In a Q&A following a meeting I was at recently, I was asked whether the United States could survive the present crisis. I told the crowd that was a relevant question.
As Christians, we know that God established government to purpose to preserve order and do justice. This is why Paul in Romans 13 is so insistent upon obedience to the law and to governing authorities, because their authority comes from God.
But we need to remember as well that free democratic governments function only with the consent of the governed. And the governed only give their consent when they have confidence in those who are governing them. If that confidence fails, then the whole experiment we have enjoyed in America, known as ordered liberty, fails as well. The result would be chaos, the enemy of human flourishing, what the Jews and Christians call shalom.
That’s why yesterday’s front-page headline in the Washington Post was so alarming, let me quote it: “Confidence in government is crushed after debt crisis.” The Post reports that just over one quarter of all Americans believe that the federal government “can fix the nation’s economic problems.” And “a large majority” believes that the “policymaking process is unstable and ineffective.
This is scary. I can’t help but think of Germany during the 1930s. The democratic Weimar Republic crumbled as the German economy failed. In the face of massive unemployment and hunger, public confidence collapsed. Chaos broke out in the streets. Hitler came forward and promised order. The German people got their order all right, but at the price of their liberty.
God forbid that would ever happen in our free society.
But with voter confidence at all-time lows (one Democratic pollster even described the mood of the American people as “pre-revolutionary”) and with world markets in chaos in the wake of S&P downgrading of America’s credit, with riots raging in England, you’d think our leaders would have a sense of urgency.
But instead of rolling up their sleeves to show the American people and the world that they’re deadly serious about fixing the debt crisis, our leaders are going on vacation. Congress has skipped town, and next week the President is off to Martha’s Vineyard. Please!
Our number one priority right now is to restore the confidence of the voters and world markets. To do that, Congress should cut short its vacation. The President should return to the Oval Office. What they have to do is obvious. Standard & Poor’s warned us that it would downgrade us if we didn’t cut $4 trillion. Well, we cut only $1 trillion, so they down graded us. But our elected officials need to meet now, not in September, and cut $4 trillion, maybe even $6 trillion off our deficit — tax reform and judicious cuts would do it. The dollar and the markets would stabilize, S&P would restore our triple-A rating, and America would once again be the beacon of confidence and hope to the rest of the world.
Now those of us in the Church need to be very careful. Don’t fan the fears of collapse. Instead, we do our duty biblically, faithfully as good citizens. And that, by the way, was my answer to the question “can America survive?”
I pray we can. And the best hope for that is if the people of God act with confidence in God’s ultimate sovereignty and do our job day in and day out.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: August 12, 2011.