The new year is normally a time of optimism. And after a rocky 2009, certainly hopes should be high for a better year ahead.
But that's not the mood of the people as we begin 2010. Not since the dark days of Watergate and Vietnam do I recall a time when the American people were more pessimistic. And I'm not talking just about the economy and the state of the world in general.
I'm referring specifically to the utter lack of confidence Americans have in our government. We see it in the polls. Only one quarter of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. Less than one third of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction.
Perhaps the wave of frustration began in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Or consider the government's response to the economic crisis-the so-called stimulus package was nothing more than a pork-barrel potpourri of political favors.
And then there is the latest shock. Despite the billions of dollars spent on homeland security since 9-11, despite the abundance of intelligence, a young terrorist-wannabe with explosives tucked in his underwear almost killed a plane full of people on Christmas Day. And the very office issuing the man the visa had information that he was a terrorist.
No wonder Americans feel that government isn't working!
But even worse is that Americans are wondering whether our leaders give a fig for what we think or for the things we hold dear.
Right now as I speak, Congressional leaders and the administration are behind closed doors jerry-rigging the most massive government program in American history-euphemistically labeled "health-care reform."
There will be no debate, no committee meeting. In fact, the bill is being written by just a handful of senators and congressman and government officials. We the people will not be able to read the final bill before it's voted on. And despite the President's campaign promises, don't expect the negotiations to be shown on C-SPAN.
So we find ourselves in a potentially dangerous situation-an American public angry at its elitist leaders, who are at best oblivious to and at worst contemptuous of the will of the people.
No free society can function long under such conditions. It's a perfect recipe for a populist revolt-certainly at the polls, hopefully not by other means.
So why should this concern us as Christians?
Scripture clearly teaches that man was made to be free, and that government, ordained by God, is to secure that freedom through preserving order and doing justice.
Western democracy as we know it, in fact, grew out of the Christian tradition. By the early middle ages, democracy for all-noble and peasant alike-was practiced in Christian monasteries. I talk about this in my book, The Faith, which I invite you to read.
It's in times like these, then, that Christians must speak out. We acknowledge and support the high calling of government. We pray for those in authority as Scripture commands. And we can live out and extol the virtues of freedom and democracy.
But we also sound the alarm when government goes beyond its God-given authority. And when our elected leaders would rather be our lords and masters than our representatives, we simply say, "You'll hear from us in November."