Democ­racy works through our sense of ac­count­abil­ity to God

The Standard Journal - - COMMENTARY - NEL­SON PRICE on­trib­u­tor

Clay­ton Chris­tensen, pro­fes­sor of busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Har­vard Busi­ness School, shared this ex­pe­ri­ence:

“Some time ago I had a con­ver­sa­tion with a Marx­ist econ­o­mist from China. He was com­ing to the end of a Ful­bright schol­ar­ship here at Har­vard and I asked him if he had learned any­thing that was sur­pris­ing or un­ex­pected, and with­out any hes­i­ta­tion he said, ‘Yea, I had no idea how criti-cal to democ­racy re­li­gion is.’ The rea­son why democ­racy works, he said, ‘is not be­cause the gov­ern­ment was de­signed to over­see what ev­ery­body does, but rather democ­racy works be­cause most peo­ple most of the time vol­un­tar­ily choose to obey the law. In your past, most Amer­i­cans at­tended a church or syn­a­gogue where they were taught there by peo­ple they re­spected.’ My friend went on to say, ‘… most Amer­i­cans fol-lowed th­ese rules be­cause they had come to be­lieve that they were not just ac­count­able to so­ci­ety, but that they were ac-count­able to God ... if re­li­gion loses its in­flu­ence over Ameri-cans, what will hap­pen to our democ­racy? Where are the in-sti­tu­tions that are go­ing to teach the next gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­cans that they too need to choose to vol­un­tar­ily obey the laws? Be­cause if you take away re­li­gion you can’t hire enough po­lice .’”

This man from China has stud­ied our Founders. In sup­port of his the­sis, let’s let Thomas Jefferson and John Adams speak on be­half of the Founders. As you read th­ese con­clu-sions, eval­u­ate them in light of the present prac­tices of our fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the be­hav­iors of the gen­eral pop­ula-tion of Amer­ica.

In a let­ter to the of­fi­cers of the First Brigade of the Third Divi­sion of the Mili­tia of Mas­sachusetts, dated Oct. 11, 1798, Adams wrote:

“… (W)e have no gov­ern­ment, armed with power, ca­pa­ble of con­tend­ing with hu­man pas­sions, un­bri­dled by moral­ity and re­li­gion. Avarice, am­bi­tion, re­venge and li­cen­tious­ness 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 oth­ers.”

Are we now a moral and reli­gious peo­ple?

On var­i­ous oc­ca­sions Jefferson said the fol­low­ing: “(It is a) happy truth that man is ca­pa­ble of self­gov­ern­ment, and only ren­dered oth­er­wise by the moral degra­da­tion … The qual­ifi-cations for self-gov­ern­ment in so­ci­ety are not in­nate. They are the re­sult of habit and long train­ing. … (With­out be­com­ing fa­mil­iar­ized) and Cen­tral pow­ers bring­ing World War I to an end. On the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the shells stopped fall­ing and the guns qui­eted.

Now the day is cel­e­brated in honor of all vet­er­ans of the armed ser­vices.

We en­cour­age all to cel­e­brate and thank a vet. with the habits and prac­tices of self-gov­ern­ment ... the po­lit­i­cal ves­sel is all sail and no bal­last.”

The self-gov­ern­ment of which I am writ­ing is not an­ar­chy, but vol­un­tary obe­di­ence to the moral and civil law as de­fined in our Con­sti­tu­tion. With­out teach­ing them, the self-willed con­duct now in progress will lead to an­ar­chy and con­se­quent in tyranny.

Churches and syn­a­gogues are so in de­cline they are not reach­ing the broad base of so­ci­ety. Pub­lic schools are so en-cum­bered by un­ruly stu­dents they are fail­ing in ef­forts to teach and in­sist on self-con­trol. Homes are so frac­tured many youth are left with­out an ex­am­ple of moral self­gov­ern­ment. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment wants to con­trol every­thing we do, even what we eat or drink, and does noth­ing to en­cour­age self-gov­er­nance. We have lost th­ese things be­cause we have lost our sense of ac­count­abil­ity to God.

Per­sons in­volved in a church, syn­a­gogue, civic, so­cial, or ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tion would do well to eval­u­ate what their group is do­ing or can to do help ame­lio­rate the sit­u­a­tion.

The Rev. Nel­son Price is pas­tor emer­i­tus of Roswell Street Bap-tist Church in Ma­ri­etta and a former chair­man of the Shorter Univer­sity board of trustees.

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