“[T]here is no way to solve the great perplexing international problems except by bringing to bear upon them the force of Christianity …”
“There is no doubt whatever in my mind but that moral force is the only force that can accomplish great things in the world. If you look back to the history of our own country, you will find that our finest institutions were primarily molded by the Christian belief of our founders. They believed that there was such a thing as moral law and that there was a Creator who endowed men with inalienable rights.”
These politically incorrect words could easily be attributed to ones of the feared and hated “Religious Right” – but alas, they cannot so easily be marginalized. These are from “Moral force in world affairs,” an article printed in the August 1948 edition of Reader’s Digest, authored by John Foster Dulles – later to serve as secretary of state for President Dwight Eisenhower and a recipient of the Medal of Freedom.
Dulles had many similarities in experience and heritage to John Quincy Adams. His grandfather served as secretary of state under Benjamin Harrison, and his own path was forged early by accompanying his grandfather at age 19 to the 1907 Second Hague Peace Conference as Adams accompanied his father at age 12 to Europe. Dulles’ father was a Presbyterian minister, and that heritage guided much of his life and philosophy. The Reader’s Digest article described him as a “widely known lawyer and leading churchman” while his obituary also called him “a moralist.”
He references that his grandfather’s effectiveness in diplomacy was that he “partook of the great quality which possessed our nation at that time – a quality of righteousness and justice for which all men were reaching out. We were able to supply it because in essence we were a Christian nation.”
We were obviously not then nor ever have been a “perfect” nation but as the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in the Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States in 1892, “… we find in Updegrath v. The Commonwealth, it was decided that Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law … not Christianity with an established church … but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men” (America’s God & Country Encyclopedia, Federer).
While anti-Christian elites, educational and historical revisionists and even some highly visible Christian clergy challenge such notions, they are historical fact. What we must focus on now is not as much our past but our present and our future.
How can America be a moral force when we have rejected the premise that such a moral standard exists and certainly the legitimacy of “imposing” it on this or other nations? We can’t even seem to find unity when asserting such principles on the sanctity of life, definition and sanctity of marriage and religious freedom as defined in the Manhattan Declaration without dissolving into a theological spitting match.
On that note, please let me digress to assert that will all due respect for the many e-mails I received about last week’s column about the Declaration from sincere Christians defending John MacArthur, Alistair Begg and other Christian pacifist clergy – your premise is flawed. Does a statement that is true and sound on its own merits become discredited by theological and/or doctrinal differences between the signers? I don’t believe so. Also, I have more in common with my Catholic or Orthodox brethren – and I still reject the notion that there are none – who stand boldly for their faith and the Declaration principles than with the cowards who have done nothing to earn what we have and will do nothing to defend it.
There is no doubt that even with our tragically diminished moral barometer, this nation is still the greatest exporter of hope, charity, justice and equality to the world. We are still unmatched when it comes to benevolent giving and compassion – all grounded in a Christian worldview even by those too ignorant to know or admit it – to the needy and oppressed worldwide.
In the crucial arena of true justice and righteousness in law, policy and culture as described by statesman Dulles, our bank account is deeply in the red compared to the historic standards established by scripture, by our ancestors of faith and Western civilization and of previous generations.
“Moral force” is predicated on the existence and recognition of morality and the irreplaceable commitment to it spiritually, culturally and politically. The historically recognized source of morality in this nation was once “religion”/Christianity; however, the reality that faith is less likely to have a significant influence over moral decisions in the modern American church reveals the crisis.
Pastor G.F. Watkins of Powerhouse Christian Center in Katy, Texas, stated it this way regarding the election of a lesbian mayor in Houston: “As pastoral shepherds of Houston and surrounding communities, we can stop complaining about voter turnouts, stop blaming political parties and begin to look within ourselves and identify the culprit – us. Influence always has and always will come from the pulpit. Perhaps what happened in the election is not because the large churches didn’t speak out. Maybe they did speak out, but found that they have no influence on their people. To me, the latter is even worse.”
John Dulles closed his article from 1948 with a statement that is both hope and challenge to us in 2010: “It (humanity) will be saved if, in proportion to our numbers, we have 10 righteous men who would have saved Sodom.” That righteousness strengthened by courage must begin in our pulpits and among our men.