The Family and the Nation


The Family and the Nation

May 28th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Proverbs 14:34

5-28-89     10:50 a.m.


This is a Memorial Day weekend.  I have chosen the subject of the family and the nation, our beloved America.  As you heard our minister of education say, these Sundays between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, the pastor is preparing a series of sermons on the home and the family.  And because of this holiday Memorial weekend, it concerns the home and our nation.  

Out of the Scripture, the thirty-third chapter of the Psalms that you read, verse 12 says "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord Jehovah; And the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance" [Psalm 33:12].  And I have another background text, from the Book of Proverbs chapter 14, verse 34, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: But sin is a reproach to any people" [Proverbs 14:34]. 

A few days ago the executive leadership of the YMCA, our neighbor just across the street, asked me to meet with them and they went over with me a tremendous effort they’re going to make in our city of Dallas in behalf of the expansion of the Y.  They had prepared a beautiful brochure that will be used, and you’ll see it in time.  And as I looked at it, the first paragraphs are these:


Dallas has the highest rate of pregnancy of unmarried teens in the nation, more than New York City, more than Los Angeles, more than any other city in our nation.  Over six thousand teenage mothers gave birth here last year alone.  In Dallas, six out of ten of the teenage mothers are on welfare, and one of every four who had a baby last year will have another one this year.  


There are more pressures on the family today than ever before.  Remember when the father went to work and the mother stayed home to care for the children?  That era is over.  Today, only seven percent of our Dallas families could be called a "traditional family."  Over fifty percent of our children come home to an empty house each day.  There is nobody home.


In the first decade of the twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt, the president said, "We cannot, as a nation, get along at all if we haven’t the right kind of home life."  This is as true today at the dawn of the last decade as it has been anywhere in ages past.  


And when I read the statistics of our beloved America, I can hardly believe the things that I read.  We, as a nation, spend three dollars on crime each year for every one dollar we spend on education.  We spend twelve dollars on crime costs as compared to one dollar for all religious purposes.  People spend eight times more hours at the movies than at Sunday school and a hundred times more before television.  A major crime is committed every twenty seconds in America and a murder every few minutes.  There are seventy suicides in our nation every day; five out of ten who start as social drinkers end up drunkards.  There are one hundred ninety state and federal prisons with a population of more than six hundred fifty thousand.  

We Americans spend per year forty billions on gambling, thirty-five billions on crime, twenty billions dollars on alcohol, nine billions dollars on tobacco, and three one-hundredths of that sum for all religious purposes. 

Six hundred teenagers in New England prisons gave the startling facts as to why they were in that condition.  Six out of ten had fathers who were drunkards, and many of their mothers were in the same condition.  Three out of four were permitted by parents to come home any time they pleased, at any hour of the night.  Seven out of ten had homes where no group or family activities were enjoyed.  Only one in twelve persons in America attends church.  Seven out of eight children quit Sunday school and church before they reach fifteen.  

As I read these statistics, I think, "How could it be that our country is drifting into a climate where crime, and violence, and irreligion, and ungodliness, and lawlessness characterize the culture and fabric of our society?"  Then, I think through, "Where does the seed of that disobedience and disloyalty come from?  It comes from the fathers and mothers in the home."  

One teenager in high school wrote a poem entitled, "Don’t Blame the Children."  This is the poem that youngster wrote,


They don’t make the movies. 

They don’t write the books. 

They don’t paint colorful pictures

Of gangsters and crooks. 


They don’t make the liquor. 

They don’t run the bars. 

They don’t make the laws. 

They don’t make the cars. 


They don’t peddle the drugs

That addle the brain. 

That’s done by older folks

Greedy for gain. 


Delinquent teenagers?  

Oh, how we condemn 

The sins of a nation

And blame it on them. 


By the laws of the blameless,

The Lord made it known 

Why look at children

To cast the first stone? 


For more likely,

It’s sad but true 

The title "delinquent"

Fits older folks, too. 

[Author unknown]


I came across the last few days: the convicts in the Missouri State Penitentiary published in their prison journal "Twelve Ways to Help Your Child Become a Juvenile Delinquent."  


No. 1: Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants.  

No. 2: When he picks up bad words or dirty, laugh at him.  

No. 3: Never give him any spiritual training until he’s twenty-one, and then let him decide for himself.  

No. 4: By the same logic, never teach him the English language.  Maybe when he’s old enough he’ll want to speak Bantu.  

No. 5: Avoid the use of the word "wrong."  It may develop in the child a guilt complex.  

No. 6: Do everything for him.  

No. 7: Let him read anything he wants.  

No. 8: Quarrel in the presence of him.  In this way, he’ll be prepared for a broken home.  

No. 9: Give him all the spending money he wants.  

No. 10: Satisfy his every craving.  

No. 11: Take his part against policemen, teachers and neighbors.  

No. 12: When he gets into trouble, always defend yourself and say, "I never could do anything with him."  


Where lies the seat of the crime and the delinquency and the violence that is increasingly characterizing American culture and life?  It lies in the home, and it lies in the father and the mother.  That means that when we seek an amelioration, when we seek an answer, when we seek a deliverance, we must find it in the home, in father and mother.


 Some people think that miracles all happened long ago

And some folks say the Holy Bible really isn’t so. 

They say it’s just a fairy tale; that science doubts the Word. 

But since Jesus came into our house, a miracle occurred. 


Since Jesus came to our house, our dad no longer drinks. 

You’ll find no empty bottles smelling up the sink. 

Now when he gets his paycheck, no tavern sees his face. 

Since Jesus came to our house, our home’s a better place. 


There are no quarrels at our house since Jesus is our guest. 

And Mom, she burned the playing cards, the ones she loved them best. 

Now when she calls out supper, and everyone’s in place, 

There’s joy around the table, as our daddy says the grace. 


Every Sunday finds us at Sunday School again 

Where folks are warm and friendly and our blessings never end. 

Then we listen to the preacher, then our heads we gently bow, 

Since Jesus came to our house, our lives are different now. 


Our home is like a heaven, and our hearts are filled with love, 

And the circle won’t be broken in that mansion up above. 

When the saints are called to glory, we’ll all gather around the throne. 

Since Jesus came to our house, we’re a blessed Christian home. 

[Author not found] 


The answer lies in the house, in the home, in the hearts of our fathers and mothers.  And until that miraculous difference takes place, we’re going to continue this downward, steep descent into crime and delinquency and ungodliness.  

I can hardly believe America would ever be such a place as this.  We, under Ira McAllister, had a meeting down here at the church in Coleman Hall, our dining hall.  It was at Christmastime, and he had brought here for that evening the fathers and mothers and families that had been won to Christ in West Dallas.  We had, at that time, about three or four mission chapels in West Dallas.  And the program lasted about three hours.  And I wept for three solid hours.  

The program was the presentation of fathers who had been won to Christ.  And as I listened to them, the family, when he came home hid.  He beat his wife, and she was afraid, and the children hid when they saw him come through the door.  Then, he described how he had been saved and how Christ had come into his heart and how they had a new home.  It was saved.  It was like a convocation in heaven.  What God can do in changing our homes, in changing the lives of our fathers and mothers.


Just anyone can build a house 

Within a month or two, 

But when you try to make a home, 

You never do get through. 


Start with a couple deep in love 

And home is anyplace. 

Give them a roof snug overhead 

And a smiling baby face. 


To raise that baby to a man 

Will take a lot of care. 

A house is built on nails and wood, 

But a home is built on prayer. 

[Author unknown] 


There’s no substitute for the teaching and the training of our children in the will and purpose and goodness of God.  

When I read the Bible, the first institution is the home, Adam and Eve and their family, Noah and his family, Abraham and Sarah and their family, Elkanah and Hannah and the little Samuel and the family.  And when, finally, I come to the New Testament, it starts the same way, there is Zacharias and Elizabeth and John the Baptist.  There’s Joseph and Mary and the precious Lord Jesus, and the family.  And it continues through to young Timothy and Eunice and Lois.  And so throughout all of the days and the years, the tremendous meaningful building block of culture, and society, and the church,  and the kingdom of God, is that family – and that applies to the building of our nation.  

When I read the history as you do, the great foundational blocks upon which our nation stands and upon which it is built was the Christian faith led by Christian men.  When they met in the Constitutional Convention, every day they began with prayer.  And one of the most beautiful of all of the incidents in American history is this word from Benjamin Franklin to George Washington that they ought to begin every session with a prayer that God would give our Congress direction from above, out of which praying they wrote our American Constitution.  

There was a distinguished English visitor who asked the secretary, "How shall I be able to recognize Mr. George Washington?"  And the secretary replied, "You can easily distinguish him, for when Congress goes to prayer, George Washington is the one who kneels."  That’s great.  That’s great.  Any time Congress or the Convention went to prayer, George Washington knelt, easily distinguished.  

I have here in my hands the prayer of Dwight Eisenhower.  It’s a beautiful thing.  And the reason I kept it is a man wrote to the paper and was much offended that the President of the United States was mixing religion with politics.  And I have never understood how, in our own denomination, and in our own pulpits, there are men who want to divorce religion out of the national political life of our country.  How, under God, do we expect the Lord to bless us when we think in terms of the infidels running the nation, but Christian people are not to take any part in it at all?  I don’t understand that.  

Anyway, this is the letter in reply when they were criticizing Eisenhower for praying when he began his presidency, Mr. Lester Foss’s criticism of President Eisenhower’s mixing of religion and government.  Then, he recites this thing I’ve just repeated.  When the Constitutional Convention had come to an impasse, Benjamin Franklin addressed George Washington and said:


How has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly appealing to our Father in heaven to illuminate our understanding?  In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, when the colonies were fighting for our lives, we had daily prayer in this room.  I have lived, Sir,

– says Benjamin Franklin to George Washington –

a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proof I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men.  I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed with business.


That’s how our country began.  

I am egotistical enough to bring to you one of the fine, noblest governors of Texas.  This is the front page of the daily newspaper in Austin.  And the headline is "Inauguration Day Starts with Prayer," and then right by the side of that headline is a picture of your pastor with the governor.  And then, here in Dallas, upon another occasion is a picture of your pastor standing with Speaker Bill Clayton, asking God’s blessings upon our legislature.  This is right.  This pleases God and is the hope of our nation and of our people.  

One of the most dynamic and meaningful of all of the assemblies I’ve ever seen in my life was on D-Day, D-Day.  We had announced in the church that I then pastored – the Lord’s blessed congregation; we had announced that, when the Word comes that the American forces had crossed the Channel and were invading the Continental Europe, when the announcement comes, we’re all going to meet at the church and we’re going to pray for God’s blessings upon our armies, and upon our people,  and upon our nation.  

I want you to know that when the word came, and the telephone rang, and they said the announcement has been made that our armies have hit the beaches of France, I dressed immediately and went down to the church.  And to my amazement, the church was jammed.  I could hardly get in it.  I could hardly get in it.  The people were there, praying and importuning and pleading with God to bless our men and to bless our efforts to bring freedom and liberty to the countries of this world.  

That’s right.  That’s the way it ought to be.  We look to God for help and for direction.  And when our families do that you will see our children walking in a different kind of a culture and in a different kind of a life.  God grant it for us here in our beloved country. 


What makes a nation great? 

Not military ranks with flags unfurled, 

Nor armored ships that gird the world, 

Nor wealth nor busy mills, 

Nor cattle on a thousand hills. 

Nor sages wise nor schools nor laws, 

Not boasted deeds and freedoms cause –

All these may be and yet the state 

In the eye of God be far from great. 


That land is great which knows the Lord, 

Whose songs are guided by His Word;  

Whose justice rules twixt man and man, 

Where loves controls an ardent plan 

Where breathing in his native air, 

Each soul finds joy and praise and prayer –

Thus may our country, good and great, 

Be God’s delight – man’s best estate. 

["What Makes a Nation Great?" by Alexander Blackburn] 


That makes a nation great. 


I know three things must always be 

To keep a nation strong and free. 

One is a hearthstone bright and dear, 

With busy happy loved ones near. 

One is a ready heart and hand 

To love and serve and keep the land. 

One is a worn and beaten way 

To where the people go to pray. 

So long as these are kept alive 

Nation and people will survive. 

God keep them always, everywhere, 

Those three: the hearth, the flag, and the place of prayer. 

["Formula For a Strong Nation" by Clarence Flynn]


God grant new life and dedication and the spirit of love and worship and intercession in the hearts of the families of our beloved America.  And to you who have listened on television, may God grant that, in your house and in your home, there is an altar of prayer.  If you don’t know how to give your heart to Christ, call us.  There’s a number on that television screen.  There will be a dedicated follower of Jesus who will guide you in the way and show you how to be saved.  The greatest thing you could ever do for your children is to have a Christian home in which they are to be reared.  And the greatest contribution you can make to our beloved America is to call upon the name of God and ask God’s blessings upon our people.  

And to the throngs of you who fill this sanctuary this Lord’s Day, what a wonderful time to give your heart and your house and your home to God.  In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, God has spoken to me, and in my heart I want to be a follower of Christ.  I want to accept Jesus as my Savior.  I want to have a Christian home.  And if I have children, I want them to be brought up in the love and nurture and admonition of the Lord."  No greater decision will you ever make in your life than this decision, "I am opening my house, and heart, and home to the Lord Jesus."  

As we sing this hymn of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come, and a thousand times welcome.  "Pastor, we want to put our lives in this church.  We want to come by letter."  Welcome.  "We want to dedicate ourselves to the cause of Christ, to follow Him."  Welcome.  "I want to take Jesus as my personal Savior."  Welcome.  As God shall press the appeal to your heart, make that decision now.  And a thousand times over again, may angels bless you as you come while we stand and while we sing.