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Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Coolidge Would Differ

George Washington is sometimes called the Father of our Country. In his Farewell Address, he said: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars.”

Subvert these pillars? Sounds like there were detractors in Washington's day, too.

John Adams, our 2nd President, said, “…we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Do you think when these leaders used the words "religion" and "morality," they had anything other than biblically-informed Christianity in mind? 

Consider what Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President, had to say about the matter:

"America became the common meeting-place of all those streams of people, great and small, who were undertaking to deliver themselves from all kinds of despotism and servitude, and to establish institutions of self-government and freedom…It was the principle of personal judgment in matters of religion for which the English and Dutch were contending, and which set the common people to reading the Bible. There came to them a new vision of the importance of the individual which brought him into direct contact with the Creator. It was this conception applied to affairs of government that made the people sovereign…The logical result of this was the free man, educated in a free school, exercising a free conscience, maintaining a free government. The basis of it all, historically and logically, is religious belief. 

These are the fundamental principles on which American institutions rest…It was the American colonies that defended and reestablished these everlasting truths. They set them out in resolutions and declarations, supported them on the battlefield, wrote them into their laws, and adopted them in their Constitution."

America is a place where people of all religions and persuasions (including atheism), may freely believe what they so choose, and practice whatever religion or non-religion they wish. But if we think biblically-informed Christianity did not historically provide a foundation for American law and civil institutions, Coolidge would differ.   

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Relevant To Both Public And Private Life

Two political scientists from the University of Houston, Donald Lutz and Charles Hyneman, set out to read all the political writings of Americans published between 1760 and 1805. This included all books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and monographs on the subject of civil government written for the general public of that day. 

They wanted to find out which sources most influenced the thinking of leaders during the “founding era,” when the early state and national constitutions were framed. The researchers felt that by identifying who the founders quoted in their writings, they would discover whose ideas most influenced these men.

Starting with 15,000 writings, and narrowing it down to some 2,200 writings dealing specifically with political content, Lutz and Hyneman identified 3,154 quotes or references from other sources. Their findings were published in The American Political Science Review [March, 1984]. What they discovered was, the single source most often quoted by the founders of America was the Bible. In fact, 34 percent of all quotes were from this source.

Can you imagine seeing one-third of all quotes in the political writings of our day coming from Scripture? In a day when we’re told it’s unconstitutional to post the Ten Commandments on public school walls, or to put a nativity scene in front of a post office, it’s amazing to know that the very ones who founded the American republic turned more often to the Bible than to any other source for support of their ideas.

Strange as it may sound today, in the 1830's, when  Alexis de Tochville observed America, it was assumed that although the government of the state should not encroach upon the affairs of the church, or vice-versa, the Bible was relevant to both public and private life. 

Early Americans saw a difference between the separation of church and state, and the separation of Christianity and state. They wanted the former, but not the later. Americans did not want civil authorities to dictate church policy, or church authorities to govern the state. Yet for the healthy functioning of civil government, a biblically-informed populace was an active ingredient.

Did our forebearers always "get it right," in practice? People never do. Nonetheless, they acknowledged a Higher Judge with Higher Law, to whom all men and women are accountable, both farmer and statesman alike.  

More to come. 
 

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Friday, February 10, 2012

What Made This Country Tick

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I focus on the topic of integration of biblical beliefs and work. Work of all kinds. Not just business work, but art work, engineering work, scientific work and house work. One area of work I have not yet focused on is political work.

Don't worry. I'm not going to write about candidates, or make pronouncements about one person's qualifications over another. But I do want to focus on the integration of Christian belief and politics in general, because this is an area of enormous confusion. Some may ask, "Is it even legal?"

In 1831, French historian Alexis de Tocqueville came to America to find out what made this country tick. He published his findings in Democracy in AmericaBelow are quotes taken from page 281-291 in the George Dearborn & Co. edition, published in 1838:

"From the earliest settlement of the emigrants, politics and religion contracted an alliance which has never been dissolved…I do not know whether all the Americans have a sincere faith in their religion; for who can search the human heart? But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation, and to every rank of society.…The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other....Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more did I perceive the great political consequences resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country....America is still the place where the Christian religion has kept the greatest real power over men’s souls; and nothing better demonstrates how useful and natural it is to man, since the country where it now has the widest sway is both the most enlightened and the freest."

What!?!

Stay tuned. 

For more, click here.

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Friday, February 3, 2012

The Door Of No Return

While speaking to a group of Christians about connecting our faith with the world around us, I mentioned the need for believers to take roles in civil government. Afterward, a woman told me her church did not believe Christians should be involved in the political arena.

There are Christians who think politics is "of the world," and we should "let the dead bury the dead." But the Apostle Paul told believers in Rome that civil authorities are "God's ministers"[Romans 13]. This being the case, I'd say working in civil government is a fitting place for a follower of Christ. Not only fitting, but needed.

Last month, while in Senegal, I was reminded of this as I visited Gorée Island, in Dakar, the westernmost city of Africa. There I was reminded of the history-changing work of one civil servant who made connections between the biblical worldview and his work as an MP [Member of Parliament] in 18th century Britain: William Wilberforce.

At one time, Wilberforce thought he should quit his MP job and "go into the ministry." Thankfully, he was dissuaded from this misguided idea by his pastor, John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace. Newton felt Wilberforce could do far more good as a member of the British Parliament than he could as a pastor.

How right Newton was!

Gorée Island is believed to be the final exiting point for millions of Africans sold into slavery between 1536 and 1848. One "House of Slaves" still remains today as a reminder. Built in 1776, it is now the most visited tourist destination in Senegal. Many thousands of African men and women are believed to have walked bound in chains through "The Door of No Return" to waiting ships, for a grueling transatlantic voyage. The "House" has become a place where many African Americans return to connect with their roots.

Wilberforce's tireless battle to abolish slavery in Britain lasted for 46 years. It was not easy. Politics never is. He was fighting a money-maker of enormous proportions. But slavery was finally abolished in Great Britain in 1833. France followed suit in 1848.

Thank God Wilberforce applied his Christian worldview to politics! That's the "other" lesson of Gorée Island we should never forget.

Connecting the Christian worldview with civil government? Believe it or not, this was once common practice in America.

Next week: A French historian tells it straight.


Tools of the slave trade on display at the
"House of Slaves" on Gorée Island, Dakar, Senegal.
I'm standing at "The Door of No Return" through which
thousands of Africans were led onto waiting ships,
like cattle.
I can't read French [Senegal is a former French colony], but I recognized
the name of William Wilberforce in this commentary
near the display of slave trade tools shown above. 

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