There is no real freedom apart from God and the acceptance of personal responsibility. There can be no effective government without responsible citizens living under moral order. Robert Morris and I taught a seminar titled, “Living Free – Breaking the Cycle of Defeat.” I hope and pray all readers will order the CDs and DVDs and watch them, share them with family, friends, Bible study groups, and churches. If we do not live under control with the freedom Jesus offered to all captives, we can never hope for our society to support and maintain the principles that enable freedom.
With an understanding of the importance of personal freedom, we may rightly ask the question, “What about national freedom?” It is my firm opinion we are in the process of actually losing it, along with the opportunity it offers. It is my prayer that all believers will learn that we must live to protect what others died to provide. We are in the process of forfeiting the freedom our founders established – a freedom built on moral absolutes and a strong, but limited, government.
God has called me to pray for a spiritual awakening to bring about national repentance, sound thinking and the restoration of freedom. On this journey as I am “praying without ceasing,” studying history and analyzing current issues, I have read another truly great book entitled We Still Hold These Truths by Matthew Spalding. William Bennett wrote the introduction for the book and shared these thoughts:
We Still Hold These Truths shows that modern liberalism proceeds upon a thoroughgoing critique of our founding, and that it attempts to define America in a different way, based on ideas found outside of America. The progressive thinkers of the early twentieth century, having rejected the very idea of self-evident truths and enduring principles, created a theory of a “living,” evolving Constitution, allowing government to expand and implement “progress” through more and more governmental control over everyday life…
We now face a choice. One path is change for the sake of change, of continued travel along the road of decline – for this future, just witness the political and cultural implosion of modern Europe. The other is the path of renewal, based on what I have long called a great relearning, which seeks to rediscover America’s principles and restore them to their proper place in our political life, as the cornerstone of America’s public philosophy.
Bennett’s comments and concerns are well-stated. Spalding’s truly important book is full of inspiration and insight. Permit me to share some highlights with my emphases added.
Spalding discusses Alexis de Tocqueville, who was a French political thinker and historian in the early 1800’s. He is best known for Democracy in America, which chronicled his observations of early Americans as he traveled across the United States. He remarked that “religion’never mixes directly in the government of society,’ it nevertheless determines the ‘habits of the heart’ and stood as ‘the first of their political institutions.’”
Spalding also quotes Thomas Jefferson’s observation that the citizens from which governmental power is derived“are inherently independent of all but the moral law. America does not require a common theology, but it does depend on a common morality shared by all people that is rooted in both faith and reason.”
The Constitution officially “separates” church and state at the level of lawmaking, but it also allows the general encouragement and support of the free exercise of religion. Spalding writes, “On the day after Congress approved the Bill of Rights (including the First Amendment’s religious-liberty language), it called upon the President to ‘recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God.’ Washington’s proclamation declared that it was ‘the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.’
“Tocqueville commented extensively on the centrality of religion to the founders in his Democracy in America, ‘Freedom sees in religion the companion of its struggles and its triumphs, the cradle of its infancy, the divine source of its rights,’ he observed. ‘It considers religion as the safeguard of mores; and mores as the guarantee of laws and the pledge of its duration.’ Far from being its enemy, religion in America is liberty’s greatest ally.“
Because major media, most academics, and far too many Americans have discounted the importance of faith and morality, the nation’s most meaningful principles are being forsaken.
Spalding contends,“A nation of citizens is becoming a society of consumers who pay more and more taxes to purchase more and more government-controlled programs and services. The United States is nearing the point that a majority of its citizens will have no federal income tax liability, yet the government continues to act without regard to the future, leaving the bill for future generations…. Dependency encourages a politics in which government benefits and programs are treated as payoffs to existing or potential voter groups.
“In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville warned of a tendency of democracies, bent on bringing about equal results in all cases, to succumb to a centralized and consolidated government that promises to master every social condition and outcome in pursuit of this elusive goal. The combination of egalitarianism and the regulatory power of centralized administrative government, Tocqueville feared, could lead to a new form of despotism that would destroy the human spirit. In this future, he foresaw ‘an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls.’ Government would become the all-powerful instrument serving these insatiable appetites. Self-governing citizens would degrade themselves into passive subjects of an impersonal, bureaucratic nation-state.”
Sadly, Tocqueville’s warning is becoming a fact.
The following statement from Matthew Spalding is powerful beyond words:
“[Such a government] seeks only to keep the people fixed irrevocably in childhood; it likes citizens to enjoy themselves provided that they think only of enjoying themselves. It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the sole agent and sole arbiter of that; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances: can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?”
This government “promotes selfish, petty interests because it caters to them, and by doing so deforms the character of self-governing citizens, rendering the employment of the free will less useful and more rare.
“’Such a power,’ Tocqueville concluded, ‘does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.’”
Matthew Spalding asks,“Is this to be the failed destiny of the greatest experiment in self-government mankind has ever attempted?”
Progressive thinkers in “their grand project to remake America” have “repudiated the founders’ principles, holding that there are no self-evident truths – in the Declaration of Independence or elsewhere – but only change in the constant search for progress without final goals. There are no permanent rights with which man is endowed, but endlessly evolving rights that develop and grow.”
Renewing America’s principles doesn’t mean going back to the 18th century, or some other time for that matter. The question is not, “What would the founders do?” but what will we do as we go forward toward an unknowable future with these fixed principles as our trustworthy guides. It is not about looking back to the past, but rather looking down at our roots in order to look up to our highest ideals.
Spalding points out,“our challenge is to faithfully maintain, vindicate, and fulfill our principles in the face of constant, and thoughtless, demands for change.” Our present direction as a nation is “subverting the principles of liberty and constitutional government.” He goes on to assert, “We must reverse this course by making a commitment at every level of education to promote an awareness and appreciation of the true principles of the American Founding.” Current “legal education is a particular problem, as it has relentlessly promoted the gradual deconstruction of the Constitution. We must continue to teach the principles of liberty and the rights and responsibilities of self-government to all Americans, in order, as James Madison once put it, ‘to refine and enlarge the public views.’
“Our political discourse is too often stifled by the political correctness of self-appointed social critics on the one hand and the closed-minded ideology of single-issue advocates on the other. Neither makes a real attempt to persuade or listen. The debate among our political leaders is more narrowly partisan than it is broadly political, driven by immediate interests more than considerations of the common good. Rather than throwing up our hands and withdrawing from the public debate, though, we need to engage it in new ways by making a clear and forthright defense of core principles, applying them creatively to the questions of the day, supporting positions consistent with those principles, and generally reframing the national debate about the most serious issues before us.”
“Our aim must be a clear expression and forthright defense of America’s principles in the public square so that they become, once again, an expression of the American mind…and respect the noble ideas put forth by the American founders. We must give voice to all those who have not given up on their country’s experiment in self-government, have not concluded that the cause of liberty and limited constitutional government is lost, and have not accepted America’s decline as inevitable.
“The goal must be to restore the liberating principles of the American Founding – its philosophical grounding, its constitutional wisdom, and its limitless spirit of self-government and independence – as the defining public philosophy of our nation. As it has been for most of American history, so it can be again…
“A commitment to enduring principles means that these principles are applicable to the past, as well as the present and the future.”
We need to elect political leaders who understand and uphold America’s principles.
“Government must be limited,” Spalding writes, “but also energetic in fulfilling its legitimate, constitutional functions. Just as important, each branch of government must also be responsible (and held responsible) for its actions according to the structure and distribution of government authority set out in the Constitution.”
It is my personal opinion that the US government is out of control and has been headed the wrong direction for decades. Betty and I, along with all of LIFE Outreach leadership and mission partners, truly care about the poor. Presently, the needs of the poor in America are improperly addressed. As philosopher and author Jay Richards recently shared with me, “What politicians refer to as a ‘war on poverty’ is actually a war on the poor.”
Spalding addresses this issue by insisting that “the best thing we can do for the less-fortunate is to offer them a hand up through job growth and economic opportunity, rather than a handout through the perverse incentives of a welfare state that discourages self-reliance, family cohesiveness, and financial independence.”
Remember, the opportunity to create wealth is not the cause of poverty. Joined with compassion, it can most effectively offset increasing poverty.
“It must not be forgotten,” Spalding continues, “that the marketplace is an institution of civil society, and we need to defend it as such.…The fruits of hard work and entrepreneurship for the sake of improving the conditions of self and family, as well as the opportunities that have long been associated with the pursuit of the American dream, are moral goods and contribute to human happiness.” This has the “added virtue of harnessing enlightened self-interest to serve the common good and limited constitutional government. Now more than ever, we must connect the economic arguments for liberty and prosperity with the moral case for equal opportunity and free enterprise in order to make a full defense of the American system of democratic capitalism.”
“By feeding the entitlement mentality and dependency rather than promoting self-reliance and independence, administrative government encourages a character incompatible with the republicanism” of our founders.
“In order to stop the erosion of our social capital and restore a culture of self-governing citizens, we must challenge, engage, and reject the relativism and historicism that infect our culture and have caused such great turmoil in our politics.“
America’s national identity “can be sustained only by citizens of firm convictions and sound character. There is a critical connection between a thriving civil society and limited, constitutional government.”
“What does it say about our moral discernment when an endangered snail is protected more than a six-month-old child in a mother’s womb, or when we are unable to agree whether defining marriage as a union between man and woman serves any rational purpose? In a world of moral confusion, we must restore the accepted understanding of a human nature limited by the unchanging ground of right and wrong. The Declaration of Independence asserts self-evident truths according to ‘the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God’ that we, too, must honor. All persons are created equal and possess equal human dignity, regardless of race, color, sex, age, or religious creed. All are endowed with the same unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While we acknowledge man’s weaknesses, we must also recognize his great capacity for virtue.
“There is a clear connection between America’s growing social ills and the abandonment of traditional moral norms most Americans acquire through religion…. Americans are a religious people – the Supreme Court said in 1952 (and reiterated in 1963, and again in 1984), ‘We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.’”
God help us return to this absolute truth.
I encourage every concerned, praying Christian to read Matthew Spalding’s book We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future. Again, I ask you to pray about all the concerns I have shared and are expanded and expounded upon throughout Spalding’s book. I am praying to God and appealing to caring people to help restore America and freedom. It will not be easy, but together, and with God’s help, it can be done. This is the greatest hour for people of faith to become a guiding light.