"Mr. Begin," one gentleman said, "I'm a sympathizer. I care about you and your party. I hope you win. But why are you always so negative? I >do a lot of public relations work in Washington, and I can tell you, people don't like negative. Can't you please put your program in more positive terms?"
Benny Begin, who had all of his famous father's charisma and Old World dignity, hesitated as he carefully considered his answer. Then, looking directly at his supporter through thick glasses, he said: "I appreciate your thoughtful question. I will see what I can do. I will consult with my colleagues about coming across too negative. But you will grant us this: In Israel, there are certain precedents for thou shalt not!"
In America, too, there are certain precedents. For 200 years, Americans, like the people of Israel, derived their moral judgments from the ideals embodied in the Ten Commandments. Not every American, to be sure, believed that God gave us the commandments. But few people would openly question that the Decalogue, as it is sometimes known in academic circles, formed the basis for our public life together.
George Washington knew the importance of God's law in the maintenance of civil peace. In his famous Farewell Address, he urged Americans not to listen to those who would strip away the foundations of our national life: "Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
Those who would strip the Ten Commandments from our national life are doing exactly what Washington warned against. As he put it, "Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in the Courts of Justice?"
We have learned to our sorrow in recent years what happens in a country that forgets that oaths are vitally important and that perjury subverts our entire system of justice. Yes, we can always threaten people with prosecution for perjury. And we can put people in prison if we catch them committing perjury. But isn't it better if a person will simply tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God?"
Washington was not the only Founding Father who believed that religious principle reinforced reason and interest. Thomas Jefferson saw an intimate connection between respect for God and the survival of liberty itself.
"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure," he asked, "when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that their liberties are a gift of God--that they are not to be violated except with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."
As we face daily examples of horrible crimes--murders, rapes, child molesting--is it really so surprising? For 30 years, there has been a vigorous effort on the part of some to do exactly what Jefferson warned against, to "remove the only firm basis" of God-given liberties from the minds of the people.
Where does this effort begin? In our schools, for one. I don't want to re-fight here all the battles over evolution and intelligent design, or to make the case for voluntary student-initiated prayer. Those issues are separate and can be addressed separately.
Students are being required to read textbooks from which any references to God have been carefully removed. One example, found by New York University psychology professor Paul Vitz, described Pilgrims as "people who go on journeys."
The Pilgrims "gave thanks," but the book blotted out mention of the God to whom they gave their thanks.
Another example Dr. Vitz found, "Zlateh and the Goat," is a story of a young Jewish boy in Poland who is saved from freezing to death. In Nobel Prizewinner Isaac Bashevis Singer's original story, Zlateh thanks God for his survival. In the censored version, Zlateh thanks goodness.
We at Family Research Council think that the Supreme Court has gone too far in attempting to erect a "high wall of separation" between church and state. The founders never intended to put such a wall between the American people and their free exercise of religious expression. We have come to an awful state when every form of vile and vulgar speech is protected and prayer is banned.
We have protested the rulings of the court that banned invocations and benedictions at public school graduations. The Congress opens its day with prayer. So does the Supreme Court itself. The justices even look out on a replica of the Ten Commandments in the Court chamber.
That painting represents the idea that the Ten Commandments form the basis of our laws.
We believe that it is a good and necessary thing for Americans to be able to acknowledge their reliance on God. As Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said:
"We are a religious people and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being The institutions of our society are founded on the belief that there is an authority higher than the authority of the State; that there is a moral law which the State is powerless to alter; that the individual possesses rights, conferred by the Creator, which government must respect."
What is interesting here is that William O. Douglas was certainly no conservative. It was not so long ago that even liberal icons like Justice Douglas were unafraid to acknowledge the religious basis for our liberties.
If there is a "culture war" going on today, it is because post-Modernism is in conflict with its own liberal heritage.
And what happens when we forget that our rights come from God? The history of this bloodstained century shows us most clearly. As the new French publication, "The Black Book of Communism," makes abundantly clear, human lives are swept into the vortex of revolution at an unbelievable rate when human rights are trampled by government.
The editors of this powerfully documented work make the case that Nazism claimed 25 million lives while Communism destroyed nearly 100 million lives. All of this happened because somewhere, someone concluded that the State was God and had the power of life and death over innocent human beings.
That is one of the most important reasons for posting the Ten Commandments in public spaces. It will remind each one of us every day that this is "One Nation Under God."
Americans instinctively know this. That's why they support the idea of posting the Ten Commandments. In every poll, people respond that this is something we should do.
In the last year, Americans have been horrified to see violence spread from our city streets to our public schools. Prayer groups have been sprayed with gunfire. Young Christians, among others, at Columbine High School were targeted for murder.
One of the killers put his worldview this way: "My belief is that if I say something, it goes. I am the law. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame."
There is no better way to remind people that they are not the law, that God gives us the law, than to publicly post the Ten Commandments. A thousand courses in self-esteem cannot compensate for a failure to teach that simple truth. In fact, without acknowledging that God gives us life, liberty and law, it is positively dangerous to teach youngsters like the Columbine killers to esteem only themselves.
In times like these, it is more important than ever to reassert our country's moral code. That is doubtless why over 600,000 copies of Family Research Council's free Ten Commandments book covers have been distributed nationwide.
Many people are familiar with Blaise Pascal's famous wager. This brilliant French philosopher, who deserves to be thought of as the father of the computer revolution, posed us this challenge: If there is a God, and we have worshiped Him, honoring His Word and His Law, we will have a happier life on Earth and we will be rewarded in Heaven. But if there is no God, Pascal said, we will still have a more just and happier life here on Earth if we live this way.
I will offer Parshall's wager. Let's post the Ten Commandments throughout our land. Let's post them in public buildings, like libraries and schools, post offices and courthouses.
Let's post them as well in businesses and union halls, in homes and churches. Let's just see if a greater national awareness of God's Law gentles our nature and improves our lives.