(Editor’s note: This is Part 4 of Chuck Norris’ four-part series on reducing violent crime in the U.S.)
In the first two columns, I highlighted ways we can absolutely reduce violent crime in the U.S. But I’ve saved the best and most powerful solutions for last because they work from the inside out.
In Part 1, I revealed how rational and rewarding it would be to post armed guards at our schools.
In Part 2, I showed how reducing the number of firearms in the U.S. will not curb violent crime.
In Part 3, I began to discuss the first of two ways that America’s founders expected to produce and maintain civility and decency in society. They esteemed all human life as equal and possessing intrinsic value far above the rest of creation, despite the fact that they struggled with executing their beliefs as much as any generation: e.g., with slavery, treatment of Native Americans, women, etc.
The second thing our founders did was embed that value and care of humanity via the freedom yet accountability of moral absolutes – codes of ethics or right and wrong, namely through religion. They believed in the absolute and imperative role of religion in society, and that without it, civility and decency would utterly vanish.
For our founders, moral fortitude was dependent upon the foundation of religion, not the laws of men. As John Adams, our second president, explained, “[R]eligion and virtue are the only foundations, not of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society.”
Adams also said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Gouverneur Morris, who, in 1787, represented Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and subsequently signed the U.S. Constitution, said, “Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.”
Benjamin Franklin put it this way: “That wise men have in all ages thought government necessary for the good of mankind; and, that wise governments have always thought religion necessary for the well ordering and well-being of society, and accordingly have been ever careful to encourage and protect the ministers of it, paying them the highest public honours, that their doctrines might thereby meet with the greater respect among the common people.”
Because our founders firmly believed that religion prevented liberty from turning into licentiousness, President George Washington warned the nation in his presidential Farewell Address to beware of the time when leaders dismantle society’s basis of morality: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Unfortunately, in our day, we have discarded Washington’s warning by not respecting and cherishing the role of religion, and in so doing we’ve abandoned moral absolutes in lieu of personal expediency and selfishness. We’ve confused liberty and licentiousness. We’ve discarded the high value of human life in exchange for lower life forms. And we’re paying the price for it, as Washington said; the ways we treat one another prove it.
So should we really be so shocked with the degradation in our own modern society?
James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who was twice elected to the Continental Congress and a notable power behind the creation of the U.S. Constitution, asked, “[I]s not the supposition unnatural and improbable that the rational and moral world should be abandoned to the frolics of chance or to the ravage of disorder? What would be the fate of man and of society was everyone at full liberty to do as he listed without any fixed rule or principle of conduct – without a helm to steer him, a sport of the fierce gusts of passion and the fluctuating billows of caprice?”
Just last December, our great friend, Mike Huckabee, said something very similar after the tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Huckabee asked why should we “be so surprised” at the violence among society when “we have systematically removed God from our schools.” Yet many in the mainstream media assailed Mike for repeating exactly what our founders believed.
That is why I believe our youth today need to return to America’s core values, as founder Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of the presidential administrations of Adams, Jefferson and Madison, said: “I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohammed inculcated upon our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place is that of the New Testament.”
I’ll say it again: Curbing violent crime is still more about what we do rather than government does. The answer is still more about God’s or nature’s law within us rather than man’s law outside of us.
We must return to a nation where mutual respect is king – where I am my brother’s keeper and we agree to disagree agreeably. It’s time to renew our commitment to the basic premises of humanity: Do unto others as you would have them do to you, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
I might play a tough guy who protects victims from bad guys on screen, but in real life I’m also an advocate for those at-risk, too, particularly through our KickStartKids foundation. My wife, Gena, and I consider KickStartKids our life’s mission. KickStartKids means building strong moral character in our youth through the martial arts. Its purpose is to help raise self-esteem and instill discipline and respect that so many children are lacking today.
Two other warriors who are raising the bar of societal and youth decency are our dear friends, Darrell and Sandy Scott, who spearhead Rachel’s Challenge and Columbine Redemption in memory of their beautiful and kind daughter, Rachel, who was murdered at Columbine High School more than a decade ago. Rachel said, “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same.”
KickStartKids and Rachel’s Challenge have recently partnered to further help American youth and families, and we’re doing it with a core values curriculum that reinstates civility and decency back into the souls of individuals and, hence, the soul of society.
On May 27, 1999, a month after the tragic shootings at Columbine High School, Darrell appeared before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee to discuss what he believed could reduce violent crime in our country. In the midst of his eloquent and moving statement, he cited a poem he wrote that perfectly describes where the blame lies and our answers must come:
Your laws ignore our deepest needs
Your words are empty air
You’ve stripped our heritage,
You’ve outlawed simple prayer
Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question, “Why?”
You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed,
And you fail to understand
That God is what we need