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We Have a Virtue Problem, America

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Over six decades, beginning in the late teens, the early 1920s, and counting until around 1980, some 205 people died in public shootings in America.  

In half of that time span, from the early 1980s to today, more than 1,400 people have died in public shootings. More than 30 of those shooting fatalities occurred less than a week ago, and as our nation struggles to process these latest acts of carnage, countless media voices are lending condolences and commentary.  The president condemned the shootings as “acts of pure evil” (which they were).       

What has changed? Why the more than 700 percent escalation in public shootings over the last 30-40 years? And most importantly, what may be done— as much as is humanly possible— to guard against future killings?
The media is abuzz with well-worn talking points brought out when such violence occurs:  gun control, gun bans, welfare reform, increased taxation, systemic racism, et al. More than ever, we hear cries that a more “fair” America will result in a more “safe” America.  We are told that poverty and racism have brought us all of this violence. But the America of 2019 is certainly not as poor nor as racist as the depression-era 1920s.  
So, what has changed?  In the early 20th century, Americans had access to guns, cars, electricity, entertainments, and intoxicants (alcohol, opium, heroin).  Today, we have guns, cars, technology, media, and intoxicants (legal and illegal).  In no era is there a shortage of opportunity for vice, but today there is a definitely a shortage of virtue.   
Since the late 1970s, the militantly secularist agendas that had been gathering momentum for several decades really began to be felt in our country.  In countless university classrooms, professors with activist hearts (many of whom had first felt moments of anti-establishment ‘wakefulness’ in the 1960s) were influencing more young minds than ever with secularism. 

Anti-God, anti-American sentiment was the pedagogy in 1970s and 1980s education (I know; I am a product of K thru 12 thru undergraduate public education).  I remember certain exercises in the late 1970s that, even then, bothered my uninformed 6th grade sensibilities.  Being taught Darwinian evolution and being told how evil the slave-owning Founders were was only part of my public school “indoctrination.” 

I well remember the New Age hokum passed off as learning as part of my 5th and 6th grade public education, yes, deep in Bible-belt North Carolina.  One teacher repeatedly coached us to learn about ESP (extra-sensory perception), and our class of naive rural kids was told that we could create our own reality through ‘visualization.’  (Believe me, I was on board, but it didn’t work for me, though.  Try as I might, the Farah Fawcett poster in my room just never did turn into an actual human.  Oh, well.).  
By the time I entered college (1982), my heroes were anti-establishment types like John Lennon and Jim Morrison.  Morrison famously screamed, “You cannot petition God with prayer!”, and would shout to concert audiences, “There are no rules! There are no laws!  Grab your neighbor and love him!”  Such cultural icons seemed to be the heroes of most of my instructors, too. Not only did I read what my undergrad professors recommended (Abbie Hoffman, Nietzsche, Sartre, Rand, etc.), I studied their positions and worldview.

Honestly desiring to “get” where influential thinkers were coming from, I spent months carefully slogging through Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.  It was enlightening, getting to the last paragraphs in which Darwin urged that his theory be thoroughly weighed out in the sphere of classroom debate.  I was surprised, because (a) Evolution was certainly not offered in class as a “theory,” but was repeatedly insisted upon as inarguable “fact.”  And (b), because honest debate and evaluation of both sides (of virtually any topic) were not allowed in my secular educational journey. 

Today, the few intrepid students who venture to speak up for God and country are usually mocked by the professors.  Over the past 20 years, hundreds of students have shared with me stories of classroom humiliation when they tried to speak of Jefferson’s reference to a Creator, Franklin’s prayers at the Constitutional convention, or even Dr. King’s belief in God’s Ten Commandments. 

Balanced examination of many key issues (God’s existence, the nature of ethics, the Christian foundations of Western civilization, or how the church birthed the civil rights movement) would never take place in most universities today.  I have listened to many diatribes on how bad America is; I have almost never heard a public university professor accurately explain to students what America is.

We are endlessly told that mention of God or morality violates the First Amendment.  This is patently false.  How is it that 21st century secularists seem to know more about the application of the First Amendment...than the God-fearing men who wrote the First Amendment?

The framers of the Constitution certainly didn’t think public mention of God, the Bible, or morals was unconstitutional.  To the contrary, Hamilton, Madison, Washington, Jefferson, and the whole lot insisted that acquiescence before God was necessary in order to maintain a civil society.

Yet, secular organizations have spent decades working to squelch mention of God, the Ten Commandments, and morality in public.  Collectively, they amount to a self-appointed “thought police,” and have really robbed generations of citizens of knowledge of our rich Judeo-Christian foundations. Respect for human life is all but gone from our culture, because belief in God and truth are all but gone from our laws, classrooms, entertainment, media, and culture. And whom do we have to thank for this “scrubbing” away of God and elimination of our conscience?  The ACLU, progressives, and a dozen other activist groups absent of any objective convictions.

Our condolences to the bereaved in Texas and Ohio.  But to those who maliciously work to keep America “free” from mention of each one’s accountability to God our Maker...know that it's your restrictions on the expression and practice of virtue that have brought us to this tragic place.

As a speaker, writer, and advocate for Christian apologetics, Alex McFarland has spoken in hundreds of locations throughout the US and abroad. He has preached in over 1,500 different churches throughout North America and internationally. Learn more

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