Morality and Politics in America
John Adams said a long time ago, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” And the conservative Edmund Burke said, “What is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.” Here are some similar insights Alexis de Tocqueville shared in his book, Democracy in America*:
“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”
“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”
“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”
“When a nation[‘s] well of public virtue has run dry: in such a place one no longer finds citizens but only subjects.”
“The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”
“A nation cannot long remain strong when every man belonging to it is individually weak.”
“What one must fear, moreover, is not so much the sight of the immorality of the great as that of immorality leading to greatness.”
“So religion, which among the Americans never directly takes part in the government of society, must be considered as the ﬁrst of their political institutions; for if it does not give them the taste for liberty, it singularly facilitates their use of it.”
“Religion is much more necessary in the republic.”
“In order that society should exist, and a fortiori, that a society should prosper, it is required that all the minds of the citizens should be rallied and held together by certain predominant ideas.”**
“Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot… How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie be not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? and what can be done with a people which is its own master, if it be not submissive to the Divinity?”
No matter who ultimately gets elected, if what Adams and Tocqueville said were right, and I think they were, it’s only a matter of time before a pretty significant downfall of America. Many moral dominos have fallen, and I don’t so much mean abortion and gender confusion. I mean the more common and prevalent lack of virtue, which has precipitated more visible concerns. Now the only truth that is readily accepted is that there is no truth, only what is right for the autonomous self. Those were dominos. Those have been falling.
America needs: revival. Not of the Republican Party, but of people set on fire for the true Savior. Revival is what would make people “moral and religious,” as Adams spoke of and which our Nation rests or topples on.
Whatever happens, Christians trust the One who has the government on His shoulders. The One who is “called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The One of whom it can be said: “Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Whatever happens, Christians can trust that God is very adept at using a remnant for His good purposes to highlight His glory and goodness. Perhaps America won’t be saved, but perhaps millions of Americans will be?!
*As an aside, I think it is interesting to note what Tocqueville said about wealth in America remembering that Scripture says, that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Many have “noted the American obsession with work and the restless quest for the “almighty dollar” (Tocqueville, Democracy in America). Tocqueville also said, “The love of wealth is . . . to be traced, either as a principal or an accessory motive, at the bottom of all that the Americans do” (Ibid.). As well as, “One must go to America to understand what power material well-being exerts on political actions and even on opinions themselves, which ought to be subject only to reason” (Ibid.).
**Such as the reality of objective truth actually existing.
A few helpful resources before you vote…
Here are some resources and quotes I’ve found helpful in thinking about this years election…
I highly suggest that you check out Jonathan Leeman’s article: “What Makes a Vote Moral or Immoral? The Ethics of Voting.” And I found Justin Taylor’s article “The Case Against Pro-Lifers Voting for Joe Biden” helpful too. Taylor quotes John Piper: “No endorsement of any single issue qualifies a person to hold public office. Being pro-life does not make a person a good governor, mayor, or president. But there are numerous single issues that disqualify a person from public office.”
I recently read David Platt’s helpful book, Before You Vote: Seven Questions Every Christian Should Ask. You should buy it right now on Kindle. Here are a bunch of quotes from that book:
“This world is not a democracy. This world is a monarchy, and God is the King.”
“In the end, what’s most important, and what I am definitively advocating for based on God’s Word, is the realization that how we use our vote is a matter of faithfulness before God. For our vote is a unique privilege and responsibility that God has entrusted to us by his grace, and God calls us to use every means of grace he grants us to love him above all and love our neighbors as ourselves.”
“Even if we lose every freedom and protection we have as followers of Jesus in the United States, and even if our government were to become a completely totalitarian regime, we could still live an abundant life as long as we didn’t look to political leaders, platforms, or policies for our ultimate security and satisfaction. We can still have hope, peace, joy, and confidence regardless of what happens in our government, as long as… we look to Jesus alone for these things, and all of our hope hinges on him.”
“We are not worried or panicked about elections, no matter how important they may seem… Instead, we seek the kingdom of Jesus and his sinless righteousness with true peace and total confidence in his supreme reign. After all, we know that throughout history, leaders have risen and fallen. Presidents have come and gone. Through it all, one King alone has remained constant, and he is not up for election. Regardless of what president is chosen in our country, Jesus will be in control of it all.”
“According to God,… my concern in voting should not just be for me and my children but also for others and their children.”
“A clear takeaway from the book of Jonah is that we are to work for the spread of God’s love in all nations more than we are to seek safety, security, prosperity, and comfort in our own nation.”
“By God’s grace, we have been given so much as citizens of the United States of America. For all that God has granted us, we should be deeply grateful. At the same time, we follow a King who commands us to lay down our rights and use the grace he has given to love our neighbors as ourselves. This, after all, is the essence of the gospel that has saved us.”
America’s Trump Morality
The difference between Donald Trump and his explicit exploits and many guys on the street is not one of morality. It’s one of power and publicity. Sadly, there are many “average Joe” versions of Donald Trump and Anthony Weiner. I have heard many “men” nearly quote Trump and recount worse exploits in various work environments.
Welcome to America. Welcome to our morality: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pleasure,” wherever and however it might be found. This is our county’s mantra, even if not said in so many words.
Much of the American economy is marketed to our lust. Just look at advertising. We all know it, sex sells. Pornography is a booming market and so, sadly, is sex-trafficking.
To hear that Trump has appeared in XXX films and said a lot of bad and very inappropriate stuff is sad. But, it is sadly not surprising.
Are we really shocked by Trump’s inappropriate comments? No. Concerned? Yes.
“Grabbing women by…” whatever is, sadly, much of today’s culture. As a culture, we care about the quick and exciting. We care about bursting bosoms and one night stands. We care about quick fixes, porn, and pleasure at someone else’s expense (especially if no one knows and we can get away with it).
We care about having it our way. We care about following our passions, no matter what they are. We care about people’s freedom to do what feels right. We care about the right for no one to tell us what is right.
Pornography, Tinder, and all the advertisements that feed us represent where we are as a country. It represents the underlying desires of much of America. There’s many mainstream magazines and media forms–Men’s Health, GQ, and many musicians and movies (e.g. Fifty Shades of Grey),–that embody Trump’s morals even if they don’t say it outright.
So, are Trump’s words that surprising? For a presidential candidate, it’s unprecedented but it’s not surprising. That’s where we are as a country. Porn use to be something only under people’s beds and available at seedy XXX theaters but now it’s in our pockets, piped into our living rooms, and greeting us on billboards.
Trump is vocalizing what many men view, say, and others often think. Obviously, I don’t agree with Trump. I think it’s sickening. But I also think we as a country have almost lost grounds on which to critique him. I clearly condemn Trump’s actions but I am afraid that much of America’s moral outrage is a hypocritical contradiction: Trump is made in our own image.
How can America say pornography is perfectly normal and acceptable and yet condemn the person that lives out what is idolized on the screen? You know what I think?! I think that Trump is not the only problem or the biggest problem; he is a harbinger of things to come and an echo of what has gone before. He is a visualization of many people’s secret sins and inner hearts.
Trump is not excused obviously! He is despicable. However, as has been said, “we see that all the time in movies” and we hear it and watch it on our phones. Trump is a problem but he is not the problem. Trump is fruit from what has been sown for quite some time. He is in many ways, I’m afraid, the personification of many people’s dreams.
What is morality after all? Isn’t it might that makes right? And Trump has plenty of “might.” Or if we measure morality by the social construct theory Trump, sadly, wouldn’t be wrong. The social environment has basically said his actions are not wrong time and time again. After all, aren’t we as people just “matter in motion” and isn’t sex just “an exchange of fluids”?
In Trump’s own words “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab ’em by the @#$*!…” And sadly, that is often true. We often do anything for a star, or for money. And sadly, when someone “consents,” when someone lets someone else do… or whatever, we look at it as okay because there was consent.
Perhaps, we can all agree that it’s a shame that Trump made those comments since it reflects poorly upon the USA and offends some, but from a moral point of view on what foundation can America criticize him?
This, friend, is our world. This is where we are. And most people are fine with it.
However, doesn’t Trump’s example make it clear that it is wrong to ever look at a woman as an object in that way? Don’t we see how depraved his statement is? Don’t we see how debauched much of American society is?!
Women are not objects. Men are not objects. Pornography is wrong. And by implication, much of our advertising is wrong too. And many of us are wrong. It’s not just Trump. It’s the way we look at the Kardashians. It’s the way we idolize sexy bodies and always having it our way. It’s the way we forget what’s right and just want what we want. The problem is not just external (Trump), it’s likely to a large part internal (in our own heart).
America, wake up! We made Trump. We are Trump and Trump is us. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t indulge in licentious sexual “freedom” without the forging of certain “fetters.”
John Adams once said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Why did he say that? He said it at least in part because if we are not a moral people, a people who believe in a divinely given morality, then we will elect very corrupt officials. We will create and elect people who reflect our own character.
We will, in the words of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, pursue worthlessness, and become worthless (Jer. 2:5).
[[Two Postscripts: Please note that I do not support either candidate. 1) I loathe Hilliary Clinton and her pro-abortion stance (see here for example) and don’t trust her. 2) I don’t trust Trump either. Two verses to consider for those trusting Trump because he will (supposedly) “save” the Supreme Court: Ps. 118:9, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes [or their modern equivalent]” (cf. Ps. 146:3) and Ps. 40:4, “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud [certain political candidates], to those who go astray after a lie!” These verses are true even when considering such serious subjects as the future of America and unborn babies.]]
 Actually, it is sadly my own disposition. I am myself not beyond struggling with lust. However, by God’s grace, I am not enslaved to it and loathe porn. I have seen the chaos and curse that sexual sin brings to individuals and society through people close to me.
 The porn industry is one of the biggest industries and has the largest presence online. In fact, porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. Pornography is also very potent. I’ve read that it’s as addictive or more addictive as heroin or cocaine. Social media very often, even if it’s not officially labeled pornographic, is teaching and influencing how we think about sex and act out sexually (see e.g. Gail Dines, “Is porn immoral? That doesn’t matter: It’s a public health crisis” in The Washington Post).
 E.g. Richard Dawkins has said, “There is a bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, not good, nothing but pointless indifference… We are machines for propagating DNA” (Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow).
I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)