Pillars of Political Prosperity; Last Words from our First President
The political unrest of recent days has given us cause to be unsettled, to feel like our ship of state has somehow lost its anchor, to sense the vulnerability of our republic. Public displays of disorder are reminiscent of 1968, which was described by one news outlet as “the year the world fell apart.”
Sometimes when contemporary pundits struggle to have a long-term perspective, we can benefit from lessons offered by those in the past. Even a cursory examination of the life of George Washington reveals a leader who literally held the country together by the sheer force of his character, sacrifice, and ability to call others to a vision of what America could become. There are few heads of state that have been able to wield this level of influence. He was not without his faults, but we would do well to not demand perfection from those in the past before we are willing to learn lessons that can help us in the present. The combination of God’s revealed Truth in scripture and biblical principle impressed on the minds of men through God’s Common Grace provide some lampposts in what can appear to be a dark political landscape.
Parting words of wisdom
In 1796, as Washington prepared to leave the Presidency at the close of his second term in office, he penned his Farewell Address. He covered a wide range of topics- warnings about permanent international alliances, his disdain for political parties and their threat to national unity, cautions about the national debt, among others.
I find his reflections on the essential roles of religion and morality to be especially instructive in our day.
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.
And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.George Washington’s Farewell Address, September 19, 1796
Beware of a faulty assumption
The form of government of the United States of America is a republic, a government of laws and not of men. It is not primarily a democracy. The highest law of the land is the Constitution. Washington understood that this form of government required a citizenry that recognized the transcendent principles of morality and religion in order to survive. The system works when there is a sense of submission to a Higher Authority, a transcendent morality anchored in the religious heritage of the people. The alternative is to be dominated by the temporal struggle for power and self-interest. Washington warned against the assumption that “national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
So, what are some of the implications for Lakeland Christian School and our role in shaping the hearts and minds of the next generation of Americans? Let’s consider this question in light of our Core Values.
Christ Centered Community– we want to model our community under the ultimate model of Revelation 7:9, “…a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…” We want to model unity and worship across all ethnicities and cultures. We want to demonstrate the priority of others, “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3-4) “By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Wisdom Through Learning- Washington warned against a “refined education” void of religious principle. Education in the Light of God’s Word is critical to having citizens who are equipped to think wisely about the problems of the day. Knowledge is required but comes up short without godly wisdom that shapes its application. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7) Discernment and discretion rooted in biblical Truth are required to navigate the nuances of justice, mercy, the environment, economic policy and the host of other issues that will soon be thrust upon our students to unravel as they shape their future in our country and beyond. The Class of 2021 will vote in approximately 14 more presidential elections. They need to become wise and discerning citizens for this vital role as Americans.
Spiritual Cultivation- This is not some sort of vague, all-inclusive “spirituality” but an intentional shaping of the heart and mind after the Truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. The Christian faith is anchored in the historical events of the birth, sinless life, death, burial, bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Our students are called to place their faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross for their salvation and to become whole-hearted followers of Him. This is a life-long pursuit that is encouraged day after day in the Christian school. We learn to love, to forgive, to encourage, and to hold one another accountable in our growth in grace.
It should be obvious that the Christian school offers the most fertile setting for these aspirations to become reality in our students. While we believe that it is in the best interest of our country to have a well-educated electorate, the values expressed above are not the focus of the government school system. Sometimes the values espoused there are directly counter to those of scripture.
The Christian school has a critical role in shaping the next generation of citizens.
Our oldest students have already voted in their first election. Let’s do our best to equip them for a “lifetime of learning, leadership, service, and worship” so that they will be well prepared to responsibly exercise their obligations as citizens for many years to come.