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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

It's delicate, fragile, and right

Last year I read Eric Metaxas' brilliant analysis of our founding fathers' intentions for America, If You Can Keep it: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (Penguin Books, 2017). The premise of the book was a conversation between an unknown woman and Benjamin Franklin as he left Independence Hall following the final session of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. The interchange was recorded by Dr. James McHenry, a delegate to the convention from Maryland. It was a brief but profound summation of this new government---

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Historians, scholars, educators, top legal minds, and the bureaucracy around the table at Hardee's have debated our form of government for 242 years. Most agree that the American system of government is a constitutional republic, or a representative republic. In a broad context older citizens have described our vast government system more simply as being "of the people, by the people, and for the people", as quoted by President Abraham in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln added that this government would "...not perish from the Earth".

Taken together, these two quotes by prominent Americans, though separated by seventy-six years, indicate the delicate, fragile, yet durable nature of the republic intended by our founders. The "if you can keep it" comment of Dr. Franklin is a constant reminder that ours is a unique and tenuous means of governing a nation, dependent in great part on the whims of the electorate. President Lincoln's confidence in the lasting nature of this government system reveals it's rightness. Because it is right, Mr. Lincoln concluded that it will "..not perish from the Earth." Wednesday we'll celebrate that rightness while being fully aware that many dissatisfied citizens would alter our system and further amend the brilliant constitution the founders devised.

Now, 242 years since the Declaration of Independence, many question the validity and effectiveness of a constitution formulated in a smaller, less diverse, and more contained nation. Research indicates that our population in 1776 was approximately 2.5 million in the original 13 states. Today there are roughly 325.7 million citizens in our fifty states, spread from sea to shining sea, plus Alaska and Hawaii. Every state is comprised of culture pockets of citizens with varying languages, social dynamics, economic status, education, professions and trades, religion, and so many other distinctives that at first glance would separate us. They are, however, mostly subsumed by the common denominator that each is a part of "we the people". And, there is union in that one. The other day I wept as 58 people from all over the world became citizens of this nation right here in Charleston. All of their differences seemed to be over-ridden by that "we the people" thing.

On a lark, I Googled "sovereign nations" the other day. It reminded me that our nation and our government has outlasted most others. We certainly are not the oldest culture among the peoples of the world, though our Native American culture has been hard to date with accuracy. But, this representative republic is among the oldest sovereign government systems in a world whose rule in forever in a state of flux.

These two realities about our national system of governance make me prayerful. The durability of this representative republic gives me hope and lifts my mind and heart upward in gratitude. Every good and perfect gift is from above (see James 1:17) and thankfulness should be my response to the Father's many kindnesses relating to our nation. That ours is an "if you can keep it" proposition makes my prayers more urgent. I'm asking God to give me grace for biblical citizenship, to make me a responsible and responsive citizen.

Who of us will not join the chorus to Make America Great Again! Even with questions about the current administration or what may be required to achieve this greatness, very few "we the people" would argue with the aspiration. Right now, however, my personal prayer for our nation is not that we become great again. My prayer is that God will Make America Wise Again! it's just personal opinion, by in my mind our founders were biblically wise. Today, in many respects we've become the nation of Deuteronomy 32: 28-29(NIV) : "They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them. If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!".

James wrote, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do" (James 1: 5-8, NIV).

I'm praying right now that "we the people" will pray for God to give us wisdom, as promised, so we can cherish this durable form of government intended by our founders, and be the kind of citizens that will insure it's influence on the Earth.

Copyright: <a href=''>tzido / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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