Not many months from now we will be listening to another presidential inaugural address. Unless something unprecedented and unforeseeable occurs it will likely be delivered by either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Frankly, I can't even begin to imagine what might be said to the American people (and the world) by either individual, that will be received as remotely credible.
Contrast John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech, which has all but faded into the distant corridors of history:
"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.
"My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
"Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."
(John F. Kennedy: "Inaugural Address," January 20, 1961. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=8032.)
Fifty-five years later we find ourselves embroiled in a societal conflict neither our founding fathers nor, more recently, those few left from "The Greatest Generation" could have ever conceived in their darkest dreams. We face a threat infinitely more dire than that of communism of the 60's and 70's or the terrorism of the 21st Century. It is the unraveling of the American Dream. Simply put, the word 'freedom' no longer stands for what most Americans understood for more than 200 years: the obligation to uphold moral responsibility while pursuing life, liberty and happiness. Today 'freedom' means the complete casting off of all restraint, as has been so aptly demonstrated by our current presidential candidates.
Our founding fathers understood this danger all too well:
John Adams in a speech to the military in 1798 warned his fellow countrymen stating, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence said. “The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.”
Noah Webster, author of the first American Speller and the first Dictionary said, “The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.”
Benjamin Franklin, Signer of the Declaration of Independence “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
John Jay, Original Chief-Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court , “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 in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.”
We are fools for not heeding their warning.
We have become a nation of adulterers, infatuated with and celebrating all kind of sexual perversion. We are lawless, pursuers of wealth and self-gratification at all cost. We have chosen to ignore the lessons of history, having postured ourselves dangerously close to what is described in Psalm 2, "The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, 'Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.' The One enthroned in heaven laughs the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 'I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” In our blindness we have become the poster child for Revelation 3:17, "You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
It seems the great Question of the hour is “Clinton or Trump?” I stand aghast wondering how I can vote for either one of these individuals who have betrayed the principles good American men and women have given their lives to uphold. In the midst of the fracas I listen desperately for the voices of any individuals thrust into national leadership who, like JFK, have been entrusted with carrying on America's great legacy. They seem ominously silent.
Dear friends we stand, I believe, on the threshold of judgement. Divine judgement certainly, but judgement as well from the millions of Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their very blood and lives in order that we might carry on the great Dream our founding fathers envisioned. Their voices cry out from the grave for justice. Justice that may well come in the form of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
As the great Christian advocate C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” (Lewis, C.S.; The Great Divorce).
Sadly, we seem to have chosen. The question is, will we humble ourselves, admit our sinful behavior and return to the godly, Biblical principles on which this nation was founded; or will we be driven there, broken by calamity?
Perhaps there is still time.
Edmund Burke, the great 18th Century political activist and American advocate is credited with saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I believe this is the greatest temptation we face in America today.
No doubt many will be tempted to abstain from their constitutional right to vote on November 8. I admit I’m fighting this inclination myself. It would be a grave mistake to do so, however. Instead I choose to look beyond the rhetoric and media circus and will do everything I can to discover where the candidates stand on real issues. I will identify the candidate I believe most closely agrees with the course charted by our founding fathers - a course I happen to wholly embrace - and I will vote accordingly. If no such person becomes apparent, I will ask for Divine wisdom and guidance at the moment of decision.
I will also continue to pray and plead for God's mercy on our land. It is our ultimate hope.