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Transforming Culture: Christian Truth Confronts Post-Christian America
Albert Mohler ^ | 2005 | R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Posted on 06/16/2005 5:24:12 AM PDT by SLB

Peggy Noonan is right. At some point, in some moment, all of us must admit that something remarkable has happened to American culture. Mrs Noonan, a former presidential speechwriter, recalls that this moment came for her during a high school graduation in the early 1970s. A young girl walked across the stage to received her diploma. The girl was obviously pregnant. Noonan recalls that her first impulse was admiration for the girl's grit and determination against social disapproval. "But," recognized Noonan, "society wasn't disapproving. It was applauding." As she reflected, "Applause is a right and generous response for a young girl with grit and heart. And yet, in the sound of that applause I heard a wall falling, a thousand-year wall, a wall of sanctions that said: We as a society do not approve of teenaged unwed motherhood because it is not good for the child, not good for the mother, not good for us."

To this the Christian Church would say far more, but the great danger today is that many Christians are seeing the same evidence, and saying far less. A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us. The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture.

Reflecting on the changes experienced by America over just the last half-century, John Howard of the Rockford Institute described the end of World War II as "a half century and a whole civilization ago." We know how he feels. Looking back on the America of 1945, it does look like a whole civilization has passed.

The evidence is overwhelming. Moral relativism has so shaped the culture that the vast majority of Americans now see themselves as their own moral arbiter. Truth has been internalized, privatized, and subjectivized. Absolute or objective truth is denied outright. Research indicates that most Americans believe that truth is internal and relative. No one, the culture shouts, has a right to impose truth, morality, or cultural standards.

In the courts, revisionist legal theories and psycho-therapeutic issues have replaced concern for right and wrong. Justice has become a political argument, not a societal standard. Righteousness is rejected as a concept, a relic of an older age of a common morality, nuclear families, and Victorian dreams. The discourse of a revealed morality commanding right and forbidding wrong is as out of place in contemporary America as a log cabin on Wall Street.

The most influential sectors of society are allied in furthering the process of social disintegration. Television and mass culture have so shaped the American consciousness that many citizens are now intellectually unable to sustain a serious moral conversation. Those who attempt to engage the American people in a serious moral conversation are met with immediate dismissal or--more worrisome still--blank stares.

The arts are increasingly decadent, portraying violence, pornography, and banality as high culture. In the academy, deconstructionism and other purportedly post-modern theories have largely destroyed some disciplines and thrown others into incoherence. The search for truth has been abandoned in favor of political arguments over rights and privileges.

Looking within, Americans have adopted a therapeutic worldview which has transformed all issues of right and wrong into newly created categories of authenticity, self esteem, codependencies, and various psychological fads which basically tell us that we are victims, not responsible moral agents. A cult of self-worship has developed, substituting a search for the inner child in place of the worship of the transcendent God.

The Church has constantly been perplexed concerning its proper relation to culture. H. Richard Niebuhr traced five different patterns of cultural response in his famous work, Christ and Culture. The book over-simplified the issues and now looks awkwardly optimistic, but some of the patterns Niebuhr described are still evident. The Church as at times withdrawn from culture and sought refuge in attempted cultural isolation. At other times and in other contexts the Church has simply abdicated to the culture, thus reflecting the culture rather than proclaiming the cross. A myriad of patterns and be traced between these two extremes. The fact is that the Church has often exhibited several patterns at once, capitulating to culture on the one hand and seeking isolation on the other.

In candor, we must admit that the Church has been displaced. Once an authoritative voice in the culture, the Church is often dismissed, and even more often ignored. At one time, the influence of the Church was sufficient to restrain cultural rebellion against God's moral commandments, but no longer. The dynamic of the culture-shift marches onward. On the Protestant left, leaders have simply capitulated to the revisionist ideologies and surrendered revealed morality. On the evangelical wing, however, the greater temptation is to affirm biblical morality in principle, and wink at infractions as matters of merely individual interest.

The displacement of the Church is characteristic of the process of secularization, which has now so thoroughly altered the landscape of American culture. Though sociologists point to continuing high levels of religious activity and statements of belief--both of these in sharp contrast to other western nations--the truth is that very little of this activity translates into authentic discipleship, active church membership, and bold Christian witness.

The worldview of most Americans is now thoroughly secularized, revolving around the self and its concerns, and based on relativism as an axiom. We Americans have become our own best friend, our own therapist, our own priest, and our own lawgiver. The old order is shattered, the new order is upon us.

What, then, is the Church to do? At the onset, we must disallow both optimism and despair. We have no right to expect, as did a previous generation, that "every day in every way things are getting better and better." The same culture that has developed the microwave oven, the CAT-scan, and the vaccine for polio has also produced social pathologies which threaten the very existence of the culture. The operating room and the abortionist's table are both symbols of our culture. Though claiming to be concerned with the quality of life, America is increasingly characterized by a culture of death. At the same time, though the direction of the culture may be dramatically downward, we have no right to assume that this slide cannot be corrected.

We must understand that, in the Christian worldview, culture is important, but never ultimate. Beyond this, we acknowledge that God is sovereign, and His providence rules over all.

The mission of the Church in the midst of this cultural crisis is to proclaim the truth and reach out to the casualties. In the face of rampant relativisms, the believing Church must proclaim the truth of God's Word, the permanence of His commands, and the reality of His judgment. Given the cultural context, this task is one of the most important tests of Christian faithfulness. To proclaim biblical truth to this culture is to risk social isolation, outright rejection, and, in some cases, potent attacks.

The Church which proclaims that adultery, premarital sex, and homosexuality are inherently and unquestionably sinful will quickly discover what it means to be cut off from the cultural mainstream. The preacher who takes on the divorce culture and takes his stand for the enduring covenant of marriage will run into direct confrontation with society's attraction to "open marriage" and what some now describe as "serial monogamy." The Christian who stands in defense of the unborn will be told that her voice is unwanted, unheeded, and unwelcome--and in no uncertain terms.

To contend for Christian truth in the face of this culture is to discover what it means to be a member of a cognitive minority; that is, a minority which quite evidently thinks and lives differently than the larger culture. To confess the truths of God's Word in late twentieth-century America is to take on a counter-cultural posture; to stand against the stream and to press against the grain.

At the same time, we must reach out and minister to the casualties of our cultural rebellion. The Church of Jesus Christ is comprised of sinners saved by grace. With the message of grace, we must reach out to those whose lives have been ruined and warped in the course of our cultural decay. Only the Church has the honest and truthful answers concerning the most basic issues facing our society. Our challenge is to match truth to compassion, and mercy to confrontation.

This was true in the first century, it is true now, and it may well be true until the Lord returns. In our depravity, human beings naturally rebell against the truth of God's Word, but it reveals the only means of salvation. Our charge is to bear witness.

The truths of God's Word reveal the Gospel of spiritual transformation, and the proclamation of the truths of God's Word is the only means available to us of cultural transformation. From beginning to end, it is all in God's hands. We are called to faithful witness and compassionate ministry. In the context of post-Christian America, our task is to preach the Gospel and to proclaim the truths of God's Word. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, the Gospel is foolishness to those seeking wisdom and a scandal to those looking for power. To the redeemed, however, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Here is found the only genuine transformation. Therein is found our charge.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: christians; culturewars; noonan; thechurch

1 posted on 06/16/2005 5:24:12 AM PDT by SLB
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To: SLB

Thank you.


2 posted on 06/16/2005 5:25:54 AM PDT by Molly Pitcher (We are Americans...the sons and daughters of liberty...*.from FReeper the Real fifi*)
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To: rightwing2; sauropod; FreedomPoster; DaveLoneRanger; 2Jedismom; FreedomHasACost; mtbrandon49; ...

FYI


3 posted on 06/16/2005 5:26:28 AM PDT by SLB ("We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us." C. S. Lewis)
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To: Molly Pitcher

We started a Wednesday night study on Christianity and today's cultural last night. This was one of the hand outs we received. Glad our church adheres to this type of doctrine.


4 posted on 06/16/2005 5:28:34 AM PDT by SLB ("We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us." C. S. Lewis)
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To: SLB

Wow! BTTT! Thanks.


5 posted on 06/16/2005 5:30:55 AM PDT by Chgogal (Where Muslims are in a majority......Non-muslims die.)
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To: SLB

I wonder how Peggy could tell the pregnant high schooler wasn't married? Or did she just assume it?

My mother was pregnant with me when she graduated from high school, but she was married to my dad, who was drafted for Korea. Despite the fact that she was 1) married, and 2) had the highest GPA in the graduating class, they not only didn't let her be valedictorian, she couldn't come on stage to pick up her diploma.

Peggy might think that was a better way of doing things, but I don't.


6 posted on 06/16/2005 5:31:17 AM PDT by CobaltBlue (Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)
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To: SLB

Indeed!


7 posted on 06/16/2005 5:33:47 AM PDT by Molly Pitcher (We are Americans...the sons and daughters of liberty...*.from FReeper the Real fifi*)
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To: SLB
Our minister talks a lot of our post-Christian culture, and our response to it also. We've been studying Acts, for example for guidance and inspiration.

Ultimately, however, I suspect our minister will not take Mohler's stand. This is beginning to worry me.

8 posted on 06/16/2005 5:36:41 AM PDT by Molly Pitcher (We are Americans...the sons and daughters of liberty...*.from FReeper the Real fifi*)
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To: CobaltBlue
My mother was pregnant with me when she graduated from high school, but she was married to my dad, who was drafted for Korea. Despite the fact that she was 1) married, and 2) had the highest GPA in the graduating class, they not only didn't let her be valedictorian, she couldn't come on stage to pick up her diploma.

I would imagine your mother knew before she married your dad that she would not be allowed to participate in the ceremonies and accepted it. Now, the ACLU and a host of other liberal activities would try to convince her the system was trampling on her rights.

9 posted on 06/16/2005 5:37:55 AM PDT by SLB ("We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us." C. S. Lewis)
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To: SLB
Looking back on the America of 1945, it does look like a whole civilization has passed.

You might even say it's "Gone With The Wind"....

10 posted on 06/16/2005 5:40:26 AM PDT by steve-b (A desire not to butt into other people's business is eighty percent of all human wisdom)
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To: Molly Pitcher
Ultimately, however, I suspect our minister will not take Mohler's stand. This is beginning to worry me.

Might be time to start looking around. We were members of a mainstream denomination (PCUSA) and when they went off the deep end we bailed to a interdenominational church that is firmly rooted in scripture.

11 posted on 06/16/2005 5:40:29 AM PDT by SLB ("We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us." C. S. Lewis)
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To: Molly Pitcher
Our minister talks a lot of our post-Christian culture, and our response to it also.

You are right to worry about your minister. "Our" response is always sinful without God. The minister has framed the question in such a way that it puts "you" as God. To frame the issue in Christian terms, the issue should be God's response as found in scripture. Our sinful natures will always turn away from God.

12 posted on 06/16/2005 5:41:26 AM PDT by Raycpa
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To: SLB
No one, the culture shouts, has a right to impose truth, morality, or cultural standards.

But just don't cut in front of them in line.

13 posted on 06/16/2005 5:44:20 AM PDT by Aquinasfan (Isaiah 22:22, Rev 3:7, Mat 16:19)
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To: SLB
Moral relativism has so shaped the culture that the vast majority of Americans now see themselves as their own moral arbiter.
In those instances where we do no direct harm to other individuals, that's our perogative in a free society.

Most cultural libertarians have no problem with cultural competition. Our objection begins and ends with laws intended to promote one version of morality. Invariably, that is the goal of those who decry our current culture.

-Eric

14 posted on 06/16/2005 5:46:54 AM PDT by E Rocc (If God is watching us, we can at least try to be entertaining)
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To: SLB
"Now, the ACLU and a host of other liberal activities would try to convince her the system was trampling on her rights."

Or that an abortion would be necessary.

15 posted on 06/16/2005 5:47:28 AM PDT by Sam's Army (My neighbor gives drinking a bad name)
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To: E Rocc
In those instances where we do no direct harm to other individuals, that's our perogative in a free society.

Our objection begins and ends with laws intended to promote one version of morality.

I assume you see no contradiction.

16 posted on 06/16/2005 5:50:57 AM PDT by Raycpa
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To: SLB
"The mission of the Church in the midst of this cultural crisis is to proclaim the truth and reach out to the casualties."

I am not exactly sure what the author means by the highlighted phrase above, but I think the author means "insulating" those who deny or ignore "the truth" from the disaster of the consequences those decisions will include which may even be death.

The bottomline is Christian's over the years have voted for politicians that have created a government safety net system that insulates fellow citizens who do not follow the truth from experiencing the hardship of their actions and subsequently, others adopt that same behavior because there is no negative consequence.

If you want the "cultural crisis" to go away, quit subsidizing it.

How many union member, Catholics voted for Democrats to be U.S. Senators during the 1950's and 1960's who then confirmed the judges that gave us Roe v. Wade?

A lot.

How many U.S. Jews did the same thing as the Catholics for the reason of getting U.S. dollars to Isreal?

A lot.

How many black citizens voted for Democrats as U.S. Senators who then confirmed the judges that gave us Roe v. Wade in order to get a expand the welfare state?

A lot.

And you are surprised by the sudden change in the U.S. culture to the culture of death?

17 posted on 06/16/2005 5:51:15 AM PDT by tahiti
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To: SLB
I would imagine your mother knew before she married your dad that she would not be allowed to participate in the ceremonies and accepted it.

Well, you're wrong about that. I can't even imagine what would motivate such a stance.

BTW, I was pregnant when I graduated -- from law school, and I got a lot of cheers, myself. It is something to be proud of, regardless of whether you're 18, as my mother was, or 34, as I was. Like my mother, I not only finished, I excelled.

And yes, if you try to keep a pregnant woman from participating in a graduation ceremony, I'd be tickled pink to sue you so fast your head will spin, and I'll kick your ass up one side of the courtroom and down the other. ;^)

18 posted on 06/16/2005 6:02:26 AM PDT by CobaltBlue (Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)
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To: CobaltBlue
And yes, if you try to keep a pregnant woman from participating in a graduation ceremony, I'd be tickled pink to sue you so fast your head will spin, and I'll kick your ass up one side of the courtroom and down the other.

I guess that language makes you a big girl? Sad to see it, but you are a prime example of being a product of the society you grew up in.

19 posted on 06/16/2005 6:20:20 AM PDT by SLB ("We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us." C. S. Lewis)
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To: CobaltBlue

My guess is that you stand on your curb with your children and encourage those recklessly speeding through your neighborhood just in case one out of a thousand drivers is rushing an injured child to the hospital.


20 posted on 06/16/2005 6:24:23 AM PDT by darbymcgill
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To: SLB

Good article.


21 posted on 06/16/2005 6:28:14 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: SLB
"And yes, if you try to keep a pregnant woman from participating in a graduation ceremony, I'd be tickled pink to sue you so fast your head will spin, and I'll kick your ass up one side of the courtroom and down the other. ;^)"

After re-reading the thread twice, I can't find where you made such a statement as to the allegation that you were attempting to keep a pregnant woman from participating from a graduation ceremony. Surely a lawyer wouldn't make an untrue statement would they?

22 posted on 06/16/2005 6:28:34 AM PDT by Sam's Army (My neighbor gives drinking a bad name)
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To: SLB

You're career military, you've heard "kick your ass" more times than you can count. Or do you subscribe to the double standard, men can say "kick your ass" but women have to say, "kick your fanny, tee hee"?

Sure, sure, the world's going to hell in a handbasket, and it was better in the Good Old Days, when women knew their place.

Or maybe you're the kind of man who says "kick your fanny"? ;^)


23 posted on 06/16/2005 6:30:41 AM PDT by CobaltBlue (Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)
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To: Sam's Army

Sam, drinking so early in the day?


24 posted on 06/16/2005 6:31:59 AM PDT by CobaltBlue (Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)
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To: darbymcgill

My guess is that you put Bushmill's in your morning coffee.


25 posted on 06/16/2005 6:32:54 AM PDT by CobaltBlue (Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)
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To: CobaltBlue
Yep, had a diet coke 'bout a half hour ago.

How's things with the book club?

26 posted on 06/16/2005 6:33:21 AM PDT by Sam's Army (My neighbor gives drinking a bad name)
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To: CobaltBlue
Just because I hear it does not mean I have to say it. In the 1950's I found out from the man I admired the most, my dad, that real men do not have to stoop so low as to use potty language. I had a very successful military career without using it. Yes I heard it, but then I considered the source and decided not to lower myself to those standards.
27 posted on 06/16/2005 6:34:52 AM PDT by SLB ("We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us." C. S. Lewis)
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To: SLB

"Potty language"? LOL.

Yes, I suppose the world does seem like a terrible place to you.


28 posted on 06/16/2005 6:40:21 AM PDT by CobaltBlue (Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)
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To: CobaltBlue

Nice come back.

I got another one. Do you walk hand in hand with your children through the alleys and under bridges of skid row applauding and handing out 50 dollar bills to those with needles hanging out of their arms because you never know, one of them might need the insulin.


29 posted on 06/16/2005 6:42:53 AM PDT by darbymcgill
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To: darbymcgill

I have no idea what you're talking about. And all I've had to drink so far is two cups of coffee and a glass of water. So if you're not drinking, and I'm not drinking, there has to be another explanation as to why you're not making sense.


30 posted on 06/16/2005 6:50:37 AM PDT by CobaltBlue (Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)
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To: SLB

"When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can't run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn't fight it's way out of a piss-soaked paper bag."
-- General Patton


31 posted on 06/16/2005 7:11:24 AM PDT by Bluchers Elephant
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To: CobaltBlue

I think the author rightly divided this graduation metaphor into two events. One was the determination of the woman for graduating, which deserves applause. The other was the decision to get pregnant without a husband, which does not deserve applause.


32 posted on 06/16/2005 7:16:36 AM PDT by Raycpa
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To: CobaltBlue
Ok,

1. The vast majority of speeders are not racing an injured child to the hospital

2. The vast majority of people outside of a doctors office with a needles in their arms are not diabetic.

3. The vast majority of pregnant graduating seniors are not valedictorians, married to the father of the child, who has the means to support them both and himself.
33 posted on 06/16/2005 7:27:48 AM PDT by darbymcgill
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To: darbymcgill

I'd rather they graduated pregnant than got an abortion.

Yes, the ideal is to wait until after graduation to get married, and to wait for marriage before you have sex. We all know that.

Nevertheless, getting pregnant out of wedlock has always been a lot more common than we'd like. Studies show that as many as one in three first born children born to women in Colonial days were born significantly less than 9 months after marriage.

Back in those days, women didn't go to high school.


34 posted on 06/16/2005 7:38:43 AM PDT by CobaltBlue (Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)
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To: SLB

"I would imagine your mother knew before she married your dad that she would not be allowed to participate in the ceremonies and accepted it."

Not that I support the ACLU necessarily, but why should someone have to choose between being married and pregnant and accepting recognition for academic achievement?


35 posted on 06/16/2005 8:20:39 AM PDT by cubram
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To: tahiti
How many union member, Catholics Protestants voted for Democrats Republicans to be U.S. Senators during the 1950's and 1960's 1990s and 2000s who then confirmed the judges that gave us Roe v. Wade? NCLB, national health care subsidies, etc.

A lot

How many U.S. Jews Protestant evangelicals did the same thing as the Catholics for the reason of getting continued U.S. dollars to Isreal?

A lot

How many black evangelical citizens voted for Democrats as U.S. Senators who then confirmed the judges that gave us Roe v. Wade did their best to destroy federalism in order to get and expand the welfare state? pander to the pro-life movement (well meaning folks mind you) in order to gain votes?

A lot

And you are surprised by the sudden change in the U.S. culture to the culture of death Republicans' understanding of limited government to that of 'as long as we're in control'?

I find your statements offensive. These folks are no different than those that continually, incessantly, and wrongly continue voting blindly as long as a person has the right letter by their name. They are all citizens of their respective states who vote based on what the government can give, supply, or provide for their current need or desire. No different. And the issues I've mentioned done by the Republicans will do as much if not more harm to the ideals of the Framers, federalism, and a continued slide in this nation of states than anything done by the groups you mention

36 posted on 06/16/2005 10:12:49 AM PDT by billbears (Deo Vindice)
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To: billbears
The groups that I mentioned in my previous post, Catholics, Jews, and Blacks, are "religious" people.

Most religions support the sanctity of life.

These groups voted for Marxist, socialist, Democrats during the decades I stated, 1950's and 1960's. The evidence is that the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate for 40 years.

As most people know, Marx and Engels were athiests, relative moralist.

The Marxist, socialist, Democrats, beginning in the late 1930's, began their quest to ingrain an anti-moral culture in the U.S. with the unconstitutional enactment of laws supporting Marxist unionism, confiscation of private property, and Social Security.

So, why did supposedly "religious" people, who profess to believe in God, vote continiously for people who admired, professed, and advocated the ideas of admitted non-relgious, athiests and then act surprised when the result is a culture of death?

That is my point.

37 posted on 06/16/2005 10:31:09 AM PDT by tahiti
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To: tahiti
So, why did supposedly "religious" people, who profess to believe in God, vote continiously for people who admired, professed, and advocated the ideas of admitted non-relgious, athiests and then act surprised when the result is a culture of death?

Ah, but you picked out Catholics, Jews, and Blacks. There were plenty of religious people that voted for Democrats that did not belong to any of those groups. The South used to be a Democratic stronghold, for reasons we'll not get into here, and that was played upon by Democrats looking to reach national offices. Shall we blame the South as well? Hell, it's done enough already, why not?

The Marxist, socialist, Democrats, beginning in the late 1930's, began their quest to ingrain an anti-moral culture in the U.S. with the unconstitutional enactment of laws supporting Marxist unionism, confiscation of private property, and Social Security.

And yet I see confiscation of private property and Social Security being touted as good things for 'society' daily by local Republicans (on property) and national Republicans (on SS). Shall we now blame white Protestant 'faithful' for societal ills that vote for Republicans based solely that they say the right things? Being a white Protestant myself that has seen the light on party line voting, I'm for it. About time somebody wakes the sheep up before you people sell the rest of my life and my land down the river just because you have to vote for the right damn letter

So, why did supposedly "religious" people, who profess to believe in God, vote continiously for people who admired, professed, and advocated the ideas of admitted non-relgious, athiests and then act surprised when the result is a culture of death?

You know what? I don't know and I really don't care. Instead of Republicans trying to fix everything at the national level, perhaps they should return to conservatism's roots (Republicans don't have conservative roots, as they were the original party of big government) and remember what the Framers had in mind for the national government and its limitations. You would be suprised over time of how your 'culture of death' would right itself

38 posted on 06/16/2005 10:44:49 AM PDT by billbears (Deo Vindice)
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