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AMERICA


Sermon Illustrations

AMERICA

French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting America in 1831, said, "I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests--and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning--and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution--and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!"

Alexis de Tocqueville.


Last year I compiled the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, a statistical portrait of American behavioral trends of the past three decades. Among the findings: Since 1960, while the gross domestic product has nearly tripled, violent crime has increased at least 560%. Divorces have more than doubled. The percentage of children in single-parent homes had tripled. And by the end of the decade 40% of all American births and 80% of minority births will occur out of wedlock. These are not good things to get used to.

In 1940 teachers identified the top problems in America's schools as: Talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise and running in the hall. In 1990, teachers listed drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, suicide, rape and assault. These are not good things to get used to, either.

There is a coarseness, a callousness and a cynicism to our era. The worst of it has to do with our children. Our culture seems almost dedicated to the corruption of the young. We have become inured to the cultural rot that is setting in. People are losing their capacity for shock, disgust and outrage...

The ancients called our problem acedia, an aversion to spiritual things and an undue concern for the external and the worldly. Acedia also is the seventh capital sin--sloth--but it does not mean mere laziness. The slothful heart is stepped in the worldly and carnal, hates the spiritual and wants to be free of its demands.

When the novelist Walker Percy was asked what concerned him most about America's future, he answered, "Probably the fear of seeing America, with all its great strength and beauty and freedom...gradually subside into decay through default and be defeated, not by the communist movement, but from within, from weariness, boredom, cynicism, greed and in the end helplessness before its great problems."

I realize this is a tough indictment. If my diagnosis is wrong, then why, amid our economic prosperity and military security, do almost 70% of the public say we are off track? I submit that only when we turn to the right things--enduring, noble, spiritual things--will life get better.

Most important, we must return religion to its proper place. Religion provides us with moral bearings, and the solution to our chief problem of spiritual impoverishment depends on spiritual renewal. The surrendering of strong beliefs, in our private and public lives, has demoralized society.

Today, much of society ridicules and mocks those who are serious about their faith. America's only respectable form of bigotry is bigotry against religious people. And the only reason for hatred of religion is that it forces us to confront matters many would prefer to ignore.

Today we must carry on a new struggle for the country we love. We must push hard against an age that is pushing hard against us. If we have full employment and greater economic growth--if we have cities of gold and alabaster--but our children have not learned how to walk in goodness, justice and mercy, then the American experiment, no matter how gilded, will have failed.

Do not surrender. Get mad. Get in the fight. 

Excerpts from What Really Ails America, condensed from a speech by William J. Bennett, delivered December 7, 1993 at the Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C., reprinted in Reader's Digest, April, 1994.


"Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
"When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Romans 5:10).

When nations are engaged in deadly strife, it is common for patriots to declare that he who gives his life for defense of his country may be certain of a home in heaven because of having made the supreme sacrifice. This teaching is in accord with the principles of the Moslem religion and not with true Christianity. Mahomet promised his fanatical followers a place in Paradise if they died for the faith in conflict with the "infidels" who rejected his teachings. Patriotism is a virtue of which any man may well be proud.

But patriotism, praiseworthy as it is from the human standpoint, will never fit the soul for the presence of God. It can never wash away the guilt of sin. The testimony of Edith Cavell, the brave British nurse who was killed by the Germans during the former world war, is well worth considering in this connection.

This noble woman was born in Swardeston, Norfold, on December 4, 1865. She entered the London Hospital for nurses' training in 1895. In 1907 she was appointed first matron of the Berkendael Medical Institute at Brussels, Belgium. This became the Red Cross Hospital in Belgium at the outbreak of the conflict in 1914. From August of that year, until August, 1915, Nurse Cavell helped to care for wounded French, Belgian, English and German soldiers alike. She ministered faithfully even to those who had fallen while fighting against her own nation. Naturally, her sympathies were with the Allies, and in cooperation with the efforts of Prince Reginald de Croy, she aided many derelict English and French soldiers who had fled from the Germans. These escaped by "underground" methods to the Dutch frontier, where, with the aid of guides, they were conveyed across to Britain. When some of these fugitives were traced to her house in Brussels, she was immediately arrested and after a court-martial was sentenced to face a firing-squad. All her kindness to the German wounded was forgotten. Her captors considered her a spy and treated her accordingly.

Just before the bandage was placed over her eyes, as she stood fearlessly facing the solders who were about to take her life, she gave a last message to the world. "I am glad," she said, "to die for my country. But as I stand here I realize as never before that patriotism is not enough." Then she went on to give a clear, definite testimony to her personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and her assurance of salvation, not through laying down her life for others, but because He laid down His life for her. In perfect composure, she submitted to the bandaging of her eyes and, in a few moments fell, pierced by many German bullets.

Her words, patriotism is not enough! have spoken loudly to may in the years that have gone since she died a martyr to her convictions.

"What more is needed?" you may ask. The answer is "Christ!" It is through faith in Him alone that the soul is saved and heaven assured.  

H.A. Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth, Moody Press, 1945, pp. 60-61.


I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to have a moral community or nation without faith in God, because without it everything rapidly comes down to "me," and "me" alone is meaningless. Today Americans have stopped acting in terms of their own moral, ethical and religious beliefs and principles. They've stopped acting on what they knew was right -- and the "me" has become the measure of everything. However, moral societies are the only ones that work. If anyone thinks there is not a direct and invaluable relationship between personal integrity in a society and that society's prosperity, that person has simply not studied history. And this should not surprise us. Great moral societies, built upon faith in God, honor, trust, and the law blossom because they are harmonious; because people love or at least respect their fellowman; because, finally, they have a common belief in something beyond themselves. It simplifies life immensely; you do not waste and spend your days fighting for turf, for privilege, for money and power over your fellowman.

Alexis de Tocqueville said it best when he realized even at the very beginning of our national life, "America is great because America is good. If America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." 

 Georgia Anne Geyer, Bits & Pieces, September 17, 1992, pp. 23-24.


 
 
 
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