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The Search for Truth

The most quoted book at the 1789 Constitutional Convention was the King James Bible.


Indeed, the very ideals that exalted the Declaration of Independence were Biblical in origin: "All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”


The truth the Founding Fathers were seeking was grounded in Scripture, Scripture that supported the right of people to question their leaders, supported the legitimacy of the democratic process, and supported the idea that individuals were capable of discovering truth for themselves, without the need of clergy or kings.


The idea that there was a higher, unchanging law that governed the universe appealed greatly to the Founders.  Where else could they find a code as brief and comprehensive as the Ten Commandments?  These Mosaic Laws were designed to meet a specific set of local conditions.  Yet, they cover the whole field of human behavior, and after three-thousand, five-hundred years are still relevant today.


THE MOST DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD


Classic Greece is credited with having been the world’s first democracy. Overlooked, perhaps, is the fact that Moses established representative government (that included courts of law), 500 years earlier.  It was Moses’ father-in-law who suggested the idea.  “. . . .thou shalt provide out of the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Exo 18: 21).


After the era of the Judges, David, the shepherd boy who slew Goliath with his sling, rose up to become king of Israel.  Yet, his beliefs were much like those of the Judges.  He believed the king was under the same moral law as his most humble subject.


When Israel began to stray from Mosaic law and adopt the pagan rites of Persian religions, prophets rose up to act as the conscious of the nation.  The greatest of them was Isaiah.  Isaiah’s message was clear: spiritual growth of the individual was the key to a nation’s well-being and prosperity, and not the beliefs of its priests, or the military power of its kings.  If Isaiah was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah was a close second.  He underscored Isaiah’s dictum in proclaiming that the understanding of God was not a matter of ecclesiastical organization, but of individual responsibility.


SACRED WORDS: "WE THE PEOPLE"


To put it simply, Democracy is about the right to choose. Yet another is an idea the Founding Fathers would seize upon: a nation can only be as great as its people. Writes one Biblical scholar, “The nation of Israel had never been the keeper of the covenant; it had always belonged to the people.” In the United States, the covenant was the Constitution.


The Preamble opens the Constitution with these three immortal words: "We the People. . . ."  However, the key words are the ones that follow: "to form a more perfect Union. . . ." Yes, that was very ideal the people must strive for--Perfection.


The Preamble continues with, "to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."


The United States has yet to achieve perfection; however, the genius of our democracy has been its capacity to self-correct, which it has done several times during our nation's 240 years.  While the evil of slavery was not resolved by the Founders, it was outlawed at the close of the Civil War, a war that some enlightened historians have referred to as "the last battle of the American Revolution."


Indeed, ending slavery proved to be one of our nation's greatest efforts at self-correcting a very despicable injustice.  Speaking on one of the greatest battlefields of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln summed up the Union victory with these immortal words: ". . . this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."


The man who spoke these words, can be favorably compared with the Biblical account of the Poor Wise Man who saved the city, from Ecclesiastes 9: 13-19: "there was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it.

 

"Now there was found in it a Poor Wise Man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same Poor Man.

 

"Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

 

"The words of the wise are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools."


POST CIVIL WAR AMERICA


Many evils arose in the post Civil-War years, and in the "Guilded Age" that followed: unchecked child labor, low wages, long working hours, and dangerous working conditions.  With the rise of labor unions in the 1920s and '30s these injustices were largely eliminated.  The continued efforts of labor unions, coupled with the political influence of President Franklin Roosevelt, has resulted in many benefits for the working class, including paid vacations, medical insurance, and retirement pensions.


Congress enacted legislation that helped the poor and working class with the creation of social security, medicare and medicaid, plus creation of regulatory agencies that stepped in to insure better food quality, and product safety. The Supreme Court did its part with decisions that ended the evils of child labor, insured school integration, the rights of the accused, and civil rights for all Americans.


WOMEN'S SUFFFRAGE


For the first hundred years of our American Republic, women had few rights--they couldn't vote and they couldn't own property.  This changed in 1920 with passage of the 19th Amendment.


Mind you, the suffrage movement took 50 years to achieve its goal, the same amount of time it took the civil rights movement to achieve its goal. It's never easy to achieve justice in this world, but in the United States with its free-and-unfettered elections, at least it's possible.


FACT: POLITICAL FACTIONS HAVE BEEN EVER WITH US


There always have been people disenchanted within our nation.  It began with "The Loyalists", who did not want the colonies to revolt against England, nor break faith with King George III.  These people included the son of our brightest Founder, Benjamin Franklin.  Indeed, before the ink had dried on the U.S. Constitution, there was another group, known as the Anti-Federalists, who wanted to burn that document, and reinstate the prior government under the  Articles of Confederation.  The political wars of the 1790s were as vicious as any shooting war.  That there was no actual shooting--no political assassinations--stands as a testament to England’s enduring legacy in America--the rule of law.


Before and after the first World War, there were violent zealots who ignited bombs in our cities, and rioted in our streets, while advocating the overthrow if our democracy, and replacing it with a socialist state.  On the eve of World War II, there were many Americans who spoke out against democracy as no longer workable, and advocated replacing our duly elected president with an unelected autocrat.  These people included noted religious leaders, as well as the father of a future president (Joseph P. Kennedy), and a public hero who was the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean (Charles Lindberg).  These well-meaning people drew much attention to themselves, and for a time had many Americans questioning their devotion to our democracy.  In the 1960s, the protests against the Vietnam War had reached such a fever pitch that, yet again, some Americans were advocating the overthrow our of government.


However fearful their threats, those disenchanted, have never numbered more more than about twenty-five percent of the U.S. population.  Like some storm at sea that threatens our coasts, every 20 years or so, these factions burst forth with billowing waves and fearsome lightening storms, that never reach our shore.


THE QUEST FOR A MORE PERFECT UNION CONTINUES


Throughout our nation's history, the search for truth moves ever forward, ever onward, in the guise of open and free elections.  One year the people may elect a Democrat to office, the next term they may elect a Republican.  We the people may not always get it right, but the point is that we the people decide who is best to represent us.


AN EDUCATED ELECTORATE


Our first president was a strong advocate of public education, knowing that schools were the surest guarantee of producing an educated electorate, and therefore choose the best people to lead them. Retired Supreme Justice Justice Stephen Breyer is on record as saying our nation's schools are "the cradle of democracy".  Indeed, education is the surest means of advancing the peoples' continuous search for truth.


- END -





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