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Government, Morality and Religion: Thoughts From a Founding Father

What would John Adams think of us today?

The Founding Fathers and the Cross

It would be an understatement to say that we live in a deeply divided nation. Should immigration laws be maintained and enforced, eliminated or something else? Should a woman have the right to have her child dismembered based on where it lives (inside the womb vs. outside the womb), or should that innocent person be protected from harm?

Should the Second Amendment of the Constitution be repealed, or should citizens retain the right to protect themselves – and others - from the evil doers in our midst? Are evil doers really evil, or are they to be excused for their behavior due to their upbringing, their poverty, or perhaps because they "show remorse?"

How one answers these, and other difficult cultural questions depends upon one's worldview, specifically how one understands the human condition. On the one hand, Progressives see human beings as basically good and seek to protect the good individual from an evil society which they believe endangers the misunderstood or perhaps oppressed individual.

Progressives will often go so far as to protest that the anti-social or even violent individual is the way he/she/other is because of the unfair treatment he/she/other has received from society. Conservatives do not see the human being as basically good, but basically inherently flawed to one degree or another, and seeks to protect society from bad acts of evil individuals.

John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and second President of the United States, wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Militia on October 11, 1798, in which he makes an observation on government, morality and religion:

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by ... morality and religion."

He goes on to further comment:

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other"

Although not all, or perhaps even most of the Founding Fathers were Christians - a debate I will leave to others - Western culture, including the Founding Fathers, had a Judeo-Christian worldview and moral compass.

They weren't perfect.

They were aware that bad decisions would be made and bad acts by bad individuals would be perpetrated, but that our Constitution and indeed the Federal Government they were establishing would only be appropriate for governing "a moral and religious people." Only a moral and religious people would be able and willing to restrain their own actions, based on their conscience, even if they had the freedom to pretty much do as they pleased.

Over the last century, following Europe's lead, the United States has been ridding itself of the very thing that "bridled" the "human passions" and made us a much safer and freer nation than we are today.

Sure, there were bad people then, but the worldview held by most still "bridled" or curtailed their behavior to a certain extent. "The mob," for example, engaged in violent and evil gang wars but their violence was mostly directed at other mobsters, not "innocent" civilians. In addition, society as a whole still operated under a moral and religious standard (the Judeo-Christian worldview) that held murderers and other lawbreakers to account for their actions.

Murderers, rapists and thieves were not excused but punished, making society safer. Sadly however, with the rapid abandonment of biblical morality and recognition of the God to whom we will all give an account, there is left only a desperate hope that government can and will protect society from evil individuals.

Much of the expectation that individuals will have a well-honed conscience to insure self-control has been lost to the mists of time. Therefore, government – whose law enforcement agents cannot possibly be everywhere - must rely on the idea of creating evermore new laws banning the methods and tools that miscreants use to harm others, even though they (and we) all know that "miscreants" do not obey the laws currently in place against harming others! New laws will only hamper the freedom of the remaining people who still have a moral compass and still obey laws!

Banning abortion won't change the heart but changing the heart would eliminate abortion. Banning guns won't bridle evil human passions, but a nation that turns back to God would restrain evil behavior. If our wayward nation will not return to God, we shall continue our downward spiral towards more and more terrible violence and less and less freedom. That is something the Founding Fathers recognized, but to our great detriment, we have forgotten.

L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr. and Joy A. Veinot are co-founders of Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc, a mission to cults and non-Christian religions. Don is the President of MCOI. He and Joy are co-authors of A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life and he co-host of The Unknown Webcast. He is also the current president of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions and a charter member of the International Society of Christian Apologetics.

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