In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville observed in Democracy in America: "I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion, for who can read the human heart? But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions."
The Christian faith still matters in America. The number of professing believers may have declined, but it remains the dominant religious faith. Unfortunately, though there are Biblical calls for unity, we have over 2,000 different Christian denominations that often don't agree on theology or politics.
Of course, Jesus never called for unity in politics. Deciding what Jesus would think or do with government or for whom he would vote for remains a divisive subject. Jesus didn’t come to change governments in Rome, Jerusalem, or Washington. He came to change people’s lives. C.S. Lewis wrote, "He who converts his neighbor has performed the most practical Christian-political act of all." Why? Faith changes people's hearts, minds and actions.
The church through the centuries may have had a spotted history, but Christian believers have put their personal faith into action over and over again. On this Easter, as we came together as one to worship and proclaim a risen Lord, we might now want to rally around the two commandments Jesus called the most important--Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul...and your neighbor as yourself.
As we look to the future of America, may we never forget that good people make good government. Faith matters in providing a moral compass and in motivating citizens to support justice and sustain their commitment to the common good, to service, to duty and to charity.
Let me close with George Washington's benediction that he asked governors to share with their states: "I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation."
No matter what your faith, I pray that you each find strength, moral guidance, and the support of a caring faith community. May together, we help keep our nation strong, compassionate, free and prosperous.
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