Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
Random header image... Refresh for more!
Make a blogger happy, come back. Sign up for email post alerts!

A Little Introspection

I started WWTFT out of frustration and inspiration.  I was frustrated with the direction in which I perceived the country was headed.  Our political leaders had just forced the most monumental government program in history down our collective throats – and they didn’t care.    Following the election of President Obama, I kept my mouth shut for nearly a year, trying desperately to “respect the office” if not the man.  Nary a word did I speak against him.  Then came the unbelievable passage of the Health Care Bill, on Christmas Eve, no less.

However, my frustration was not limited to our government.  I was frustrated with myself.  I was frustrated with my complacency.  And I was frustrated with my ignorance.  I decided to try and tackle that which I perceived to be within my control.  This last is an important point that I’ll return to later.

I attended a couple of Tea Party events and began looking into becoming a precinct committeeman (last year I was elected to the post).  The events I attended made me sad, not because of anything that the participants were doing, or their sincerity.  It was their demographics.  I’m in my mid-40’s and these folks were largely of retirement age.  God bless them.  Where were all the younger people?  But, I digress.

At these events, and on some of the blogs I began reading, there was a lot of interest in the founding of this country.  I realized, with a shock, that I knew almost nothing about how our country came to be, other than the names of a few of its founders and the barest outline of events.  Furthermore, there were a lot of people that were just as ardent in the disparaging of the founders and their “purported principles.”  Who was right?  I thought I knew, but had to be honest with myself and admit that I had nothing with which to back up my suppositions.  At about this time, I had a conversation with my father, one of the smartest people I have ever known.  He accused me, in jest, of being a dilettante in my reading habits.   Reading has always been a source of great joy to me and I read widely but not in depth, satisfying myself with one or two books on a topic before moving on to the next.  My dad, on the other hand, has somehow managed to read widely and deeply.  He spent over 20 years concentrating on the Civil War, before turning to Mexico, which occupied him for another 30.  Along the way, he managed to read quite a lot about World War I and World War II, and a myriad of other topics.  But, I digress again.

After this conversation I resolved to take up a self-directed study of our country’s founding.  I knew that I needed some kind of structure under which to operate, and What Would The Founders Think? was born.

When I began, I had no idea where it would lead.  I thought it would give me a platform with which to spew vitriol against those who I saw as destroyers of our country.  Alas, while I still feel vitriolic at times, I quickly realized that such a course was not in concert with who I want to be.  It isn’t that I am any less angry, or that I have discovered some great contradiction between my ignorant assumptions and the reality that I have painstakingly worked to uncover.  It is simply that the truth requires no enhancements of this sort.  In fact, spewing bile, however justified, probably does more harm to one’s cause than good.  It just turns off those non-choir members willing to look at an argument on its merits.

Mere Christianity by C.S. LewisOf late I have been struggling with some philosophical questions about the efficacy and motivation of this blog.   I speak only for myself and not for my fine co-authors and collaborators.  I’ve done a fair amount of reading over the past year and a half.  Now most of this has been focused on the history of the United States and its founding.  But, along the way, I’ve also read a few, seemingly off-topic books.    Most recently, I finished reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  The following words jumped out at me:

Terrific energy is expended — civilizations are built up — but each time something goes wrong.  Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin.  In fact, the machine conks.  It seems to start up all right and run a few yards, and then it breaks down.  They are trying to run it on the wrong juice.  That is what Satan has done to us as humans.

Lewis is referring to our design as human beings.

The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine.  A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else.  Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.  He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on.  There is no other.  That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way, without bothering about religion.  God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.  There is no such thing.

Now consider this in the context of essay published recently by The Heritage Foundation, entitled Did America Have a Christian Founding? They refer to Ph.D. Mark David Hall’s paper as lecture #1186.  In it Hall contends:

  1. While America did not have a Christian Founding in the sense of creating a theocracy, it was deeply shaped by Christian moral truths, and the Founders created a regime that was hospitable to Christians as well as to practitioners of other religions.
  2. To a person, the Founders were committed to protecting religious liberty.
  3. Moreover, almost without exception, they agreed that civic authorities could promote and encourage Christianity and that it was appropriate for elected officials to make religious arguments in the public square.
  4. There was no support among the Founders for contemporary visions of a strict separation of church and state that would have political leaders avoid religious language and require public spaces to be stripped of religious symbols.

While this conforms with everything I’ve read to date, what is perhaps more significant are some other things that Hall points out in the course of his lecture.  In particular the nature of the country itself, even from its colonial origins.

Few doubt that Puritans were serious Christians attempting to create, in the words of Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop, “a shining city upon a hill” (a reference to Matthew 5:14). Puritans separated church and state, but they clearly thought the two institutions should work in tandem to support, protect, and promote true Christianity.

Hall also points out that an extensive study of early colonial constitutions were filled with provisions which incorporated Biblical texts in wholesale fashion.  The founders, whether explicitly Christian or not, created a nation that was designed to let Christianity flourish – and it did.

Then this morning I had a brief, but pleasant email exchange with the proprietress of Publius Huldah’s Blog.  In her brief note to me she said something that stood out with regard to what I’ve been thinking about.  “Truth is, I sometimes get so discouraged I think it is hopeless (unless God intervenes, and why would He?)”  She went on to say that she appreciated my encouraging note.  But, I return to her question.  Why would He, indeed?

The answer is that He very well may not.  We delude ourselves if we think we deserve his blessings.  C.S. Lewis has quite a lot to say about that in Mere Christianity.  However, we do have his promise:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

And this takes me back to the beginning.  Whereas initially, I may have been compelled to “fix it” on my own, by standing up, educating myself and spewing bile against the pernicious forces of the left, this has diminished in importance for me.

I remind myself almost daily that, “this is not the kingdom.”

I must still do what’s right, and I’ll continue to educate myself and write about my discoveries.  But I can only control (with God’s help) my own actions and my own life.  I can’t force belief in God or in Christian morality on a lost world.  Our country has been blessed because of its founding on Godly principles.  The farther we depart from them, and God, the less effectively it functions.  Eventually, “the machine conks.”  I can only take solace in knowing that there is more to life than this tiny bit of eternity, and hope that the machine keeps running long enough for me to make a difference.


1 Stephen Veilleux { 06.15.11 at 1:10 pm }

This writing was very well done indeed! A little introspection in not a bad thing from time to time. I believe you are heading in the right direction and wish you the best on this journey.


2 LD Jackson { 06.15.11 at 6:16 pm }

I think you have hit much closer to home than many would have you believe. Our country has moved far away from the principles on which it was founded and until we make an effort to move back to those principles, one has to wonder just why God would help us, indeed.


3 Jeff Edelman { 06.15.11 at 9:24 pm }

Martin, you have struck at the heart of the matter, my friend.


4 piperdoc { 06.16.11 at 7:28 pm }

This is great post. I have read Mere Christianity as well and I recommend the Screw Tape Letters as well. I find as well that it seems that I am not making a difference, but then I too remember that we can only influence those in our immediate sphere. This is where I concentrate my efforts, with my wife, children, family, friends and patients. I think that we do make a difference. I hope that America is not beyond redemption through the policies of Obama and the left, as I believe that we are still a center right country, and that most Americans want to believe in the exceptionalism of America, and as long as this is the major sentiment, a leftward course will be temporary and can be corrected. Meanwhile, I will try to be fair, just and good. I will continue to believe in God and His son and pray for redemption of my sins.


Martin Reply:

Thanks piperdoc. I recently re-read the screwtape letters (review here). It’s sad to see how things are going because it is so unnecessary, but at least we have hope!


5 An Educational Retrospective | What Would The Founders Think? { 06.20.11 at 5:24 am }

[…] ruminations about knowing the nation’s past to preserve its future preceded the release of the national […]

6 Tom R { 06.20.11 at 11:15 am }

Excellent thoughts to share and ones that many of us have felt. I also recommend reading “Can God Bless America?” by John MacArthur, Jr. I take solace in knowing that it is all according to His plan no matter how much I just don’t understand it. Like the servant with the ten talents, I’m just charged with doing what is entrusted to me, and as best I can tell, that does not mean saving the world. At least not today.


Leave a Comment