Utah recently commented to me that we seldom know when we are in the throes of history: that it is only in hindsight that we realize and understand the implication of events. I respect Utah a great deal, and I never take his council lightly, so I didn’t discount his words. At the same time, I am also aware that there often are men and women who do see and understand that they are living history, and – sometimes – those men and women are consciously aware and – very rarely – those men and women can actually direct history to their own purposes. We call these men and women visionaries, and — depending upon the fruits of their labors — history counts them among mankind’s heroes or villains. These people are exceedingly rare. This is why I believe that the founding of this nation was one of the miracles of Providence: that God placed so many such men and women in one place, at one time and working toward the same purpose can little be explained as anything else.
So, with the results of this election and Utah’s words I mind, I have been reflecting on how it is we can know the direction of the times in which we live. As is oft my want, I found myself seeking knowledge in both the Bible and in the words of our founders. Appropriately, I started in Job – because I have been working in Job for more than a week. It was not lost on me that there are no coincidences. Then I turned to the words f our founders to find guidance regarding the governance of our nation. That’s when I came across these words, and, strangely enough, they are from the man who is sometimes called “The Atlas of the American Revolution:”
“The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”
–John Adams, February 13, 1818
Unfortunately, these words did not bring me comfort, as they drew my attention to the social changes that have taken place in our nation: not recently, but several generations ago. The wisdom in Adams’ words is that social and political change follows a change in the thinking of the people in a given society. In essence, social and political changes reflect the hearts of a people, they do not precede them. And that drew me to something else that Adams 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.”
–John Adams, Address to the Military, October 11, 1798
So, if this is true, and I believe it is, and we believe there has been a change in the sentiments of the American people, which I believe there have been, then how can we know what those changes were and when they occurred – and how? Again, we have to look to history, and this is where we start to fight among ourselves: over interpretations of what things mean.
I have no desire to start that quarrel here, but I must draw your attention to a social movement that I believe holds the key to understanding that change in our collective hearts: the rise of the American Progressive movement. Here again, what Progressivism is and isn’t, and what it believes or doesn’t are open to debate, but the one thing that isn’t open to debate is that the Progressive ideology is humanistic, whereas the ideology of our founders was God-centered. So, in keeping with the words of Adams, I will leave you to consider my post in connection to these words:
“Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God…. What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.”
–John Adams, John Adams (1735-1826), (L.H. Butterfield, ed., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard Press, 1961), Vol. III, p. 9. [February 22, 1756]