I’ve been thinking some about the founding fathers’ belief in individual morality and what that means for today.
The founding fathers believed that the only way for a Constitutional Republic and limited government system could be achieved and maintained is if the people themselves were moral. There are numerous examples from the founding area, but here are just a few:
George Washington – “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
John Adams – “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Zachary Taylor – “A free government cannot exist without religion and morals, and there cannot be morals without religion, nor religion without the Bible.”
This is not to say the founding fathers wanted a theocracy. But, it was a realization about human nature. They understood that in order to have a truly limited government, then the people, for the most part, would have to police themselves. If they could put internal constraints on themselves, there would be no need for external shackles. But, the fewer restraint citizens put on themselves, the more government would expand to take up the void. In the founder’s view, morality (especially as formulated by religion – and that of the Bible) was the key against government overreach. After all, when government expands, isn’t it always done under the premise of “this is what is good for you”? Or, “we know better.”
That brings us to today and the current Coronavirus pandemic. For weeks, the Trump Administration, various governors, and locally elected officials have urged citizens to take it upon themselves to do what they can to lessen the spread of the virus and flatten the curve. Yet, after each announcement, we see instances of those exhortations being ignored. So, as the government is wont to do, it exerts more power and force to get the desired result. I believe this is what has led to many of the shelter-in-place order (and variations of it) we have seen lately. I am not advocating for or against such policies in this post, only pointing out that it is the result when individuals don’t exercise internal restraint.
So, I would encourage everyone who is homeschooling right now (which is 100% of us! ) to take advantage of this opportunity with our children to instill in them the importance of morality and internal restraint. You certainly don’t have to use the Bible as a source for instilling that morality, but there’s no better textbook for it. If we can take these next several weeks to ingrain in the next generation the idea of being able to limit themselves, then they have an opportunity to lead us back to a truly limited government. At the same time, let’s continue to personally do all we can to limit the spread of the virus – social distancing, good hygiene, work from home/stay home when possible, and take the proper precautions if you are sick or have symptoms. By each of us doing our part, we can drastically limit the spread of the virus and the disruption to society.
Our founding fathers were brilliant and understood human nature. To paraphrase a famous Reagan quote, “As morality diminishes, government expands, and liberty contracts.”