Politics and the Church – Reversing Course…Avoiding the Shoal Waters [Part 7]

Only when citizens remain awake and exercise their role as active stewards can they keep the weeds from taking over.  Why would some churches choose to ignore their part in educating and encouraging the electorate?  President James A. Garfield…a gospel minister of the Second Great Awakening…bluntly stated “Now, more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress.  If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption.  If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature…If the next centennial does not find us a great nation, with a great and worthy Congress, it will be because of those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.” [“A century of Congress”, in The Works of James Abram Garfield, vol.2, 1883, pages 486 & 489]

This articulation of this Biblical truth remained a heavy emphasis across American culture for generations.  Founding Father Noah Webster, one of America’s leading educators, addressed this Biblical responsibility in one of his most famous public school texts, telling students:  “When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, just men who will rule in the fear of God {Exodus 18:21}.  The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty. If citizens neglect their duty, and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good, so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded.  If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws.”  [Noah Webster, History of the United States, 1832, pages 336-337].  Today such a public school pronouncement would be challenged by the ACLU as unconstitutional. What would our churches do?

Noah Webster went on to advise young voters…”In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide.  Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate – look to his character…It is alleged by men of loose principles or defective views of the subject, that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations.  But the Scriptures teach a different doctrine.  They direct that the rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness {Exodus 18:21}.  It is to the neglect of this rule of conduct in our citizens that we must ascribe the multiple frauds, breaches of trust, peculations (white-collar larceny) and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country, which disgrace a republican government.” [Noah Webster, Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education, to Which Is Subjoined a Short History of the United States, 1823, pages 18-19].

Declaration signer Samuel Adams likewise warned citizens: “He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life is, or very soon will be, void of all regard for his country…The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men”.  [Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, vol. 3, 1907, pages 236-237].

Signer of the Constitution Gouverneur Morris charged : “Vicious (ungodly) rulers, chosen by vicious (ungodly) people, turn back the current corruption to its source.  Placed in a situation where they can exercise authority for their own emolument (benefit), they betray their trust…They sell their conscience. They sell their country…But the most important of all lessons is, the denunciation of ruin to every state that rejects the precepts of religion”. [Gouverneur Morris, “An Inaugural Discourse Delivered Before the New York Historical Society…”, 4 September 1816].

Finally, John Witherspoon, a gospel minister and signer of the Declaration, admonished : “Those, therefore, who pay no regard to religion and sobriety in the persons whom they send to the legislature of any state are guilty of the greatest absurdity and will soon pay dear for their folly.” [John Witherspoon, The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon, vol. 3, 1802, page 82].

The message was clear: if citizens became negligent in electing competent, godly leaders to office, government would become corrupt.  Voting was therefore stressed as one of the most important of Christian responsibilities, never to be taken lightly.  The ACLU and atheist organizations surely have gotten the message and fight Judeo/Christian principles at every opportunity.  There are some Christian based organizations that are taking up the fight, but many churches just sit back and wait to see what will happen.  When will they see enough?  Course correction can never be made if all we want to do is argue the obvious and wait to see if the “shoal waters” correct themselves.

Next week we will take a look at the Biblical direction for correcting our situation.

– Bob Munsey

Extra Note :

While the Word of God is objective, the challenge is that we, as human beings, even the best and brightest among us are not.  We are all subjectively interpreting God’s Word through our individual lens, which can be prone to bias, often unrecognized.  In those moments, in all humility, it would be best if we ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and understanding and to patiently struggle with what the Word actually says, and not dismiss it or try to bend it toward what we would like it to say.  These weekly treatises are meant to awaken the awareness of all of us as to the foundation principles of this great nation that God has given us and the responsibilities we have to maintain it.  Throughout the Bible, failure to maintain led to destruction.  I welcome any and all thoughts on what is said.  It is only through sharing knowledge that we all become stronger, however,  please keep thoughts limited to facts and not personal opinion or emotion.

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