The reality of “Evangelicals and Catholics together”—what Baptist theologian Timothy George calls “the ecumenism of the trenches”—stands evident in Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late (New York : Faith Words, c. 2012), by James Robison (a noted Baptist evangelist who is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, providing various kinds of relief around the world) and Jay W. Richards (a Catholic scholar currently a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute). The two teamed up to write Indivisible because they believe Americans’ “freedom, our way of life, and our future are in peril”—largely because of “corrosive” ideas and policies now regnant in our nation (p. xvi). Commending this treatise, Mike Huckabee says: “INDIVISIBLE can change forever how you see the world. Grasp the wisdom shared in this book, and the scripture ‘My people perish for lack of knowledge’ will no longer apply. This can prove to be the much needed game-changer for America.” What Indivisible makes clear is less a revelation than a reminder—a reminder of the basic moral and political truths our species has ever found the best prescription for living well.
Robison and Richards seek to remind Christians in America of both their heritage and responsibilities. As believers they are distressed that a nation which historically enabled Christians to prosper has turned hostile, banishing their convictions from the public square under the banner of the “separation of church and state.” Sadly, much evidence suggests that we now live in a land where militant secularists have established what Archbishop Charles Chaput calls an “‘unofficial state atheism’” (p. 36). This was recently (even as this book was published) made clear as the Obama Administration moved to impose on Christian institutions its commitment to contraception, abortion (the morning-after pill), and sterilization. Our modern Caesar will allow no religious freedom that challenges its authority. It is becoming “a secularist atheocracy that tolerates no dissent” (p. 45). Nothing should concern us more than the incessant encroachments on our religious liberties, clearly protected by the very first provision in the Bill of Rights.
What’s needed, first of all, the authors argue, is a recovery of the “first things” traditionally understood as the “natural law,” including the right to freely worship and serve God. Citing C.S. Lewis, Robison and Richards insist: “‘The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish’” (p. 19). This is the law known to the Gentiles that St. Paul described as “written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness” (Ro 2:14-16). And this is the law Thomas Jefferson invoked by declaring, in The Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Unfortunately, America’s roots in the Natural Law have been severed by multitudes of leftist Progressives who contend all law is man-made and infinitely malleable. Consequently, what rights we enjoy come from an all-powerful State rather than a righteous Creator. This view was stated categorically by one of the nation’s premier progressive presidents, Woodrow Wilson: “In fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same. They both rest at bottom upon the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members’” (p. 313). Wilson’s words, uttered a century ago, largely explain the trajectory this nation has since taken under presidents FDR, LBJ, and Barack Obama as the federal government has imposed increasingly socialistic agendas while enlarging the franchise and courting favored constituencies.
Thus we now face and must engage in a variety of battles that will determine the fate of faith, family, and freedom in America, beginning with the most basic of all rights—the right to life. As George W. Bush, in accord with the Declaration of Independence, declared, the “‘right to life cannot be granted or denied by government because it does not come from government, it comes from the Creator of life’” (p. 88). Thus Christians through the centuries have steadfastly opposed abortion. “‘The unborn child,” said John Calvin, ‘though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being . . . and should not be robbed of the life which has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely be deemed more atrocious to destroy an unborn child in the womb before it has come to light’” (p. 90). Conservative Evangelicals and Catholics have united in opposing abortion—and their endeavor has helped nudge the American public slowly in pro-life directions. So we must persevere in the effort to legally protect all persons, no matter how small. (To Robison this is a deeply personal issue, for he is “the product of rape.” His mother, a single woman, chose to sustain his life and subsequently released him to a foster family, and he remains forever grateful to the mother who sustained his life in the womb.)
The rights to marry and procreate are—as John Finnis explains in Natural Law and Natural Rights—rooted in the inalienable right to life. The family is, in a profound way, the most primary of our natural institutions. Thus Robison and Richards devote several chapters to issues regarding it: “A Man Shall Cling to His Wife,” “It takes a Family,” “Train Up A Child in the Way He Should Go.” Only a life-long, monogamous, heterosexual, conjugal union—i.e. marriage—is truly good for mankind, but we are now witnessing (through adultery, divorce, same-sex unions, etc.) a powerful offensive against it that must be resisted. So too we must insist that children need mothers and fathers! They may survive in other societal structures, but they only really thrive in families. Tragically, all the evidence indicates that the socialistic Welfare State, displacing and replacing moms and dads, educating youngsters in godless schools, does permanent harm to the most vulnerable among us, our children.
For families to thrive, folks need homes—“a place to call our own.” Such a place is necessarily a bit of real estate—private property. Accordingly, to John Adams: “‘The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not the force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence’” (p. 191). Founders like Adams “understood that our right to property is an extension of ourselves and our liberty” (p. 195). Property rights, secured by law, are basic to the flourishing of both families and communities. Still more, as Pope Leo XIII wrote, “in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, ‘The first and most fundamental principle . . . if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property’” (p. 196).
Private property has been under assault for more than a century as Socialists and Progressives have sought to implement the ideology of the French Revolution (liberty, equality, fraternity) and establish social and economic equality—imposing affirmative action quotas in universities, unions and corporations; mandating risky loans for homes, in accord with the Community Investment Act; and “spreading the wealth around” through progressive taxation, to cite Barack Obama. The United States took a fateful turn when President Lyndon Johnson launched his Great Society in the ‘60s, determined that “we seek not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result’” (pp. 311-312). He illustrated the fact that for more than a century “the left flank of our culture has been feeding us the lie that justice means sameness or equality in everything. Although this has the patina of morality, it just reinforcing a sinful impulse called envy” (p. 247).
Resisting that ideology, Robison and Richards support “freedom economics,” allowing ordinary individuals (remarkably different in their interests and abilities) to determine how to earn a living and invest their assets. Richards, the author of Money, Greed, and God, recounts a vital lesson he learned in the sixth grade, playing a game which enabled all the students to freely trade toys their teacher gave them; in the end, everyone had traded up (in terms of what was most desirable) and a “win-win” status was established. Contrary to the Marxists’ “labor theory,” the “economic value of something is determined not by its cost of production but by how much someone is willing to give up freely to get it” (p. 217). As is historically evident in the past two centuries, freedom economics maximizes human potential.
The grandeur of this freedom is that it enables us to “be fruitful and multiply” and “till the earth” in accord with the ancient biblical injunctions given our first parents. “‘When God fashions man from the dust of the earth, and breathes into him the breath of life, and speaks those first words of vocation to the human family,’ says Rev. Robert Sirico, ‘He, in effect is inviting the human family to be co-creators with Him, . . . “working with Him” in the continuation of the creation of the world’” (p. 263). Perfectly illustrating this is Norman Borlaug, the agronomist “father of the Green Revolution” whose hybrid seeds and farming strategies now enable billions of people to escape the threat of starvation. He alone, arguably, did more to alleviate world hunger than all the governmental and non-governmental aid organizations allegedly addressing the problem!
Importantly: wealth—such as the prolific harvests now possible as a result of Borlaug’s work—is created, not captured. The world’s great natural resource is knowledge and imagination, not silver and gold, coal and oil. Though we obviously need earth’s “natural resources” to work with, John Paul II rightly said, “‘man’s principal resource is man himself. His intelligence enables him to discover the earth’s productive potential and the many different ways in which human needs can be satisfied’” (p. 305). Unfortunately, many thinkers (ranging from Harvard professors and Washington politicians to denominational bureaucrats and “occupy Wall street” protestors) cling to the old, easily-discredited mercantilist image of the world’s wealth as a pie with everyone struggling to get a larger piece. Thus in the name of “fairness” socialist and progressive governments insist they must step in and make sure that no one gets too much of the pie. Robison and Richards warn that such efforts cannot but enslave and diminish men and women designed to freely work with God in having “dominion” on this good earth.
Though one must always take book endorsements with a grain of salt, I cannot improve on the recommendation of Indivisible by Eric Metaxas, the author of the majestic biography, Bonhoeffer: “James Robison and Jay Richards have given America a tremendous gift. INDIVISIBLE is a stunning synthesis and super-clear explanation of the most important issues facing us today, full of wisdom and grace and truth. It should give all who read it real hope that god has not forsaken this nation and that there is indeed a way forward. I pray that book groups will study this book and use it to become part of the solution, so that American might again fulfill God’s call upon her, to be a beacon of hope and freedom for the world.”
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In Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America (New York: Threshold Editions, c. 2011), Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski expand upon ideas and injunctions set forth in a prior treatise, The Blueprint. Blackwell served a term as Ohio’s Secretary of State and is one of the more prominent African-Americans active in the Republican Party. Klukowski is a lawyer who played a role in some significant recent cases (e.g. challenging Obamacare) in federal courts. Both men are associated with Liberty University Law School and make no secret of their commitment to the Christian faith and worldview. They summarize the book’s argument in its first two sentences: “The democratic republic created by the Framers of our Constitution—and designed with the hope of enduring forever—is hanging by a thread. Are you willing to do your part to save it?” (p. 1). Though the text often oozes with anguish, they find reason to hope in the fact that “ultimately, the best way to describe what’s going on in America today is that the Constitution is resurgent” (p. 18).
The United States, as originally established by the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, was a profoundly “promised land,” a “city set on a hill.” “Our Founders understood they were doing something unprecedented. For the first time in human history, a nation-sized body of people with a preexisting economic system and shared legal philosophy and basic religious faith were seeking to learn from all the lessons of human experience over the centuries to design the best governmental system ever created” (p. 131). To recover this nation’s promise, doing our part means recalling the Republican Party to constitutional conservatism (as well as, importantly, not supporting any divisive third party movement), for while both parties share responsibility for the nation’s plight only the Republicans indicate any openness to fiscal and cultural conservatism.
Our republic will certainly collapse if it continues its prodigal ways, thereby illustrating Thomas Jefferson’s lament that the “natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” Demonstrating this loss of liberty, under Obamacare a person is actually required to buy health insurance. Thus the government can “tell you how to spend your own money” (p. 244). Aptly, Ronald Reagan once said: “Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem.” Employing a nautical metaphor Blackwell and Klukowski say: “The USS America has been hit by a missile—an economic and governmental missile. Unless all citizens muster to general quarters, our ship of state will go down” (p. 3). This missile carried three explosive war-heads: “economic mismanagement, trillions of dollars of deficit spending, and massive entitlements that cannot possibly pay what they’ve promised. The 111th Congress (2009 and 2010) amassed more debt—$3.22 trillion—in just two years than the first one hundred Congresses combined over a period of two hundred years. That’s $10,429 per person—including each child—in the United States, just in the past two years. And that number doesn’t even touch our other $11 trillion in debt, or $88 trillion in unfunded entitlements” (p. 3). We face a literal “tsunami” of entitlement spending that will surely swamp us unless we quickly take action to avoid it.
Structuring the book’s argument is an appeal to three basic strains of conservatism: “economic, social, and national security” (p. 76)—the ECons, SoCons, and SafeCons. However they may differ in their convictions and priorities, they share a basic commitment to constitutional principles and the underlying belief in a “Sovereign Society,” wherein “individual Americans are truly sovereign in their own lives” (p. 99). All three groups, the authors insist, must forget or at least forego their differences and support the one, great, overarching cause of our day: constitutionalism. These groups really do need each other, since not even a united two of the three movements can prevail in modern America. In fact, their causes overlap in significant ways, and, as Benjamin Franklin quipped during the Revolutionary War, “We must, indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
The ECons stress the need for jobs, balanced budgets, and private property. SoCons plead for the restoration of the traditional family and the role of faith in both individuals and the public square. As Ronald Reagan insisted, “‘politics and morality are inseparable. And as morality’s foundation is religion, religion and politics are necessarily related. We need religion as a guide’” (p. 114). Thus a “family flat tax” replacing the income tax would, Blackman and Klukowski argue, help both the nation’s economy and traditional families. “The single most egregious failure of both the Democrats and the Republicans is that they’ve failed to protect the American family.” Still more: “Restoring the family is more than a social values argument; it is an economic prosperity argument” (p. 25). As Congressman Mike Pence, a leading SoCon, noted: “‘We must realize there’s a direct correlation between the stability of families and the stability of our economy’” (p. 85). SafeCons demand that government enforce the laws and protect the nation—police and courts, soldiers and arms that make us secure.
Beyond these concerns, there are two important philosophical positions essential for conservative constitutionalism: 1) federalism, allowing what Justice Louis Brandeis described as 50 creative “laboratories of democracy,” and 2) judicial restraint and originalism in the courts. Given the authors’ background, it is understandable that they devote significant sections of the book to judicial matters. Since the New Deal’s triumphant reshaping of this nation the Left has found “that an activist judiciary was essential to their agenda” (p. 149). Lawyers and judges committed to an ever-evolving, “living constitution,” threaten the very foundations of this nation, for justices seeking to implement their own visions of “social justice” become activists rather than guardians of the constitution. “In their left-wing world, it’s absurd to think that the Constitution actually limits the power of the federal government. They think government should do anything it wants” (p. 227).
Resisting such leftist trends are members of the Federalist Society, now numbering “almost fifty thousand judges, lawyers, law professors, and law students” who champion judicial restraint and originalism. Should originalists come to dominate the federal court system healthy changes would quickly take place in America. One sign of this possibility came in 2008 (D.C. v. Heller) and 2010 (McDonald v. Chicago) when the Supreme Court upheld the Second Amendment, securing gun rights for individual Americans. These decisions were informed by two decades of vigorous scholarship, providing evidence employed by the Court when rendering its decisions. Though these two decisions are only the beginning of a larger struggle regarding gun rights, the authors firmly believe that from any legal vantage point “we are at the beginning of a new era of constitutional law” (p. 294).
Though filled with warnings and laments, this book is basically a hopeful call to arms, an appeal for conservative Americans of all stripes to speak out and vote and bring this nation back to its original principles. While the book’s length and intricate legal arguments may tax the general reader’s patience, it certainly provides both information and analyses important for citizens concerned about the nation’s prospect. Thus an ECon, Steve Forbes, says: “We need leaders advocating policies that will reverse our economic decline, balance our budget, and bring sanity to our tax system and ruinous spending. This book makes the case for how the Constitution can return America to prosperity.” A SoCon, Tony Perkins, writes: “America’s families are in crisis. Without apologies, Ken and Ken make a compelling case of why our economy cannot reach its full potential, or America face our most pressing needs, unless we protect and rebuild the family as the basic unit of our society. Their book is a must read.” And a SafeCon, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (Ret.) says: “The United States faces deadly threats to our citizens and our way of live. Our Constitution was written for trying times such as today. This book explains how and what we as a country must do about it.” Could all the Americans who share the concerns of Steve Forbes, Tony Perkins, and Jerry Boykin come together and energetically engage in the political process, this nation can be restored to its Founders’ vision.
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