The enemies of freedom and the blessings it makes possible move together in lockstep to destroy it. The prophet Joel said of the locusts destroying the peace and prosperity of Israel, “A fire consumes before them and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them but a desolate wilderness behind them, and nothing at all escapes them.…They climb the wall like soldiers; and they each march in line, nor do they deviate from their paths. They do not crowd each other, they march everyone in his path; when they burst through the defenses, they do not break ranks.”1 These verses clearly reveal how those who are destroying freedom in America work together in the kind of harmony that will be required by those who resist the destructive intent of evil.
God told Israel to repent – to return to Him with their whole hearts and He would make up for the years and blessings the locusts had destroyed. God is ready and anxious to heal our sick, plundered nation. He is waiting on those who believe in the importance of a Christian worldview and that the commands of God matter enough to be faithfully declared and defended.
Over three years ago, Jay Richards and I were asked by scores of respected church leaders, both Protestant and Catholic, to write the book INDIVISIBLE to help a wide range of professed believers find common ground as we seek to stop our nation’s rush to destruction. Over the last couple of weeks, we have been discussing the “Ten Principles for Faith and Freedom.” These are the critical areas of our faith upon which we can all agree. Here are two more. We will cover the last three next week.
We’re all sinners.
Evil is not just in our imaginations. We can’t eradicate it with the right amount of social engineering or positive thinking. We sin. Though we can know God exists, we forget. Though we can know the truth we fail to uphold it. We do the very things we don’t want to do. We are tempted by wealth, power, prestige, lust, gluttony, and greed, and often give in to those temptations.
We not only fail to do what we know we ought to do, but we also get confused about what we ought to do. Politically, this puts us in an awkward position. On the one hand, we need a government to punish evil and bear the sword. On the other hand, the very sin that needs to be restrained can only be restrained by other sinners. J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, once told his son, “The most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.”
That’s why, this side of the Kingdom of God, we should seek a government strong enough to restrain sin that harms others but strictly limited in scope.
We need a state strong enough to maintain the rule of law but limited enough not to violate it.
The American Founders understood this paradox of power. That’s why they established checks and balances in the Constitution. Between the Founders and us, unfortunately, came the progressives. They sought to expand government without limit, so they viewed the Constitution not as a guide but an impediment. Progressivism came to dominate all branches of government and most elite institutions in the twentieth century. This created a conspiracy of consensus, which has devastated the checks-and-balances established by the Constitution. The federal government is now a Leviathan. We must support policies and candidates committed to restoring constitutional wisdom to our political institutions. This means that we must be willing to see unsustainable programs reformed, even programs that we like and depend on.
While the government helps provide the conditions for prosperity and the creation of wealth, it’s not their source. When government tries to substitute itself for the proper functions of business, enterprise, and the market, it does more harm than good, distorts natural incentives, encourages cycles of dependency, replaces the happiness of earned success with the subtle indignity of a hand out, hinders the creativity of entrepreneurs, and turns the win-win game of a free exchange into a win-lose game of coercion and redistribution.
Some Christians think that because of sin, the federal government should have even more power over the economy and our lives, as if the way to disperse power is to give more power to the most powerful entity. In truth, a free market limits the power of the state. A free market exists only where there is a rule of law, private property, and business institutions that, while certainly not perfect, at least channel our creativity, legitimate self-interest, and vices such as greed, into ventures that meet the needs of others.
Since everyone in a market is sinful as well, laws and economic policies should, as much as possible, be set up to channel sinful motives into actions that benefit others. We know from experience that a free market does this better than the alternatives. That’s why we should defend policies that advance economic freedom rather than extend the reach of political control ever further into the economic realm.
A free economy can channel sin, but it can’t exist unless a people are at least minimally virtuous. “Liberty,” said Lord Acton, “is the delicate fruit of a mature civilization.” Our economic freedom won’t last long unless certain institutions, especially churches and families—are free to instill virtue.
As important as government is for preserving the rule of law, history teaches us that it can also be the worst violator of the rule of law. We must oppose attempts to expand the role of government beyond its constitutionally enumerated duties. Given our current debt crisis, for instance, we should especially oppose attempts to add or expand entitlement programs. These programs entice citizens to vote for more and more services for themselves with borrowed money that must be repaid by our children and grandchildren. As people become more and more dependent on these programs, it becomes almost impossible for elected officials to reform them, even in the face of fiscal ruin. That’s why we must support policies and politicians that deal with this looming disaster honestly, and do whatever we can to explain this problem to our fellow Americans.
We should have a strong defense as part of a limited government since defense is one of the things government is limited for. One reason to limit the tasks of government is so that it can focus on its most important jobs. Defense, like all other expenses, is subject to budget constraints. But we should oppose attempts to weaken our military and defense capabilities, and reject claims that supporting the military amounts to nationalism and militarism. In a fallen world, protecting life and liberty requires that, at times, we take up arms against aggressors. Pretending otherwise is naïve, utopian and, ultimately, unjust.