John Adams said, “The highest story of the American Revolution is this: It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” What does that mean? Adams himself explains, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”
What does our Constitution and liberty have to do with morality and religion? The key to understanding this world view lies in the belief that the source of virtue is faith in God not government or ourselves. On this Easter weekend, let’s consider what this faith has to say to those of us living in a post-Christian world.
Today, people believe we are to accept ourselves as we are and that it is wrong to judge one another and, accordingly, many people have thus fashioned God in this, their own image. However, the basic message of the Bible in general, and the Gospels in particular, stands in stark contrast to this modern day paradigm.
The Scriptures indicate that man was created in order to enjoy a personal and dependent relationship with God. The relationship is characterized in various ways including that of husband and wife, father and child, and master and servant. All facets of this relationship were marred when mankind chose to assert its independence from God — the basic definition of sin.
The Bible relates the story from the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve eat the fruit from a forbidden tree — the tree of knowledge, of good and evil. The story represents mankind’s desire to choose for itself what is good and bad, no longer looking to its creator to define the value and the meaning of life by virtue of relationship with the divine.
This past week, Christians celebrated Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified. The cross was the means by which God meted out judgment on mankind, in essence, taking the punishment upon Himself in the form of His Son. The empty grave, which is the core focus of today’s Resurrection Sunday celebration, has to do with the power of death, that is eternal separation from God, being destroyed. The rest of the story is that God alone has the power to impart the necessary impetus to live life righteously which enables us to have meaningful and virtuous relationships with God and one another.
America in years past relied on this faith as the foundation of our declaration of liberty, our Constitution, our laws, our public and personal relationships, and our hope and destiny. It served as the spiritual impetus for values, morals, ethics and charity which defined our nation.
Some modern day presidents, including Eisenhower and Reagan, could still hear the echo of this world view as they shared the following quote: “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers — and it was not there … in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there … in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there … in her democratic Congress and matchless Constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
First published in the Santa Barbara News Press
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