“Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?” (Geo. Washington, Farewell Address).
The first president obviously considered those words relevant as he stepped into welcome retirement after nearly half a century of devoted service to the new social experiment. I’m sure all of us would agree they are, if anything, even more relevant today. Sad to say, it seems clear Washington would not be pleased at the many attempts by leaders and other people (with good intentions of course) to banish religion from public life altogether.
It is interesting to contrast the role which Washington (and all the Founding Fathers) accorded to religion with the role Karl Marx accorded it. Marx by contrast regarded it as the “opiate of the people”, something which had to be gotten rid of if society was to prosper. Disturbingly it is the Marxist idea, not that of the Founding Fathers that pervades so many of our institutions, and worse, our government today.
we have the grace of knowing the value of allegiance to God. If we can’t impress upon our fellow citizens the importance of obeying God’s laws and of heeding Washington’s salutary advice, then who can? In doing so we will be fulfilling important obligations both as Christians and as citizens.