The American people enjoy the oldest democratic system in the world, along with unprecedented freedoms and opportunities. But is the ultimate government still in the future? This revealing article not only reminds Americans of their many blessings, but also explains what tomorrow will bring. "From sea to shining sea!" That phrase once again came to mind as our 747 climbed over Long Island Sound, veered to the north and then headed west to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
I was just completing a sort of — Bicentennial trip," a journey that took me, among other places, to renew my memories of Washington, D.C., Fort McHenry — where "The Star Spangled Banner" was written — and to the old Federal Building in New York City where George Washington was inaugurated. Often when I see the nation's Capital or the Statue of Liberty, chills run up and down my spine.
I remember the raw November evenings when Old Glory was hoisted a loft to flutter in the breeze — spotlighted in the Midwestern sky as we sang the national anthem just before a football game. I remember the shining faces of freckle-faced boys and little pig-tailed girls — straining at attention — as we recited the pledge of allegiance to our flag and our country at the beginning of each school day. And I shall never forget being shepherded solemnly into the auditorium of Joplin, Missouri's West Central School that raw December morning to hear the familiar voice of Franklin Roosevelt declare:
"Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a dale that will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked.... We will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God."
Quite a few years later, on my first trip to Europe, as our ship moved slowly out of New York harbor and the Statue of Liberty began to disappear in the fog. I remember feeling nostalgic pangs, realizing that I was leaving some place pretty special. And indeed I was.
Our Democratic Heritage On our 200th birthday, America stands as the oldest democracy in the world today. And our Constitution is the oldest of any nation still in existence.
Under the blessing of a benign Providence, our ancestors devised the greatest government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" in the history of the world. Despite all its faults, our nation has done more for the world and given more to the world than any other in modern history.
From the Hoover Plan for the reconstruction of Europe after World War I and the Lend-Lease Act of 1940 to the massive Marshall Plan, the Alliance for Progress, the Peace Corps, and a host of other beneficent programs, the United States has set an example of giving, helping, and building to the rest of the world. Like the biblical patriarch Joseph, we today have been blessed with the largest grain supply on earth and have gladly distributed it to the hungry nations of the world — even, at times, to those who are our sworn enemies.
Energy and creativity? Again, it would be difficult indeed to find an equal to twentieth-century America in these traits. Early in the last century the renowned French historian-philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, described our nation as follows:
"The United States of America have only been emancipated for half a century from the state of colonial dependence in which they stood to Great Britain... Yet no people in the world have made such rapid progress in trade and manufactures as the Americans... and although their manufactures have to struggle with almost insurmountable natural impediments, they are not prevented from making great and daily advances.
"In the United States," continued de Tocqueville, "the greatest under takings and speculations are executed without difficulty, because the whole population are engaged in productive industry, and because the poorest as well as the most opulent members of the commonwealth are ready to combine their efforts for these purposes. The consequence is, that a stranger is constantly amazed by the immense public works executed by a nation which contains, so to speak, no rich men. The Americans arrived but as yesterday on the territory which they inhabit, and they have already changed the whole order of nature for their own advantage. They have joined the Hudson to the Mississippi, and made the Atlantic Ocean communicate with the Gulf of Mexico, across a continent of more than five hundred leagues in extent which separates the two seas. The longest railroads which have been constructed, up to the present time, are in America."
Today America is still the world's premier democratic, free enterprise nation. The almost complete freedom of speech, action, and thought possessed by United States citizens is a marvel to most peoples or the world. For even in Britain, France, and other democratic societies, governmental control of the radio and television outlets, strict governmental regulation of business and industry and also what many Americans would regard as confiscatory taxation policies all act as a repressive influence on the kind of liberties most America ns take for granted.
America has striven long and
Since the national power of a democracy ultimately resides in the people themselves, rather than in an exclusive dictatorial elite, the nation as a whole is strong only to the extent that the individual character of its citizens remains strong.hard to make our nation a living example of the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence: "... that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,"
A Lesson in Application Eldridge Cleaver, a former revolutionary Black Panther who used to rant against "the pig power structure," has come home to America with a totally different outlook than when he went into self-imposed exile over seven years ago. Not only has he himself been "educated" to political realities in the world, he now can see that much has happened in the American system since the time he and his wife left the U.S. He now sees far greater participation by blacks and other minorities in government than he did in 1968. He feels that legal and governmental discrimination against minor ties has virtually vanished in the United States.
Cleaver sees the ending of the Vietnam war and the ousting of President Nixon as signs that democracy is working — that the people can make their wishes known and carried out. He feels that this working out in practice of the principles of democracy is unique and makes America, politically, the best place in the world.
Cleaver has continually emphasized since his return that the ruling classes in the most Communist and Third World countries exist only to perpetuate their own selfish interests. On the other hand, Cleaver finds it almost amusing that so many American intellectuals spend their time criticizing American society and praising the countries which Cleaver sees as politically rotten.
After experiencing seven years of self-imposed exile in various other countries, Cleaver is resolutely opposed to communism. He states: "After all my travels and seeing the socialists world up very close, really seeing how the Soviet Union and China function, well, I now think that the U.S. should be second to none militarily.
Unique Personal Freedoms The above example could be multiplied thousands of times. For many Americans never fully appreciate what they have until they live in some other land. Under the democratic system of checks and balances — and the opportunity to freely elect our leaders — Americans enjoy a more open and flexible political system than has thus far come about by any other means.
For example, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment or religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
A few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the total religious freedom which has and must continue to exist in this nation. It said: "Freedom to worship was indispensable in a country whose people came from the four corners of the earth and brought with them a diversity of religious opinion. Today authorities list 83 separate religious bodies, each with membership exceeding 50,000, existing among our people as well as innumerable smaller groups. The place of religion in our society is an exalted one, achieved through a long tradition of reliance on the home, the church, and the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind. We have come to realize through bitter experience that it is not within the power of government to invade that citadel, whether its purpose or effect be to aid or oppose, to advance or to retard. In the relationship between man and religion, the state is firmly committed to a position of neutrality."
How rare these freedoms of speech, press, and religion have been down through the years of human history!
Even though the democratic process is often slow and cumbersome — often impeded by human nature — it has provided the safest, the wealthiest, the most creative, and certainly the freest society in modern times. Emulating America's success, most Western European nations and Japan emerged from World War II as genuine democracies. Since that time the greatest wave of prosperity and creativity the world has known — affecting all classes of man — has blessed these nations as well.
Let us be thankful for the manifold blessings enjoyed within the freedoms which democracy has made possible. We in America have much to be thankful for in this Bicentennial year!
Creeping Doubt and Difficulties There is no doubt that America is facing a crisis of confidence. We have seen Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos all fall to the communists. In February of this year, Angola fell to Marxist forces backed up by Cuban mercenaries and Soviet advisors — making a shambles of U.S. policy in Africa.
On the national scene, the scandals of Watergate, the almost daily news of corporate payoffs and other revelations of frailty in high places has undermined the confidence of the American people in their leaders and in their institutions. Renewed confidence in America's leadership and in our fundamental institutions must be restored if the United States is to continue as the leading world power.
Soon, an entirely different form of government will be brought to all the peoples of the earth. It will not come by human reason, politics, or force of arms. It will come as a result of divine intervention.
The Biggest Crisis of All Finally, there is a crisis of character. Such scandals as Watergate reflect something which has been sneaking upon our blind side for many years. That is the fact that, more than we would like to admit, we have become a nation of liars, cheaters, thieves, adulterers, and blasphemers.
We read continuing exposes about the philandering of a recent president and the lies and dirty tricks of another. We are in the midst of a virtual avalanche of violence in our entertainment media and pornography on the news-stands.
Our economy, like a narcotic addict, is dependent upon the continual refinancing of a mountainous burden of debt. The once-heralded virtues of thrift, self-discipline, honesty, and self-reliance have disappeared from vast segments of the American public.
Clearly, a fundamental change must come about in this broad area of declining national character.
Lesson of History Will Durant, the historian, summarizes the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire with words that are vital to our situation today: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars..."
Speaking in a similar vein, Edmund Burke, the great English statesman, explained that: "Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites... Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere: and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters,"
But will we Americans put "moral chains" on our appetites? Will we build a strong individual character, strong families and thus a strong America in years ahead?
The truth is that a democracy is the most fragile of governmental systems. Since the national power of a (democracy ultimately resides in the people themselves, rather than in an exclusive dictatorial elite, the nation as a whole is strong only to the extent that the individual character or its citizens remains strong.
The Ultimate Government As beneficial as democracy is, this form of human government is not without its faults. As The Wall Street Journal recently observed: "Democracy has never been neat or tidy, but it has always been buoyant. One must hope it will stumble successfully into the future."
We Americans can be extremely grateful that we are not living under a dictator or a vengeful monarch or any other totalitarian system. As selfish, bungling human governments go, we've definitely got the best.
However, regardless of political systems, the nations of this world are meanwhile girding for a gargantuan World War III that will lead to human extinction unless our Creator intervenes.
And intervene he will (Matt. 24:22). For the great Creator — of whom our founding fathers spoke so much — has better things in store — for America, as well as for the whole world.
Soon, an entirely different form of government will be brought to all the peoples of the earth. It will not come by human reason, politics, or force of arms.
It will come as a result of divine intervention in human affairs described in literally scores of Bible prophecies understood and believed in by thousands of our Bible-believing ancestors, but misunderstood or scoffed at by most of our modern generation.
The "father of our country." George Washington, declared: "There is a great Being who rules over the universe." The message of" this great Being is called "the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14). Strange as it may seem to some, it is a message concerning a literal world-ruling government to be established over the nations or the earth by Jesus Christ at his return (Revelation 11:15).
That government will be a theocracy — a government of and by God. But unlike all human governments that have ever been devised, it will be directed in perfect love, perfect justice, perfect wisdom and understanding.
It will be set up as a literal government on this earth in our generation. And this is as sure as the rising and setting of tomorrow's sun. In the meantime, in this Bicentennial year, we should remember the deep respect and awe accorded the eternal sovereign of all by those who did, in fact, found this nation.
Let us acknowledge the wisdom or Abraham Lincoln, who described God's guidance of our first president and stated: "Without the aid of that Divine Being who ever aided him, who controls mine and all destinies. I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail."
We Americans should gratefully acknowledge God's overall guidance in the destiny of our nation. We should thank him for the unbelievably abundant blessings that have accrued to our people these past two hundred years.
Then we should fervently ask that God would lead and bless this nation and each one of us in it in years to come. This should be our Bicentennial purpose and prayer.