Last night I was watching Governor Mike Huckabees’s weekly news discussion and commentary show. In his opening monologue he was reviewing the past week’s political news. In his opinion the actions of the rulers in Washington DC show that they don’t fear the people. In a country that was created by the people and for the people the ruling elite have separated themselves from the founding father’s desire for less controlling government. Right after his monologue he interviewed, via television link, a lawyer for one of the groups that, according to the lawyer, has been targeted by the IRS. Her comment to Governor Huckebee was that the powers in Washington did fear the people and that is why they are aggressively pursuing all avenues to control the population. Though there are good points, for and against, for both opinions I couldn’t help but think they were missing the most important point. What our ruling elite was missing, or trying to suppress, was not fear of the people but fear of the Lord.
It is true that our founding fathers desired the philosophy of government by the people. It is true that, though they didn’t know it, they wished for a version of what Catholic’s call subsidiarity – where the federal government was the last resort. In the constitution they added the 10th amendment, probably the most forgotten or ignored of the amendments which reads ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’ This amendment, in my opinion, is the core political ideology that made the American experiment so radical. But spanning over all these great ideas of government by the people was the knowledge of a transcendent truth. They realized that mankind, in any endeavor, was guided by the transcendent truth of the Creator – God. One has only to read their correspondence, official documents and open letters to the people (such as the Federalist Papers) to see the influence of the belief of transcendent truth. Two powerful examples:
- The founding fathers, in our great Declaration of Independence declared in the second paragraph: ‘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 these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
- Thomas Jefferson, who penned probably the most abused idea: ‘separation of Church and State’ where he used this phrase in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association to protect Churches from Government interference and not the other way around, acknowledged in the same letter ‘the common father and creator of man’
Fear of the Lord (as defined as belief in and reverence to) was foundational in their ideals.
So, here we are today, with a polarized political and social environment unlike any I can remember. All sides in our national discussion (which is more adequately described as a cacophony of diatribes and ad hominem attacks for personal gains) have pushed away the foundational basis for our democratic experiment: transcendent truth. What next?
As disciples of our Lord what is our place in this dynamic? Is it to withdraw or do we enter society’s discourse? Today’s readings speak loudly of our place, our purpose. We are called to be in society, in the stream of social consciousness. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are to be as St. Paul and go to the people with God’s message. Scary as this might seem in today’s political and social environment, it is because of this we need to be there. We need to bring back into the minds of the people that government needs to ‘fear’ the Lord. It is by this overarching paradigm that the American experiment will once again gain its value as the best mankind has to offer in living together.
The Church will never again enter the sphere of governing, she learned her lesson. Pope Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical wrote: “The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. … A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church.’ But he continued. ‘The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity…’
Brothers and sisters, today’s readings tell us that words will never be enough, let’s go out and live publically the Gospel so that people will see and want to know more. Let’s go out and plant the seeds of what the fullness of humanity is so that more and more people will embrace it. Let’s enter the national discourse with the love of God and radiate the peace of His message so that those who rule will see its import, or at least won’t be able to deny it. Let’s express by words and our lives what we know is the truth, never backing down but always acting with patience and love. By these means we bring the transcendent truth, so important in the thinking of our founding fathers, back to the light. In this way we will fulfill the words of today’s Gospel: ‘your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.’ Never let it be said that religion and governance are at odds.