Founding Fathers Quote Friday: Virtue

Favorite Founding Father's Quote Day

Virtue is not always amiable.  (Diaries, February 9, 1779)

This is simply the clearest encapsulation of virtue: it is not necessarily comfortable for us or others. It is not necessarily pragmatic, utilitarian, or broadly accepted. It may not make everyone like you.

This is directly contrary to our nature and to what the world asks from us. It is also the basis for one of the biggest objections that people have against Christians. Christian virtue, according to many atheists and Christians, is just unrealistic: “You can’t be perfect, so you’re just a hypocrite, and you’re making everyone else miserable.”

Does virtue require unrelenting harshness and criticism of others? No, that is not characteristic of “virtue”; it is characteristic of neurotic legalism. But every neurotic legalist ends up babbling to others about “virtue” even while they are clinging to their codependent relationships, those crutches that enable them to compromise virtue and avoid seeking God’s grace. These tightly wound, self-absorbed zealots were constantly presented to me in my youth as typical Christians: obsessed with rules, punishment, sarcasm, beatings, and political power, constantly howling about the nasty old man in the sky who’s watching you.

That distortion of virtue in the name of political control and religious legalism is disgusting, but it is even more disgusting for me to repeatedly confront the shallow, insecure atheism that I grew up with, and which some people in my family will never grow out of.

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2 thoughts on “Founding Fathers Quote Friday: Virtue

  1. Great post, Dave! This is right on!

    Christian virtue, according to many atheists and Christians, is just unrealistic: “You can’t be perfect, so you’re just a hypocrite, and you’re making everyone else miserable.”

    But every neurotic legalist ends up babbling to others about “virtue” even while they are clinging to their codependent relationships, those crutches that enable them to compromise virtue and avoid seeking God’s grace. These tightly wound, self-absorbed zealots were constantly presented to me in my youth as typical Christians …”

    I think these present two distinct trends in predominant American Christian attitudes today, and both have done much to reduce the impact of the Gospel on our nation, rather than increase it. Of course, both approaches to virtue are wrong, and that is why the Church has failed overall in maintaining the virtuous society necessary for free government to exist. This gets right down to the root of the problem.

    Ultimately, only the Spirit of God can change things for the better — through revival. But the responsibility is still ours. It is the responsibility to repent, seek the face of God, and be salt and light to the people of this country, and ultimately, to the world. Whether that will happen, will depend upon the decisions that Christian individuals, and the American Christian Church at large, make.

    You made an interesting statement at the end of your post (my remarks are slightly off-topic). You said that some people in your family will never grow out of their insecure atheism. While they may not want to, don’t lose hope, and don’t stop trying to be a light to them. Sometimes, logical argument, evidence, and simple facts are not enough to make the conditioned believe in God. Sometimes, it will take a face-to-face encounter with God for someone to be convinced that He exists, and that their relationship with Him (and vice versa) matters. I will remember your family in my prayers, and I would like to encourage you not to become discouraged over them, or lose hope. We walk by faith, and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6

    Thanks for your post. Happy FFQF!

  2. Not too long ago, I tried to talk about the futility of atheism with someone, and I thought I was going in the right direction, and it ended up badly because of my ego. It was very discouraging. Then, recently my wife told me she had come to a similar point with someone in her family. I appreciate your prayers and encouragement.

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