Why the American Experiment is Failing

"The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions." (William McGuffey, d. May 4, 1873, professor at the University of Virginia, president of Ohio University, and author of McGuffey's Readers; http://www.earstohear.net/Separation/warnings.html) America's founding generation believed that individual liberty lives or dies according to whether citizens are self-controlled and virtuous or lacking self-control and thereby depraved:

"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders." (Samuel Adams, Founding Father; http://www.earstohear.net/Separation/warnings.html)

Why are only virtuous people capable of individual freedom? In simple terms, all men are compound mixtures of strengths and weaknesses, good and evil. In short, all men are both kindly Dr. Jekyll and evil Mr. Hyde. Virtuous people are those who, over time and with great self-sacrifice, personal suffering, and perseverance, have learned — however imperfectly — to restrain their Mr. Hyde feelings.

In attainment of self-control, virtuous people are by consequence capable of self-governance. This means that they are able to say 'no' to selfish demands, ugly or lustful thoughts, and thereby live and work within an atmosphere of boundaries and limitations, of limited government, or just enough government to protect liberty, rights, and property but not too little that anarchy ensues.

Without virtue, liberty degenerates into the madness that now characterizes America and the West:

"What is liberty without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils...madness without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites." (Edmund Burke, 1791 at the National Assembly, http://www.earstohear.net/Separation/warnings.html)

Liberty without virtue inevitably ends up in Babylon, or the City of Man rather than the City of God. St. Augustine describes the citizens of the City of Man as wicked men enslaved by their own vices. At every level of society insanity prevails because from kings to slaves, all are slaves of their vices.

Freedom and sanity or slavery and insanity are therefore functions of morality or immorality. Hence the immoral have as many masters as they have vices, while the good man, even though the slave of the immoral man, is free while the immoral man, though the slave's master, is in chains.

Sanity is the ability to recognize right from wrong independently of personal feelings, fears, impulses, caprices, desires, and compulsions. Rational thinking then, is reasoning disciplined to resist the corrupting influence of personal feelings, thus allowing for the acceptance of truths that contradict feelings, desires, and fancies. In short, rational thinking is morally-informed reasoning. It is dispassionate, rightly-ordered and logical, and is the fruit of impulse-control and unswerving commitment to enduring truths, moral law, and principle.

The immoral man is irrational, therefore not sane. Irrationality is the inability to recognize right from wrong independent of personal feelings, impulses, and compulsions. By the degree to which the moral sense is corrupt, so too is reason. The greater the degree of corruption, the more depraved is reason.

Augustine revolutionized the concept of freedom by connecting it to spirit, morals and volition (the ability to choose between right and wrong). Man said Augustine, is not a an extension of nature or the cosmos as pagan philosophers held, but rather all men are the spiritual image-bearers of the transcendent Triune God, therefore each person is a trinity of being — of soul, spirit, and body.

The noblest part of the soul is spirit (the heart). Spirit is immortal and self-aware. It can will and think and is freely responsible for what it thinks, wills, and does. God's image bearers are uniquely free because they can spiritually transcend matter (the natural dimension) to access the supernatural dimension as Paul affirms:

"Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3:17)

Augustine's insight became the basis for the freest most enlightened society in the long history of mankind. America was the greatest experiment in the history of the world, and whether it ultimately succeeded or failed depended entirely upon the unchanging truth, moral absolutes and principles found in Scripture.

Like the post-Christian West, America has fallen away from her founding Christian-based philosophy and for the most part, is no longer sane because no longer moral. Lacking self-control, Americans are out-of-control and by extension of this moral breakdown, America is "a nation ruled by its passion," said Reb Bradley, author of "Born Liberal Raised Right." Consequently,

"Heinous acts of casual disregard for life, unheard of fifty years ago, have become a familiar item on the evening news; students killing classmates, children murdering their playmates....these gruesome crimes are merely symptomatic of a breakdown of moral fiber..." (pp. 2-3)

Without virtue, liberty is "the greatest of all possible evils...madness without restraint." And as America increasingly resembles a rancorous playpen full of promiscuous adolescents, America is no longer sane but mad because:

"Promiscuity thwarts the attainment of moral wisdom, and makes conjugal love itself seem unattractive," said J. Budziszewski, author of "What We Can't Not Know." Furthermore,

"prolonged irresponsibility is itself a sort of training, and a bad one. Before long the entire culture is caught up in a Peter Pan syndrome, terrified of leaving childhood. At this point even the responsibilities of marriage and family begin to lose their transformative character." (p. 176)

Irresponsible, promiscuous, drug-soaked adult-sized adolescents have lost or are in process of losing the capacity to live a moral life. Why? Because they are in "bondage to the emotions," said Budziszewski.

In other words, because Americans are the slaves of their emotions, they have as many masters as they have vices. Budziszewski calls this slavery "The Cult of Feelings" and lists seven downward spiraling degrees of descent:

1. Romanticism: the cult of ecstatic feelings which take us out of ourselves, out of our minds, and out of control. Abandonment to promiscuity, dissipation, and madness.

2. Transgressivism: the cult of forbidden feelings. Fascination with morbidity, death, filth, the hideous, the lurid, defecation, waste, stench, and horror. This is the inversion of moral ethics where arrive all romantics who continue to follow their impulses to the end. C.S. Lewis remarked in "That Hideous Strength,"

"It is idle to point out to the perverted man the horror of his perversion: while the fierce fit is on, that horror is the very spice of his craving. It is ugliness itself that becomes, in the end, the goal of his lechery; beauty has long since grown too weak a stimulent...The terrible fascination suck(s) and tug(s) and fascinate(s)...(it is an) impulse to reverse all reluctances and to draw every circle counter-clockwise."

3. Determinism: the cult of irresistable feelings in which we imagine we have no free will, that we are "caused" or "fated" or "predetermined" by hormones, chemical imbalances, genes, society, or a scapegoats' supposed racism or homophobia for example, to do what we do, no matter how evil. This attitude gives us an excuse for whatever we want to do, for "I can't help how I feel, and I feel I have no choice."

4. Cult of Pleasant Feelings: "If it feels good then do it." This is hedonism, sodomy, pedophilia, perversion or utilitarianism according to whether one pursues pleasure for himself or the group. Peter Singer for example, thinks newborns should be killed because they cost society more pleasure than they give. The same perverse reasoning is behind abortion and the call to kill the elderly, disabled, and mentally impaired.

5. Aestheticism: the worship of higher feelings. If the cult of pleasant feelings ends with the killing of newborns, elderly, disabled and mentally impaired, then the cult of aestheticism ends with Hannibal Lector who thinks vulgar humans should be killed because their pleasures aren't refined enough or Stalin who thinks some humans are dinosaurs who refuse to become extinct.

6.Spiritualism: Exaltation of feelings as the voice of God. Transfering to feelings or affections the attributes of holiness and creative power which belongs to the living God. This notion is epitomized by best-selling New Age author Neale Donald Walsh who quotes 'God' as telling him, 'Mine is always your Highest Thought, your Clearest Word, your Grandest Feeling....that feeling which you call love (and this is) the summation of all feeling." Whatever you feel is holy, because you are God.

7. Cult of Moralism: Fatally flawed and inverted pseudo-morality invented by men enslaved by vices. Thus sexual license, perversion, pornography, sodomy and killing are redefined as 'morally good' Constitutional rights while opposition is defined as 'moral evil.'

Though feelings are a part of our inbuilt moral design and virtue includes feeling the right desires and emotions, feelings are not self-directing and their information is not self-interpreting, hence feelings must be morally fettered and/or constrained. Only through attainment of self-control are virtuous people capable of self-governance.

By constrast, all who are the slaves of their depraved feelings make their madness---caprices, whims, resentments, boredom, hatred, envy, lust, covetousness and gluttony the axis around which everyone and everything must revolve. Hence government---politics, law, spending, property, marriage-- is based on depravity and madness instead of virtue and sanity. And this is the Babylonian City of Man.

@Linda Kimball