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Christianity, Democracy, and Iraq

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

For some fifty years now, the “politically correct” crowd has used strong-arm, Gestapo-like tactics to deprive Americans of the right of self-government so paramount in a Republic. Implementing their agenda of secularism through judicial coercion and social intimidation, they have literally bullied the Moral Majority into silence and spiritual paralysis. Their objective continues to be to drive all vestiges of the Christian religion and Christian morality from the public square. Especially in regard to moral issues, like abortion, school prayer, and same-sex marriage, social and political liberals have sought to overturn the rules under which the nation lived for 180+ years. Observe that this aggressive assault on religious expressions in the public sector is as intolerant and monolithic as those extremist elements that seek to bring America down by violence and terrorism. The will of the majority of Americans (for the moment) on a whole range of moral issues is being trumped by a leftist judiciary, politically liberal legislators, secularist educators, and morally bankrupt entertainers.

Even as America seeks to export its singular brand of “democracy” to other countries (e.g., Iraq), sinister forces within are chipping away at America’s foundations to bring about her demise. In the process, the very reason for America’s success and prosperity has been overlooked. Do you remember the euphoria created by the collapse of communism in Russia? The prevailing view was that the way had been cleared for Russia to achieve for its people what America has achieved for its own people, i.e., “freedom” and “economic prosperity.” Has it happened? No. Why? Why is alcoholism rampant in Russia (Brissenden, 2003)? Why is drug addiction soaring there (Koshkina, 2003; “Drug Intelligence...,” 2003)? Why have crime, poverty, and mortality rates continued to increase (Walberg, et al., 1998)?

The average American appears to believe that America’s prosperity was the inevitable result of our democratic approach to governing. We seem to think that since we possess personal freedom, engage in free elections, and engage in the free enterprise of capitalism, it was inevitable that our country should come into being and flourish. When our leaders speak of exporting the American brand of democracy to other parts of the world (e.g., “Elections in Iraq,” 2005), they appear to share the widespread notion that the cause and source of America’s unprecedented success is the direct result of our democratic institutions of government. So if we can just get dictators out of the way (e.g., Saddam Hussein), and give the people a chance to express themselves at the ballot box, presto, little America’s will spring up all over the world that will soon manifest the same prosperous, secure, free way of life that American’s have enjoyed for so long. Right? Wrong! There are two reasons why this rationale is dead wrong: (1) the Bible says it is wrong, and (2) the Founding Fathers said it is wrong.

The Bible claims that national existence is dependent on commitment to the instructions, directives, and moral principles of God’s Word (Psalm 33:12). The Bible claims, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). The Bible maintains that “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). God said to the nation of Israel, “if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land” (2 Chronicles 7:19-20). The Bible claims that national security, economic prosperity, civil order, and personal happiness are centered solely in the population’s spiritual commitment: “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15). This concept is emphasized over and over again throughout Scripture. America owes its incredible progress to its historic commitment to the one true God to the exclusion of all other gods, religions, ideologies, and religionless philosophies.

What about the Founders? Did they claim that national success was dependent on “democracy,” “free enterprise,” “free elections,” and “freedom?” Absolutely not. In the first place, they did not claim to be establishing a “democracy.” For example, our second President, John Adams, wrote in an 1814 letter to John Taylor: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide (1850, 6:484). Signer of the federal Constitution and two-time President of the United States, James Madison, explained: “[D]emocracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths” (Hamilton, et al., 1818, p. 53).

Why did the Founders have such disdain for a “democracy”? Because the source of authority for a democracy is simply the whims, opinions, and fluctuating feelings of the majority. The people are essentially a law to themselves and the sole source of ascertaining right and wrong. In a democracy, homosexuality may be deemed wrong today—but right tomorrow. The Bible frequently alludes to this very negative social circumstance (e.g., Exodus 23:2; Jeremiah 10:23; Judges 21:25).

In stark contrast, the Founders claimed to have established a republic. A republic differs from a democracy in that it operates on the basis of set laws that transcend the will of the people—unchanging moral principles that apply to all people, in all places, in all times. Where did the Founders believe the source of that law lay? The Creator—the God of the Bible. Specifically, the Founders and Framers insisted that the American republic rests on the foundation of the laws and moral principles of the Christian religion. In the words of Founder Noah Webster: “[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion” (1832, p. 6). In 1775, Alexander Hamilton, a signer of the Constitution, observed that human laws must be aligned with God’s laws: “[T]he law...dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this” (1961, 1:87).

This means that the Founders believed that freedom, free enterprise, and economic prosperity rise solely from the foundation of Christian morality. Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence, insisted: “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments” (as quoted in Steiner, 1907, p. 475, emp. added). In an 1829 letter to James Madison, Noah Webster declared: “[T]he Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government....and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence” (as quoted in Snyder, 1990, p. 253, emp. added). The first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Jay, maintained; “Only one adequate plan has ever appeared in the world, and that is the Christian dispensation” (1893, 4:52, emp. added). George Washington proclaimed to the entire nation in his farewell address that religion and morality are the indispensable supports of political prosperity, the great pillars of human happiness, and a necessary spring of popular government (1796).

Shortly after America had its revolution, France had theirs. They, too, claimed to establish a “republic.” But did they? They could not have established a republic like America’s—because a sizable percentage of the French population was amoral and atheistic. America’s Founders recognized this fact, as did the Courts at the time. The State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania made this very point in 1824 in the case Updegraph v. the Commonwealth:

No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country.... Christianity is part of the common law of this state.... Its foundations are broad, and strong, and deep: they are laid in the authority, the interest, the affections of the people. Waiving all questions of hereafter, it is the purest system of morality, the firmest auxiliary, and only stable support of all human laws (Updegraph..., 1824, emp. added).

Patrick Henry declared: “[T]he great pillars of all government and of social life: I mean virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible” (1891, 2:592, emp. added). Samuel Adams said: “Religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness” (1905, 4:74, emp. added). Benjamin Franklin asserted that “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters” (1840, 10:297, emp. added). Signer of the Declaration, John Hancock, insightfully observed:

Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend to you every measure for their support and encouragement.... Manners, by which not only the freedom but the very existence of the republics are greatly affected, depend much upon the public institutions of religion (as quoted in Brown, 1898, p. 269, emp. added).

Even Thomas Jefferson weighed in on the same point, in an 1809 letter to James Fishback:

The practice of morality being necessary for the well-being of society, He [God—DM] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral precepts of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses (1904, 12:315, emp. added).

Signer of the federal Constitution, and Secretary of War under both Washington and Adams, James McHenry affirmed:

The Holy Scriptures....can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses (as quoted in Steiner, 1921, p. 14, emp. added).

Observe that McHenry insisted that the Bible—not the Quran, the Hindu Vedas, or Buddhist Pitakas—is indispensable to American society, courts, and government.

A good summary statement of the views of the Founders and Framers of American institutions is found in the words of Joseph Story, one of two men who share the title “Father of American Jurisprudence,” who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President James Madison, and who served on the High Court for 34 years:

The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion; the being and attributes and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to Him for all our actions; founded upon moral freedom and accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues;—these never can be a matter of indifference in any well-ordered community. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how any civilized society can well exist without them. And, at all events, it is impossible for those who believe in the truth of Christianity as a Divine revelation, to doubt that it is the especial duty of government to foster and encourage it among all the citizens and subjects (1833, 3:722-723, emp. added).

Many other Founders could be cited that express the same viewpoints. According to both the Bible and the Founders of the American republic, can countries like Iraq reproduce the freedom and democratic institutions historically enjoyed by America? No, they cannot. Iraq is built upon Islam—not Christianity. Its values are firmly embedded in Islamic values. While there is some overlap, Islam is not Christianity.

CONCLUSION

Consider these sobering thoughts from the Bible that so clearly express the sweeping scope of human history:

Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.... Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time (Deuteronomy 4:5-9,39-40, emp. added).

In uncanny anticipation of the liberal social forces in America today, with their agenda of abortion, homosexuality, and hostility toward Christian values, the second President of the United States, in articulating the degeneration that occurs when a republic shifts to a democracy, issued a solemn warning that ought to haunt every American—since it closely resembles the very direction America has taken:

[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man’s life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit, and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few (1977, 1:83).

REFERENCES

Adams, John (1850), The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, ed. Charles Adams (Boston, MA: Charles Little & James Brown).

Adams, John (1977), The Papers of John Adams, ed. John Taylor (Cambridge: Belknap Press).

Adams, Samuel (1905), The Writings of Samuel Adams, ed. Harry Cushing (New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons).

Brissenden, Michael (2003), “Russia—Alcoholism,” ABC News Foreign Correspondent, [On-line], URL: http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/stories/s932631.htm.

Brown, Abram (1898), John Hancock, His Book (Boston, MA: Lee & Shepard).

“Drug Intelligence Brief: Heroin Trafficking in Russia’s Troubled East” (2003), U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, [On-line], URL: http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/intel/03053/03053.html.

“Elections in Iraq” (2005), The White House, [On-line], URL: http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/elections/.

Franklin, Benjamin (1840), The Works of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Jared Sparks (Boston, MA: Tappen, Whittemore and Mason).

Hamilton, Alexander (1961), The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold Syrett (New York, NY: Columbia University Press).

Hamilton, Alexander, John Jay, and James Madison (1818), The Federalist on the New Constitution (Philadelphia, PA: Benjamin Warner).

Henry, Patrick (1891), Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches, ed. William Henry (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons).

Jay, John (1893), The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry Johnston (New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons).

Jefferson, Thomas (1904), The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Albert Bergh (Washington, DC: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association).

Koshkina, E. (2003), “Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Among the Russian Population,” [On-line], URL: http://www.eldis.org/static/DOC9364.htm.

Snyder, K. Alan (1990), Defining Noah Webster: Mind and Morals in the Early Republic (New York, NY: University Press of America).

Steiner, Bernard (1907), The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland, OH: Burrow Brothers).

Steiner, Bernard (1921), One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Baltimore, MD: The Maryland Bible Society).

Story, Joseph (1833), Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston, MA: Hillard, Gray, & Co.).

UpDegraph v. the Commonwealth (1824), 11 Serg. & Rawle 394; 1824 Pa. LEXIS 85.

Walberg, Peder, Martin McKee, Vladimir Shkolnikov, Laurent Chenet, David A. Leon (1998), "Economic Change, Crime, and Mortality Crisis in Russia: regional analysis," PovertyNet Library, [On-line], URL: http://poverty.worldbank.org/library/view/12740/.

Washington, George (1796), Farewell Address, [On-line], URL: http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/documents/farewell/transcript.html.

Webster, Noah (1832), History of the United States (New Haven, CT: Durrie & Peck).




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