Unification Sermons and Talks
by Reverends Jones
A City Upon a Hill - Still Possible?
by W. Farley Jones
This article appeared in the Family Times first issue.
America! Since the discovery of the "new world" by Europeans, the very name of America has represented the hope of something new and better. But what ails America today, and what are the solutions? According to University of California sociologist Robert Bellah, a core problem is our all-pervasive individualism. In his book, Habits of the Heart, Bellah argues that an individualist lifestyle is not only the formula for individual unhappiness, but may also lead to the loss of freedom. A society of isolated, distracted individuals with no concerns larger than themselves may be headed toward tyranny.
But Bellah is not without proposals. Looking to American history, he identifies the republican and biblical traditions as the foundation of America's success and sources of hope for the future. The republican tradition, not to be confused with the Republican party, is the political philosophy practiced by many of the American founders. It teaches that the highest good is public virtue, a concept entailing firmness, courage, endurance, industry, frugality, strength, and above all, unremitting devotion to the public good. If public virtue declined, the American founders taught, the American republic would decline. And if it declined too far, the republic would die.
Likewise, the biblical tradition, with it's emphasis on love of one's neighbor, has historically nurtured American society. As Noah Webster observed, "The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from, vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible." Indeed, American leaders from George Washington to the present have acknowledged our tremendous national debt to biblical wisdom.
"It is impossible to govern the world without the Bible"
- George Washington.
"It is the duty of nations, as well as all men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord."
- Abraham Lincoln.
"The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country."
- Calvin Coolidge.
Bellah proclaims correctly that recovery of both classical republicanism and the biblical tradition are necessary for the future well-being of our nation. There is, however, an aspect of the current American dilemma that Bellah does not fully address. The simple fact is that both public virtue and biblical morality were once both dominant in America, yet they were unable to guard against their own erosion. Indeed, they have in part formed the soil from which the trend toward individualism has grown. It is thus not sufficient to simply advocate a return to the ways past. Something new must be added.
A right-left-center consensus now exists that the crisis of American society today revolves around the decline of the family. In his Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, William Bennett observed that while the population of America has increased 41% since 1960, violent crime has increased 560%, illegitimate births have increased 400%, divorce rates quadrupled and the percentage of children living in single parent homes has tripled.
In an article in Atlantic Monthly, Barbara Defoe Whitehead stated that "Divorce and out-of- wedlock childbirth are transforming the lives of American children. In the postwar generation, more than 80% of the children grew up in a family with two biological parents married to each other. By 1980, only 50% could so expect to spend their entire childhood in an intact family." In 1960, 5% of U.S. children were born out of wedlock. In 1990, the figure was 27% -- 57% among blacks, 17% among whites.
While much of the challenge facing American society is related to a defective family unit, neither the republican nor the biblical tradition offers an adequate model of the family such that they could help clarify our thinking and offer direction. Specifically, the republican tradition holds individual patriotism as its icon; the biblical tradition, and in particular Christianity, holds out salvation of the individual as its spiritual ideal. These great traditions, upon which America reached a level of development, heretofore unknown, are still inadequate to successfully guide the nation and the world into the new millennium.
It is for that reason that Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon have established the Family Federation for Unification and World Peace. Members of the Federation feel that the Federation has an important ingredient to add to America's valuable republican and biblical traditions. They strongly believe that the family, and the love within it, represents the ideal of God's creation. The ideal family is seen as ultimately the dwelling place of God's true love and the locus of fulfillment of the central human desires. Affirming the family as having profound spiritual significance -- both here on earth and in eternity -- the Family Federation relates its spiritual ideal to America's societal need.
The United States has been described as the "first global nation". With representatives of all the world's races, religions and nationalities here, and given its preeminence in the world, America still has the opportunity to offer vision and direction to the entire world. To fulfill that role, however, it must not only recover its republican and biblical heritage, but build on them to provide an environment where all the families will have the opportunity to flourish and become spiritually mature.
In this way, this nation may yet realize the vision of John Winthrop, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, that America might be a "city upon a hill" -- a beacon of hope to all the world.
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