances between the underworld and corrupt political powers, over what the traffic in drugs is doing to vast numbers of young people, and over the threat to the stability of our national life. What the nation will do about the present condition only the future will reveal. Our record in the past in such matters does not give reason for any great amount of optimism.

Many editorial writers express the belief that because the revelations indicate a general moral decline, court actions, the closing of obnoxious places, a superficial revamping of college athletics, and similar steps, will touch only the symptoms and have little or no effect on the real disease. One of our highly respected national leaders, John Foster Dulles, has expressed the thought in these words:

Something has gone wrong with our nation, or we should not be in our present plight or mood… What we lack is a righteous and dynamic faith. Without it, all else avails us little. the lack cannot be compensated for by politicians, however able; or by diplomats, however astute; or by scientists, however inventive; or by bombs, however powerful…. Our greatest need is to regain confidence in our spiritual heritage…. There is no use having more and louder ‘Voices of America’ unless we have something to say that is more persuasive than anything yet said.

Speaking particularly of the West Point revelations, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, one of the nations most clear-spoken newspapers, in a widely reprinted editorial urges that “the time is here for moral regeneration.” It says further that “what happened at West Point reflects a present distorted attitude toward old-fashioned honesty and integrity,” and asks:

Where does the fault lie? In the home? Perhaps. In the schools? In part. In the churches? In part. But in the main the fault lies in that nebulous field of public morals and spirituality which was so highly cultivated by the founding fathers and which, of late has been so scantily tilled. Among too many of us the accepted premise is that anything is fair unless we are caught; that the world owes us a living; that an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay is almost unethical; that gyping the other fellow before he gyps you, is the only policy that pays off.

Another outstanding daily newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, calls for a raising of “fundamental moral standards” and the quickening of the consciences of of all the people as well as those of our political and other leaders. The editorial says in part:

This newspaper is convinced that the most vital task before the American people today is the raising of fundamental moral standards. In the last year or two the alarm has been sounded in a dozen ways–disclosures of crime syndicates, mink coats and deep freezers, basketball “fixes,” cheating at West Point, divorce scandals, widespread tax dodging, “black marketing,” “chiseling” on inflation controls, “graft” on public contracts…We are weary of being told that we must accept such things, that “everybody does it.” This also is subversive doctrine. It must be rejected….There is danger that this issue will be lost in partisanship….The demand for moral reform rises above all party lines. It must be pressed on all fronts.

Nearly all the comments, both in the daily newspapers and in the religious press, point to the fact that we are facilg a “moral battle” rather than a political one, and that “high principles” are primary, whatever we may do toward correcting the current evils. “It all comes down to the fact,” says the Western Recorder (Baptist), “that the highest value that can be fixed in the young person’s life is high character–a will and determination to be right in thought and deed. We need men and women who have learned to thing and tell and act the truth and the whole truth, even at the expense of personal loss.”

Similar in viewpoint is the editorial in Presbyterian Life on the disclosures. “The integrity of our military leaders,” says the editorial, “is a matter of life and death to the nation. So also is the integrity of private citizens like you and me….America’s number one need is for a spiritual revival that will bring about a moral regeneration. We, who by our silence in the face of terrible revelation of corruption in public life have aided in promoting it, cannot escape our own personal responsibility for it.”

In a public address at Des Moines, Iowa, Ex-president Herbert Hoover, sometimes described as our nation’s “elder statesman,” said that what we are facing is really “mostly beyond the law,” and he challenged the nation to turn to the New Testament, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Ten Commandments for guidance. “Our greatest danger,” he said, “is not from invasion by foreign armies. Our dangers are that we may commit suicide from within by complaisance  with evil; or by public tolerance of scandalous behavior; or by cynical acceptance of dishonor.”

More alarming that the revelations of crime and dishonor, says Dr. L. Nelson Bell in the Southern Presbyterian Journal, is the “reaction throughout America.” The guilt, he says, seems to lie, not in what is done, but in “getting caught.” “To solve our personal and our national problems,” he continues, “we must recognize the source of those problems and that source is sin in the human heart. The primary message of the Church is redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Saviour said: ‘Ye must be born again,’ and such a birth is a supernatural transaction, a work of the Holy Spirit, operating in the heart of repentant sinners who turn to Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, as their only hope of cleansing and salvation.”

A like note is sounded by a prominent New York pastor in a recent sermon. As quoted in the New York Times, Dr. Ralph B. Nesbitt, of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church says:

The contemporary scene is not without encouragement and not beyond repair. The very fact that so many people are concerned is a hopeful sign. This is the first condition of amelioration. The ultimate answer is not in ourselves, but what man must have is a personal relation to God, the realization that “Thou, God seest me.” My life is open like a book before Him and it is to Him that I must at last render an account of my life. It is that supremely that produces high morality.

A word spoken more that two hundred years ago by the famous statesman Edmund Burke, is as pertinent to our present situation as if it were written today: “True religion is the foundation of society, the basis on which all true government rests, and from which power derives its authority, laws their efficiency, and both their sanction. If it is once shaken by contempt, the whole fabric cannot be stable or lasting.”


[Editor’s Note: Much of this article ” is as pertinent to our present situation as if it were written today.” The Christian Observer expresses our gratitude to a reader in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, for sending a copy of the October 10, 1951 issue of the Christian Observer.]



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