Conveniently coincident with, but not necessarily a part of my personal Lent, I am taking Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution:
a 10-week online course presented by Hillsdale College.
Featuring an expanded format from the “Introduction to the Constitution” lecture series with Hillsdale College President Dr. Larry Arnn, Constitution 101 follows closely the one-semester course required of all Hillsdale College undergraduate students.
I have just completed the material for Week 1. It is magnificent. After a 2-hour lecture (in four segments) and some reading, Dr. Arnn took some questions about the ideas he presented.
One of the questions was particularly meaningful in context of my annual quasi-religious experiment. Another student asked (paraphrasing): If Jefferson and the Founders looked to so many sources for roots, and if our Founding documents are based those ancient ideas, why didn’t the Greeks or the Romans create a free society themselves?
Dr. Arnn said:
Between Aristotle and Thomas Jefferson, Jesus Christ was born.
What does that change, just in political terms? All of a sudden you’ve got a universal religion, and people are invited—in fact, on pain of salvation required—to worship it in many different countries. And yet its idea is there’ll still be countries. In fact, “My Kingdom is not of this world”.
That implies, thought the Founders of America, religious freedom. That was a thing unknown to the Greeks. And so that change, which is always a part of the Christian idea, is always the intention of God. From the Classical idea, always one possibility in human nature.
So in the modern world we’re gonna have a limited government and we’re required to have it on pain of our soul. You’re not to be made how to worship, thought the Founders. So once you’ve got that, a whole bunch of other stuff becomes possible and necessary.
Christian salvation must be a choice. A political system which meets G-d’s requirements must allow men to choose Christ, but cannot force them to follow Him. The Christian ideal permits alternate religious choices, and requires that earthly government be separate from G-d’s Kingdom.
No other religion implicitly limits government. No other government had been so accepting of religious diversity. Men who are created equal cannot force one another to bow before any god. Kings and Sultans are not bound by equality. Earthly agents of ancient gods did not venerate choice. Under the American Founding principles, theocracy is both immoral and impossible.
Israel was the home of the Chosen People. America is home to the Choosing People. It is—or was—a Christian nation more than a nation of Christians. To the extent that the Founding Documents are understood and adhered to, people of any faith should not fear government persecution. And if any do fear our earthly lords, it is a sign that we have lost our way.