America is reeling. After twelve years of inconclusive war in the Middle East and a culture war at home — a war of cosmic proportions — Americans are discouraged. Many think that there can never be a spiritual and moral renewal of our way of life in our time. America once teetered on the precipice of disaster just a few years after the birth of our nation — a spiritual and societal collapse every bit as serious as the one we face today.
In the 1780s, America emerged victorious from the War of Independence with Great Britain. But the country was in shambles. The war debt was overwhelming and the unbacked currency, called the Continental, was nearly worthless. Hundreds of churches had been burned and looted by the British. Church attendance had plummeted and the immorality of the French deists and revolutionaries was poluting America’s youth. The French, once our allies, were now destroying our ships and imprisoning hundreds of our sailors. They threatened all-out war against us. President John Adams even enlisted the retired former president George Washington to once again become Commander of the American Army because it seemed war was imminent. The nation was on the brink.
Historian David McKenna writes: "Colonial colleges, in particular, took the brunt of moral corruption and philosophical despair. Harvard, Princeton and Yale, schools which were founded to prepare Christian leaders in religion, government and medicine, became seedbeds of atheism and anarchy." He adds that a scholar of the time described the state of American higher education as "secret nurseries of every vice and cages of unclean birds."