As our country continues to consider how to confront racism, it seems there are many responses needed. One may be found in government action. Another is found in our own hearts – and in the work of the Church.
John Winthrop, the first Governor of Massachusetts, thought about liberty in two ways: natural and civil. Civil liberty is vertical and found in the relationship of God and man: it is the freedom to do what is good. Natural liberty is horizontal, it is man in relation to man: it is a liberty to do evil as well as good. Winthrop said that natural liberty sets itself against God’s authority. The Latin phrase he used to elaborate was “omnes sumus licentia deteriores,” or, “too much freedom makes us all worse.” That has become very evident in our day.
Thus, there are both positive and negative liberties. What is the key to keeping our liberties in balance? Alexis de Tocqueville called this “The Great Paradox in America.” While religion has no direct established powers over her citizens, nothing has influenced American morals and ethics more than the Christian religion. Devotion to God and to His laws were once so central to the American mind and heart that love of country was considered an expression of devotion to God. The church is so “essential” that Russel Kirk, one of the fathers of modern conservatism wrote that American society might have completely disintegrated in the middle of the 19th century had it not been held together by the cement of Christianity.
Today, though, instead of care for the church and the greater society, we are faced with Democratic despotism: a hyper-individualism in which people are concerned only about themselves and no longer consider the public good or their responsibility to contribute to it.
How far we have fallen!
The Church is the place to root our nation’s healing. “Healing” will mean loving our neighbors as ourselves, which is something Jesus clearly calls us to:
“You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Legislation to end racism in America is important! But, racism is a heart issue and laws alone won’t do it. Racism is sin and consequently needs a spiritual solution as much as it needs a legislative one. Consider the spiritual solution found in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Today I spoke with Sen. Harold Metts and Sen. Jessica de la Cruz. They are inviting us to join with their churches (Congdon St. Baptist & Awakening Church) for a week of prayer and fasting Monday June 22 – Tuesday June 30. I encourage you to consider joining us and praying for the beginning of healing in our state and nation.
God will do his part – will you do yours?
Chairman, Board of Advisors – Rhode Island