As we observe a challenging world and a changing culture around us, I reflected this week on something I read years ago. It was a speech entitled “God is the Gardner” by Hugh B. Brown and it changed my life forever. In it he quoted Reverend Earl L. Riley of the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City.
“Pericles founded his civilization upon common culture, and it failed. Caesar founded his civilization upon law, and it failed. Alexander founded his civilization upon power, and it also failed. But our forefathers knew that any other basis than religion and education, the two greatest forces in the world, would be inadequate as a basis upon which to build a civilization. And if it were built upon anything less than real religion and good education, we would have only an artificial structure.
Twenty-three of the first twenty-four universities built in America were built by religious organizations. Out of 119 educational institutions east of the Mississippi, 103 of them were built by religious organizations. For the first 150 years in America, churches provided all the institutions of higher learning. From these halls came leaders of thought and champions of liberty who made our republic possible.
Jefferson was an alumnus of William and Mary, and James Madison of Princeton. Alexander Hamilton was an alumnus of what is now Columbia University. It is interesting to note that all but eight of the fifty-five who signed the Declaration of Independence, and most of those who wrote the Constitution, breathed the atmosphere of church-supported institutions of learning.
Thomas Jefferson declared that people cannot be ignorant and free. The founding of the University of Virginia was the crowning achievement of his life.
Benjamin Franklin rejoiced that he was the founder of the University of Pennsylvania. George Washington left a $50,000 bequest, and Washington and Lee University was the recipient of that legacy.
The early leaders of church and state in America were the products of schools begun by orthodox Christianity. Sixteen of the first eighteen presidents were college graduates from church-related institutions of higher learning. Seven of the first chief justices of the Supreme Court were college graduates of church-related schools.” Brown, H. B. (2022, May 16). God is the Gardener. BYU Speeches.
What is it that has the power to heal our hearts, homes, and culture? Where do we find such “real religion and good education?”
Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language describes the two this way:
EDUCA’TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.
Note the key words in this passage: series of instruction, discipline, enlighten understanding, correct the temper, form the manners and habits of youth, fit them for usefulness in their future, arts and science. Aristotle taught that “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” He went further as to say, “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.”
RELIGION, n. relij’on. [L. religio, from religo, to bind anew; re and ligo, to bind.] This word seems originally to have signified an oath or vow to the gods, or the obligation of such an oath or vow, which was held very sacred by the Romans.
Note the words to bind anew which come from the Latin religo which comes from our English term “ligature” or to sew, if you will, and bind back to God.
Consider this definition found in James 1:27 from the King James Bible: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
What vows have you made to God? To your neighbor?
What will you found your life, marriage, or family on? Will you succeed as well as you might without the two pillars of real education and real religion?
There is a term I have learned to love over the years. It is servant leader.
Outcome: A Servant Leader
Robert K. Greenleaf said, “The great leader is seen as servant first.” A servant leader is a servant first, driven by an inner compass of virtues or core values, with a natural desire to serve and empower others. This is not about being subservient but about sincerely wanting to help others by identifying and meeting needs.
A servant leader has the gift of persuasion through moral authority (the principled use of natural virtues unique to them for the benefit of others) and also positional authority. Titles, credentials and degrees give only the opportunity to lead but it is the actions on behalf of others that can command, inspire moral behavior, and motivate change in others. A servant leader has submitted himself to his or her higher nature and asks, “What is wanted of me?”
A servant leader has vision. He or she has knowledge of the past, recognizes what is needed to improve one’s life, family, community and world, and acts to bring about a better future for others.
Obeys True Principles
A servant leader applies true principles such as public and private virtue, natural law, liberty, life, personal responsibility, and more.
A servant leader has the ability to build coalitions and inspire others to follow as first among equals. They see where things are in their condition, as well as where they should be, and then they insert themselves to voluntarily move self and others toward the ideal. They model what they teach. They become leaders because of their examples and influence.
A servant leader understands that life is not just a quest for pleasure or power but of meaning. Meaning and happiness are found when one is dedicated to a cause greater than oneself. The servant nature is not bestowed and cannot be taken away; it is is deep inside oneself. Once this is recognized the servant chooses to lead intentionally. Servant leadership is about becoming.
The Difficult Truth
If we do not begin to educate ourselves and inspire our children with intent, we will continue to relinquish the privilege of self-government by putting ourselves at the mercy of a few “experts” until the disappearing democratic ideals upon which our nation was founded are completely lost and our American civilization is relegated with, and to, those that have fallen.