In a day when politicians make promises of reform, we must remember one timeless truth: the true hope for America lies in the effective witness and influence of the local church.
The church in America goes back to the foundation of our society. The Pilgrims left the religious persecution of their European homes to establish a new life where they were free to worship. One of the first structures in early American towns was the church building, which stood not only as a place to worship but also to fellowship with neighbors, hold town activities, elect officials, and dispense local charity. Many of our great historical events and movements, from national independence to civil rights, have been located in or affiliated with churches.
Today, the local church still stands as a primary source of strength in communities from coast to coast, second only to the family. Whether it’s an eighteenth-century cathedral in Boston or a converted shopping strip in South Central Los Angeles, people in need still turn to the church.
Consider the wide range of aid and inspiration the church provides: fellowship with friends, consolation after the loss of a loved one, direction in difficult economic times, food for the poor, clothes for the needy, shelter for the homeless, and so much more. Most churches provide a secure and stable sense of family, an atmosphere of belonging, and evidence that there is a God who cares.
Governments may attempt to aid disadvantaged families and neighborhoods through financial assistance, but positive and permanent change seldom occurs simply by handing out cash. Without the personal touch of people who genuinely care, social welfare simply becomes a tax burden. But when finances are used to fuel the work of an existing core of concerned people, the positive impact is undeniable.
Archbishop William Temple wisely noted, “The church is the only society in the world which exists for the benefit of those outside its membership.” This selfless service to the community can be contrasted with the cold, self-serving attitude sometimes seen in bureaucratic agencies. Government has a role in our lives, but its role is limited. When the church accepts its divinely-ordained role, there is no limit to the positive influence it can have on individuals and the nation.
By empowering the local church to further its mission of helping their fellow man, we are empowering America to be strong. Through the power of the positive human touch, lives are redeemed, families restored, and communities revitalized.
So why are Judeo-Christian principles under so much assault? The forces of religious intolerance appear to be gaining ground, but this may not be the fight in which Christians wish to engage. Christians around the world have suffered brutally for centuries from the Roman Empire to the Soviet Empire. Even today believers are being tortured, maimed, and killed for their faith. America still stands as a nation where people can worship how, when and where they please. This freedom could be forfeited because of indifference or lack of commitment on the part of Christians.
It would be a national tragedy to tear down all of our national monuments that contain religious references or imagery. But even if the PC storm troopers tore down the statues of Moses in and on the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, in the Library of Congress, and in the Ronald Reagan Building, they could not remove the legacy of the God of Moses from people’s hearts. Even if the floor of the National Archives building were covered to conceal the Ten Commandments, the ears of our children would not be covered from hearing the principles contained in those simple instructions.
The windows of the U.S. Capitol could be shattered to eliminate the image of George Washington kneeling in prayer, but the power of prayer will continue to shatter the destructive forces in the lives of hurting people. The references to Almighty God could be cut out of all the speeches, writings, and monuments of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and every other great American leader, but the influence of Almighty God can never be eliminated. Hopefully our nation will always honor those who honor God and others.
Our major concern should always be living the Ten Commandments, not just defending where they sit. “In God We Trust” inscribed on our coins is not as much of an issue as whether we trust God with all of our hearts. Reciting “one nation under God” in the pledge is not nearly as important as knowing that this nation must be under God’s direction and protection. These are the real issues at hand.
America is in a constant state of change. Every two years the governing power can shift in one direction or another. But on average, only half of the eligible voters in the country determine the course of their local, state and national government. This is a major reason most policies put in place by those elected are at best only half right. They recognize the problem but offer proven-to-fail solutions.
We all know that our freedom is bought with a price. Many lives have been sacrificed to stave off the forces that seek to suppress our freedom of religion, expression, movement and thought. In my lifetime alone, Nazis, communists, anarchists, and radical Muslims have sought to steal some of the most basic freedoms that Americans take for granted.
It is not just an inherent right or a mere privilege to vote, but it is our responsibility. Edward Everett Hale, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate said, “I am only one – but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I still can do something.” The most basic “something” is the vote. All citizens should get out and cast their votes on the issues that live beyond today and will affect our children and grandchildren. The issues facing us this next year alone are momentous: out of control federal debt, national security, border control, tax reform, abortion, gay marriage, education, and entitlements.
Someone will determine how these things are handled. Someone will determine whether a child in a womb should be protected. Someone will decide whether our schoolchildren will be taught that homosexuality is normal or even admirable. You can be assured that those with little regard for the principles that made us great will turn out in support of their very liberal ideals.
The church must continue to be that agent of positive change, both inside the sanctuary and outside. Through a bold commitment to Godly principles, compassionate action to help those in need, and informed participation to ensure our government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The church can lead the way discovering solutions that work. Now is the time for all believers and the American people to assume personal responsibilities and stop relegating them to ineffective government and their bureaucracies.
 “Lend a Hand” by Edward Everett Hale from Masterpieces of Religious Verse, edited by James Dalton Morrison, Harper, 1948.