Last week we saw that not being involved through at least a minimum of knowledgeable and informed voting shows a personal disdain for the welfare of others as well as the well-being of posterity. Across the generations the pulpit was bold in expounding this Biblical truth. The Rev. Henry van Dyke declared:
“The true patriot is he who maintains the highest idea of honor, purity, and justice for his country’s laws and rulers and actions. The true patriot is he who is willing to sacrifice his time and strength and prosperity to remove political shame and reform political corruption…The true patriot is he who works and votes with the same courage that he would fight, in order that the noblest aspirations of a noble people may be embodied in the noblest rulers.” [Henry van Dyke, People Responsible for Character]
This belief that caring for others involved the responsibility to vote for the best possible leaders was carefully inculcated into our young across the generations. As the Christian statesman Daniel Webster affirmed:
“Impress upon…children the truth, that the exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty, of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently trifle with his vote; that every free elector is a trustee, as well for others as himself; and that every man and every measure he supports has an important bearing on the interests of others, as well as on his own.” [The Works of Daniel Webster, vol.2, ed. Edward Everett (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1853), pg.108 ]
This certainly is not a topic of instruction for most schools today, or even for most families. Benjamin Rush, known as “the father of public schools…not government schools…under the Constitution”, avowed that the primary purpose of public education was threefold: to teach students (1) to love and serve God, (2) to love and serve their country, and (3) to love and serve their family. [Rush, Essays, 8-12] Notice the order: God, country, family. These days few would prioritize these responsibilities in that order. When government is neglected, whether through the inattention or the apathy of its citizens, history demonstrates that it will become filled with officials whose policies are hostile to the values, beliefs, and practices essential to the formation of strong and stable families. Understanding this principle, Samuel Adams exhorted:
“Every citizen will see – and I hope be deeply impressed with a sense of it – how exceedingly important it is to himself, and how intimately the welfare of his children is connected with it, that those who are to have a share in making as well as in judging and executing the laws should be men of singular wisdom and integrity.” [Adams, Writings of Samuel Adams, vol. 4, pg.252]
But when God is no longer the primary influence in the lives of most Americans, including Christians, it is not surprising that our government more and more frequently goes against the moral laws of God’s Word. For in order to know one’s duty to God, one has to know God’s Word. The serious teaching and study of the Bible is definitely no longer a high priority in the lives of most Americans, including Christians. One indication of this departure from God’s Word is the assertion of many Christians that the Bible does not support citizen involvement in the governmental arena. Such pronouncement merely confirms the Biblical illiteracy of those making that claim. In John Locke‘s 1690 Two Treatises on Government, of which the Founding Fathers so heavily relied [For example, The Works of John Adams, 1854; The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, 1973; The Works of Thomas Jefferson, 1905; The Selected Writings of Benjamin Rush, 1947; The Works of the Honorable James Wilson, 1804], he invoked the Bible in 1,349 references in his first treatise and 157 times in his second one. Clearly, the Bible is neither silent nor neutral on civil government.
Next week we will look further at the Bible’s call for Christians to be involved in government. It is the responsibility of the pulpit to remind Christians of this civic responsibility. Let us pray that our pastors will not be intimidated to shy away from this obligation as the result of denominational bureaucracy. As Christians, we must take a stand, and it must start in God’s churches.
– Bob Munsey