This Administration is motivated by a political philosophy that sees the greatness of America in you, her people, and in your families, churches, neighborhoods, communities – the institutions that foster and nourish values like concern for others and respect for the rule of law under God.
Now I don’t have to tell you that this puts us in opposition to, or at least out of step with, a prevailing attitude of many who have turned to a modern-day secularism, discarding the tried and time tested values upon which our very civilization is based.
No matter how well-intentioned, their value system is radically different from that of most Americans. And, while they proclaim they are freeing us from superstitions of the past, they have taken upon themselves the job of superintending us by government rule and regulation. Sometimes their voices are louder than ours, but they are not yet a majority.
When our Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, they sought to protect churches from government interference. They never meant to construct a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief itself.
The evidence of this permeates our history and our government: The Declaration of Independence mentions the Supreme Being no less than four times; ”In God We Trust” is engraved on our coinage; the Supreme Court opens its proceedings with a religious invocation; and the members of Congress open their sessions with a prayer.
Now, obviously, much of this new political and social consensus I have talked about is based on a positive view of American history, one that takes pride in our country’s accomplishments and record. But we must never forget that no government schemes are going to perfect man; we know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin.
There is sin and evil in the world, and we are enjoined by Scripture and our Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might. Our nation, too, has a legacy of evil with which it must deal. The glory of this land has been its capacity for transcending the moral evils of our past.
For example, the long struggle of minority citizens for equal rights, once a source of disunity and civil war, is now a point of pride for all Americans. We must never go back.
There is no room for racism, anti-Semitism or other forms of ethnic and racial hatred in this country. I know you have been horrified, as have I, by the resurgence of some hate groups preaching bigotry and prejudice. Use the mighty voice of your pulpits and the powerful standing of your churches to denounce and isolate these hate groups in our midst. The commandment given us is clear and simple – ”Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
But whatever sad episodes exist in our past, any objective observer must hold a positive view of American history, a history that has been the story of hopes fulfilled and dreams made into reality. Especially in this century, America has kept alight the torch of freedom – not just for ourselves but for millions of others around the world. And this brings me to my final point today.
During my first press conference as President, in answer to a direct question, I pointed out that as good Marxists-Leninists the Soviet leaders have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is that which will further their cause, which is world revolution.
I think I should point out I was only quoting Lenin, their guiding spirit, who said in 1920 that they repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas or ideas that are outside class conceptions; morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war; and everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.
I think the refusal of many influential people to accept this elementary fact of Soviet doctrine illustrates an historical reluctance to see totalitarian powers for what they are. We saw this phenomenon in the 1930’s; we see it too often today. This does not mean we should isolate ourselves and refuse to seek an understanding with them.
I intend to do everything I can to persuade them of our peaceful intent; to remind them that it was the West that refused to use its nuclear monopoly in the 40’s and 50’s for territorial gain and which now proposes 50 percent cuts in strategic ballistic missiles and the elimination of an entire class of land-based, intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
At the same time, however, they must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards. We will never give away our freedom. We will never abandon our belief in God.
A number of years ago, I heard a young father addressing a tremendous gathering in California. It was during the time of the Cold War when Communism and our own way of life were very much on people’s minds. He was speaking to that subject. Suddenly, I heard him saying, ”I love my little girls more than anything in the world, but I would rather see them,” and I thought – oh, no, not that. But I had underestimated him. He went on: ”I would rather see them die now, still believing in God, than have them grow up under Communism and one day die no longer believing in God.”
There were thousands of young people in that audience. They came to their feet with shouts of joy. They recognized the profound truth in what he had said. Let us pray for the salvation of all those who live in that totalitarian darkness – pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. Evil in the Modern World
But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples of the earth – they are the focus of evil in the modern world.
It was C.S. Lewis who, in his unforgettable ”Screwtape Letters,” wrote: ”The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.”
Because these ”quiet men” do not ”raise their voices,” because they sometimes speak in soothing tones of brotherhood and peace, because, like other dictators before them, they are always making ”their final territorial demand,” some would have us accept them at their word and accommodate ourselves to their aggressive impulses.
But, if history teaches anything, it teaches: Simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly – it means the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom.
So I urge you to speak out against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiority. You know, I have always believed that old Screwtape reserves his best efforts for those of you in the church.
So in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride – the temptation blithely to declare yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil.
I ask you to resist the attempts of those who would have you withhold your support for this Administration’s efforts to keep America strong and free, while we negotiate real and verifiable reductions in the world’s nuclear arsenals and one day, with God’s help, their total elimination.
While America’s military strength is important, let me add here that I have always maintained that the struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might.
The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith. Whittaker Chambers, the man whose own religious conversion made him a ”witness” to one of the terrible traumas of our age, the Hiss-Chambers case, wrote that the crisis of the Western world exists to the degree in which the West is indifferent to God, the degree to which it collaborates in Communism’s attempt to make man stand alone without God.
For Marxism-Leninism is actually the second oldest faith, he said, first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden with the words of temptation: ”Ye shall be as gods.” The Western world can answer this challenge, he wrote, ”but only provided that its faith in God and the freedom He enjoins is as great as Communism’s faith in man.”
I believe we shall rise to this challenge; I believe that Communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written. I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material but spiritual, and, because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man.
For, in the words of Isaiah: ”He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increased strength. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary.”
Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1983