Constitutional Corner – The Founders’ Worldview

Last week’s essay dealt with corruption in politics and, despite the historic and continued presence of such corruption, evidence that not everyone in the current Congress has fallen prey to this corruption. The evidence, for me at least, came from discussions we had during last month’s WallBuilders Pastors’ Briefing with certain members of Congress.

As I reported last week, the percentage of Christians in Congress is growing; the Congressional Prayer Caucus, one of the largest, is co-chaired by Senator Jim Lankford (R-OK) and Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA); and the Bi-Partisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus is purported to be the largest in Congress. Forty of sixty new freshman legislators were reported to be committed Christians.

Last Friday morning, we discussed the essay on WFYL radio’s weekly show: “We The People…The Constitution Matters” with host Michael Levins and Constitution teacher Philip Duffy (our other regular panelists were unavailable).

During that discussion I brought up the statistic, also mentioned in the essay, that 92% of the current members of Congress identify themselves as Christian, up from 90% in the 113th Congress. Nationwide, however, only 78.4% of Americans call themselves Christian. So why do we see a significantly larger percentage of Christians in Congress? Could it be that as Americans we still recognize the need for our elected representatives to have a “moral anchor?” We expect our elected officials to be men and women of honor and integrity, as did the Founders, and we associate these values with religious faith.

When I brought up the 92% Christian figure during our discussion, host Mike Levins expressed surprise, saying something to the effect that “How could there be so many Christians in Congress and yet there seems to be such support for abortion?” How indeed? The present estimate is 56 Million babies aborted since 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision opened the floodgates – nearly 3700 abortions each and every day. Why has a Congress which identifies as 92% Christian not done anything to place limits on this killing of innocent life?

The obvious answer is that calling oneself a Christian does not make it so (see Matthew 7:21-23). Walking through the doors of a Christian church does not make one a Christian any more than walking into a barbershop makes one a barber. Second, even Christians who have confessed faith in Christ do not necessarily see the world through a Biblical “lens.”   A profession of faith in Christ must be followed by a period of discipleship and Bible study whereby a young Christian learns what the Bible has to say, and thus what God expects, about other aspects of life beyond mere salvation. If that discipleship does not take place, you have what Wallbuilders founder David Barton calls “saved heathens” — persons whose Christian faith goes no deeper than their initial salvation experience. We were told in the Pastors’ Conference that there definitely are some in Congress (we weren’t told who) whose profession of faith in Christ does not seem reflected in their voting record. Some will even confess, we were told, that they say they purposefully keep their “religious life” separate from their “political life.” Such a “City of God – City of Man” view, first popularized by Saint Augustine (A.D. 354–430), is actually quite common and accounts for some of the political schizophrenia we see today.

We call a comprehensive view of the world around us a “worldview.” Like navels, everyone has one. They result, primarily, from our formal education, but also our later life experiences. Our worldview is constantly changing as we are exposed to new information.

While many view the Bible as merely a book of morality and religion, it is much, much more. The Bible contains political, economic, educational and social as well as religious guidance. Indeed, the Bible, since it is a product of the Author of Life, has something to say about nearly every aspect of life, and someone whose view of life comports with that of the Bible has what we commonly call a “Biblical worldview.”

The Founders held a Biblical worldview primarily because the Bible played such a central role in their primary, secondary and even college education and because it continued to play a central role in the public life of the day. That doesn’t mean they all agreed on every question of law, government or society (to name just three categories); they in fact held quite different views on some questions. But they definitely looked to the Bible for guidance – and found it! Evidence of their worldview can clearly be found imbedded in the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents. In the Constitution, the Presentment Clause and Subscription Clauses reflect a Biblical worldview and there are many other, less obvious examples (such as the Treason Clause). As I tell my Constitution Seminar students: if you want to truly understand our founding documents you should first try to understand the Founders’ worldview.

Speaking of which, on Monday, May 18th, I’ll be giving a presentation at the Foundation for American Christian Education, 4225 Portsmouth Blvd #102, Chesapeake, VA entitled: “Do You Have a Founders’ Worldview?” The presentation (from 6:30-8:30pm EDT) will be livestreamed and thus available to those outside the local area. There is a nominal charge to attend. You can sign up by going to: http://www.face.net/event/FoundersWorldview. In the presentation I will explore how one’s worldview can be measured or assessed and, if we had the Founders with us today, what their worldview might look like. It promises to be an interesting presentation.

One reason we have a national government today of such immense size, cost and intrusiveness, is because we have lost sight of the Founders’ view of law and government. We have replaced their view of a government of limited and carefully enumerated powers with one which sees the national government as the solution to each and every problem we face. We have allowed, even encouraged the national government to take over responsibilities that rightfully belong to state government, local government, church government, family government and even self-government. Even the eminent “constitutional scholar” Eleanor Roosevelt was able to discern: “….our system is founded on self-government, which is untenable if the individuals who make up the system are unable to govern themselves.”

There are many patriots who yearn for a return to the Founders’ view of law and government, as expressed in the original Constitution. I contend that a return to such a condition of government must be accompanied by a diligent attempt to understand as well: The Founders’ Worldview.

The WFYL “Constitution Matters” panel will be discussing this issue Friday morning, 7-8am EDT. You can listen to the live broadcast via www.1180wfyl.com. Click on “Listen Live.”

Gary Porter is Executive Director of the Constitution Leadership Initiative, Inc., a project to inform Americans about the Founders’ view of their Constitution. Comments on this essay and ideas for future essays should be sent to constitutionlead@gmail.com.