Wednesday, September 03, 2008

God, Government and Us

"God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners." - William Wilberforce

"Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature."
- Ben Franklin

Reading an article in The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, in which it was reported that Senator John McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, had before a church group called the Iraq war 'a task that is from God', I immediately began to wonder how this would be used by Democrats to tarnish the Republican candidates' reputation (just as similar thoughts expressed by President Bush have been used to ridicule him). The thought dismayed me, because I am a man who cares deeply about his country and its history, well aware of how alien such criticism would have sounded to those who established the United States of America. If anything, in late 18th century/early 19th century America, to be accused of being an atheist was as bad as being accused of overt political ambition.

Today, sadly, the opposite is true.

Most of those who today criticize the use of God or the inclusion of the Almighty in a political context - say, in describing a certain national task as God-given - don't believe in God to begin with, or profess not to. They are of those who think it's chic to be an atheist, who claim a disdain for "the God delusion". They are not simply expressing doubt that God is on our side; they are expressing doubt over God's existence, period. They don't believe that God has granted us our liberty (effectively negating the value of the Declaration of know, the whole "endowed by their Creator" bit) or helps us defend it. And yet, they'll sympathize with the aims of those who claim God is on their side - in, for example, their expressing support for Hizballah or Hamas rather than Israel - when the goal is the destruction of liberty.


It's good to be a skeptic, at times. During the Roman siege of Jerusalem, nearly 2,000 years ago, the Holy City's zealous defenders believed fanatically that God was on their side. Josephus, a Jewish soldier captured by the Romans who later changed sides and wrote an account of the Jewish War (Great Revolt), is said to have appealed to the spiritual sentiments of the Zealots of Jerusalem by attempting to convince the Jews that at that particular juncture of history, God was clearly siding with Rome. In vain did Josephus undertake this appeal, which he had only done at the request of the general (later Caesar) Titus in order that the City and its Temple might be spared the ravages of warfare and famine.

Jerusalem, and its Temple, were later destroyed as the Roman legions overwhelmed Zion's defenders, force having been seen by Titus as his only choice.

But then again, it's also important for Americans to remember that at the time of their country's founding, those who were daily risking their lives in publicly standing up to the might of the British Crown believed that God Almighty was supportive of their task. Of course, I am not just speaking of the Declaration of Independence's recognition of self-evident truths, such as "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

I'm also calling attention to the Founding Generation's belief that they were assuming "among the powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them."

And I feel that I need to point out that the signers of the Declaration of Independence, in support of that Declaration, mutually pledged to each other their "Lives", their "Fortunes" and their "sacred Honor", and did so "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence".

Do modern, self-proclaimed "liberals" or "progressives" really feel themselves so much wiser than the Founders of our Republic, when they express doubt over the existence of God or attempt to make ordinary Americans feel shameful about believing that God is on our side in any particular task or struggle? (There aren't, to my knowledge, many atheist conservatives out there). Is it really so abhorrent to us, to read or see our politicians profess their faith in the Almighty? Are we supposed to be offended by a politician's opinion that God exists and that He (or She - your opinion) cares about what we do? Pardon me, but I was under the impression that in America, one's religious convictions do not qualify or disqualify him or her for/from political office.

There are actually laws that spell this out, aren't there?

Why yes, there are!

Now, I do not support merely paying lip-service to God, as in someone saying "God told me to do this" when whatever "this" is, is whatever they're doing this week. Nor can I take kooks, who murder innocent people and say "God told me to kill them!", at face value. And I am not one who will publicly proclaim that I believe God means for us to undertake such and such a task, unless I absolutely, truly believe that God would entrust such a task to us instead of another people. I reserve the right to agree or disagree with another's opinion on the matter, for, after all, I am entitled to my own opinion just as much as he (or she) is.

But as far as the concept goes, the notion that God might work His will through us at one time or another, well...I must admit, I believe it's not only possible, but probable, that this happens from time to time. I have faith that this is so. I'm not ashamed of this faith. It gives me hope. This faith instills in me more hope, and confidence, in the future than any politician ever could. I trust God to get things right, far more than I trust any particular Government or Bureaucracy to get things right.

Some people, I guess, are just plain afraid to believe in God, though. They're afraid to cede even partial responsibility for the events of their lives to Someone or Something else, even if the way they're living their lives shows they've already ceded that responsibility in decidedly irresponsible, dangerous, and unhealthy ways. Such people don't want to entrust their destiny to God's care or direction; they are unable to reconcile themselves to a reality in which their destiny is always so entrusted, whether they like it or not.

"I enter on the trust to which I have been called by the suffrages of my fellow-citizens with my fervent prayers to the Almighty that He will be graciously pleased to continue to us that protection which He has already so conspicuously displayed in our favor." - James Monroe

"Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.
- George Washington

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