Sept. 18, 2012
The Founders of our country asserted frequently and with great intensity that political self-government could only be successful if personal self-government - virtue, or what we might call high character - was strong. “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters, Benjamin Franklin reportedly wrote in 1787.
Why? Because without personal virtue, people become addicted to comfort, resentful of hard choices, susceptible to the sirens of bread and circus (material abundance and continuous entertainment), and ready to fall for the lie that needed political or cultural changes can be painless. Sound a bit like America today?
According to a new survey by the respected legal website, FindLaw.com, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t name any of the nine members of the Supreme Court of the United States. In fact, results show that only 34 percent of Americans can name any member of the nation’s highest court, and only one percent can correctly name all nine justices.”
If this survey is accurate, apparently most of our fellow citizens are so disinterested in their own governance that they dont even bother attempting to know who composes the nations highest court, let alone why that matters.
It is human nature to become complacent, to assume that because lifes patterns seem to follow a rather predictable course that they always will. In this, as in many other things, human nature is foolish: We enjoy our ordered liberty not only because of constitutional and legal frameworks and the bravery of those who protect us, at home and abroad, but also because the institutions we take for granted remain grounded in Judeo-Christian moral teachings and presuppositions and a common agreement that our rights come from God, not government.
Yet as America loses its Judeo-Christian moral consensus, the institutions themselves, and the Constitution that gives them their greatest expression, become less potent. As a result, government by fiat (e.g., a healthcare mandate that everyone must hold health insurance) and erosions of religious, political, and economic liberty grow with increasing exponentiality. And as this loss occurs, we remain blind to it, since its effects are, for now, largely unthreatening to our prosperity and autonomy.
Jesus understood this paradox lethargy in the face of danger because the danger is not immediately apparent very well:
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Matthew 24:37-39
None of knows when Jesus will return; predictions of the timing of His second coming invariably prove wrong. My point is that in the face of a looming global deluge, Noahs contemporaries disregarded his warnings and went about life as usual.
Are we really any different? In an era when only about one-third of Americans can name a Supreme Court justice indicative of a deep disinterest in the society-shaping decisions those justices make one wonders if we should not be prepared for political, ethical and legal deluges more profound than any we have, in our 236 year history, known.