Politics and the Church – Recovery From the Shoal Waters #5

This week we will take a look at some of the thoughts our Founding Fathers had on the importance of electing God- fearing individuals to serve in our government.  God-fearing principles were considered foundational.

Founding Father John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration and president of Princeton University, reminded Americans: “That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind.  Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country.”  [Witherspoon, Works, vol.3, pg.42].  And remember as previously pointed out, when our Founding Fathers addressed religion that meant Christianity; no other religion was considered to establish principles for government.

Founding Father John Jay answered a question posed to him by the Rev. Dr. Jedidiah Morse, one of America’s leading theologians and educators.  Morse inquired whether it was permissible for a godly person to vote for someone who did not support Biblical positions?  Jay replied,”This is a question which merits more consideration than it seems yet to have generally received, either from the clergy or the laity.  It appears to me, that what the prophet said to Jehoshaphat about his attachment to Ahab, affords a salutary lesson.” [John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4, New York, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1893, pg. 365].  Jay’s mention of the prophet is a reference to the account in 2 Chronicles 18-19, where wicked King Ahab approached righteous King Jehoshaphat and requested his help to fight an enemy.  King Jehoshaphat agreed and made an alliance with wicked Ahab and together they set out to fight Ahab’s enemy at Ramoth-Gilead.  After the battle, as Jehoshaphat returned home, God sent him a prophet who rebuked him for making an alliance with the wicked.  This provided Jay’s basis for an answer of whether the godly could vote for the ungodly:”Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king,’Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?  Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is on you.'”  [2 Chron 19:2].  Jay, therefore, held that God would not bless those who voted for and placed unbiblical leaders…and thus unbiblical policies…into office.  He concluded: “Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest, of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”  [Jay, Life of John Jay, vol. 2, pg. 376].

For America’s current situation, the intent of Jay’s statement becomes more accurate by substituting  the word ‘Biblical’ for the word ‘Christian’.  As we have seen the majority of today’s American Christendom is not Biblical in beliefs or actions.  It is our duty to elect individuals to office who embrace and reflect Biblical values, regardless of whether or not they call themselves Christians…which in some cases has become a description with ambiguous meaning.  Judges 9:9-15 presents an applicable parable.  In it, the trees of the forest seek the best and most productive from among them to be their ruler.  The olive tree, fig tree, and grapevine all offer excuses as to why they do not want to serve.  With that, the thornbush becomes their ruler.  The lesson…simple…when the good refuse to make themselves available for public service, the people get bad leaders.  Too many good people today disqualify themselves for all the wrong reasons…don’t have time, not trained for this, don’t like politics, etc.  Simple, busy, hard-working, common individuals were chosen by God for public service rather than glamorous, credentialed, and pedigreed ones.  For example: Saul was seeking his father’s asses; David watching over his father’s sheep; the shepherds were feeding their flocks when they had glorious revelation; four of the apostles were fishermen; one a tax collector; Amos a herdsman from Tekoah; Moses keeping Jethro’s sheep; and Gideon was on the threshing floor.  “God never encourages idleness and despises not persons in the meanest employments (simplest vocations).”  [Benjamin Franklin, The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 6, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1963, pg. 326].  Keep in mind that Benjamin Franklin was considered the least religious of our Founding Fathers.

The Founders held that if a good person was asked by others to serve them in public office, then that individual was not at liberty to refuse the request.  As explained by Declaration signer Benjamin Rush: “He, a citizen, must love private life, but he must decline no station, however public or responsible it may be, when called to it by suffrages (votes) of his fellow citizens.”  [Rush, Essays, pg. 11].  Rush went on further to explain,”‘None…liveth to himself'” (Rom. 14:7), and our life “is not our own property; all its fruits of wisdom and experience belong to the public.”  [Rush, Letters, vol. 1, pg.478].  In his view God placed us here to serve others, and if others asked us to help them by entering public office, then we were not at liberty to place our own personal desires above the call to serve.  It was selfishness to say no.

To have candidates who fulfill the qualifications of Exodus 18:21 requires study and maybe even action on the Christian’s part. If one does not find a candidate who meets these requirements, it may just require that you run for the office yourself or to become active in recruiting someone.  Understand, however, that in such a situation, not voting is not an option.  Remember, you have a duty to vote, and you will answer to God for the exercise of that duty…and for the failure to exercise that duty.  You might want to consider from history the response of someone who faced a dilemma of who to vote for.  In the campaign of 1800, it appeared that a president might be elected who was not a strong, God-fearing Christian…leading candidates were Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.  One such person was Abigail Adams, the outspoken Christian wife of Founding Father John Adams.  Such options actually mortified the patriotic-minded, and Abigail, who knew both candidates, lamented about what voters in that election were faced with: “Never were a people placed in more difficult circumstances than the virtuous part of our countrymen are at the present crisis.  I have turned, and turned, and overturned in my mind at various times the merits and demerits of the two candidates.  Long acquaintance, private friendship and the full belief that the private character of Jefferson is much purer than Burr…inclines me to Jefferson…if we ever saw a day of darkness in America, I fear this is one.” [Abigail Adams, in correspondence to her sister dated February 7, 1801, New Letters of Abigail Adams, 1788-1801, ed. Stewart Mitchell, Boston, MA, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1947, pgs. 265-266].  She chose the one she believed would do the least damage to the country.  Her example is worthy of emulation if you find yourself in a similar situation.  This is not a compromise of principle, for it is a choice of doing what you can to slow decay rather to ignore and thus accelerate it.  In such a situation as soon as the election is over start searching for someone to run in the next election cycle who does meet the qualifications of Exodus 18:21.  Work…take action…to ensure that neither you or any other Godly voter will ever again have to face that circumstance.

The first step in restoring good government…escaping from the shoal waters…is for each citizen…the crew of this ship of state… to read, study, and live the Bible.  The next step is to read, study, and apply the Constitution.  The responsibilities facing God-fearing citizens are somber, and the potential repercussions from our actions…or lack thereof…are both far-reaching and long-lasting.  Founding Father Samuel Huntington, a signer of the Declaration, observed: “While the great body of citizens are acquainted with the duties which they owe their God, to themselves, and to men, they will remain free.  But if ignorance and depravity should prevail, they will inevitably lead to slavery and ruin.” [Jonathan Elliott, ed., The Debates of the Several State Conventions of the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, vol. 2, Washington, DC, 1836, pg. 200].  The government of this nation…the bridge crew…can be blessed only to the extent that citizens…crew members…become God-fearing and moral and then place God-fearing  and moral individuals into office…on the bridge and at the helm. What sort of ‘ship’ shall we leave the next generation…the relief crew?  The decision is in our hands.

I consider the church as the moral training grounds for our entire slate of ‘crew members’.  As has been pointed out over months of my writing, the church at one time played a very important role in establishing the character of our government and our citizens.  The ‘crew’ was not perfect but the good outweighed the bad.  It took many years for the church to fade into the background of influence on our national morals.  Was it that the leadership became comfortable or did the congregations become distracted by worldly attractions?  I had planned to bring this series of writings to an end within a couple of weeks but I found more information that I feel I should promulgate concerning restoration of the church.  The legitimacy of politics in this country rests to a great degree with the church.  It is not a responsibility that can be ignored without the church being held accountable to God.  As always, I welcome comments…backed up with facts.

– Bob Munsey

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