“I call myself a cultural Christian,” said the outspoken atheist, Richard Dawkins. “I’m not a believer, but… I sort of feel at home in the Christian ethos.” There’s a problem, though. Dawkins would cut the flower of the Christian ethos from its root of Biblical truth. A cut flower soon loses its fragrance and dries up. Are we in the West now living in a cut-flower world?

The ethos of Western civilization derives from Judeo-Christian values. Those who distort Christianity as irrational, superstitious, or abusive ignore the Biblical ideals of equality, dignity, justice, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, charity, and freedom. These values grounded the founding of America. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville noticed. “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power,” he wrote. “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

From where does such goodness originate? Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). Goodness is part of the aromatic fruit given by the Holy Spirit to form the believer’s character. It is intrinsically linked to faith, as Tocqueville observed. Cultural Christians can do good things, but without faith and an objective definition of goodness, how long can that last? Soon, personal autonomy replaces respect for the created order, personal preference replaces morality, and the fragrance of life blows away.

The fertile ground for planting the American experiment was the recognition of a Creator who endows the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Remove that ground, and someone else limits your pursuits, controls your liberty, and grants you the right to live. America’s founders envisioned government which answers to the people, who answer to God. Remove God, and the people answer only to power. That smells to high heaven.

I share Os Guinness’ hope that America is not beyond the point of no return. “The nation that has grown careless in defending its rich and distinctive heritage and is now being transformed beyond recognition,” he writes, “is that nation that could still be renewed if only it awakens to reality and chooses wisely.” I pray for Americans to stop cutting the flower from the root and be renewed by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not just about the future of America, but about happiness and quality of life for you, both now and in eternity.

God “manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:14-15). May your fellow Americans detect the fragrance of life in you!