Two hundred and thirty-one years ago today, thirty-nine brave patriots signed the Constitution of the United States, which became our inspired form of government following ratification by the states.
As Benjamin Franklin responded to the question of what type of government the men produced for the new nation, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
|The US Constitution|
image from here
The question, all these years later, is whether we’re doing all we need to do to keep it.
This past week I attended the Christian Values Summit at a church north of Houston. Speakers included several pastors and government officials Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, US Representative Kevin Brady, plus several headliners: Rafael Cruz, Sarah Palin (both nights), and Dinesh D’Souza.
The theme overall seemed to be that people of conscious, mainly Christians, need to stand up and speak out.
Rafael Cruz, a pastor (at large, I believe; he doesn’t have a specific church where he presides) and Senator Ted Cruz’s father, gave some historical background. He pointed out that America is the only country founded on the word of God.
In the Mayflower Compact, the early pilgrim settlers proclaim they are forming their new land “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” That’s a glorious heritage, he told us. “No other country has this history.
Of the twenty-six grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, Cruz explained that those had been the subject of sermons during the previous ten years, calling out King George for the atrocities.
When Paul Revere made his famous ride, he was heading to the home of Pastor Jonas Clark, where John Hancock and Samuel Adams were staying. It happened that the battle of Lexington began near this same home.
There was a pastor named Peter Muhlenberg, in Woodstock, VA, who was preaching one Sunday around the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He tells his congregation, “There is a time for war and a time for peace.” Then he pulls out his musket from behind the pulpit and says, “This is a time for war.”
Muhlenberg had a brother, also a pastor, Frederick Muhlenberg, in New York, who chastised him for profaning the pulpit. But then, after the British burned Frederick’s church, he joined the revolution too.
image from Christian Values Summit
Cruz reminded us about Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman who came to America about fifty years into the great experiment, and wrote Democracy in America. He said he found America’s greatness in her churches. He is famously reported to have said, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Cruz told us, “We’re at that crossroads today.” Then he went through some of the recent historical slippage.
In 1962 prayer was banned from public schools. In 1963 the Bible was banned from public schools. He reminded us that Congress printed the first Bible in America, to be the principle textbook. And this was how it was used for the first 150 years or so.
The bigger problem was that churches remained silent. They said it was a political issue.
Then teen pregnancy skyrocketed. So did violent crime.
In 1977 the Supreme Court “discovered” a right to abortion within the Constitution. Again churches remained silent. Sixty million murdered babies later, their blood is on the churches for their silent consent, he said. He quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.
Cruz went on with his list. In 2015, the Supreme Court—not a lawmaking body, but a bare 5/4 majority of nine unelected judges—redefined marriage. That decision, Cruz attested, wasn’t just about same-sex “marriage”; it was a direct fundamental attack on the traditional family. And if you destroy the family, you destroy society.
|My distant phone photo of Rafael Cruz|
at the Christian Values Summit last Thursday
Next come the SOGI (sexual orientation gender identity) ordinances. Here in Houston we remember this attack against the people and the churches. The city council had passed an ordinance requiring that all bathroom and shower facilities be made open to anyone who chose to go in them, regardless of actual sex. Regardless of how you feel about transgendered persons and their “rights,” the ordinance opens up women and children to predators, and labels them as bigoted transphobes if they so much as complain about their fear or discomfort.
The people of Houston gathered well over the required number of signatures to require that the ordinance be brought before the people. The mayor threw out enough of the signatures—without cause—to claim there weren’t enough. And she also subpoenaed all the churches to provide copies and transcripts of all their sermons, so that she could go through them and accuse them of interfering with government, if they so much as mentioned the issue.
This was one of those times when the churches rose up. Among the pastors was Steve Riggle, who hosted the Christian Values Summit at his northern campus. The churches were successful. And the law was on their side. The mayor had no right to the writings and speeches offered at churches. And churches can address issues; they are entitled to address issues that they believe affect the morality of the community, or for whatever reason. Judges slapped the now-former mayor for both the subpoenas and the throwing out of valid signatures. And then the people spoke, by voting, and ended the ordinance.
That’s what happens, even in a very Democrat city, when people who value morality speak up.
Other cities, and various businesses in other states, derided Houston and said they would boycott. But let me just note that, if they have actually stayed away, it’s their loss. Houston is better off without the ordinance, and has done fine without whatever business was lost, if any.
Here’s one more thing Cruz said, that you hear all the time that politicians cannot legislate morality. “That’s a lie,” he said. “It legislates morality all the time. The question is, whose morality?” The issues he listed: prayer and Bible in school, abortion, redefinition of marriage, and SOGI ordinances—all relate to the morality of the people. They relate to someone’s morality, just not ours. And not the morality the founders knew we needed.
During the break between speakers, just before Cruz's speech, they threw out T-shirts into the audience that said “Stand up / Stand out.” I caught one that came right to me. I pretty much never wear T-shirts with graphics on them, but I might just wear this one.
I’m also thinking about what I can do to persuade my churchgoing friends, and anyone else, to do just the little bit that it takes to be an informed voter—and then to get just enough better educated to know when and how to speak up.
I started my Spherical Model quote file with these words from one of my beloved church leaders:
The building of public sentiment begins with a few earnest voices. I am not one to advocate shouting defiantly or shaking fists and issuing threats in the faces of legislators. But I am one who believes that we should earnestly and sincerely and positively express our convictions to those given the heavy responsibility of making and enforcing our laws. The sad fact is that the minority who call for greater liberalization, who peddle and devour pornography, who encourage and feed on licentious display make their voices heard until those in our legislatures may come to believe that what they say represents the will of the majority. We are not likely to get that which we do not speak up for.
—Gordon B. Hinckley, “In Opposition to Evil,” Ensign, September 2004
The nation’s founders were farmers, shopkeepers, merchants, preachers. Not many of them were wealthy and powerful beyond their relatively small communities and states. Yet they stood up, and stood together. And the result is the greatest example the world has ever seen of how you get to freedom, prosperity, and civilization by good people governing themselves.
As larger portions of the society become less able to self-govern, it’s an experiment in danger of ending.
So I’m looking at what I can do, to enlarge my circle a bit. To speak up. To persuade good people to join together in the cause of liberty, for our country and for the world. That’s my resolve on this Constitution Day.