From Watergate to Profligate – And Back to Our Roots

Justice Joseph Story

“Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the PROFLIGATE are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.” – Justice Joseph Story, U.S. Supreme Ct. 1811-1845


1. utterly and shamelessly immoral or dissipated; thoroughly dissolute.

2. recklessly prodigal or extravagant.

Synonyms: abandoned, dissipated, dissolute, fast, gay, licentious, rakish

•Origin: 1525–35; < L prōflīgātus broken down in character, degraded, orig. ptp. of prōflīgāre to shatter, debase, equiv. to prō- pro- + -flīgāre, deriv. of flīgere to strike; see inflict, -ate

It has been said that “Flattery is ok – if you just don’t inhale.” Consider all the State of the Union addresses delivered by presidents of either political party, extolling the virtues of our national character.

What we need is a president to call Americans to repentance.  For what, you ask?  Let me count the ways.

America must recover its spiraling degeneration from Watergate to Profligate.

Ellis Sandoz, professor of Law at the LSU Hebert Law Center, once delivered a lecture at the National Meeting of the Philadelphia Society entitled, “What Is an American?”  In it, he concluded:

The heart of the matter, and its most delicate aspect, is to connect Americanism with the biblical faith of Americans as the chief source of its strength and enduring resilience– and of its frequent arousal of anti-American sentiments from ideologues of every stripe, those self-anointed “elites” at home and abroad who readily  enlighten and denigrate us at every waking moment on every conceivable subject.  Burke identified the basis of the American consensus in the dissenting branch of Protestantism. Publius identified Providence’s gift of “one united people” “speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government”(Federalist No. 2).

Tocqueville (who never lies)  stressed one must never forget that religion gave birth to America, and that American Christianity has kept a strong hold over the minds of the people, not merely as a philosophy examined and accepted, but as “an established and irresistible fact which no one seeks to attack or defend.”   Not to be thought merely old-hat ideas, Samuel Huntington just last year challenged Americans to “recommit themselves to the Anglo-Protestant culture, traditions, and values that… have been the source of their liberty, unity, power, prosperity, and moral leadership as a force for good in the world.”

He forecast that, unlike the 20th which was defined by contending ideologies, the 21st will be a century  marked by the “revenge of God” (prematurely certified dead, in fact murdered, by 19th century luminaries), i.e. by the resurgence of religions, with culture and ethnicity replacing ideology as the central terms of reference.  Anglo-America was a Bible-based culture for 300 years, Trevelyan observed, finding this stupendous religious movement unlike anything in the annals since St. Augustine.

What are the consequences for Americanism?  A great many of which I mention only two here: first,  a theory of human being as created imago Dei, each person imperfect and sinful, yet graced with the defining unique capacity of communion with his Creator as this is experientially apperceived in the New Birth: an inward experience and assurance  of election, a process of salvation that runs from conversion and justification, toward sanctification in imitation of Christ–a spiritual movement of maturation that runs from “ruin to recovery” of the divine image powerfully argued, for instance, in the soteriology of Isaac Watts and John Wesley during the 18th century revival we call the Great Awakening.

Second, there is a pervasive understanding of the course of human events as Providentially guided, even as it is effected by human agents, i.e., by individuals exercising dominion through reason and volition over the creation as citizens no less than as pilgrims living in collaborative faith-grace partnership with God.  In both respects the In-between reality of time and history is consciously reaffirmed, vitally experienced as tensionally structured by the competing pulls of worldly immanent and transcendent divine reality.”

May we all repent of our profligation and return to better sense.

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