"These are the times that try men's souls". That is the opening sentence of "The American Crisis", a series of pamphlets written by Thomas Paine, a political activist, theorist, and philosopher, long credited with inspiring the Founding Fathers to strive for independence from Great Britain. Later in this post, I will be referring to this amazing piece of historical and inspirational writing as it pertains to our American values, which is the point of this timely article.
[NOTE: I know there will be some who disavow Paine's writings because history has painted him as an unbelieving atheist. But, it is my opinion that a more careful examination of his ideology proves that Paine was a Deist -- he believed in God, but had no tolerance for organized religion. And that is a discussion for a different day. For the purpose of this article, I am revealing his ideas on American values].
Now to the purpose of this post, to consider the recent Wall Street Journal poll that bodes poorly for the future of our national identity and well-being. The numbers are startling! Since the 1998 poll was taken it seems that the core values of American citizens have plummeted in the last quarter century. In just 25 years there has been a dramatic shift in what is important to the average American. There were 1,019 people who took part in the poll [mostly online] and let's take a look at what the numbers portend ...
• The importance of patriotism dropped from 70% in 1998 to 38% in 2023.
• The importance of religion dropped from 62% in 1998 to 39% now.
• Only 58% thought tolerance for others was important, compared to 80% in 1998.
• Those who thought raising children was important fell from 60% in 1998 to only 30% today.
But guess the only thing that was rated more important today than it was 25 years ago? If you guessed MONEY, you are correct. Apparently 43% rate the almighty dollar the most important value, in contrast to 31% in 1998.
First of all, I'd like to address a couple of these statistics; namely, the tolerance issue and the matter of the importance of family and raising children. To me, both of these issues point to the injurious aftermath of Roe v Wade fifty years prior to this March 2023 poll. There is an excellent article on the Students For Life of America website which actually offers hope for the future of our nation. In an article on studentsforlife.org, SFLA President Kristan Hawkins is quoted as calling the 1973 ruling a “cancer growing in our Constitution resulting in more than 63 million deaths,”; but we know that it was a cancer for the American mind, as well.
The article goes on to say that in the wake of the 2022 Dobbs v Jackson ruling [in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that the Constitution of the United States does not confer a right to abortion] we, as a nation have to overcome the established pro-abortion mindset that views children as "burdensome", an impediment to women's success, and devalues the concept of family -- all of which leads to intolerance towards those who cherish the role of motherhood, family, and children. All of these pro-abortion attitudes are anti-Biblical and the consequence of removing God as the center of our American values. The questions before us are these: Is it too late to restore the values that were conceived at the inception of our nation? Do we even remember the spirit of America that God put into the hearts of those men and women 247 years ago?
To answer these questions, maybe it's time to put on the brakes of running headlong towards these social reforms and take a look backwards at the mindset of those who petitioned for the new idea of a nation devoted to pursuing individual freedoms and rights conferred by God. In particular, I found myself considering the aforementioned brilliant writings of Thomas Paine. Please take the time to read the entirety of The American Crisis, presented by thefederalistpapers.org. I have read all thirteen of Paine's pamphlets because I wanted to know the mindset of those who were responsible for the birth of this extraordinary nation. But for now, in his own words, I want to share the distinctive mindset of the incomparable Thomas Paine, as he speaks across the centuries to our current decline in American values...
In regards to Patriotism: "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: It is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated".
"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscious approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death".
In regards to morality: "I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America".
In regards to valuing God and faith: Paine once declared to a man who was loyal to Great Britain that it was his opinion that God was on the side of the American colonists. The Loyalist replied, "We care nothing for that ... you may have Him, and welcome; if we have but enough of the devil on our side, we shall do". Paine responded, "However carelessly this might be spoken, matters not; 'tis still the insensible principle that directs all your conduct and will at last most assuredly deceive and ruin you".
In regards to Peace, Liberty and Safety of our nation: "These are serious things, and whatever a foolish tyrant, a debauched court, a trafficking legislature, or a blinded people may think, the national account with heaven must some day or other be settled; all countries sooner or later [have] been called to their reckoning; the proudest empires have sunk when the balance was struck;".
In regards to tolerance: "We profess liberality of sentiment to all men; with this distinction only, that those who do not deserve it would become wise and seek to deserve it. We hold the pure doctrines of universal liberty of conscience, and conceive it our duty to endeavor to secure that sacred right to others, as well as to defend it for ourselves: for we undertake not to judge of the religious rectitude of tenets, but leave the whole matter to Him who made us".
In regards to Money: "The thing which first presents itself in inspecting the state of the currency, is, that we have too much of it, and that there is a necessity of reducing the quantity, in order to increase the value. Men are daily growing poor by the very means that they take to get rich; for in the same proportion that the prices of all goods on hand are raised, the value of all money laid by is reduced". [Paine understood the source of Inflation in 1777. Why haven't we learned that lesson yet?]
Yes, we live in a very different nation than was founded in 1776. The solid values that formed the framework of America remained pretty steady and constant for a couple hundred years. But the rapid rate at which it has declined in my lifetime should be concerning to everyone who identifies as an American. Patriotism, Faith/Religion, Family and Children have been the bedrock of our society, and for good reason -- they provide a supportive framework for a moral, ethical, and principled citizenry. When, as a nation, we don't believe in God, the goodness of our country, or the sanctity of life, and our biggest focus is on the making of money, then we have lost our moral code and compass, and we are a nation who has sacrificed its values for self-aggrandizement.
I will leave you with the prophetic words of Thomas Paine; words written in the waning years of the 1780's and could have been written for our generation: "Now our time and turn is come, and perhaps the finishing stroke is reserved for us. When we look back on the dangers we have been saved from, and reflect on the success we have been blessed with, it would be sinful either to be idle or to despair".
Lord Jesus, do not let us forfeit the purpose for which You sent us in this season of our nation's history. Increase our faith and strength to accomplish the preservation of the values You sowed into our spirits and which birthed the great nation of the United States of America. Let us be worthy of what we've inherited. Amen!
#americanvalues #patriotism #faithinamerica #theamericancrisis #thomaspaine
Psalm 33:12 Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His own inheritance.