By Dennis Grimski
Article Focus: America’s Traditional Values and Beliefs
As you know by now, I am writing a series for Blue Water Healthy Living on: “Exposing the Marxist Roots of the America Left.” Last week I wrote the first article entitled: “In Search of Civility.” Today, you are receiving the second article this series. Herein, I will explore many of America’s traditional values, beliefs and guiding principles.
In doing research on this topic, I quickly realized the breath of the subject-matter was too complex to address in just 1-2 articles to do it any justice. America is facing a subtle movement that has been taking place since the 1930s, and its nefarious tentacles must be understood if we are to overcome this threat and survive as a nation. As such, I have decided to educate my reading audience in bite-size pieces so the topic is easily understood and digestible.
In my first article, I used research to show that the vast majority of Americans believe our culture and society have been declining for several decades, and that today we are more contentious and divisive as ever. My argument is that the decline of our culture (e.g. America is more divisive; more politically correct, and more hedonistic than we were before the 1960s) did not occur by happenstance; it occurred via a purposeful movement that subtlety has been taking place over the past eighty (80) years. There has been an intentional plot aimed at destroying the traditional, institutional, and Christian values of our country.
My interest in writing this series is not because I am a radical thinker espousing conspiracy theories. Instead, I believe I can support my premise with evidence that people came to America in the 1930s with the intent of destroying it. When they came, they found a willing audience of progressive liberals who were eager to receive these Marxists; but as time went on, many of the progressive and Marxist systemic beliefs became blended, where now, the two belief systems today are virtually inseparable. Sadly, there are many people on the left today who have discarded many of our Founding beliefs and principles. For example, if you look at the 2016 election, America discovered unforeseen support for Bernie Sanders (a self-proclaimed Socialist-Communist), especially among youth and college students. In election polls, most of Bernie’s followers were willing to discard capitalism, and to willingly replace it with socialism.
Moreover, “In Search of Civility,” I demonstrated that many Americans, especially our youth, have discarded the traditional values and beliefs of our American society. Beliefs like: unalienable rights has been replaced by government granted rights; limited government has been replaced with “large government,” and an intrusive governmental role in our society; individualism has been replaced by collective thinking on college campuses; respect for other persons when you disagree with their beliefs, has been replaced with name calling, demonization, and labeling; and the belief in God and His standards for living has been replaced by Atheism, and an acceptance of any religion, other than Christianity in the public sector. Historic family values have been replaced by a sexual revolution that is coupled with a radical hedonism, where sex with anyone has become the acceptable norm. Over the past 60 years the “traditional family” and the “family unit” has been under major attack from the left.
In order to understand how these new and still emerging values have infiltrated America, and have morphed into social norms amongst the “Liberal Left,” I believe it is important to first examine the traditional values and beliefs upon which our Country was founded; beliefs which were the norm until the late 1960s.
What are Traditional Values?
For many, the culture of America is a tragedy these days. Add up the vulgar lyrics and misogyny of rap music to pathetic movies like 50 Shades of Grey, to public obsessions with the likes of Bruce Jenner as he morphs into a female and desires to marry a transvestite, and we are left with a sense of dismay. Today, in our Hollywood and pop culture we have very little to praise. It all seems like a replay of the Roman satirist Petronius’s brilliant first-century AD novel The Satyricon, which chronicled the moral sinkhole into which the Roman Empire was plunging.
Because of our shifting culture, we hear a lot of talk about something called traditional values. The topic gets much debate by the news media and amongst people to the left and right of the political aisle.
In reality, traditional values refer to the standards and beliefs which were embraced by most Americans from its earliest beginnings and throughout the majority of our history. It is believed by many, including myself, that these values were a major part of what made America a great and free nation — the absence of which, will likely result in the further decline of our country.
Traditional, historical American values have in the past, included a faith in God, prayer, and the Bible, which has for a large part, been the foundation of other national traditions. These included such things as: honor and respect for the family; diligent work ethics; absolute values of right and wrong; honesty in business practices; wholesomeness in leadership; respect toward authority; moderation rather than excess; marriage as a prerequisite before having sex or bearing children; marriage as an institution between a man and a woman; a family which consists of both a father and mother; taking responsibility to provide for our own — such as one’s spouse, family and children, instead of having the government do it for us.
Such values were the ethos of our Judeo-Christian heritage, largely based on the Bible and the Ten Commandments, which civilized our population and instilled character and maturity. People learned manners, good morals, to be honest, unselfish, generous and considerate of others. They were taught the benefits of discipline, hard work, and responsibility. They were given good role models of how to be loving and kind to their spouse, encouraging and supportive to their children. This was the sort of thing which caused marriages to last, families to succeed, and which made our nation strong and free.
It has been said that America is following the same historical path that led to the collapse of the Roman Empire. In the famous history, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” written by Edward Gibbon, the author gave the following reason for Rome’s fall:
- Disregard for God and religion.
- Excessive spending by an ever increasing large central government.
- Widespread immorality which destroyed the integrity of family life (family values).
- The spread of gender confusion and homosexuality. Today, men acting and dressing like women; and women acting like men.
- Unwillingness of young people to defend their country.
- Overindulgence in luxuries.
- Overindulgence by the mass population in side attractions (i.e. the Colosseum).
- Not holding leadership accountable to address the critical problems facing Rome’s growing budget deficit, deteriorating infrastructure, and failing family unit.
Unfortunately, these are many of the same symptoms of our own society today. So will America continue to follow the same path? It is said, “They which fail to learn from history, are destined to repeat it.”
In my opinion, one fact is clear: Unless there is a revival of moral values in our nation, like Rome, America will continue to corrupt from within and we will die as a nation. Hopefully our nation will heed the warning from the Bible. It says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalms 9:17)
For many, Traditional Values also includes the concept of American Exceptionalism, or the concept: “What Makes America Different from other Nations?”
What is American Exceptionalism? Five decades after America gained independence, French political analyst Alexis de Tocqueville remarked on the exceptional character of the United States and gave us a great snapshot of what makes America different. Unlike other nations that were defined by ethnicity, geography, common heritage, social class, or hierarchal structures, America was a nation of immigrants bond together by a shared commitment to the democratic principles of liberty, equality, individualism and laissez faire economics.
American Exceptionalism – A Religious Foundation
The principles of American Exceptionalism comprise the “America creed,” which, G. K. Chesterton wrote, “American Exceptionalism is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence. There, the theological pegs of our Union are established in four explicit references to the Judeo-Christian God.”
In regards to Chesterton’s quote, the Declaration of Independence opens by acknowledging “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” It goes on to refer to the “Creator” who endows man with “certain unalienable rights.” It makes an appeal to the “Supreme Judge of the world,” and closes with an expression of trust in the “protection of Divine Providence.”
The last reference is particularly striking, considering the deistic leanings of the Declaration’s main author, Thomas Jefferson. In Deism, God is a neither a protector nor provider; He is a distant, detached Creator who refrains from interfering in the affairs of men.
Nevertheless, just prior to the Revolutionary War, Jefferson wrote, “We devoutly implore assistance of Almighty God to conduct us happily through this great conflict.” And near the end of that conflict, he warned, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God?”
Forty years after Jefferson penned the Declaration, he made note to a friend: “We are not in a world ungoverned by the laws and the power of a superior agent. Our efforts are in His hand, and directed by it; and He will give them their effect in His own time.” And this from the man who is considered one of the least religious of the Founders.
Although Jefferson is the patron saint of secular elites for his famous “wall of separation,” it was never his, or any of the Founders’ intention to denude the public square of religious influence. It is quite telling that over 30 years after Jefferson coined that phrase, the keen political observer de Tocqueville remarked: “Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions.”
Ben Franklin, who was considered one of the least religious of the Founding Fathers, issued this stirring appeal during an arduous debate in the Constitutional Congress:
“In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection…. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of Superintending Providence in our favor…have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? …. God Governs in the affairs of men [Daniel 4:17]. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice [Matthew 10:29], is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”
American Exceptionalism – A Special Heritage
American Exceptionalism is grounded in the Founding Fathers, and in the founding documents (i.e. Declaration of Independence; Constitution) they authored, which gives testimony to the religious, and uniquely Judeo-Christian, character of the United States of America. Today, numerous religious symbols on edifices in and around the nation’s capital add their voices to that testimony.
Images and representations of the Bible, the crucifix, Moses, and the Ten Commandments exist in engravings and sculptures at the Washington Monument, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Capitol building, the Library of Congress, the White House, the World War II Memorial, and the Arlington National Cemetery. At the Supreme Court, the Ten Commandments are displayed in no less than three places: over the East portico, on the Court doors, and over the Chief Justice’s chair. But there is one witness to America’s religious heritage that many people carry in their purses and wallets: the one-dollar bill. Centered on the back of the dollar bill are not the words, “In man we trust,” “In science we trust,” or “In the state we trust”; but “IN GOD WE TRUST.
America was blessed at the time of the Revolution and the adoption of the Constitution to be led by political giants. Thomas Jefferson referred to the Founding Fathers who met at the Constitutional Convention as “an assembly of demi-gods.”
While not other worldly, the Founding Fathers were astonishingly accomplished and talented. They included governors, generals, judges, congressmen, businessmen, financiers, plantation owners, physicians, and attorneys.
Leading Founding Fathers included: George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson, James Wilson, Joseph Warren, and Benjamin Rush.
The Founding Fathers embodied and improved upon the learning of the ages. As James Madison observed, “They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society. They reared the fabrics of governments which have no model on the face of the globe.”
America’s First Principles:
America’s Founding Fathers established the First Principles for the American Republic. Incorporated into our founding documents, America is perhaps the only nation that holds as self-evident truths that all men and women are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; and that governments are instituted to protect those rights and derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Stated differently, America was founded on certain First Principles, which were articulated by the Founding Fathers as follows:
- The Rule of Law: means that the law governs everyone; people are NOT subject to the whims of elected politicians but to the laws of the land; and that certain people are not above the law, but all people are governed by the laws of the land.
- Unalienable Rights: means that everyone is naturally endowed by their Creator with certain rights, as determined by natural law.
- Equality: means that all persons are created equal, and shall be treated equally under the rule of law.
- The Social Compact: means that the government is instituted by the people and derives its powers from the consent of the governed.
- National Security: means the security of a nation, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, and is regarded as the primary duty of government.
- Limited government: means that the protection of unalienable rights is the legitimate purpose and limit of government. This Founding Principles require the government to be strong enough to fulfill its purpose yet limited to the expressed purposes stated in the Constitution.
A final First Principle is the right of the governed to declare revolution when the other First Principles are being infringed by the government. Our Declaration of Independence explains that these foundational ideas were the philosophical underpinning of the American Revolution. Once independence was secured, the Founding Fathers labored to ensure that the Constitution became the living embodiment of a government based on their First Principles.
Why is Understanding Traditional Values and Beliefs Important?
As I conclude this article, I’ve attempted to show you why it’s important to know and understand the core beliefs, values and traditions upon which America was founded; principles that make us not just a unique nation, but have made us an exceptional nation.
For the past century these values and principles have come under attack for being no longer historically relevant by an emerging form of modern liberalism. In truth, because they were based on “natural law” many who do not believe in God have tried to remove these values and principles form our public standing, and replace them with something they believe is better: “large government” and “secular humanity.”
In this section, I hope to explain (at a very high level) the beliefs of Constitutional Conservatism vs. Progressive Liberalism. To successfully accomplish this end, I will draw from a Hillsdale University Class, on the “Founding Fathers Beliefs vs. Progressivism.”
Constitutional Conservatives (hereinafter referred to as Conservatives) believe in a strict interpretation of the Constitution, and believe it is the law of the nation, until it gets further amended. Conservatives believe in “traditional values” and the “First Principles” of the Founding Fathers. Conservatives have a view of a very limited form of government. They believe our “traditional values, beliefs and guiding principles” are the best way to govern, and to also live our lives.
Conversely, Progressive Liberals (hereinafter referred to as Liberals), believe in a “flexible” interpretation of the Constitution. They see the Constitution as a dated document that should be interpreted by the events and social norms of the day, which are ever evolving. Liberals today are those that adhere to “progressive values,” which began to emerge in the mid 1800s under the guise of Marxism and Progressivism. Both of these world views were founded on the thinking of philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Georg Friedrich Hegel. These men were not from the Enlightenment Age, but represented a new way of viewing mankind. Both Marxism and Progressivism are “rationale” belief systems, and were founded on the principle that morality is a standard of man’s rationality, and is not defined by an external God. Under both of these philosophies, God does not exist, and man is led by his own rationality as to what is right and wrong. Therefore, right and wrong is “subjective” and not universal. Under these belief systems, the world of “absolutes” (right vs. wrong) is dismissed, and replaced by a belief system that “man” himself has the best answers to the world’s problems. In light of these emerging philosophies, today you will hear many liberals claim that the Founding Father’s values and principles of our nation are no longer historically relevant. Many liberals dismiss our nations “traditional values” as being “old-fashioned.” When I use the term “liberal” in this section, I am not referring to a Classical Liberal but to a Modern Liberal (see box right).
The Founding Fathers believed that the purpose of government was to secure the unalienable rights of American citizens to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by protecting them against violations by foreign or domestic enemies, including violations by their own government.
Today, liberals (i.e. Progressives) believe that the purpose of government is to give you the benefit of government programs, through management decisions of bureaucratic experts (not elected officials), while using the government to change you into a more socially responsible individual. Liberals accomplish this outcome through educational curricula they have written for the public school system, with the blessing of the Department of Education (DOE); and through enactment of governmental programs that go far beyond the explicit powers enumerated within the Constitution for the federal government. Liberals believe in an “expanded” role of the federal government, with the system managed by specialty trained, but non-elected, bureaucratic personnel.
As previously noted, a key Founding principle is that humans are created equal with unalienable God-given natural (non-political) rights. These rights accord with the laws of nature and nature’s God. All must respect these natural rights of others as they are valued by all. We are all part of a natural, unchanging moral order. Adults possess from their nature as humans the right to be free from the rule of others. Liberals, on the other hand, believe that the individual is not born free, but that freedom is a product of human making, particularly the making of the government. They reject the Founders for not accepting historical relativity, and the standards of right and wrong change over time with changing social conditions. They believe the Constitution is an evolving document that can be interpreted and changed over time without formal amendment. Progressivism is why Liberal Judges can interpret the Constitution according to their own belief system versus explicit written law. For example, there is no clause in the Constitution that calls for the “Separation of Church and State,” yet numerous liberal judges have determined that the Constitution stipulates that Christianity must be removed from public schools, the public square, and all of government. This removal includes the Christian symbols as well (e.g. 10 Commandments; Crosses; etc.). Removal of praying and reading the Bible in public schools, for example, came from a progressive belief that God does not exist, thus He has no role in society. As such, non-elected liberal judges have created “law” by making judicial decisions on the belief that the Constitution is not an explicit document, but a flexible living document that can be interpreted based upon the cultural norms of the times.
Another example of liberal bias influencing our Nation was the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision of “Roe v. Wade” (1973). This decision determined that a woman’s right to privacy (not stipulated or defined in the Constitution) under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment could be (liberally) extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. Through this ruling, abortion rights was established into federal law, not by an act of Congress (law), but by a set of liberal judges who believe a “progressive” interpretation of the Constitution is right and proper.
In another example of key differences, Progressive economist Richard Ely held that positive freedom would require (trans)forming individuals in the name of social ethics, “self development for the sake of others.” Ely believed that the government must develop an individual’s talents and mind so he could participate in the development of others. As such, Progressive government seeks to create individuals in two ways: (1) Redistribution of resources to maximize everyone’s development potential; and (2) Transformation of the character of inferior citizens, with a term they coined: “uplift.” As you can see, “protecting” individuals vs. “creating” individuals sums one of the major differences between Conservatives and Liberals.
Rather than continue with the differences of Conservatives and Liberals, I decided to address this subject in my next article. There I plan to explore the history of Progressivism in America; its key differences from Constitutional Conservatism; and how Progressivism is reshaping America into a modern liberal nation.
However, before I leave this topic, let me have you go down (briefly) one rabbit trail. Everyone should realize that many people who call themselves Conservatives today are actually Progressives. Many of these people are elected officials in the Republican Party. True Conservatives call these representatives RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). They see a RINO as only using the conservative label when they campaign amongst their conservative constituency. However, once in Washington, RINOs vote for large government policies and programs because such decisions are based upon their personal belief system that large government is best for America. In essence, most RINOs accept an expanded role for government vs. a limited role for government. Some RINOs may oppose the main features of modern liberalism: the moral superiority of minorities, women, disabled, and other supposed victim groups; sexual expression as a basic right; and treatment of animals, plants, and the earth as sacred; but when it comes to the role of government, they believe in an expanded role for the federal government as the solution to our nation’s problems.
I believe people must come to understand that it is the very abandonment of our Founding principles by the Progressives (i.e. their belief in historical relativity; assaults on property rights and free markets; a very large bureaucratic government; celebration of a “freedom” detached from human nature, and so forth) that has led our nation down the path toward modern liberalism. In stepping away from a government dedicated to the protection of unalienable rights, the Progressives launched a movement that could only result—as it always results worldwide—in a government of irrational principles embedded in the actions of an arbitrary, uncontrolled non-elected bureaucracy and court system.
Yet, there is still hope! The Founding Fathers “beliefs” for America are not yet quite dead. When you get beyond the universities, Hollywood and the media, there are still a majority of ordinary Americans who have a strong regard for God, property rights, virtue of self reliance, the importance of the family, and the unapologetic willingness to use armed force in defense of the nation, such as border security. Most of these individuals constituted the Trump voting bloc in the 2016 election, and they rose up and voted with the attitude, “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”
In America, the first great battle for America’s soul was over slavery and was settled by the Civil War. The second great battle, “Constitutional Conservatism” or “Progressive Liberalism” still remains to be settled. But make no mistake; we are in a battle for our nation’s soul. As our government careens ever more out of control, can the occasional sparks of the Founding Fathers be fanned into flames of recovered liberty? Only time will tell which side will win in the long run!
In the meantime, the disparateness in belief between Conservatism and Liberalism is one of the key reasons why America is so divided today. We are living with two disparate cultural and governmental belief systems. This battle will never be settled until one side wins, and the other side loses. Like the issue of slavery, I don’t believe there can be a compromise on this matter. As such, the winning side will determine the “soul” and future direction of our nation.
As I close, let me leave you with one final thought. Our nation was founded under the standards established by a Judeo-Christian God. I firmly believe this fact is the primary reason why our nation has prospered to date. Moreover, I also believe you cannot remove God from our nation without fatal consequences. Although the decision to remove God from the public sector appears to be “wisdom” to some people, it is “foolishness” in the eyes of God.
Proverbs 1:7~ “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise (Godly) wisdom and instruction.”
I Corinthians 2:14 ~ “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Psalm 9:17 ~ “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”
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Leonard, Thomas (2005). “Retrospectives: Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era” (PDF). Journal of Economic Perspectives. 19 (4): 207–224. doi:10.1257/089533005775196642.
What is Progressivism? – Definition, History & Goals. https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-progressivism-definition-history-goals.html
“Conservatism (political philosophy)”. Britannica.com.
Jerry Z. Muller (1997). Conservatism: An Anthology of Social and Political Thought from David Hume to the Present. Princeton U.P.
Seaton, James (1996). Cultural Conservatism, Political Liberalism: From Criticism to Cultural Studies. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-10645-5.
Dennis is a 40+ year resident of the Blue Water area. He is a retired Executive Officer for two regional healthcare organizations; and was the CEO for his own successful Management Consulting firm. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History from Western Michigan University; a Masters Degree in Professional Counseling from WMU; and a Specialist Degree in Psychology/Behavior Modification from the UM. Dennis is a Christ-follower, husband, father, grandfather, and loves golf, board games, and discussing politics and religion. He is a leader in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF); disciples several men; and has been an Elder, children’s bible teacher, Sunday school teacher, Life Group leader, and Men’s ministry leader in his church.
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