After the current election season, it’s well understood that we live in a divided nation. On the outside it seems that the pressing issues that separate us are all about war, or terrorism or national security. Maybe the economy figures in, or health care or Social Security.
Pulling back the cover of events, issues and personalities enables us to recognize that there are driving ideologolical questions that seperate us. Will America favor socalism over capitalism? Are we driven by those taxed or those who consume the tax? Does big government want to control every aspect of our lives, does the state want to own everything? Will corporations be above the law?
Or is there still something deeper? Assuming each of us really does want freedom and the pursuit of happiness, what is at the roots of our division?
We all want to live in a place that’s safe enough to walk the streets at night. We want to have great, nurturing schools for our kids. We want others to respect our rights and property. We want to be able to earn a living and improve the quality of our lives. We want to live in a great community that cares about each other. But is any of this possible without faith? Can we achieve this without a respect for right and wrong? Can we have all we hope for, without a sense of God?
Speaking with a friend who just moved here to Melbourne, I discussed what was happenning in Boston, Mass., where I grew up. Once proud of my roots, I don’t understand where the Northeast is coming from. As our discussion moved to faith, this person noted that a slide began with church scandals and a leadership that allowed crimes to perpetuate. In light of these events, giving is down. (Would you put cash into the offering plate only to support legal defense campaigns and those who fought for decades to hide offenses?) The church in Boston is under siege, even from within and from those who support it.
Our foundations are under attack in general: faith, teaching right and wrong, responsibility for our actions, and the guiding documents that helped define America. These are all being questioned. The Constitution is continually barraged by new interpretations, construed to mean the opposite of what our founding fathers worked so diligently and eloquently to make crystal clear. Furthermore, the whole concept of a Constitution is made a mockery; in Florida we’ve been asked to grapple with whether pigs should have rights or if a high-speed rail should be constitutionally guaranteed.
Where can this lead us? When we cast faith from our communities and our lives, with what are we left? When we chip away at the foundations our republic was founded upon, how can we stand?
Some say America is hated in the world due to our freedom and the threat it represents. I think our freedom, and our flavor of democracy, are the result–an expression of–our beliefs. I believe our faith is what sets America apart, and what has made it what it is today. And I don’t just mean freedom for some of us to practice one religion, I mean the freedom for us all to pursue our own sense of the divine. Tolerance, taught to our children produces hope. Where else do you see tolerance taught? Where is it absent?
The Puritans sailed the Mayflower and landed on Plymouth Rock to pursue religious freedom. Their legacy, the legacy of the founding fathers, the legacy that World War II veterans so freely gave of themselves to defend is this same thing. This legacy lives on as Americans serve abroad and hope spreads to places undreamed of. It is America. It is the spirit of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is the American dream; A collective revolution that empowers every soul to live his or her life, free. When you oppose this, you take on the spirit of America. This is what seperates us from the entire world.
I ask you, when you consider freedom and faith, can we have one without the other?
Visit the National Constitution Center, and download a copy of the US Constitution.