The following excerpt is from Chapter 13 of my best-selling book Focus or Failure. I hope you find it helpful as you seek to live and lead well.
The keys to the successes and failures of America and the world can be found in the Bible. To the Puritans that founded our country, growing up uneducated meant moral debasement and religious error. They knew that people who were instructed in principles from the Bible and great literature were better citizens. They also knew this foundation in principled education was a powerful weapon against political and social irresponsibility.
Our law schools are little more than dens of iniquity that nurture and breed the constitutional derelicts we have in Congress, before the bar and on the bench. Ask a lawyer what is the constitutional authority for the government to impose obligations on some to provide what has become known as entitlements for others.
You’ll get grossly ignorant answers, ranging from, “It’s in the constitution to promote the general welfare” to “It’s the government’s responsibility.” If that lawyer graduated from one of our more prestigious schools, he’ll lecture you that the Constitution was written when times were simpler. It’s a “living document” adaptable to the complexities of today.
Balderdash! A constitution establishes standards of conduct amongst people and their government. For the rules to have meaning and usefulness, they can’t be “living.” How would you like to play poker with me? There you sit with three of a kind, and I tell you my pair of aces wins because Hoyle’s Rules, our poker constitution, have been adapted to the complexities of my life.
Let’s set things right
Widespread retreat from morality is the bad news. The good news is that Americans have never done wrong things for a long time. We need to come to our senses and try to set things right.
Somehow we have reached the point where we are taught upside down and backwards. The problem is not political: It is spiritual. No action is morally neutral. Every decision has an economic and spiritual consequence, and we are all accountable. We have replaced God with ourselves. We need to know where we are going again.
No matter what you are told by the sophisticated classes that see virtue in every form of corruption and corruption in every form of virtue, I think you know, as I do, that the American people hunger for acts of integrity and courage. The American people hunger for a statesman magnetized by the truth, unwilling to give up his good name, uninterested in calculation only for the sake of victory, unable to put his interests before those of the nation.
What this means in practical terms is no focus groups, no polls, no triangulation, no evasion, no broken promises and no lies. These are the tools employed to cheat the American people of honest answers to direct questions. If the average politician is incapable of even a genuine yes or no, how is he supposed to rise to the great occasions of state? How is he supposed to understand the rightful destiny of his country and lead it there?
We need leaders with moral courage
When letters took a month by sea and the records of the U.S. government could be moved in a single wagon pulled by two horses, we had great statesmanship. We had men of integrity and genius: Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Monroe. These were men who were in love with principle.
Now, when we desperately need their high qualities of thought, their patience for deliberation, and their unerring sense of balance, we have only what we have. Which is a political class that in the main has abandoned the essential qualities of statesmanship, with the excuse that these are inappropriate to our age. They are wrong. Not only do they fail to honor the principles of statesmanship, they fail to recognize them.
We feel betrayed. We are disappointed. We both want and need leadership. We want to know if there is any leader who has the strength of character to sustain faith and be truthful. What should we do? What about a playing field where public discourse is not left spiritually naked? I am not arguing for any particular religion here. I am just making a simple request to occasionally let God in the batter’s box.
A truth doesn’t go away because you ignore it. That is essentially what modern society has been doing. While an estimated 90 percent of Americans profess some kind of belief in some kind of God, a like percentage of the media elite say they never darken the door of a church. They are typical of cultural and political leaders across the board, most of whom could more readily recite baseball standings than the Apostles Creed.
Feeling good about ourselves is not the American Dream. It is not the view that translates into morally fit children and morally fit adults. We know what the problem is: It is a lack of moral training and lack of socialization of children in our society.
Instead of discipline and respect for reasonable authority these last decades, we have had in its place the self-esteem movement. This is a fraud. Self-esteem comes not from phony assurances that you are wonderful when you are not. Self-esteem comes from early discipline that shows children their parents love them enough to create a secure and sensible world around them.
What we need is a restoration of our own identity. What we need are leaders and heroes. What we need is hope. We need men and women who have truly faced their mistakes and have known the forgiveness of God.
Remember these things
On July 4, 1776, there was signed in Philadelphia one of America’s historic documents. That document marked the birth of this nation which, under God, was destined for world leadership. The closing words of the Declaration of Independence are solemn. They are: “For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” It is important to remember these things.
Fifty-six courageous men signed that document. Few of them would survive. Five would be captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes sacked, looted, occupied by the enemy or burned. Two lost their sons in the Army. Nine of the 56 died in the war. None of them, however, lost their sacred honor. That has been preserved the world over by generations of Americans who have lived free. It is important to remember these things.
These men considered liberty much more important than the security they enjoyed. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, their honor, and they fulfilled their pledge. They paid the price. Freedom was won. It is important to remember these things.
Someone once said that to be born free is a privilege. To die free is an awesome responsibility, because freedom is never free. It is always purchased at great price. Where would we, who are citizens of the United States of America, be today if there had not been those who counted the cost of freedom and were willing to pay for it? Where will we be tomorrow if men and women of integrity do not come forward who are also willing to pay the price? It is important to remember these things.
America did not just happen by chance. The great spiritual heritage that built America happened by a remarkable design, so did American democracy and our constitution and the great freedom that they assure. The path to glory has always been bathed in blood and tears. It is important to remember these things.
Listen, America, we need renewal. We do not need a new covenant; we need to restore the one we already have. This is not an issue of subsidies or government or process. It is a one-on-one spiritual issue of accountability and responsibility. You and I are a part of the fabric of life and what we do affects the profile of the whole.
Our lives are not our own business. Restoring our identity personally and corporately brings us right back to responsibility. Today is the day to become the type of people we are dreaming of becoming. Today is the day to become the type of country we are dreaming of becoming. It is time to remember our heroes and look up in hope.