the personal musings and art of Randal Birkey
The November issue of Imprimis, the monthly newsletter of Hillsdale College, features an article adapted from a speech delivered by Dinesh D’Souza. Dinesh is a conservative author, thinker and speaker who worked as a policy analyst in the Reagan White House. His articles currently appear in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, Vanity Fair, The New Republic and National Review to name a few.
His speech draws heavily from the research he did for his latest book called: What’s So Great About Christianity.
Dinesh uses the example of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to connect the dots between what American’s believe about “self-evident” freedoms, and the roots of that idea in Christianity. He further strengthens that connection through writings of Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and others.
In contrast to the earlier Greek and Roman democracies, Christianity contributed a much higher view of human life, worth and dignity that radically affected slaves, women and children, and in more recent years, African-Americans for the good.
When it comes to our own history as a country, the First Great Awakening set the religious and spiritual groundwork for our nations Independence. Historian Paul Johnson writes that the War for Independence was,
“inconceivable… without this religious background.”
Likewise, John Adams wrote,
“What do we mean by the American Revolution? The war? That was no part of the Revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people… a change in their religious sentiments.”
Dinesh points out that Christianity played a vital role in establishing a new concept of freedom based upon it’s assertion that humans are created in God’s image and are moral agents, with the ability/responsibility to be the architects of their own lives.
In conclusion Dinesh issues a warning. It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said that the ideas that formed Western civilization were based on Christianity. He warned us that if we remove Christianity, the ideals will fall also. Nietzche warned that with a decline in Christianity, new and opposing ideas would arise. We see this happening today with the redefinition of family, marriage, the revival of eugenics, and even arguments for infanticide. These are all signs of the gradual extinction of the foundational principles that uphold human dignity.
If we cherish the distinctive principles of Western civilization – no matter what our own personal religious views – we would do well to respect, rather than denigrate our Christian roots.