Throughout its short history, the United States has faced many trials, threats to personal liberty, and internal unrest. Setbacks such as the Civil War, racial tension, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks have attempted to rattle the foundation of our country. The United States of America has been a beacon of freedom ever since its hard-won inception in the eighteenth century and scores of influential men and women have battled enemies to maintain it.
Passion for liberty has always been in the hearts of those who made their home in the New World. From the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock to the Founding Fathers themselves, having the freedom to live out their convictions has been at the heart of the American spirit. Because the Founding Fathers were so influential in the commencement of this nation, it is more than appropriate to consult their insights for the future of this great Union.
According to our founders, one of the fundamental necessities in the governing of the people is a good understanding of biblical morality. “[T]rue religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness . . .” a statement from the 1778 Continental Congress reads. This is essential to freedom in more ways than one.
First of all, a set of moral expectations actually allows us, as the above statement mentions, to pursue happiness in a way that does not infringe upon the rights of others. This is what “the pursuit of Happiness” means. Secondly, the founders recognized the fallen nature of man. James Madison writes in The Federalist No. 51, “. . . what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary . . . In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” This is why applying moral standards is so important to the health and growth of a nation and the Founding Fathers recognized this.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” This does not simply apply to Spiderman. Like the people kept the fledgling United States government accountable to the standards in the Constitution, so we must act responsibly with the liberties we are privileged to possess. Also briefly mentioned before are the rights granted to us not only by the Declaration of Independence, but ultimately by God: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In what ways are we to be good stewards of these rights? First, we must respect life. This includes our own as well as others.
Second, we are granted with the right to civil and religious liberty. According to James Madison, “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights.” What this means is that if you take away religious rights, you also take away the basis for civil rights. In a person’s religion or worldview, the ties between disciplines such as theology and economics, sociology, and law are inextricable. If you remove one, you sever the links to all the rest. For example, in the Christian view of economics humans are to be stewards of the creation that God has made. This includes utilizing raw materials and capital with thrift, protecting private property rights, and upholding the free market system. However, if the freedom to believe Christianity is taken away, what becomes of our beliefs about economics? That is why the Constitution and the Declaration make this distinction.
Finally, we must tread lightly in the pursuit of our happiness. It’s not hard to see where some might desire to exploit this God-given right. But remember that living according to biblical moral guidelines leaves you free to pursue your happiness without impeding another’s right to their happiness. This is the something the Founding Fathers were tremendously passionate about. After all, recall the events leading up to the Revolution. The colonists were unlawfully taxed without so much as one representative in Parliament. If that’s not an abuse of civil rights, what is?
But if you’re up to date on any recent news about government and the state of our country, you’ll probably be asking: What has happened? Initially, the federal government had virtually zero involvement in economic affairs. However, since the mid-1800’s our nation has been in steady decline from the free market into interventionism and is now hurtling toward socialism. This increase in government involvement in economics is not the only problem. Widespread secularism has caused a disregard for moral principles and now the government is beginning to impose their “ethical convictions” upon us, regardless of what we personally believe. As you can see, this is a breach of both the civil and religious liberties our foundational documents are supposed to ensure for us.
The follow up question would be: How might America recover? As you might have noticed, a mindset shift has occurred in the citizens of the United States. So really the answer is simple; we reverse the process. The numerous examples given earlier will attest to the fact that a strong moral compass is irreplaceable for a nation’s health.
In theory this strategy is simple. In practice, it seems insurmountable. How do we influence the culture back to our heritage? The great thing about sociology is that everyone is able to make an impact. The key to this is the sphere of influence. If you engage the people you see on a daily basis, that you have authority over, that respect your advice and opinions, you will have done your part in the work of cultural change.
Once society has become aware of their mistake, the governmental system that we once had will gradually return. The 1787 Convention designed the Constitution so that it would protect against “factions.” “If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution,” James Madison wrote in The Federalist No. 10. It may take time, but our country can be healed from its moral bankruptcy.
To clarify any misconceptions, I am not suggesting that everyone in our nation be a Christian and force themselves to submit to God’s standards. That would also prove to be fatal to our country’s health as well. I am merely implying that one must recognize that morals are prevalent in our society and should be followed so that every citizen can enjoy the rights given to them by God without hindrance.
All of that to say, morality is critical to the health of a nation. The Founding Fathers understood this and wrote it into foundational documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But now, we have forsaken what our forefathers knew to be true and have gone our own way. We have shown contempt toward morality and our governmental policies show it all too often. That is why my vision for America is to return to the biblical standards that our forefathers trusted in to maintain the spirit of this nation. Also, it is necessary for legislators and politicians to give attention to the Constitution and the republican ideals that set the United States apart from all others. I am convinced that this mindset shift will allow America to bounce back and become again what it once was.
As a side note, the title I chose for this post is based intended as a potential sequel to John Adams’ original pamphlet of the same title.