News Articles

Worldviews matter

LEESBURG, Va. (BP)–In America, it has long been a popular sport to demean and ridicule the faith of religious conservatives. Christians who seek to participate peacefully in the political process are often denigrated as “religious Ayatollahs” who represent a threat to freedom and democracy.

Such aspersions are themselves a form of bigotry and accomplish little, other than to add to the profound polarization that already characterizes American politics. Further, such demagoguery reflects a lack of appreciation for the positive contribution that religious faith has made to the shaping of American law and freedom.

Author John Eidsmoe has rightly noted that at the time of the founding of the American republic, our system of law and justice was forged out of an underlying social consensus that included four elements:

(1) There is a God who transcends human history and to whom human beings are ultimately accountable.

(2) Even though human beings are fallen in their nature, they are special, having been created in the image of God.

(3) Because of their special nature, human beings have been endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights.

(4) Government is instituted among men to secure the inalienable rights conferred upon mankind by the Creator.

The Judeo-Christian worldview which prevailed at the beginning of our republic dramatically impacted the shaping of the American political and legal system. This unique view of the nature of man and the role of government has been responsible, in large measure, for producing the greatest protection and the greatest freedom for individuals that the world has ever known.

It is not difficult to understand why individual liberties flourished within the Judeo-Christian social consensus that existed for so long in American culture. Ideas have consequences, and what we believe determines how we behave. To understand the impact of the Judeo-Christian worldview on American law and freedom, one needs only to ask and answer a few simple questions:

— What measure of protection should the law extend to a creature made in the image of God — one who has been declared by none other than Almighty God Himself to have worth, value and dignity?

— What right does society, or any individual, have to strip such a creature of inalienable rights conferred upon him by the Creator?

— What limits are placed on the state to prevent it from overbearing the conscientiously held beliefs of one person who stands in conflict with the rest of society?

“Self-evident truths,” “inalienable rights,” “equal protection,” “limited government with delegated powers” — all these flow naturally from the Judeo-Christian worldview.

Secular cynics counter that we live in a more enlightened age than that of America’s founders. They maintain that we should discard the antiquated notions that inhere in the Judeo-Christian religious traditions. Secularists reject the notion that there is a transcendent God to whom human beings will one day render an account. They maintain that God is merely a creature of our imagination. Human beings were not created, they say. Rather, humans evolved by chance from slime, and they are accountable only to themselves. They are but “beasts,” albeit the best of the beasts. There is no such thing as truth, no right or wrong. There is no authority greater than the state, and it is from the state that human beings are granted their rights. What the state gives, the state can take away.

The secular worldview of those who condemn religious conservatives has also had an impact on the rights and freedoms of our citizens. To assess that impact, one may again ask a few simple questions:

— On what basis does a creature of chance claim to have worth, value and dignity worthy of the protection of the law?

— On what basis can such a creature claim to have a “right” to resist the will of the majority or the weak to resist the will of the strong?

— What claim can such a creature lay to inalienable rights conferred by the Creator, when the very existence of the Creator is denied?

The answers to these questions suggest that when it comes to preserving our legal rights, it is the view of the secularists, not of Christian conservatives, which is to be feared.

Thomas Jefferson rightly declared, “God, who gave us life, gave us liberty.” Then he wisely asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift of God?”

Competing worldviews naturally come into tension in the political process. Since that process has a dramatic impact on the rights and freedoms we enjoy, we would do well to examine the consequences of the premises advanced by the partisans participating in the political arena. We would also do well to do more thinking and more listening. It is hard to carry on the conversation we call democracy if all we engage in is name-calling.
Ken Connor is chairman of the Center for a Just Society based in Washington D.C., online at www.centerforajustsociety.org.

    About the Author

  • Ken Connor