As we celebrated the birth of our nation this week, can you guess who wrote the following statement: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
That quotation is not from a Marxist or a totalitarian leader. Surprisingly, John Adams, the second President of the United States, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote those words.
Similar quotes can be found in the writings of other Founding Fathers of our nation, because although they had the opportunity to do so, they did not establish a democracy. What they established for America, instead, was a republic. There’s a difference between the two.
In a democracy, a majority vote of the people establishes laws and policies. What the majority says is final and absolute.
We see this in some newly formed democratic governments in the Arab states. After the people overthrew the ruler, the newly elected government represented most of the people and disregarded the right of minorities.
In a pure democracy, the majority sets all the laws.
A republic, however, is not based on the rule of the majority, but on the rule of law. Representatives are elected, and they pass the laws. They are accountable to the people, and in this sense majorities matter.
However, they are also accountable to a higher law. The majority should never change certain laws. These laws flow from the fundamental rights of every human person as stated in the Declaration of Independence, “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.”
As our forebears sought to build “one nation under God,” they purposely established their legal codes on the foundation of Natural Law. They believed that we should govern societies, as Jefferson put it, by “the moral law to which man has been subjected by his Creator, and of which his feelings, or conscience as it is sometimes called, are the evidence with which his Creator has furnished him.”
The signers of the Declaration of Independence were a profoundly intelligent, religious and ethically-minded group. They were members of religious denominations at a rate that was much higher than average for the American Colonies during the late 1700s.
These Founders of our nation operated out of Judeo-Christian principles, and that was the standard for law and government in our country until recently. Now legal positivism has become the standard.
It says that there are no unchanging, superior laws. Rather, human law is the final law and can always change according to circumstances.
That is the poisoned soil out of which Roe vs. Wade and other decisions have grown.
Today, the United States has all but severed its connection to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” We have sold our birthright for a “mess of pottage,” and we now find ourselves harvesting the fruits of that decision.
In the recent words of Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith H. Jones, our country has plunged into a profound moral crisis “because we have lost the sense of a God who takes interest in what we do.” As a result, she says, we have come to tolerate violence, immorality, and the disintegration of our families and “are only now beginning to reap the whirlwind consequences.”
We need to rediscover our own history and impart it to our youth. The primary legal document of our nation, the Declaration of Independence, recognizes in its first sentence that “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” are primary.
We need to put Divine principles back into our political life.
Posted on Fri, July 5, 2013
by Rev. Wilmer L. Todd