January 13, 2016

Faith and Government

A guest piece by Mark Borowski

Faith and reason, morality and liberty, are to me an intricately intertwined, symbiotic actually. The two enhance one another. Without faith, human liberty is not typically anchored in morality. Mature faith can provide the moral foundation upon which the self-realization of liberty is achieved. Without faith, liberty has a tendency to get off course, and head in a direction of moral anarchy and relativism.

Decent people are guided by conscience, and do no harm to others. And while this is in many cases an instinctive understanding of right and wrong, the Judeo-Christian precepts of faith tend to lead a balanced person to lead a life that respects the wellbeing of his fellow men.

Regardless of our faith tradition, I think we can understand the basic tenets of Judeo-Christian faith lift man up to be a contributor to the progress and fulfillment of humanity in general. Where there is no such theological-philosophical foundation, moral self-actualization, while not out of reach, is in my mind made much more challenging.

A few quotes from the founders of American democracy effectively illustrate my point:

“It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. – Patrick Henry

The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Where, some say, is the king of America? I'll tell you, friend, He reigns above. – Thomas Paine

Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants. – William Penn

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. – John Adams

For my own part, I sincerely esteem it (the Constitution) a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests. – Alexander Hamilton, 1787 after the Constitutional Convention.”
Here are a few more quotes indicating the Founders' deep understanding of what I was talking about, and why the answer to this problem lies not in liberty alone, but conjoined with faith. This does not mean I think we need to advocate some sort of theocracy, or that someone cannot be agnostic or atheist if they so choose. It simply indicates they also felt this not only important, but pivotal to the nation's moral fiber, lawfulness, and general welfare.

Personally, I think their awareness of, and taking into account, human frailty and our propensity for evil are mitigated by our grounding in faith was quite astounding, and a key factor in the birth of the nation. I could not agree more. We ignore their wisdom at our peril, as instances such as Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Columbine make crystal clear, not to mention the divorce rate, entertainment licentiousness, millions of abortions, etc., etc.

“The precepts of philosophy, and of the Hebrew code, laid hold of actions only. He [Jesus] pushed his scrutinizes into the heart of man, erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head. – Thomas Jefferson

[T]he cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licentiousness . . . inspires respect for law and order, and gives strength to the whole social fabric. Whatever makes men good Christians makes them good citizens. – Daniel Webster

Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet. – Robert Winthrop, early Speaker of the U.S. House

I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands. – Thomas Jefferson, President, Signer of the Declaration

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. – James McHenry, Signer of the Constitution

Without the restraints of religion and social worship, men become savages. – Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration

Love to God and love to man is the substance of religion; when these prevail, civil laws will have little to do. – John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration

Human legislators can undertake only to prescribe the actions of men: they acknowledge their inability to govern and direct the sentiments of the heart. . . . It is one of the greatest marks of Divine favor . . . that The Legislator gave them rules not only of action but for the government of the heart. – John Quincy Adams

If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instruction and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity. – Daniel Webster”

And if above are not enough to convince some that humans are much more than the lower animals that act only out of instinct rather than higher reasoning (with a few exceptions), here is another one from John Quincy Adams to close with:

“To a man of liberal education, the study of history is not only useful, and important, but altogether indispensable, and with regard to the history contained in the Bible…it is not so much praiseworthy to be acquainted with as it is shameful to be ignorant of it.”-John Quincy Adams

Mark Borowski

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