Chapter 1 Introduction
Never has the world seen a nation as great as the United States of America. The nation has been home to numerous inventors and inventions that greatly increased the standard of living for the citizens of nation and the world. No longer do America's citizens spend most of their time working just to put food on the table. Salaries are spent on incredible electronic items, entertainment, amazing travel opportunities, or healthcare treatments that were unavailable to even the richest people on earth in previous centuries. America's poor often live better than the middle classes of other nations. The prosperity is the result of freedom for the citizens. Freedom is the secret to America's greatness and success.
The source of this freedom can be found in the two works that most shaped America: The Bible and The US Constitution. America's founders followed the God of the Bible and adhered to biblical teaching. They used many biblical principles in founding the nation and drafting its Constitution. As long as their principles are followed, America will continue to be successful. Look at the similarities between the Bible and the Constitution:
Both recognize an Almighty God who created the universe.
Both prescribe liberty and freedom for the people.
Both call for a small central (national) government, with as many issues as possible being settled at the local level.
Both recognize the societal need for a moral people that will help each other when in need while being willing to work to support themselves.
America's founders grasped one of the key biblical tenets – God-given free will. God made humans free to do whatever they desire. Unfortunately this results in both good and evil. This includes the choice to follow and worship God (or not), to love your neighbor (or not), and to respect your neighbors property (or not). These God-given freedoms can be taken away, for example when one man steals from, or murders another. The founders realized that the role of government was to prevent these types of infringements. To protect the God-given freedoms for all citizens. The freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness any way the citizen desires, as long as he does not interfere with another's freedom to do the same. When people have freedom, and are secure knowing that their lives and property are both protected, they will thrive. The result is the greatest nation the world has ever seen.
The founders distinguished between their faith and their government. America has never been a theocracy, a government with an official religion. This would take away freedom of the citizens to choose their religion and how they worshiped God. Both the Constitution and Bible should play important roles in society, but those roles differ.
Societal Roles for the Constitution and Bible
The Bible - A guide for the life of the individual
The Constitution - Rules for the national government established by the people
The Bible, being dictated by God, has shaped all humanity more than any other work. For a follower of God, the Bible is the guide for life and trumps all other ideologies. It forms the cornerstone of the Christian and Jewish (Old Testament) religions. The Bible explains how the Earth and man came to exist (created by God) and provides a narrative of human history from its inception. It details the plan God followed to redeem humanity from sin by sending a Savior. This is the main purpose of the Bible. Jesus rose from the dead in order to offer salvation to all mankind. People have free will to believe this miracle happened, or not believe it. Same with the other miracles described in the Bible.
Sidebar: Humans are free to dismiss the early chapters of Genesis, but in doing so they eliminate the reason for the rest of the Bible. Without the beginning of the story, the end won't make sense. There is no reason or need for Abraham, God's nation of ancient Israel, or even Christ, the Savior, if the first part of Genesis is removed.
The Bible shows God's Will for how humans should live (Love God...; Love your neighbor...). It is a governing document for the individuals, churches or other organizations who choose to follow it. God does not force humans to follow His desires as spelled out in the Bible. Nor should Christians try to force others to follow. It violates free will. Use of force is a key theme throughout this book. Anytime a person is forced to do something, their freedom is restricted. The Constitution was written to limit the use of force by the federal government.
The US Constitution follows many of the suggestions the Bible offers for society. Not surprising, since its authors were students of the Bible and knew it well. From the Pilgrims to the Founders, the Bible played an enormous role in American society. The Founders attempted to form a society where the government would use force only to protect the God-given rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The Constitution is the governing document for the federal government. It is the rulebook the government must follow. The Founders were each representatives of one of the original thirteen colonies that won independence from England. State representatives wrote the Constitution, and the states ratified it to make it the governing document of the land. Today, it is sometimes glossed over that our nation is the United States of America. The states united to form a nation because they considered it beneficial to do so. They ceded certain powers to the federal government and kept others for themselves. New states pledged to uphold the Constitution upon being granted statehood. Elected representatives in the federal government swear to uphold the Constitution as do members of the military. The US Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
America has undergone a silent political revolution over the last 80 years. During this time the federal government began to ignore key components of the Constitution (and the Bible). The revolution has dramatically changed the country and removed a large degree of freedom from citizens. America now needs a peaceful counter-revolution, or reformation, to return to founding principles.
Reformation of Government
It is human nature for good worthy organizations to become corrupt over time and veer away from their intended purpose. The Bible presents numerous examples of the kings of Israel moving away from the government God desired - and a few kings who repented and returned to governing according to God's plan. The Christian Church became corrupted by non-biblical teachings over time. A number of leaders (Luther, Calvin, Tyndale and many others) stepped forward to reform the church, and return it to a foundation of God's true teachings. The US Government now needs a similar reformation. It has abandoned many of the core principles of the Constitution – the rules it is supposed to govern by.
Foundational freedoms were built into the Constitution. They are best captured in the Bill of Rights. The first of which is freedom of religion and the press. This prevents the federal government from interfering in citizen's lives. The federal government has no more right to ban prayer at a public event, than it has the right to ban a newspaper or TV channel from the public. Prayer and other decisions are left up to the organizers of the event's itinerary. One person being offended by prayer is no different than one person being offended by the content of a media organization. The government simply cannot ban either.
Once the government ignores or violates one freedom, it becomes much easier to ignore others. Freedom of religion, freedom to own guns (bear arms), and freedom to conduct business as one desires (commerce) are the freedoms most often targeted for abuse. But if these can be abused, why not the right to a jury trial, or the right to not have police invade your home without a court warrant? The ignoring of one right can quickly lead to the ignoring of multiple rights. The metaphorical slippery slope.
States have lost the freedom to govern as they wish within the boundaries of the Constitution. Today's federal government tramples all over states. They collect much more money (40% maximum tax rate vs 13% top state tax rate) than the states. They use this money to manage areas that should be the domain of the states: Education, great quantities of land, housing programs, food programs, agriculture programs, and energy programs. The list goes on and on. These programs all have copious regulations that citizens and states must follow.
What difference does it make if the federal government runs these programs instead of states? First, it is a violation of the Constitution. Second, the federal government is notoriously inefficient and wasteful. Thirdly, and most importantly, not all citizens want every aspect of their lives regulated and controlled by government. If states perform the bulk of the government duties, citizens can chose the state government that best suites them. This freedom is especially needed in present times where the nation is deeply divided.
America Overcoming Crises
America did not become a great nation by chance. People fought to create the nation and to keep it strong. Several specific national crises greatly altered the course of the nation. Every time pro-freedom forces prevailed.
The Revolutionary War determined whether America would become an independent nation of liberty or a vassal colony to England.
The Civil War decided whether America would continue to exist as a single nation. It also finally abolished slavery, liberating an entire class of people.
During World War II, America defeated two authoritarian imperialist nations, Germany and Japan. These nations had both initiated wars of conquest before declaring war on America. The victory cemented America's position as a world power, a pro-freedom power.
The book, The Fourth Turning, notes these crises happened approximately 80 years apart. It also predicts America will undergo a new crisis as it approaches the next 80 year mark. The next crisis will almost certainly involve the size, scope and power of the federal government. The federal government has assumed powers well beyond that authorized by the Constitutional, with the result of reduced freedom for its citizens. Both economic and religious freedom have been harmed.
In the case of the Civil War, the crisis resulted from unresolved issues from an earlier crisis. After the Revolution, the dominant objective became forming a national government from the thirteen independent colonies. A number of founders wanted to abolish slavery in the Constitution, but sadly some states rejected this. The issue of slavery was left to simmer until it erupted into the Civil War.
Likewise the Great Depression just before World War II sowed the seeds for the next crisis. The economic distress during the Depression (arguably extended in America by government), led to a series of federal government programs to “fix” the economy. These programs were the first major attempt by the federal government to manage the free-market economy, and were not constitutional. The federal government attempted to dictate how much of certain items citizens could produce, regulate wages, and “stimulate” the economy with government spending. Of course, the government had to greatly increase taxes to pay for these programs and the bureaucratic administrators.
The level of federal government intrusiveness dropped significantly at the close of the War, but then resumed an increasing trend-line toward greater and greater control and intrusion. One can see the next crisis brewing as Americans attempt to regain their freedoms from an usurping federal government. This will hopefully be a peaceful political battle, as opposed to the other crises which became wars.
Look what is transpiring: Ranchers in western states oppose the federal government controlling land that belongs to their state. Tea Party movements, word-playing on the Boston Tea Party, have begun to rally against big-government. The IRS targets political groups it does not like. Libertarians have become angry and distressed at the government monitoring their phones and social media websites. Churches are finding it difficult to follow their religious beliefs with respect to abortion, as an increasingly secular federal government tries to force them to accept the practice. The federal government struggles to keep the multitude of promises it has made to citizens. As more and more citizens cease working and begin collecting benefits, the government will run low on funds.
America is increasingly dominated by two opposing belief systems. One system wants the government to provide jobs, healthcare, food and housing to the citizens. It also dictates how people live, what kind of cars can be driven, what kind of energy can be produced, how land can be used, and even the types of lightbulbs that can be bought. It also believes it “owns” the incomes of citizens and can take as much as it wants or needs. The other belief system wants the government to leave citizens alone to live their lives. The government should be used only to protect the nation and citizens from being attacked. These belief systems are not compatible with each other. A crisis is bound to occur as these systems clash.
This crisis will go to the very heart of what America is. What laws, if any will be followed, and who will follow them. What does law-following have to do with it? As was stated earlier, the Constitution is the supreme law of the nation. If its provisions are not followed, why should any law be followed? What if citizens decide to arbitrarily ignore laws they do not agree with like tax law? The nation cannot survive if citizens in-mass suddenly stop complying with tax law and paying their taxes. Anarchy will ensue. A strong nation needs fair laws that are willingly followed by the citizens.
A Constitutional Federal Government: Averting the Crisis for a Divided Nation
The way to avert this crisis is right in front of the nation. It is called the US Constitution. The Constitution gives each state the latitude to follow the belief system their citizens desire. Whether it be the big-government liberal belief, or the limited government conservative belief, or some new way yet to be tried.
There is no longer any need for conservatives and liberals to have endless back and forth arguments on which government policies are best for the economy: high or low tax rates; heavy or light regulation; business subsidies or no subsidies; welfare or workfare. States will be able to design government policy on each of these areas that best suit their citizens. It will be apparently easy to see which policies work best from examining the results in the states. It is entirely possible that different Americans will prefer different policies and consider theirs “more successful”. Americans will have the freedom to vote with their feet and move to states having policies they prefer. Using the Constitution, and its state-centric approach, the arguments change. For example:
Does high government taxation and spending/investment drive economic growth and prosperity? Becomes: Is it beneficial for my state to tax and invest in this business?
Which energy sources (solar, wind, nuclear, oil, coal...) are best for both present and future needs? Becomes: Will my state be better off pushing one type of energy over another?
Should abortion be legal? Becomes: Should the citizens of a state make abortion legal?
Should the government provide healthcare?
Becomes: Should the citizens of my state provide healthcare for its citizens.
Is it wise to legalize marijuana? Becomes: Is it wise for a state to legalize marijuana in that state?
The answer is likely to vary state by state. In each of these areas, the Constitution places the governmental responsibility at the state or local level. Chapter 20 lays out a plan to more permanently return the federal government to its original limited role in America, by following the Constitution. Briefly, the federal government is prevented from performing many functions is does today if the 10th Amendment is followed. Move these functions down the government responsibility chain to the states.
This solution will require a massive transfer of authority, power, and resources from the federal government to the state governments. If the nation acts soon, there can be a several year period where those responsibilities, agencies and programs can be transferred, including initial funding, in an orderly manner. At present there is ample revenue for the federal government to help states during the transition. This may not be the case if the nation continues on its current course for too much longer.
This book is also an excellent reference book. It captures key teachings of the Bible and Constitution on a number of issues, beginning with the next chapter on free will. Chapter 3 examines creation and evolution. Chapter 4 explores the biblical view of death as a punishment from God. Chapter 5 contrasts the biblical holy war in the book of Joshua with jihad. The next 4 chapters review covenants between God and man, the poor, and taxes. Chapters 10 and 11 review America's religious heritage and religion in schools. The next two chapters focus on the Constitution and freedom of religion. Chapter 14 shows how Presidents and US Senators are responsible for the courts straying from the Constitution. The next 4 chapters cover the issues of abortion, homosexuality, slavery, and immigration. Chapters 19 and 20 go into detail on the financial crisis being caused by the federal government and the solution. Chapters 21 and 22 give special attention to healthcare and Social Security. Chapter 23 documents news bias in the media and its affect on elections. Chapter 24 explores the hostility of the Democrat party to Christians who follow the Bible. Chapter 25 details a voting strategy to return the nation to its constitutional foundation.