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Democracy and God
By Dr. John Oswalt
Wesley Biblical Seminary President
“Let the whole world fear the LORD, and let everyone stand in awe of him.
For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.
The LORD frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes.
But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.
What joy for the nation whose God is the LORD, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.
The LORD looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race.
From his throne he observes all who live on the earth.
He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.” – Psalm 33:8-15 NLT
I have been reading Ron Chernow’s massive, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of George Washington. I was struck by a couple of statements that Chernow makes almost as asides. Talking about Washington’s very methodical approach to each day, Chernow says that he always arose early and read or did correspondence in dressing-gown and slippers, and then after his private prayers, got dressed. The second point that struck me is regarding Sunday evenings. He says Washington read to his family, often sermons. In other words, Washington was not a Christian in some formal, or nominal, sense. Rather, it was a living reality for him, a natural part of his daily life. Christian faith was simply part of his makeup, shaping his life.
This is an important point as we consider the life of our nation. However varied the religious lives of our founders may have been, there was still, even in a Jefferson, who was probably the most humanistic of them all, the conviction that is stated in the passage above, that there is a Creator who has established the norms of human life, and that constructing one’s life in accordance with those norms is the way to satisfaction and fulfillment. This is what John Adams was talking about when he said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.” He means that no structure of laws can make a people law-abiding and compassionate. There must be a compulsion from within, a compulsion rising from a sincere desire to serve and please our Creator, as revealed in the Bible. It is like a compass, keeping us on course.
Today, fewer and fewer of us Americans have such a compass. As a result, we have become more and more focused on self-service and self-aggrandizement, things our Constitution is completely helpless to correct. So, the challenge for those of us who believe in God and his Word is first of all to cultivate that inner relationship with God that will keep our own compass pointing “true north,” making us the best of citizens. Let us be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Then let us manifest that joy that comes from knowing that our God is Yahweh (“the Lord”), and let that joy be contagious.