In his farewell address (a letter, actually) George Washington spoke of many things, most of them relevant to problems and challenges facing the new nation. Towards the end of his letter, however, he reminded his readers of some basic principles which have been pushed aside in our modern age in the rush towards “relevance” and “liberal whateverism.”
Washington knew better and if he were alive today he would have none of it. What he said then is worth remembering now:
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.
The longer I live the more I appreciate his remarkable understanding of the necessity of braiding together the notions of freedom and morality through religious principle as being indispensable in a free society.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President.