What's so disheartening about America's present political environment is that those in Washington are truly convinced that more and bigger government is America's primary solution for recovery, future growth and security. President Barack Obama even declared early in his presidency that "only government" is our savior.
Our Founders had a far better solution than only government. And it's probably a good time, during Christendom's Holy Week and with heightened frustrations toward government across the country, to recall that solution and that, though our Founders initiated our government, they didn't expect it to usher in any form of Utopia.
As proud as they were of their newfound republic, our Founders' trust and hope was not in government, but in God. For what? For most of the things that people today often look to government to provide: life, liberty, happiness, provision, salvation, decency, civility, morality, honesty, restraint, equity of power and future hope, to name a few. Tragically, in modern times, government has usurped God's role in our republic and Americans' lives.
But if our government and even public schools won't remind Americans of our godly heritage (and hence the way out of this national mess), who will? The answer: we patriots. The least we can do is to remember and recall to others the Creator's place in our republic, in hope of reawakening just one more American, especially during this Easter week.
For America's Founding Fathers, God and government were intricately linked. As Thomas Paine echoed in 1775, "Spiritual freedom is the root of political liberty. ... As the union between spiritual freedom and political liberty seems nearly inseparable, it is our duty to defend both."
It is no coincidence that the Declaration of Independence begins with a spiritual emphasis: "When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People ... to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes. ... We hold ... that all Men ... are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."
Even to the Framers of our Constitution, which often is hailed by critics of religion as a godless document, God was behind its monumental words. As James Madison wrote, "It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in (the Constitution) a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution."
To our Founders, God was the source of our human rights, which put limits on government power. Even more, God was (and should be) the ultimate agent for national sustenance and renewal. That is why we are dreaming if we think we can correct the ills in ourselves, our government or our society without his aid.
Ben Franklin was particularly eloquent on this very point while addressing those who attended the Constitutional Convention: "In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us, who were engaged in the struggle, must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proof I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?"
If Franklin, a presumed deist, could believe that "God governs in the affairs of men," it is certain that all or nearly all of the Founding Fathers did, as well. That belief shaped our country; it is part of our heritage. And I do not believe that we can neglect or repudiate that belief -- that we are responsible to God -- without endangering our future.
As Franklin declared, the American empire cannot rise or (I would add) resurrect "without his aid." That is also why an entire chapter in my new paperback expanded version of "Black Belt Patriotism" is devoted to the role God played in the founding of our republic and must play in America's reawakening.
Friends, I am a patriot and an optimist at heart. I, like many of you, believe that we can become a great nation again, known more for who we are than what we have. I believe in the resurrection of America. But that's not going to happen by traveling down the same road we've been on. If America has lost its way, its heart, its moral compass, the answer is to return to the old path, the path followed by our Founders who put God first, trusting in him -- not big government -- to be our salvation.
When human government seems lost and without hope, let us remember not only that we the people have the power to make changes in government but also that our hope is ultimately not in men or government. It is in God and his future government, upon whose throne will be a crucified and risen Messiah and about whom this prophecy was given: "Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever."
No wonder the term "gospel" means "good news."