“Is God dead?”
This question, made famous by the controversial 1966 Time magazine cover story bearing the shocking three-word title, has continued since that tumultuous decade to haunt the Western world.
At the start of the 21st century, Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. George Carey lamented, “A tacit atheism prevails. Death is assumed to be the end of life.”
Indeed, the 20th century – despite its breathtaking technological advances that continually transformed the world – has also been widely regarded as the century in which mankind forgot about God.
Great expanses of the world were infected with a political plague called communism – a mad, utopian system of institutionalized envy and rage. In its militantly atheistic pursuit of justice and equality, it succeeded in killing some 100 million people.
But in the West also, albeit more seductively and artfully, consciousness of God gradually receded, then disappeared, from most areas of life.
Liberated by Darwin’s theory of evolution in the mid-19th century – which for the first time provided “progressive” thinkers a way to explain the wonders of creation without the need for a Creator – those seeking to lead the West into a brave new world of rationality and science charged ahead at full throttle throughout most of the 20th century.
As the millennium came to an end, America’s transformation seemed complete:
- It is unconstitutional, a federal court has ruled, for a public cemetery to have a planter in the shape of a cross, since, as the court explained, the mere sight of it could cause “emotional distress” to a passerby and thus constitute “injury-in-fact.”
- Another federal court ruled that a schoolteacher couldn’t be seen in school with his own personal Bible, and later ruled that a classroom library containing 237 books must remove from the library the two titles dealing with Christianity.
- Convicted and sentenced by a jury for brutally clubbing to death a 71-year-old woman with an axe handle so he could steal her Social Security check, the perpetrator got his sentence overturned. Why? The prosecuting attorney, in a statement lasting less than 5 seconds, mentioned a Bible verse in the courtroom.
The obsession with the modern legal doctrine of “separation of church and state” – the words don’t occur in the Constitution or any other founding document – has not only led to an ever-increasing separation of “church and state” (religion and government), but also, by extension, to the separation of religious principles, morality and values from government.
But the American Civil Liberties Union – arch-nemesis of public displays of any and all things Christian – is not the problem. Religion in America floundered all by itself in the 20th century.
As Time’s provocative “Is God dead?” cover story stated: “There is an acute feeling that the churches on Sunday are preaching the existence of a God who is nowhere visible in their daily lives.” Surveying the religious malaise and uncertainty of mainstream Christianity during the chaotic 1960s, Time quoted Francis B. Sayre, then Episcopal dean of Washington’s famed National Cathedral, as saying, “I’m confused as to what God is – but so is the rest of America.
Ultimately, confusion gave way to marginalization and even outright demonization of Christianity, an almost surreal legal-cultural phenomenon of the ’90s, which continues apace today. Thanks primarily to the brilliant public relations campaigns of the radical homosexual activist movement, the relentless vilification of Christianity – not so much in the privacy of church, but in the public square – is echoed by Hollywood, the mainstream press and government.
Thus, merely giving voice to clear biblical teachings condemning homosexuality, in both Old and New Testaments, is widely considered tantamount to “hatred” – and is even considered a “hate crime” in some venues.
Then it got even worse: During the Clinton administration, just sharing one’s Christian faith came to be disparaged as “hatred” at the highest levels of government.
Clinton’s official spokesman, press secretary Joe Lockhart, in a press briefing shortly before Christmas two years ago, was asked about a major national outreach campaign planned by the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest protestant denomination in the U.S., to pray for and share the gospel with Hindus, Jews and Muslims.
“I think the president has made very clear … his views on religious tolerance, and how one of the greatest challenges going into the next century is dealing with intolerance, dealing with ethnic and religious hatred, and coming to grips with the long-held resentments between religions,” said Clinton’s spokesman. “So I think he’s been very clear in his opposition to whatever organization, including the Southern Baptists, that perpetuate ancient religious hatred.”
Lockhart, the official White House spokesman, was equating the “Great Commission” – Christian evangelism to people of other faiths, or no faith – with the perpetuation of “ancient religious hatred.”
Clearly, modern secular America’s almost pathological avoidance – and often legal prohibition – of religious expression, particularly Christianity, has grown far beyond the worst imaginings of the previous generation’s somewhat confused faithful, continually reaching new and unforeseeable extremes.
Up until Sept. 11.
‘God bless America’
The otherworldly shock and horror that unfolded on that particular Tuesday morning caused a change in America: It thrust God back into the very center of the world stage.
On one hand was the specter of Islamic extremists, who, having wantonly murdered thousands of American civilians, and threatening even greater destruction, justified their acts as being required of them by God. Americans learned that “shaheeds” (martyrs) – those Muslims who die while killing “infidels” (non-Muslims, primarily Jews but also Christians and Americans generally) in “jihad” or holy war – are indoctrinated, often from an early age, by radical Islamic clerics. Their message: As soon as the first drop of the your blood is shed in jihad, you will feel no pain, all your sins will be forgiven, and you will be transported instantly to paradise where you will recline comfortably for eternity on plush green cushions, to be lavished with the choicest meats, the finest wines and endless sex with 70 virgins. Oh, and your family members will all go to heaven, too.
Meanwhile, in the immediate aftermath of the most devastating attacks and loss of life on U.S. soil in history, anguished Americans and other Westerners drew closer to God in a desperate search for solace, strength and direction for the future.
“Our country has, unconsciously but quite clearly, chosen a new national anthem,” noted columnist and former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. “It is ‘God Bless America,’ the song everyone sang in the days after the blasts to show they loved their country.”
“You know why I think everyone went to Irving Berlin’s old song, without really thinking, as their anthem for our country?” asked Noonan. “Because of the first word.”
God, to be sure, is Who people turn to for meaning, and for the strength to carry on, in the wake of tragedy.
At the Sept. 14 prayer service at National Cathedral, Rev. Billy Graham spoke for many when he said: “I have been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and he is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering.”
Graham, 83 and frail from Parkinson’s disease, then boldly issued a challenge. “Now we have a choice: whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation or whether we choose to become stronger through all of this struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe that we’re in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God.”
Tragedy also has a way of bringing the best out of good people – as America saw in the Ground Zero cleanup and rescue operations in Manhattan.
Heroism, patriotism, prayer – all joined together to rescue America’s soul during an hour of despair, as New York’s police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel provided Americans with the heroes they needed. As Chattanooga Times’ Wes Hasden described the scene:
They, as is their custom and their desire, immediately rushed to the scene when the first tower was struck. They were at work when the second tower was hit, and were still on site when the buildings collapsed. At last report, more than 250 of those valiant men and women were still missing, both heroes and victims of an unimaginable tragedy.
One of those who escaped the burning towers by descending almost 100 flights of stairs recalled the firefighters who were climbing toward the inferno as workers escaped it. “They were so young, so handsome, so brave,” she sobbed. They seemed, she said, so determined and so unafraid. Not too long after the encounter on the stairwell, one tower, then the other, collapsed. The woman, whose own life was at risk just moments before, said all she could think of were the firefighters in the stairwell. “I’m afraid,” she said, “that they are all gone.”
Not all heroes in New York on Tuesday were in uniform. Many individuals stopped to help others as they rushed from the burning, crumbling towers. Some shielded others from blowing debris with their own bodies. One woman protected in such a way said she could feel against her back the beating heart of her savior as they pressed against a building amid the heat, smoke and debris of an imploding building.
Among the most striking visual images of the day was one of a burly man, begrimed with soot and ash, tenderly using a cup of water to rinse the face and eyes of a woman half his size even as smoke billowed and debris fell to earth in the background. Even so, it was only one of many memorable vignettes from a day filled with men and women acting with incredible grace under pressure.
While many commentators have observed that since Sept. 11, “God is back,” the reality and depth of this “return” goes far beyond memorial services for slain heroes and victims. Beyond singing “God bless America.” Beyond increased attendance at houses of worship.
For while Americans are reminded constantly that this is a “different kind of war,” most are just beginning to recognize what that war will require of them.
The fact is, in the prevailing politically correct culture, it has been difficult for many Americans to realize that they have been forced into a massive military-cultural-religious confrontation with a major and growing worldwide movement called Islamism.
Never before has the U.S. been faced with the prospect of unknown numbers of “sleeper” suicide warriors within its gates, ready to strike and inflict indiscriminate terror and death on command.
And so, never have Americans’ traditional tolerance and acceptance of different races, colors, creeds, cultures and religions been more sorely tested.
Truly, this war threatens to force America to confront itself on the deepest possible level.
U.S. ‘made no demands’
How exactly did the United States of America “become the scene of one of the most hideously bedeviled conflicts of all time?” asks New York University literature professor Carol Iannone.
“Quite simply, it happened because America lost its grasp of its own historic character, and embraced ‘diversity’ as a national goal,” she wrote. “In the name of equality and nondiscrimination, we invited mass immigration from every part of the globe, and made no demands on the newcomers to become Americans. In fact, we gave up our American core, adopted multiculturalism and declared all cultures equal.
“We invited the new groups to celebrate themselves while we cravenly permitted libelous denigration of our own past. Like fools we prated that diversity is our strength, when common sense and all of history tell us that strength comes from unity.”
For decades, a strange anti-American orthodoxy that came to be known as “political correctness” has grown, multiplied and metastasized throughout the nation’s cultural and political body.
In 21st-century America, a 5-year-old kindergarten boy is charged with “sexual harassment” for kissing a female classmate; college students are fined and forced to undergo homosexual sensitivity training because they requested not to have a lesbian roommate; animal-rights activists proclaim that humans are equal in every way to pigs and rats and possess no greater rights than do their “brothers” in the animal kingdom.
Visit Plymouth Rock this Thanksgiving and be prepared for a shock. “If you walk fewer than a hundred yards from Plymouth Rock and ascend to Cole’s Hill, the magnificent burial ground of the 50 Pilgrims who perished during the first cold winter of 1620,” writes Douglas Phillips in Focus on the Family’s “Citizen” magazine, “you not only will encounter hundreds of demonstrators who gather on the last Thursday of every November to disabuse the memory of the Pilgrim fathers. But you also can read the new monument plaque that describes the devastating effect of Christianity on North America, the “genocide” of Native Americans by the Pilgrims and the importance of treating Thanksgiving as a “National Day of Mourning.”
In the rarified if toxic air of multiculturalism and political correctness, today all cultures and all values are of equal value: The most ignorant and repressive culture is placed on the same level as Western culture, which has provided most of the world’s knowledge, progress, food, medicine, technology, quality of life, representative government and liberty.
Critics have proclaimed all along that “multiculturalism” – in the guise of honoring, validating and valuing other cultures – has actually been intended to denigrate and discredit Western culture, not to honor others.
Thus, for many, the moral equivalence of good and evil has simply become a way of tearing down good: The emphasis on elevating primitive pagan or tribal cultures, or brutally totalitarian regimes, has been a way to devalue Western culture; the elevation of animals by animal-rights activists has served to devalue humans. (“Be a hero, save a whale; save a baby, go to jail,” laments the popular bumper sticker).
What exactly has happened to America since the days of the great melting pot?
Mother of exiles
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Emma Lazarus’ transcendent 1883 poem, “The New Colossus,” captures the spirit of America’s big-heartedness and inclusiveness perhaps more universally than anything else, except for the Statue of Liberty itself.
Founded on the very bedrock of religious freedom and tolerance, America has always had abundant reason to tolerate differences.
And tolerate them we have.
“Most of us would rather have a next-door neighbor whose practical, day-to-day values correspond to our own – even if his theology and faith were different – than a neighbor who attended our synagogue or church but whose values and conduct were abominable,” writes Rabbi Daniel Lapin in “America’s Real War.” “It is upon this simple premise that America is based. Worship as you will, as long as your behavior and values reflect the basic ethic of the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
This “nation of immigrants” was bound together by a spirit. Indeed, although one cannot become French or Chinese or Russian, one can become an American – by embracing and internalizing that spirit. The original idea of the great melting pot was nothing more nor less than a love of America, a love of freedom, and an appreciation of the principles and values on which this freedom and opportunity relied for their very existence.
Becoming a true American therefore meant more than passing the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s screening process and stumbling through a few civics questions. It meant an implicit and heartfelt agreement to abide not only by the nation’s laws, but by its hidden, unwritten “laws” as well – the values and principles that made up the invisible but vital fabric of Western civilization: the individual as citizen-sovereign; a balance of freedom and responsibility; unlimited opportunity – to succeed or fail; independence and self-reliance; tolerance; the work ethic; equality under the law; and other values. And underpinning them all – the Judeo-Christian worldview and values.
A Christian nation?
“It strikes me as unlikely that the Declaration of Independence could ever be adopted today because too many Americans would protest the use of the word ‘Creator,” notes Rabbi Lapin. “It probably would be bemoaned by liberals as the endorsement of religion by government, a suggestion that humans did not evolve in an unaided, materialistic manner from primeval sludge to Bach or Beethoven. On July 4, 1776, however, there was no debate over the phrase ‘endowed by their Creator’ (with an upper-case C). That America was founded as a Christian nation is beyond debate. We were a Christian nation with a constitutional government rather than a theocracy, but a Christian nation nonetheless.
If America was a melting pot, then the unifying ingredient that transformed immigrants from the far corners of the world into “Americans” was the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount.
This will be an exquisitely painful truth for many Americans to bear. For not only are they under attack by a savage and evil enemy, enduring fear, pain and loss of life while the government prosecutes a difficult military campaign. But they also must now come to grips with who Americans really are as a united people. Without this painful re-examination, they will be paralyzed by divided loyalties, misplaced guilt and confusion from dealing effectively with the enemy within and without.
After all, what about the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free?” How do we deal now with the world’s “teeming refuse” – by closing our borders?
Following years of being oblivious to the radical Islamic threat now hidden within the fabric of American life, how do we deal with American Muslims, many of whom are good and decent, but others of whom openly and freely express hatred of America and sympathy for terrorism?
And what of the ongoing cultural and political war that was practically tearing America apart before Sept. 11, as evidenced by last November’s bitterly divisive presidential election?
Lapin, whose popular book “America’s Real War” insists that Judeo-Christian values are vital for America’s survival, says Americans must rediscover their true identity:
Why not simply be pro-religion, without emphasizing the Christian roots of America? First it would not be historically accurate. The founding fathers were not an amalgam of Shintoists, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and pagans. As we have already seen, our founders were Christians just as no one disputes that the founders of Saudi Arabia were Muslims.
Second, it is important to understand that different religions are incompatible. When the British ruled in India, they had to choose between imposing their beliefs (also derived from Judeo-Christian values) and allowing widows to be burned on their husband’s pyres in the name of the religious ritual of suttee. There was no middle ground possible.
… Sometimes in life we just have to choose who we really are. This is as true for groups as it is for individuals. Nobody would contend that a tennis club should also provide equal facilities for mud wrestlers. Its members may dispute whether to play tennis on indoor or outdoor courts, but debating the fundamentals of the club and the purpose of its establishment would assuredly spell doom. Similarly, any society wishing to endure needs to know its basic purpose.
… There are people in the world whose religious belief persuades them, beyond all shadow of a doubt, that dying in the process of dispatching non-believers is a certain avenue to paradise. Are we unwilling to notify them that their religious beliefs are incompatible with American principles? How about telling them that their beliefs are incompatible with Christian principles and that those Christian principles are the governing principles of American society? It makes you a bit squeamish? I think we are going to have to get over it.
How might you feel sending your children to school on a bus driven by someone who, in an emergency, might not do everything possible to save the children’s lives because he believes that death actually speeds them along into a better life? Does this mean we have to refuse to grant pilot licenses to Buddhists or prohibit all Muslims from driving school buses? No, not at all. However, it does mean we must be comfortable letting everyone know that the public religious ethic that prevails in this country is a Judeo-Christian one and demanding a public adherence to that standard in terms of behavior rather than belief.
Here is how we might formulate it: We may all believe as we wish; however, translating our beliefs into the actions sometimes demanded by those beliefs may conflict with Judeo-Christian belief. When they do, it is the actions informed by Christian belief that will prevail. Read that again. Aloud. There, that wasn’t too hard, was it? If we are uncomfortable making that statement, then there can be no glue that binds us together as Americans.
If, as some wise men suggest, hell amounts to the sinner being thrust, unwillingly, into the burning presence of the Light of God he has avoided and denied all his life, then perhaps America is feeling some of that heavenly hell right now.
The “great melting pot” – E pluribus unum – depended on an ideal. Not only has the melting pot become corrupted without this guiding spirit, but the nation has literally been invaded.
Recognizing they must take rapid steps to reverse course, policy makers entertain options for better policing the nation’s borders, screening potential immigrants and re-evaluating those already in. But just over the horizon is the more painful work – of revisiting the madness of multiculturalism, political correctness, rebellion against America’s founding values and the spiritual confusion that rebellion has caused. But revisit them we must, since it is they that have led to both the present invasion and the resulting near-paralysis over how to deal with the problem.
Americans will have to give up their embarrassment over believing in God, over believing the Bible, over believing deep down that there is a loving and Almighty God who is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Americans will have to get over their guilt for being part of Western civilization. Whites will have to get over the guilt of being white. Men will have to get over the guilt of being men.
Americans will have to get over the awkwardness of saying: “We have a special relationship with Israel, because of our common Judeo-Christian values. It’s not supposed to be a level playing field, where we treat Arab police states the same as we do the Mideast’s only democracy. America is irrevocably committed to Israel’s continued existence and safety.”
President Ronald Reagan expressed this point on May 13, 1988, when he said: “Our relationship with Israel is in our mutual self-interest. But a narrow calculation of interest is not the sole basis of the bond between our nations. At its heart is a moral obligation on our part to do whatever is necessary to defend and protect Israel.”
Osama bin Laden, in calling for an international holy war between Islam and the West, has modeled a decentralized command structure, where individual “faithful” the world over can follow his directive to kill innocent Americans “in any country in which it is possible to do it.” Americans, likewise, must in a sense decentralize their “command structure” – that is, they must take responsibility for the defense of their loved ones and their nation.
Todd Beamer was a perfect example of this decentralized command structure. No one told him and his colleagues what to do. “Our forefathers,” said President Bush, “would salute the modern-day sacrifice of the brave passengers on Flight 93, who, after reciting the Lord’s Prayer, said, ‘let’s roll,’ and stormed the hijackers, taking the plane down and probably saving thousands of lives on the ground.”
As retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dr. Anthony T. Kern put it: “This war will be won or lost by the American citizens, not diplomats, politicians or soldiers.” A former professor in aviation studies and director of military history at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Kern explained:
Napoleon, perhaps the world’s greatest combination of soldier and statesman, stated the moral is to the physical as three is to one. Patton thought the Frenchman underestimated its importance and said moral conviction was five times more important in battle than physical strength. Our enemies are willing – better said anxious – to give their lives for their cause. How committed are we, America? And for how long?
… Perhaps the perfect metaphor for the coming battle was introduced by the terrorists themselves aboard the hijacked aircraft – this will be a knife fight, and it will be won or lost by the ingenuity and will of citizens and soldiers, not by software or smart bombs.
…It is clear to me that the will of the American citizenry – you and I – is the center of gravity the enemy has targeted. It will be the fulcrum upon which victory or defeat will turn. He believes us to be soft, impatient, and self-centered. He may be right, but if so, we must change.
Manu Dhingra, 27, survived his confrontation with a ball of fire in the World Trade Center with burns to a third of his body, from head to toe. Although he couldn’t explain why he had been given a second chance when thousands of others were not, Dhingra told a news conference at the hospital: “I just can’t let it go to waste. Life can’t be normal.”
Life can’t be normal, because “normal” in the West has meant living where, in the archbishop of Canterbury’s words, “a tacit atheism prevails.”
But who can deny that the current war in which the West is engaged – encompassing the murderous radicalization of Islam, the future of Israel, the profound rethinking of American society and much more – is too difficult a problem to solve without God’s help?
Moreover, even if the current “terror war” went away – if it were only a bad dream from which we awoke with the trade towers still standing – we would still lose America to the long-term invasion and conversion of our basic identity that has been under way for decades. Perhaps Sept. 11 will turn out to be the turning point, when America will halt the Trojan-horse invasion – not only of Islamic terrorists, but of the forces of atheism that had all but finished their job.
America does, after all, have a “state religion” – but one that banished forever the fierce denominational fighting and holy wars of the past. Hindus, Muslims and others hailing from foreign cultures and religions adopted that “state religion” by embracing the spirit of America. After all, true religion is, at the very core of one’s being, seeking first what is right (“the kingdom of righteousness”). Not simply for the sake of getting something in return – freedom, Heaven, the rapture, 70 virgins. Not even for everlasting life itself. Rather, as Jesus Christ said, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me.” That is, to do what’s right – because it’s right – and all because at the very core of one’s being, there’s a love of God, a love of what’s right that’s the fount of true decency, obedience and worship.
“Our nation has felt great sorrow,” observed President Bush. “Yet this can be a time of great achievement. A great evil can be turned to greater good. The terrorists did not intend to create a new American spirit of unity and resolve, but they are powerless to stop it.”
Editor’s note: The preceding is reprinted from the December 2001 edition of WND’s monthly Whistleblower magazine, titled “One Nation Under God?” For that special Christmas issue, WND contacted numerous prominent religious and cultural leaders and asked them to offer their perspective – during the Christmas “season of miracles” – on the subject of miracles in today’s world.
Contributors to the issue, in addition to Whistleblower’s editors and writers, are Dr. James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Dr. Tim LaHaye, David A. Noebel, Rick Scarborough, Michael Medved, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Hal Lindsey, Dr. Ted Baehr, Jerry Falwell, Robert Just, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, David Barton, Professor Carol Iannone and columnist Ann Coulter.
“By its very nature, most news is ‘bad,’” said Whistleblower and WorldNetDaily.com Editor Joseph Farah. “Yet this issue of Whistleblower is full of hope, inspiration, and yes, miracles.” The issue’s cover photo depicts a perfectly formed 20-foot-tall cross discovered amidst the rubble of the World Trade Center two days after the collapse of the twin towers. “It is simply the best issue of any magazine I’ve ever read,” added Farah.
As a special Christmas bonus, WND will include a copy of this special Christmas issue – while supplies last – to all who subscribe, renew their subscriptions, or give gift subscriptions to Whistleblower before Jan. 1, 2003. This is in addition to the special “Homeland Security” package that we are also giving FREE with all new subscriptions or renewals.
Subscribe to Whistleblower now and receive TWO FREE GIFTS from WorldNetDaily – a copy of the special Christmas issue, “One nation under God?” as well as the acclaimed “Homeland Security” package consisting of three special Whistleblower reports. Offer good while supplies last.