“Expect great things of God; attempt great things for God.”
– William Carey, missionary
As I look back over American history, it is that attitude I see reflected in those who charted an incredible course for America – a course toward virtue, powered by individual liberty. It was the founders’ faith, combined with the courage faith inspired, that guided them through the series of audacious actions which ultimately freed colonists from tyranny and weighed the anchor of a brand new nation, beginning its voyage through time.
The founders acted in the conviction that there is a Creator, whose Moral Law is timeless, and who actively presides over the affairs of men and nations. They knew that according to this universal Moral Law, people were made to be free, and the purpose of government was to protect them as they operated in liberty to pursue virtue.
The founders believed, and then they acted, in faith that the Almighty Hand of Providence would guide them.
In practice, they did not always live up to their conviction that all men were created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. And yet, those principles boldly thrown down in the Declaration of Independence continued to guide our nation’s conscience until at last, through the powerful process of constitutional amendment, our predecessors abolished slavery and other forms of oppression that had compromised the integrity of a people striving toward virtue. Once again, it was faith – coupled with courage – that fueled these heroic, course-correcting actions in the form of the 13th, 14th, and 19th Amendments to our Constitution.
We know that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” so on this Independence Day we should ask ourselves: Is our nation keeping to its noble course today?
Scottish history professor Alexander Tyler once observed that “A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.” That should give us pause in an age where so many citizens view the federal government as Santa Claus.
Tyler also warned us that the world’s greatest civilizations have all progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, and from dependence back into bondage.
So today, as we celebrate America, let’s pause to consider where America is in that cycle. Some might say we are in the stage of complacency or apathy, but I think we’re further along than that. While we certainly don’t live under a dictatorship, I think we have begun to live under another type of bondage – the bondage of a federal government that no longer operates according to its design, but now exercises some control over almost every aspect of our lives.
For modern Americans, this is the great inconsistency between our nation’s principles and its practices. If we hope to emulate the faithful striving of our ancestors toward an ever-greater national integrity, we must confront it.
We can do so through the same means used with such success in the past to codify our Bill of Rights, abolish slavery and establish women’s suffrage – the process of constitutional amendment. Only now, when the problem to be addressed is the concentration of power in Washington, we must use the Article V process that allows constitutional amendments to be proposed by a gathering of state-appointed delegations.
I’ve heard many Article V opponents say that modern Americans just don’t have what it takes to do this. They say there aren’t any George Washingtons, James Madisons, or Abraham Lincolns in America today.
I say they are wrong.
Those men were great because they “expected great things of God and attempted great things for God.” And that very same courage-producing faith exists in countless Americans today. I know, because I have the privilege of working alongside them every week. They are an army of volunteers who have committed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to correcting our nation’s course once again, using the trusty tools provided in our Constitution.
Today, I salute their patriotism. It is this sort of patriotism – active and faith-bound – that is authentically American.