From the Pulpit: Change for America starts at home

July 5, 2014 

Not very long ago, America was in a precarious position.

The country was in so much debt, most of its leaders readily admitted it was unlikely the debt would ever be paid.

Our never-ending military engagements had stretched the country far too thin for far too long. Worst of all, thousands of good men had died or been injured. A significant portion of the country adamantly -- and loudly -- opposed the war altogether.

Preachers proclaimed that morality was at an all-time low, and they were right. Sexually transmitted diseases, violence and alcoholism were rampant.

In the meantime, elected leaders struggled mightily for consensus. Opposing opinions of what to do about an endless stream of challenges led to gridlock in Congress. The only thing Congress could agree upon? They increased taxes on a population that already felt over-taxed!

At first glance, it was a terrible time to be an American.

Except, of course, it was a great time to be an American.

These were the heady days of the American Revolution, when Paul Revere sounded the alarm and George Washington crossed the Delaware River. These were the times that helped create men such as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The great -- and fierce -- debates of the Continental Congress and our first elected leaders gave us the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and the foundation we needed to become the most prosperous and powerful nation in history.

From the very beginning and throughout the past 238 years, whenever America stood at a critical point in its history, ordinary men and women responded in extraordinary ways to whatever challenge confronted us. Thousands have provided remarkable leadership. Millions have provided heroic and sacrificial service. Millions more have given their lives for all that this country represents.

We are not the first generation to face hardship. Indeed, every other generation of Americans would consider us the most privileged people to ever live in these United States. Somehow, in the midst of great affluence, we’ve managed to sink deeply into national debt and lose our moral compass.

Still, there is hope for America.

We are still a country capable of producing everyday heroes out of people like you and me. Are you up for the task?

Our national debt is out of control. Want to do something about it? Make sure your own financial picture is a model of responsibility. If Washington won’t lead by example, then we will. Don’t complain about out-of-control-spending if you’re not willing to rein in your own expenses. Patriots lead by example, and if enough of us take care of our personal debts, that spirit of personal responsibility will finally take root in our state and national capitals.

Amazingly, America is confused about the definition of marriage. Let’s take an honest look in the mirror. Every divorce, every case of spouse abuse, every “affair,” every father refusing to take responsibility for his children, and every couple living together without being married have helped “redefine” marriage for decades.

If you want to defend the one-man, one-woman, married-for-life commitment, then model it. If enough of us who are married will model a joy-filled commitment to their spouses, perhaps people will see why traditional marriage has been the bedrock of civilization for so long. This might not seem to be a dramatic way to lead your country, but never has your country needed your healthy marriage more than it needs it today.

We need to re-introduce marriage to our poorest communities. Policies designed to assist those in poverty inadvertently penalized those receiving financial aid if they got married. Not surprisingly, fatherless households dramatically increased in the past 50 years. Today, 39 percent of children in Georgia are living in single-parent homes. In low-income families, 54 percent are in single-parent homes. In the black community, the number soars to 74 percent.

It seems an overly simplistic solution, but if our welfare policies have helped create a disintegration of two-parent families, we need to change those policies!

We’re long overdue for a strengthening of the family. We need men and women to take full responsibility for any child they bring into the world. There is no better environment for a child than a two-parent home where both mom and dad are married to one another in a commitment of lifetime love. If a new generation made this one area a priority, an incredible, positive change would sweep across our country.

Could it happen? On most days, it seems unlikely.

Then again, how likely was it that a small group of settlers could ever create a new country, with a new government, just a few generations ago? If there was hope for America then, there is certainly hope for America today.

But it’s our turn to lead the revolution.

Andy Cook is the pastor of Shirley Hills Baptist Church in Warner Robins.

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