The Green Tree of Democracy
History - American Released - Aug 22, 2020
In thirteenth century England, King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta, in reluctant acknowledgement that he was not the absolute ruler of England (thus ending the charade of "The Divine Right of Kings"). Article Twelve stated that no money could be taken from the King’s subjects unless the levy was imposed “by the common council of our Kingdom.” The "common council of the Kingdom" was duly created and became known as Parliament.
This early form of representative government worked so well that when Englishmen crossed the Atlantic and began colonizing the east coast of North America, representative government transferred with them. Ms. Marchette Chute, an independent scholar who researched and wrote "The Green Tree of Democracy", likens this phenomena to a piece of earth that each of the first settlers brought with them from England. In this piece of earth was a seed, and wherever planted this piece of earth with its seed sprouted roots and started to grow. The result was the flourishing of representative government in all thirteen colonies. In time these colonies joined forces, broke with England, and created the United States of America.
The subject of "The Green Tree of Democracy" is mainly about the fight to win the right to vote. In the beginning, in England, only men of property had the right to vote, and to serve in Parliament. And this was equally true of the English colonies that sprang up in America. The men who made the laws and enacted the taxes, were men of property. And it was still true in 1776 when delegates from throughout the thirteen colonies met in Philadelphia. The document they drew up—the Declaration of Independence—which had been intended as a “mere act of diplomacy,” contained five little words that would become a manifesto for human equality. The five little words were “All men are created equal.”
These five words (to paraphrase Galatians 5:9) were "the leaven that leavened the whole lump." In time, property restrictions were eliminated, so that all white men could vote. This eventually would include African Americans, Native Americans, and women. (Note: 2020 is the 100th-year anniversary of passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote). Recently, there have been several articles about the fight to win women's right to vote. And it was a fight. I highly recommend you read one of these articles, to learn something of what it took. (African-American women were not included in the 19th Amendment, and didn't win the right to vote until 1962.)
At this perilous time for our democracy with the right to vote threatened by the current administration, it's important to be reminded of how far we've come, and what's at stake–our hard-won democracy.
DONALD TRUMP AND THE BIBLE
It was a gesture designed to shore up Donald Trump's sagging evangelical religious base, the photo op of him standing in front of St. John's Church in Washington D.C., holding up the Bible for all to see. Prior to this, the path to the church had been cleared of protesting American citizens by federal police.
It reminded me of a scene from "Young Mr. Lincoln", director John Ford's take on the 16th president, as a young lawyer making his way in Springfield, Il, a movie based on Carl Sandburg's Lincoln biography. The scene shows Lincoln, quite alone, facing down a hostile crowd intent on busting his client out of jail, whom they intend to hang. Lincoln does not hold up the Bible but rather quotes from it, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." These words eased the tension; the crowd put down their battering ram and hangman's noose, and peacefully dispersed. It's a great cinematic moment that reveals Lincoln's character–and the power of Scripture.
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy," is one of the beatitudes given by Jesus Christ, in "The Sermon on the Mount" (Mathew 5, 6 and 7). "The Sermon on the Mount" also contain the Lord's Prayer, and these words (from the King James Version), "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men do to you, do ye even so to them." The Sermon on the Mount is nothing less than Christ Jesus' words on how to live peaceably among men of differing beliefs and values.
The one word used to describe Jesus' acts, as he preached, healed, and taught the Gospel, is "compassion." Again and again, the Bible says Jesus had compassion on those in need of his help, which was nearly every one he encountered in the Holy Land.
THE TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS
When asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus answered, "'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And there is a second like it: 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' The whole of the Law and the prophets depends on these two great commandments."
The Bible is the very book our presidents place their right hand on while swearing to uphold our U. S. Constitution. Why the Bible? Because the Founding Fathers turned to it again and again for instruction and inspiration, while struggling to found our democracy, in a world mostly hostile to such a radical ideal. The Bible is a book that promotes decency, equality, fair-play, and above all, love. These very words are often used by the Apostle Paul in his Epistles to the various young churches he founded throughout Asia Minor and in Southern Europe. Paul also used such words as "tolerance", "peace", "patience" and "humility". In his letter to the church at Ephesus, he wrote, "Be kind to each other, be compassionate. Be as ready to forgive as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you (quoting from The New Testament in Modern English, by J. B. Phillips)."
All our great leaders in times of crisis have turned to the Bible's immortal words for comfort and guidance. No doubt, that's what made them great.
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