Independence Day was yesterday—I hope you all joyously celebrated our nation’s birthday, perhaps as John Adams suggested: “It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever.”
Looks like we kept everything but the “solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty” part. Not to worry: Forgetting God and being entirely self-focused has never caused a nation problems. . .
Anyhoo, it’s July 5th now, and the fourth of July is so yesterday; therefore, I’ll keep this post short so we can go back to what’s really important: hating each other and trying to show how witty we are on social media.
Before we do that, however, could we pause a moment and reflect about history and revolutions and stability? We are increasingly filled with vitriol for those who hold a different view. We all know this is harmful, dangerous, and never ends well; and yet it continues apace. Part of the problem is that we only know our own experiences, unless we are intentional in learning about others’. We haven’t taken the time to learn how unique America is in its stability compared to all nations in history. So we ratchet up the hatred, spewing vile epithets toward one another, assuming America will always be America, providing the freedom to do so (well, except for those evil people on the other side—they should be silenced).
But is this assumption reliable? Historically speaking, it is absurd. We are the anomaly. Except for the state of Massachusetts, America has the longest lasting constitution in the history of the world. In contrast, France has had 16 constitutions since ours has been ratified. Venezuela has had 25, Haiti 23, Ecuador 20. In the last century alone, Russia has had four, and Poland has had seven. Since we haven’t lived through the tumult of revolutions, we take our stability for granted and assume it will last in perpetuity. We are fools if we think that.
The question we ought to pause and consider is: what has been the cause of our stability? Americans are no different than any other humans around the globe, so it’s not us. We could credit the Constitution, but that didn’t magically appear out of a vacuum. The creators of that document did so from the perspective of a particular worldview, and we would not have gotten that document from any other.
Those involved in framing our Constitution had a specifically Judeo-Christian worldview. No, not all of them were Christians, nor were they attempting to form a theocracy (in fact, it was because of their worldview that they didn’t form a theocracy). Their worldview provided them with an accurate understanding of human nature: humans are terribly flawed and require laws. However, did we mention that humans are terribly flawed? Therefore, those with power are also terribly flawed, and thus, checks must be placed on that power. As James Madison said, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
Because they knew the destructive nature of humans with ultimate power (aka, “government”), they placed “the chains of the Constitution,” on them. They did so, however, with the understanding that the citizens of the republic would be self-governing. This is a necessary component for freedom. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious (stemming from the word “vice”), they have more need of masters.”
Yeah. Those “old, dead white guys,” as they are so often described, weren’t so dumb, huh?
What we see going on today is the structure of our Judeo-Christian worldview—which no one notices any more because “it’s always been this way”—being used (or, rather, abused). At the same time, we are violently ripping out the foundation upon which we’ve been standing these 200+ years. We want the benefits of the Judeo-Christian worldview (e.g., liberty, peace, prosperity, etc.), but we want to be rid of the worldview itself (which is what our entire nation rests on). We don’t realize that thousands of years of history and philosophy went into the crafting of the two most profound and momentous political documents in the history of mankind: the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, before removing a fence, wisdom would suggest you look into why it was put there in the first place. Likewise, we foolishly think we can destroy our foundation and no harm will come to us as a result. Before you go back to hating people on Twitter today, perhaps we could take a moment to ponder what America will be like after we have torn her down brick by brick. Unless you’re a fan of less freedom, you may not like what you see.