In a recent journey that connected two different times and two different continents, I’ve come to appreciate the impact that individuals can have when they struggle to find God’s will in their lives. One such individual was Martin Luther whose stand triggered the Reformation in 1517. The other was Glenn Beck whose recent Restoring Honor Rally touched hundreds of thousands in attendance and even more who were watching from afar. One took advantage of the printing press, the other the Internet and the media. Both took risks to take a stand for God, freedom and personal responsibility.
On a recent Path of Luther Tour in Germany, I was confronted again and again by the power of one lowly priest, preaching in a remote German village, who helped unleash the fire of a living faith that transformed an age.
In the city of Worms, Germany, Luther was called to recant of his views expressed in the 95 Theses that he had posted in Wittenberg against the abuses of the Catholic Church. It was in Worms that he made his bold and memorable stand: “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”
Because of his offenses against the Pope and Rome, Luther was never allowed to enter the Imperial Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul in Worms, but, today, it remains the only Catholic cathedral to have a stained glass window honoring the German reformer. Our guide commenting on the window said that they left the Bible under his arm a bold red because at the time of Luther “faith was on fire for God.”
On August 28th, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Glenn Beck avoided partisan rhetoric. Instead, he called on Americans to get on their knees and get right with God. For it was only then that America would again find its way. Like Luther centuries before him, he called for an awakening to the power of faith in God. Glenn Beck and the thousands attending lit a spark to put faith on fire in this great country.
Luther put the Bible in the hands of the average believer to let them experience a personal relationship with God. When, to Luther’s dismay, they turned their passion for freedom into attacks on others, Luther implored them to stop. Glenn Beck did the same. Instead of condoning hatred, he called for a change in heart. Since then, there have been numerous critical and supportive comments and commentary. But history will be the best judge of its true impact. But rest assured that his message rings true with our Founding Fathers’ understanding of the importance of faith in preserving freedom.
In George Washington’s Farewell Address, our first President and Founding Father affirmed our common patriotic pride supported by diverse, religious citizens “with only slight shades of difference.” He went on to warn, “...reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle...." Our second President, John Adams, went even further: "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
The beginning and end of the Declaration of Independence provided the anchors for Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally—“We the People…. With the firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.”
May we somehow connect those dots once again in this generation, one American at a time. For believers, the answer isn’t burning the Quran in Florida; it’s adding some fire to one’s own faith. We’d be wise to claim the three anchors that Glenn has focused on this year—Faith, Hope, and Charity.
The conservative call for smaller government and an end to endless entitlements must still deal with the people in our midst who need help. That’s why Glenn puts such a strong emphasis on tithing. People of faith don’t just spend and save their earned income; they’re called to provide charity and support for those in need.
When pundits commented on the political implications of Glenn Beck’s event, they talked about Republicans taking back Washington. Glenn said that was not the point. To Beck, such progress would be short-lived. What is needed is a new Great Awakening that will change the hearts of men and women. A new awakening that would renew a commitment to individual responsibility, Constitutional principles and God could once again focus our country on faith, hope and charity. History will tell whether that awakening occurs.