[This article is an excerpted chapter from the timely and critically important book on America’s Christian heritage and the materialist effort to destroy it—Land that I Love: Restoring Our Christian Heritage. — ed.)
Before the proletariat fights out its battles on the barricades, it announces the coming of its rule with a series of intellectual victories. —Karl Marx
Fifty years ago, I would have said that the colleges of America were the crucial battlegrounds in the most perilous ways in the modern world. In the college classrooms, the minds of the next generation will embrace and affirm freedom and individual dignity and worth, or become active combatants in opposing these treasured truths and virtues.
Today, in 2013, I would sound an alarm for all education in America, stressing the importance of what goes on in every classroom, from primary school throughout college. What is the battle? What are the issues? What is the result and who are the winners and losers?
What exactly took America by such surprise? How could we have kept ourselves in such lethargic sleep? America has abandoned moral absolutes, broken down the family, and worked hard to destroy the economy. Capitalism is unpopular, although it has provided the highest standard of living in the Western world. What became of the concept of God’s decrees, the foundation of our republic, and the only possible one?
America’s unique blessing of civil and religious liberty is in peril. College professors, no longer even needing to hide behind tenure in the majority of colleges and universities today, wage the intellectual war against America. They have embraced godless, materialistic, and amoral collectivism as a philosophy, one that enables government to tyrannically dictate to all of society as a replacement god. Many professors, not in agreement with socialist ideals, have become silent and of negligible influence in their secular, and sometimes even in once-Christian, colleges.
The late Hon. Joseph S. Clark, former mayor of Philadelphia, writing in The Atlantic, July 1953, wrote:
To lay a ghost at the outset and to dismiss semantics, a liberal is here defined as one who believes in utilizing the full force of government for the advancement of social, political, and economic justice at the municipal, state, national, and international levels.… A liberal believes government is a proper tool to use in the development of a society which attempts to carry Christian principles of conduct into practical effect.
The philosophy of the reformers in the universities becomes the action platform in the liberal politicians in the next generation.… Moreover, it is a potential leadership psychologically prepared to enlist under the liberal banner.… It is significant that what used to be called “history” is now “social studies.” Spiritually and economically, youth is conditioned to respond to a liberal program of orderly policing, of our society by government, subject to the popular will, in the interests of social justice.
Mayor Clark was correct in his warning. In the 1950s, state liberalism had won a monopoly in major universities in America. Today this philosophy has penetrated almost every college in America, except it usually carries no pretense of representing Christianity.
The government-ordered curriculum in state classrooms from early education through higher education has become entirely secular and anti-Christian. In any supposedly open forum, tolerance for free expression and of differing views is extremely rare.
Another historic philosophy exists, one entirely different from the postmodern one, known as classical liberalism. Emerson described it.
Society everywhere is a conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.… Society never advances.… All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves.
[T]he wise and just man will always feel that … he imparts strength to the state, not receives security from it.
The first rule of economy … [is] that every man shall maintain himself.
The harvest will be better preserved and go farther, laid up in private bins, in each farmer’s corn-barn and each woman’s basket, than if it were kept in national granaries.
The less government we have the better,—the fewer laws, and the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal government is, the influence of private character, the growth of the individual.
In all my lectures, I have taught one doctrine, the infinitude of the private man.
Emerson held a fairly accurate memory of the Christian roots of true liberalism, though he represents the beginning of its secularization and the seed of its destruction. In representing the old classical liberalism—love of liberty—he distorts its Christian roots. Its essence does not lie in “infinitude of the private man,” but in the Lord of heaven, Who by grace enables the best in man. Time has not been kind to true Biblical liberalism—due largely to mainstreaming of the Christian Pietistic movement where Christians increasingly withdrew into an essentially isolated personal faith.
Let’s be clear. By early 1900, liberalism in many colleges had begun to distort Christian principles, such as compassion and charity, into an anti-Christian form. As a false substitute for true liberalism, all collectivist regimes—whether fascism, Fabianism, or communism—regulate, compel, prohibit, dictate, and confiscate. Hitler defined true idealism as “nothing but subjecting the individual’s interests and life to the community.”9 Rather than a godly balance between the individual and the community, the materialist always denies the individual in favor of the collectivist state. The collectivist state must eventually become authoritarian and tyrannical, as the seed of godly liberty runs deep in the soul of man created in God’s image. Man cannot tolerate subjection into essential slavery without destroying his soul. We bear witness to the zeal of community organizers over the past decades of American political life, carrying out the postmodern philosophy of contemporary classrooms.
This worldview is not new, but as old as sinful man himself, sometimes called “man’s second-oldest faith.” Quoting Whitaker Chambers:
Its promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: “Ye shall be as gods.” It is the great alternative faith of mankind. Like all great faiths, its force derives from a simple vision … : the vision of God and man’s relationship to God. The communist vision is the vision of man without God.… It is the vision of man’s mind displacing God as the creative intelligence of the world. It is the vision of man’s liberated mind, by the sole force of its rational intelligence, redirecting man’s destiny and reorganizing man’s life and the world.
And so, the classrooms of modern America have expelled God and His Word. In government schools, they proclaim no eternal truth. Rather, all reason is relative, and morality is reduced to manners, or increasingly, simply selfish preference . On the other hand, some dedicated people fight a battle today against further government control over Alabama education in grades K–12, through the defeat of the new Common Core standards. I hope that they succeed, but if so, it merely places a band-aid over a festering boil. No one openly debates today the underlying problems in education. Until free men stand up in the public square, debate the arguments for and against collectivism, declare eternal Truth as the basis for right reasoning, America will not receive God’s blessing.
One wonders where the alumni of the once-godly institutions have gone. What about the trustees? Have they long evaded their responsibility? Are they fellow travelers with us, or part of the opposition? Do parents even know how to evaluate colleges before sending their precious children to them? Do parents read the books assigned to their children? I have lived to see four generations in my own family. Yes, my generation bears much responsibility for an educational and political system which now constantly undermines what was once a Christian constitutional republic, one with power well balanced among the branches of government to protect liberty through justice and just defense. Today, the educational system idolizes government power as the means for a benevolent life, attacks religious liberty, and conditions youth in the socialist worldview.
- Franz Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of His Life (New York: Covici, Friede Publishers, 1935).
- Joseph S. Clark Jr., “Can the Liberals Rally?” The Atlantic, July 1953, theatlantic.com.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” Essays (Boston: James Munroe and Company, 1841), 41, 69.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Young American,” The Dial (April 1844).
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1883), 414.
- Bliss Perry, ed., The Heart of Emerson’s Journals (New York: Dover, 1995), 193.
- Emerson, Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 129.
- Lawrence Buell, Emerson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 59.
- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Complete and Unabridged (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939), 411.
- Whittaker Chambers, Witness (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1969).
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