Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has written for the Register for more than 20 years and was its executive editor for 10. His writing has appeared in First Things’ First Thoughts, National Review Online, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside Catholic and Columbia. He has served as press secretary for the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. He and his wife, April, were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine for 5 years. They have nine children.
Today is President’s Day, when we celebrate George Washington (and Abraham Lincoln and, now, the rest, too, I suppose) for giving us freedom.
That means we celebrate religion in America, too, today, because Washington saw religion as absolutely necessary to freedom.
A few readers of this blog have been hotly debating homosexual marriage in the com-boxes.
They have seen for themselves how quickly freedom breaks down if religion and morality don’t support it.
Think of it this way: Who gets more freedom, a group of nuns suddenly congregating on a city block, or a group of juvenile delinquents congregating on the block? The cops will keep close tabs on the juvies: The nuns will be left alone.
We leave alone those people who have proven that they can govern themselves.
Pope Benedict XVI made this point in his remarks at the White House in 2008:
“From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator,” he said.
“Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility,” he continued. “The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good.”
He quoted two white-haired champions of freedom to make his point.
First, his predecessor : “Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that ‘in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation”, and a democracy without values can lose its very soul.’”
Second, George Washington: “ Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent ‘indispensable supports’ of political prosperity.”
In the com-boxes, we had a little debate about how we could come up with a definition of marriage that protects who it needs to protect and promotes what society needs it to promote.
We found that homosexuals wanting to promote marriage end up divesting marriage of its meaning — and leaving the concept wide open to people who would take advantage, such as polygamists.
Freedom has to be accompanied by a healthy system generating morals — a healthy religious sector — or it won’t function properly.
The more of us who refuse to govern ourselves, the more government by others we will need.