Editor's note: This post was originally published on Aug. 10, 2011, by the Washington Post.
Frank Bruni worried in the New York Times that prayer might get in the way of economic recovery.
We can only hope that he is right and that the prayers of the people of Texas and the rest of the nation make sure that the economy of the last two decades does not return.
It was an economy where government of both parties spent more than we could afford.
It was an economy where the strong pretended they had no duty to the weak. Business leaders celebrated the immorality of selfishness, reading their Rand, while political leaders imagined that their own reelection justified turning a blind eye to broken laws, abused trust and squandered national status.
An economy where short-term profits dominated long-term good or the decent treatment of workers must not return.
Christians pray that the poor see through the lies of a culture that promises to sell them happiness by the quart, smoke or condom. The streets of Compton and west Texas are full of the wreckage left by those who mocked old moral truths and made money on the misery of others.
A free society makes it legal to say what we wish, to market as we wish, but to teach a generation of children that fame and fortune were the greatest goods was not right. We abused our liberty and now we are paying the price.
None of us are guiltless; even the church too often forgot humility, moderation and simplicity.
We mocked the moral, the church ladies, and now are shocked when we find barbarians within the gate. Ancient barbarians looted churches and stole art, but our self-made modern barbarians are less educated and so loot mobile stores and markets for phones and stylish shoes.
Television rogram after program mocks teachers, parents and pastors to sell product to young adults, because it works in the short term, but now we are shocked to discover that millions of these young adults do not work. The looters in London are not so different than the looters of finance with different tastes and without the power of government to protect them. They have not been taught to work hard to learn useful skills, but how to mooch and loot.
Useless moochers with empty degrees hiding behind human resource manuals to avoid doing any productive work are not much better.
Christians pray that the looters on Wall Street and Main Street will stop lying and stealing to enrich themselves and their cronies. We pray that justice tempered with mercy comes to those who during the last decade deceived Americans and used their lies to enrich themselves.
Christians know that the nation that sends a man to jail for stealing bread -- but will not send a man to jail for stealing billions from mortgage fraud -- is unjust. We pray that justice roll down like a mighty river on this nation, starting with our leaders.
Christians pray the looters in Washington will stop enriching their friends and allies by taxing Americans. They hire educators who do not educate students, social workers who do not work with the poor, commerce regulators who have never worked in commercial enterprise, and a swollen military-industrial complex with too few warriors and too many wastrels.
We still believe in liberty and know that the morality we need cannot be the product of government regulation. The prayers of the people of Texas were for individuals in America to voluntarily turn their hearts to God and their personal behavior to the good.
Liberty without personal morality cannot endure. Morality without liberty is corrupted.
The Christians of America pray for personal reform and justice in government. We refuse the temptation of using government power to seek false “equality,” but we also refuse to be silent at the evils done through an abuse of liberty.
We will not use government power to stop the decay of our cultural institutions from religion to marriage, but we will not condone it either. We can allow Hollywood to mock our values, but don’t have to thank them for it. Our business leaders may have the ability to pave over beautiful meadows they own, but we don’t have to celebrate their baseness.
In short, many of us pray because we know our own power would be just as dangerous as those we oppose. We pray because only an internal renewal can save us. We need good men and women and know we cannot produce those, because we are part of the problem.
We pray because we know that we face the hard task of rebuilding our culture starting with ourselves. Our spending, our hedonism, our own tyrannical demands for personal peace and affluence over the common good helped create the problem. Too often we demanded programs that put a burden on our children and grandchildren and ignored the cost.
We will not be silent in the public square our parents and grandparents helped created, but we also refuse to destroy the liberty that made it great in order to save it.
Many Americans pray that they will choose to honor honesty, hard work and private property. We pray that we will use our private property to increase the common good and in the service of others. We pray that we will love even our enemies and have mercy as we wish to find mercy from God.
We pray for justice and a recovery not of the economy that is now failing us, but the economy of decency: Free people in free markets freely choosing virtue.
John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute and professor of philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Rochester. Reynolds can be found blogging regularly at Scriptorium Daily.
Publication date: November 25, 2011