The outrage over this week's decision by the Ninth Circuit Court, which declared the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional, was reassuring. If only the American people became so indignant about every violation of their rights.
This nation's 226th birthday is just a few days away, so it is as good a time as any to reflect on this question: are we a nation under God or a nation under man? Do we as a people seek the freedom that comes when we trust in God or do we seek the false sense of security that comes when we trust in man?
There is an old story that, on July 4, 1776, King George III of England wrote the following in his diary: "Nothing important happened today." Telecommunications did not yet exist, so he had no idea of the day's events in Philadelphia. 56 brave men risked everything when they signed a document containing these immortal words:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it "
This was radical stuff. At the time, the world was ruled by kings. The Founders - not all, but many, of whom were Bible-believing Christians - had a different idea. They gave us a country without an earthly king. The power would reside in the people. The details would be codified 11 years later in the Constitution.
Why do we have three branches of government? Why do we have an ingeniously interwoven system of checks and balances, so that when one branch of government steps out of line, another branch can step in and say "We don't think so"? Why do we have a Bill of Rights, affirming certain rights held by the people that may not be taken away by government? Why do we have a Tenth Amendment that forbids the federal government from exercising any powers not specifically delegated to it?
Because the Founders knew that authority comes from God and not from man. (Psalm 2, Matthew 28:18) They also knew that "every soul (should) be subject unto the higher powers". (Romans 13:1 - KJV) "Every soul" included the civil authorities, whom they wanted to restrain as much as possible.
Perhaps the most forgotten rights of all are the rights of juries to render verdicts based on the Constitution and the consciences of the individual jurors, not the instructions of the judge. This is what the Founders meant by trial by jury. A fully informed jury was the ultimate defense against bad laws. If so much as one juror felt that the law pertaining to the case was bogus, he could vote to acquit the defendant and the defendant would walk.
This is why the Fugitive Slave Laws of the 1850s were so ineffective. If juror Smith's conscience told him that the Fugitive Slave Laws were unjust, he could on this basis and this basis alone, vote to acquit defendant Jones. (Indeed, these laws were so unpopular that it was frequently difficult to find a dozen jurors to sit on such a trial.)
Today, there is much talk of a loss of Christian principles in government and society. Yes, America is riddled with abortion and drugs and sexual immorality and corporate an political corruption. However, it is not only "those people" who need to get their act together.
We are grossly mistaken when we appeal to the kingdom of man to solve every last one of our problems. And this is all we ever seem to do any more. We appeal to a ruling class that has two factions. One faction says that government can solve all our problems. The other faction says that government cannot solve problems, unless of course their guys are in charge.
This is not how God intended it. And because our thinking has become so fuzzy on these issues, I have a profound concern about this Pledge issue. While the Supreme Court will probably shoot down the Ninth Circuit and we will have won this battle, I believe we are fighting the wrong war.
The morning after the Ninth Circuit rendered this decision, Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily wrote a great column urging Christian parents to just remove their children from public schools once and for all. Indeed, he says parents should have done this en masse in 1962, when the Court took prayer out of the classroom. He rightly rebukes the American people for acting like "doormats" and "slaves".
We act as if there were something sacred about state education. Where do we get this idea?
We do not get it from the Bible. Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4 place the duty of childrearing on parents, not the state. Indeed, while the earthly rulers of biblical times did many nasty things to Jews and Christians, there is no biblical record of Egyptian or Roman state education.
We do not get it from the Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 authorizes no federal role in education. The Ninth Amendment guarantees the right of parents to educate children as they see fit. The Tenth Amendment, again, forbids the federal government from exercising any powers not specifically delegated to it. The Constitution separates school and state.
State education is a policy prescription of the Communist Manifesto. And while Marx did not originate it, the idea that the state is responsible for education has only grown up over the last 150 years or so, as we have gradually moved away from the biblical and constitutional notion that authority comes from God. Instead of trusting God and seeking security in Him, we seek security in the state. The phrase "Christian school system" is an oxymoron.
All efforts to "reform" state education are futile. Reforming state education is like reforming the Internal Revenue Code or reforming a malignant tumor. Henry David Thoreau once remarked, "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil for every one who is striking the root." (1) Those who would reform state education are hacking at the branches. Those who would return to the separation of school and state - starting with closing, padlocking, and fumigating the Department of Education - are striking the root.
The battles over the Pledge of Allegiance, school prayer, the gay curriculum, moral relativism, political correctness, condoms, and creation vs. evolution are all merely symptoms of a state education monopoly. If education were where God and the Founders intended it to be - in the hands of the parents - none of these would be political issues. Parents unhappy with their children's education could simply move them from School A to School B, or they could educate them at home. And they could make all these decisions, exercising their God-given rights, without having to genuflect before some petty bureaucratic functionary to obtain permission.
But can't we just put Christians in charge of state education? Doing this merely addresses the symptom. It still leaves us with the possibility that, come the next election, the secular humanists will be at the helm again for an indefinite amount of time.
Jesus "kingdom is not of this world". (John 18:36) When Pilate asked the chief priests, "Shall I crucify your King?" the chief priests answered, "We have no king but Cesar." (John 19:15)
Is our ultimate allegiance to the kingdom of Jesus, which is not of this world? If so, we must reject the modern superstate and return to constitutional government. Politically, this means returning the state to its original limits. Culturally, this means we must stop whining to the state to remedy every last imperfection that comes along in life.
Saying "under God" during the Pledge, and thus offending the Pledge Polizei, is a good place to begin. (For the last few years, I have omitted the word "indivisible". A free society must acknowledge the right to secede.) Acts 5:29 tells us that, when God's and man's laws conflict, we are to obey God's laws. The American Founding was an act of civil disobedience. We praise the runaway slaves of the nineteenth century and those who aided and abetted them. We praise the civil rights protesters of the 50s and 60s. Who will carry the torch in the new millennium?
God gave us brains. Let us use them to do a little reading of what the Bible and the Constitution -- i.e. the "supreme Law of the Land" -- actually say about these things, rather than what someone says that they say. Let us stop using "Render...unto Cesar the things which are Cesar's" as a pathetically lame excuse to pay our taxes, obey the laws, sit down and shut up. Let us be proactive in taking back our freedom rather than waiting all the time for the government to pass some program.
At some point, we must declare a high water mark. Otherwise, we will become a nation under man, with no king but Caesar. Examples of nations under man include Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Communist China. At some point, governments cease to acknowledge any higher authority, and begin eradicating any institution or person who acknowledges such an authority. This is not just a matter for academicians and philosophers. The body counts have been known to run into eight digits.
Does authority originate from God or man? This is the question we need to ask ourselves this July 4. And if we believe that authority originates from God, we must begin to think and act accordingly.
(1) There is a great libertarian web page whose name is taken from this quote. It is called Strike the Root.
Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman
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