Why are Christians more able to deal with the chaos that is modern America? Pope St. Gregory wrote about the seven gifts that Jesus gave Christians in a commentary on the Book of Job in the 6th century. The seven gifts are wisdom, understanding, judgement, fortitude, knowledge and the fear of God. The seventh one, piety, is the most critical one that the others depend upon.
Piety is probably the most politically incorrect trait in our society, and definitely the rarest. During the 1830s when Alexis de Toqueville arrived in America, he said that he could feel the goodness of America on the docks when he arrived. In his book "Democracy in America,” he claims “when religion is destroyed in a people, doubt takes hold of the highest portions of the intellect and half paralyzes all the others.”
Despotism can arise within democracy when excessive forms of individualism and materialism make citizens indifferent to their public duties. Religion restrains these tendencies by reminding men of their obligations to others.
Cicero said that “piety underlies the virtue of justice. It is that by which we reverence our parents and other elders, our relatives, friends, benefactors, and likewise our country, which is another parent, and likewise God.” Actually, Plato presents the first argument in Western philosophy in his book "Laws” for the existence of God: all powerful, all knowing, everlasting, all wise.
They were all right when Alexis de Toqueville, Cicero, and Plato, to mention a few, said that a country will disintegrate without piety. The current rioting, looting, destruction of statues, attacks on our history, and a corrupt media validates their wisdom. It is quite obvious that our education must improve, and the gratitude of the population for the gift of freedom that we have been given must be expressed again.
James Hankins, a professor of history at Harvard University, says that “the simplest answer is that we have become small, narrow, and parochial, as the vainglorious who imagine themselves oracles of “progress” invariably become.”
These famous authors were right when they spoke of the chief virtue of piety, and the consequences of its abandonment. Professor Hankins writes that “only by recovering that forgotten virtue can we hope to rebuild the edifice of love and loyalty that shelters our common life.”
Jim F. Cole