Democracy works through our sense of accountability to God
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.