by Dr. Norman L. Geisler
America belongs to “We the people.” It does not belong to the Congress. It does not belong to special interest groups. It does not belong to the Courts. It belongs to “We the people….” The original Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, declared:
“Providence [God] has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty—as well as the privilege and interest –of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Yes, he preferred those who follow a Christian ethic and voted accordingly. And contrary to a widely misinterpretation of the First Amendment, the Constitution does not forbid establishing morality but only establishing one national religion. It says, “Congress [The Federal Government]. Shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion….” Indeed, historically Congress (upheld by the Supreme Court) did establish the Judeo-Christian morality, including virtually all of the Ten Commandments at one time or another.
Politically speaking, the basic problem in America is that “We the people” have lost control of our government. How have we done this? Three things come to mind. First, “We the people” are not all registered to vote. Second, “We the people” who are registered do not all vote. Third, “We the people” who do vote do not all vote our convictions.
“We the people” are not all registered to vote.
A. 35% of eligible Americans are not registered. So, the people who don’t vote decide almost all the elections. Yet “we the people” complain about our government when we have not all even participated in it. The truth is the “we the people” who don’t vote could change America.
“We the people” are not all registered to vote.
Further, “We the people” who are registered do not all vote. In 2004 only 64% of us voted. And in the off presidential year of 2002 only 43% voted. That is minority rule. But if we don’t vote, we don’t have a voice—and should not voice a complaint!
“We the people” who do vote do not all vote our convictions.
Sadder still, is the third problem: those who are Christians and do vote do not always vote their convictions. Two exit poles of one relatively recent elections revealed that about two-thirds of Americans put issues over character. Indeed, a large percent of people admitted that they voted for a president they did not even trust! The solution to this situation is simple.
First of all, we should vote principle over party
We expect preachers to rave about the need for morality in public like, but listen to the words of a famous non-Christian, Mark Twain: “This is an honest nation–in private life. The American Christian is a straight and clean and honest man, and in his private commerce with his fellows can be trusted to stand faithfully by the principles of honor and honesty imposed upon him by his religion. But the moment he comes forward to exercise a public trust he can be confidently counted upon to betray that trust in nine cases out of ten, if `party loyalty’ shall require it….” (Twain, Christian Science, 359).
That hits the nail right on the head. Most Americans—even politicians—have good private ethics, at least in principle, if not in practice. But how many times have we heard them say: “I personally do not believe in doing X, but I would not vote for a law that forbid others from doing it.” This is a private ethic with no public ethic.
Second, we should vote morals over money.
Recently, a presidential candidate, when asked when human life began, replied: “That is above my pay grade.” I radio talk show host ask me what I thought of that answer. My reply was, “Lower his pay grade!” I could have added, raise his moral standard. The only sitting president ever to write a book was Ronald Reagan—and it was on abortion. When asked a similar question, he replied, “If you aren’t sure, then don’t shoot.” The fact is, we are sure. Human life begins at conception. It is a scientific fact. An unborn pig is a pig. An unborn horse is a horse. And an unborn human is a human. We don’t even need science; we just need common sense.
Third, we should vote conviction over convenience
What would we think of a political leader who said, “I personally do not believe in killing little children (infanticide), but I would not vote for a law that forbids others from doing it.” What about rape, incest, spouse abuse, and child abuse? Is it all right as long as this is part of our private practice but not our public policy? Does anyone really want to live in a country where our civic leaders claim not to practice murder privately but refuse to pass a law to forbid it publicly!
The Persistent Myth: We Cannot Legislate Morality
One of the underlying problems is that even many Christians have bought into the legal and social myth that “We Can’t legislate morality.” But this is constitutionally, historically, and socially wrong. The High Court pronounced: “We are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity…. [We are] people whose manners…and whose morals have been elevated and inspired…by means of the Christian religion” (Ruggles, 1811).
Socially, all laws affirm that one behavior is right and another wrong. But right and wrong are a matter of morality. So, all good laws legislate morality. We cannot avoid legislating morality. The only question is whose morality is going to be legislated.
Historically, our leaders had no hesitation in answering this question. In Colonial days,
Sixth President of United States asserted that “If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and “Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free” (The Right Constitution …, Letter VI).
Even the Declaration of Independence speaks of “Nature’s Law’s” that come from “Nature’s God” and are manifest in “unalienable” God-given rights. President John Adams saw it correctly: “Private and public Virtue is the only foundation of Republics.” When the Mormons taught and practiced polygamy, the Supreme Court ruled (Beason, 1889): “Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries…. They tend to destroy the purity of the marriage, to disturb the peace of families, to degrade woman and to debase man.”
Mark Twain was right: “[The Christian] has sound and sturdy private morals, but he has no public ones…. There are Christian Private Morals, but there are no Christian Public Morals, at the polls, or in Congress or anywhere else–except here and there and scattered around like lost comets in the solar system” (ibid., 361).
What is the solution to our political and moral problems in America? Well, for starters Christians must vote character over convenience. We must vote morals over money and principle over party. And above all, we must vote life over death.
Since the right to life is the right to all other rights—the dead have no rights—necessarily the right to life becomes the primary moral principle in judging public officials. If Germans citizens had a chance to vote for Hitler, knowing he was engaged in a holocaust, and Hitler had a good plan for the economy and the environment, what would be the overriding issue? Should they vote money over morals. Should they have voted party (Nazis) over principle? But Hitler only killed 12 million human beings (I speak as a fool when I say “only”). Americans, since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion (Jan 22, 1973) have killed 48 million unborn human beings by abortion.
How then shall we vote? For candidates that favor abortion or for those who oppose it? Every Christian—indeed, every moral person—has a moral duty to put conviction of convenience, principle over party and vote for life.
President President James Garfield (1831-1881) wrote: “The people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption.” Yes, “We the people” are response, and “We the people must take responsibility for our actions. James Madison “the Father of US Constitution” declared: “Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.” (Memorial & Remonstrance, 1785). Our first president, George Washington, declared in his First Inaugural Address that “There is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness…. [So] the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.” The Wisest man who ever lived put it this way: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
*Dr. Geisler has a BA, MA, ThM, and PhD (in philosophy). He is an author of some 70 books and has taught philosophy and ethics at the College and Graduate level for fifty years. His articles and materials are available at www.normgeisler.com or www.InternationalLegacy.org.