I’m continually humbled by the special privilege of speaking before Americans all around the country. But there has been something special about this week. It has truly been a personal blessing upon me to speak at the venues to which I was invited.
I had heard so much about Liberty University, situated amongst the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. I spoke there Tuesday evening and was immediately impressed with the character of the students — their comportment and radiant discipline. I got a chance to meet the Army ROTC Color Guard and shaking their hands and looking into their eyes just gave me an assurance that the next generation of guardians stand ready.
While at Liberty I spoke about “being a champion for Christ and country” – as Liberty’s motto is “Training Champions for Christ.” I told the students that in order to be a champion for Christ and country they must have competence, courage, boldness, perseverance, conviction, assurance, and confidence. That same evening the campus Christmas tree was lit and there was a large crowd despite the chilly temps. I’ve been on other college campuses, but there was just something unique about the students at Liberty University — and I know exactly what it is – a commitment to our Judeo-Christian faith.
On Wednesday, I took a scenic morning drive across Virginia from the Blue Ridge and Lynchburg to Hampton Roads in order to speak at the Leadership Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning at the Chesapeake Convention Center.
The theme of my presentation was “Blessed is the Nation,” Psalm 33:12. Some 500 leaders of the local community of five cities which make up this historical area — elected and ecumenical – were gathered together. And what brought them together for this special morning? The topic of prayer, which is an integral fabric in the tapestry that makes our America.
So it was no coincidence that as I was perusing the headlines to stay on top of the news, I came across an article featuring the words of the greatest modern day Christian minister of our times, Rev. Billy Graham.As written by CNS News, “World renowned evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, the founder and chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said that our children are growing up in a “lawless and wicked age,” infused with the “philosophy of the Devil, who says, ‘Do as you please.’”
I thought about those words, considering the arguments we are having in America to legalize drugs. Why don’t we wholeheartedly advocate for stronger character and discipline for our society, especially our young people?Now of course there are those who will say shut up West, you cannot legislate morality — then why do we have laws against murder, theft, assault, rape, and other crimes of right and wrong? I had this discussion with the students at Liberty University and the key point is that bountiful, unlimited freedoms and liberties for the populace require a higher degree of individual responsibility and accountability.
The problem in American society is that people want the freedom to do whatever they wish, but not accept the requisite consequences and responsibility that accompanies their actions. They want freedom of action but freedom from responsibility.
Rev. Graham believes rearing children in this culture is difficult because “we have taken God out of our educational systems and thought we could get away with it,” said Rev. Graham. “We have sown the wind, and we are now reaping the whirlwind. We have laughed at God, religion and the Bible. Many Christian parents are becoming fearful that they cannot properly train their children in this lawless and wicked age,” and are asking, “What can I do with my son? My daughter? Behaviorism has been the moral philosophy of much of our education in the past few years.”
Angela and I represent less than 30 percent in the black community today — mommy and daddy in the home of their children. And I can tell you that raising two daughters in this age is difficult, not because we struggle as parents, but rather because we struggle against a culture that seeks to defeat the principles and discipline we instill and inculcate into our daughters.
Yes, we have raised our girls in a Christian home — meaning with principles and values — and we do have some great conversations about abortion, gay marriage, and other social topics. We want them to make intellectual challenges — never just be unquestioning, but be able to debate and articulate their beliefs — never surrendering their values to cultural pressures.
But it is a constant battle, as Rev. Graham asserts, “Many of our educational leaders sneer at the old-fashioned idea of God and a moral code. Movies feature sex, sin, crime and alcohol. Teenagers see these things portrayed alluringly on the screen and decide to go and try them. Newspapers have played up crime and sex until they seem glamorous to our young people.”
“Parents must spend time with their children, set a good example for them, discipline them, and teach them to “know God,” said the pastor, who has five children and 19 grandchildren. The best way to influence your children, he added, is to set a good example because the majority of children acquire the characteristics and habits of their parents.”
We live in a culture that attacks fundamental Christian beliefs. When a group like the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation can pressure adults to remove privately donated monuments featuring biblical scripture or force an adult football coach to stop participating in post-game prayer with his players, we are devolving into a culture that refuses to model good behavior and be positive examples for our future generations. That doesn’t mean those who are not Christian cannot be positive examples — but my question is, why is there such an assault against Christian examples?
And America’s Pastor says this, “As for teaching your children to know God, Rev. Graham said, “Very seldom do parents have trouble with children when the Bible is read regularly in the home, grace is said at the table and family prayers take place daily. Most trouble with teenagers comes from children reared in homes where prayer is neglected, the Bible is never opened and church attendance is spasmodic. Christ gives the moral stability, understanding, wisdom and patience needed to rear children.”
That’s what we used to call “old school.”
There was something unique about the students at Liberty University — sure, there are similar examples on other campuses — but not an entire campus. We should seek to replicate that elsewhere — not condemn it, but foster it and not cast it aside. The family is the foundation of a strong society and community.
When the family breaks down, many other societal indicators follow — I would challenge anyone to do an analysis of the black community as validation of that premise. And what was the foundation in the black community — the soul of our souls? Church, faith, and prayer.
I’m always amazed how folks will stare at our family when we are out at a restaurant and hold hands and pray before eating — we just don’t do it in private. That is the legacy of the example bestowed upon me by Buck and Snooks West — my parents. I ain’t perfect but I certainly know from whence my blessings flow — and this has been a week of true blessings to reflect upon: that essential ingredient in the American genetic code — the faith in a God, a Creator from whom our unalienable rights emanate — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Nothing can replace that bond, and the sooner we stop trying to deny Him — the better our nation, our children and our future will be.