Washington, D.C.: The United States of America continues to inspire awe as a marvelous, virtually unique political construction, but the recent US Supreme Court ruling on same-sex “marriage” and the latest research studies showing a marked decline in belief in God, particularly among young Americans, provoke certain questions about the future of this great nation and others which try to imitate it, wisely or unwisely, as a role model.
Built under a “sacred canopy,” as some of its more perceptive writers put it, America’s roots extend all the way down to the rock of Abraham and the richest Biblical tradition; its coinage proudly proclaims its view of the world in unabashedly religious terms: “In God We Trust.” At the very outset, its founding was hailed as “nothing less than a miracle” by men of outstanding values and capabilities in search of the unfettered freedom to worship God according to their conscience.
George Washington uses these very words in his letter to Marquis de Lafayette on Feb. 7, 1788: “It appears to me then little short of a miracle that the delegates from so many different states (which states you know are also different from each other, in their manners, circumstances, and prejudices) should unite in forming a system of national government.”
James Madison, writing to Thomas Jefferson in France on Dec. 9, 1787, says: “ It is impossible to consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle.”
For his part, the British statesman William Pitt saw the American Constitution as destined to be “the wonder and admiration of all future generations, and the model of all future constitutions.”
British Prime Minister William Gladstone called it “the greatest piece of work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”
And Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, said: “I think and believe that it is one of the most perfect organizations that ever governed a free people.”
From the very beginning, America prospered in peace and in war; it became an empire after two world wars. Thereafter it engaged the Soviet Union and the entire communist bloc in a nasty Cold War for 45 years; after the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended in 1991, it became the world’s lone superpower, unchallenged militarily by any old or emerging power. And so it remains until now.
Empires are meant to last for thousands of years. Yet after less than a quarter of a thousand years, without any external rival to threaten its superiority or dominance, America appears to be racing toward its own destruction. The danger does not proceed from the inevitability or imminence of an unsurvivable war that could reduce the edifices and structures of modern civilization into rubble.
The more imminent danger proceeds from the inner contradictions which could render human civilization, as we know it, unsustainable. This was what happened to Rome. The society could implode from these contradictions which now involve the integrity of the human person and the fundamental distinction instituted by Nature and Nature’s God, from the dawn of time, between male and female. Transforming sodomy, which caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, from sin into an inviolable constitutional sexual right may not compel God to abandon his own precepts and choose to be politically correct and celebrate rather than condemn this sin.
But this is about the biggest change in America since it became an empire. And it is change that undoes in one blow the foundations of this great nation. It has changed the very idea of America which the French jurist and writer Alexis de Tocqueville celebrates in his classic “Democracy in America,” after observing life in the United States in the 1830s. In that work, De Tocqueville wrote:
“On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention, and the longer I stayed here, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from the new state of things…
“Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions…I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion—for who can search the human heart?—-but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.”
On the subject of marriage, which is the exclusive and permanent union of one man and one woman for life, the French jurist and author wrote:
“There is certainly no country in the world where the tie of marriage is more respected than in America where conjugal happiness is more highly or worthily appreciated. In Europe almost all the disturbances of society arise from the irregularities of domestic life…”
The Founding Fathers shared the same views on marriage. Benjamin Franklin said “it is the man and the woman united that make the complete human being…”
After the French revolution of 1848, De Tocqueville urged his countrymen to look to America for guidance in their task of rebuilding their own republic. ”Where could we find greater causes of hope, or more instructive lessons? Let us look to America,” he said, “not in order to make a servile copy of the institutions that she has established, but to gain a clearer view of the polity that will be best for us…The laws of the French republic may be, and ought to be in many cases, different from those which govern the United States; but the principles on which the American institutions rest, those principles of order, of the balance of powers, of true liberty, of deep and sincere respect for right, are indispensable to all republics.”
Were a 21st century De Tocqueville to visit America today, would he find the same country that he saw in the 1830s?
Most likely not. He would probably find a gross caricature, if not the stark opposite of it. For the foundational character of the nation has changed. The integrity of the human person, and the identity of man and woman are being altered by a ruling that claims to have the power and authority of law.
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court granted women the right to destroy the fetus inside their wombs, in the name of privacy. In Obergefell v. Hodges, five Supreme Court justices ruled that “excluding same-sex couples from marriage conflicts with a central promise of the right to marry,” thereby seeking to modify the divinely ordained institution of marriage from being the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman for life, into the union of two persons of the same sex. This is anathema.
Insofar as the law is concerned, no adult who has all the necessary faculties as a person is denied the right to marry. But from the beginning of time, marriage as instituted by divine law has meant the permanent union of one man and one woman, for the primary purpose of begetting and educating children. A man must marry a woman and a woman must marry a man in order to enter into marriage. But even the loving union of one man and one woman, which from the very beginning has no prospect of bearing children, may not be celebrated as a valid marriage.
In Obergefell, the majority opinion penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy declares: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
So by a paper-thin majority of one vote, the Supreme Court reversed all the laws in all the American states banning same-sex ‘marriage.’ Many of these laws were not enacted by the state legislatures, but directly by the people themselves. They are not subject to review by the Court. So a fundamental error was committed. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written, there are things which are always right, things that precede the majority and which the majority must respect. What is absolutely shocking here is not that five American justices could blithely ignore this principle and redefine something ordained by divine law, but that majority of the freedom-loving and God-fearing American people could remain unaffected by it.
Not even the churches have called for civil disobedience in the face of this moral assault. Many, like Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, are confident that Obergefell would eventually be thrown out just as the awful 1857 Dred Scott decision was eventually thrown out. But that required a Civil War and Lincoln’s courage to end slavery in the US. What happens in the interim when the next Obergefell tells the Court that he wants to marry his widowed mother, his older sister, or even his own daughter, and some rich dowager tells the same Court she wants to marry her little mynah bird?
Meanwhile, Pew Research Center has revealed that out of 35,071 American adults interviewed by telephone from June 4 to September 30, 2014, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 0.6 percentage points, only 89 percent say they believe in God, but only 63 percent say they are “absolutely certain” that God exists. A growing minority called the “nones” say they do not belong to any organized faith, and only 61 percent of this group say they believe in God. What can God-fearing Americans do to arrest and reverse the downward spiral, and what can we, Filipinos, do to prevent the moral decline of the West from being exported, duty-free, to the Philippines?