We the (fallen) people

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The landmark new book, We the Fallen People: The Founders and the Future of American Democracy by Robert Tracy McKenzie, PhD, Vanderbilt University, and Arthur F. Holmes, Chair of Faith and Learning and professor of history at Wheaton College, brings out the most important “Christian” thing about the Founding Fathers of America. Not that they were Christians (there is a lot of discussion about this with no real conclusion), but that one very important biblical doctrine greatly influenced their thinking, regardless, when it came to the founding of this country. And that would be the doctrine of original sin. 

The Founding Fathers did not believe that human beings were basically good and that, believing the best about them, a majority of human beings would always make the right choice for the common good. No, they knew that most of them would make the best choice for their own good, because we are predominantly selfish people. And when questioned as to the basis for this conclusion, one of them said truthfully, “By knowing my own heart.” Or as Alexander Solzhenitsyn has written, “the line separating good and evil passes through every human heart.”

Why is this important? Because we need it to properly understand both ourselves and the world around us. When you see your own selfishness, prejudice and unjust behaviors, you begin to appreciate why the Founding Fathers set up a government that shared power between branches of government, between parties, with limited terms of office and the provision to police each other in government. These are all checks and balances against the worst in human nature. And where we are headed right now with only one party 100% right (in everyone’s thinking — mine, of course, not yours), and a president pushing the limits of power on every front — everyone else be damned — is a place the Fathers would abhor. 

As Christians we must start with ourselves. We are sinful, fallen people. We need not judge anyone else to understand this; just look at our own hearts. And having done that, then we need to reach across the table, across the aisle, across the news channels, across the bridge, and realize fighting, belittling, tweeting anger and sarcasm about others on the other side will not get us anywhere, because we are all not wholly reliable to do the right thing. We may not be wholly evil, but we are, none of us, reliably good. 

You and I as Christians have a basis from which to do this because we have been saved from our sin, not by ourselves or because of ourselves, but by the grace of God, and we can turn that grace outward to everyone, everywhere. This kind of living will be countercultural. It will stand out. It will be revolutionary.

The Founding Fathers believed that if we found a way to work together humbly in our differences, we would also be guarding against the worst in all of us. That is the kind of thinking that made America great in the first place, and it’s something you and I can recover; maybe not for the country, but certainly for our own relationships. And I am convinced that living like this will give us opportunity to share the gospel.

Robert Tracy McKenzie will be our guest on BlogTalkRadio, Tuesday, August 3. And don’t miss our interview tonight with Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.

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11 Responses to We the (fallen) people

  1. Bob says:

    We’ll stated John!
    I’m excited about your interview tonight on blog/talk, Wendy and I will be listening.

  2. Mark Dennis Seguin says:

    Dear Pastor John please, pretty please consider asking the list of Historians of this landmark book you mentioned above about our 2nd President John Adams about some of the things he wrote about Political Parties and I think you might learn this bickering between them as been going on for years!!

    And I DON’T care what News Channel you choose to watch (but it’s VERY easily discerned which one you may pay a bit too much attention to) People have been arguing for Centuries! And writing as you did last week we are closer to another Civil war b/c of these disagreements is simply not true. I tend to think / believe our Constitution ALLOWS for disagreements…

    In my opinion our Funding Fathers did a GREAT job of setting up our from of Gov’t, which ISN’T democracy! But a Representative Republic, that should be learned in a High School American Gov’t class. Also, consider asking them (those Historians) about another founding Father Hamilton how & why he was killed.

    PS After reading this Catch I’m begging you to please consider asking your son, to read “The DISC Method of Understanding Personality Types” by Dr. Robert Rohm and It may help give him & you some insight to why you feel/think augments / disagreements are terrible when many others do not, yet see them as a way to learn and grow.

    • Okay, Mark, you lost me with your argument about Hamilton.
      I assume you’re talking about Alexander Hamilton?
      Despite his prominence and contributions in the early years of our foundling nation, what does the pistol duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr have to do with any of what you’re railing about today?
      Yes, they both held high offices in government but petty jealousy and personal bitterness is what brought them together on that fateful July morning in 1804.
      And the “sainted” Hamilton didn’t help anything by constantly needling and antagonizing the self-absorbed and ambitious Vice President Burr.
      Things finally came to a head in an “affair of honor” at a dueling field in New Jersey. Two shots fired. One man mortally wounded and dead the next day.
      Even though Hamilton instigated the events that led up to the duel, and even though he decided against killing Burr by firing into the air, Burr got the final shot.
      And Burr was not about to accept any honorable resolution let alone any form of “grace turned outward.” After all the years of derision and hostility, it was time to deal with Hamilton and his ilk once and for all.

      Now that I think about it, it seems the attempted insurrection in D.C. on January 6th of this year echoes Aaron Burrs attempts at grabs for power, fame, and recognition which eventually led to charges of treason against him. Burr was acquitted but, still, his claim to fame is that he killed Alexander Hamilton.
      Despite his ego and lust for notoriety, Burr had so much going for him and, yet, ended up becoming a footnote in history as the man who murdered another man on a “field of honor”.
      I’m really confused now, Mark… Are you backing Hamilton or Burr?
      And what does any of this have to do with the Bible’s role in influencing the framers of our Constitution or our role in humbly and lovingly reflecting Jesus’ love for our countrymen – whether legal or illegal, friend or foe, neighbor or transient?

      Please help me understand what you’re trying to say here, Mark.
      Thanks…

      • Mark Dennis Seguin says:

        Dear brother Bob in my opinion you GREATILY helped make my point of (as I wrote above) “People have been arguing for Centuries!” Over politics and mentioned the writing of our 2nd President John Adams. But I’m impressed w/ your knowledge of Hamilton & Burr & thank-you for sharing it.

        And the point of my leaving the comments is to try get Pastor John to understand the divisions we se in our Country ISN’T NOTHING NEW! It’s been going on for Centuries! It’s just now – in -days we have many 24 hour News Channels reporting on it! Just consider looking up the disagreements in the Newspaper between our 2nd & 3rd Presidents Adams & Jefferson, which took MANY tears & a whole lot of letter writing between them to heal.

        And EVEN though you NEVER asked my opinion on the COMPLETE MESS & ASSININE thing that took place on Jan. 6th – IT WAS WRONG & I sincerely wish it would have NEVER happen! Yet let me please mention it WASN’T an “Armed insurrection” as stated by our leader of the House Nancy P. and I believe a few TV News people. If it was – then WHY is there NOT one court document stated that?

    • jwfisch says:

      Mark, I don’t understand why you’re disagreeing with me because we’re saying the same thing. I’m saying our constitution was created to bear the weight of debate. What we seek is consensus, not agreement. Consensus is what neither of us had in mind when we started the debate, but it’s a new way forward carved out by our differing opinions. We each get some of what we wanted but not everything, and yet many times the result of this process is actually better than if any one of us had gotten our way. The problem today is that no one is willing to come to the table and hammer out our differences. We have to be 100% right. It’s either my way or the highway. This kind of thinking only ends in fighting. And when we fight, we all lose.

      • Mark Dennis Seguin says:

        Please quote me where this is true? “I don’t understand why you’re disagreeing with me…”

      • Mark Dennis Seguin says:

        And man oh man Pastor John I thought you wrote before & even stated last night in the Blog Talk w/ the brilliant Calvin College History teacher your were a part of the Jesus Movement…. well DIDN’T a pretty good (Non Christian) song come from that time? (A Mark paraphrase) no bodies right if everybody wrong.

        So you writing this, leaves me a bit baffled!!! “The problem today is that no one is willing to come to the table and hammer out our differences. We have to be 100% right. It’s either my way or the highway.” May I please suggest to put down the Newspaper & turn off the News and read a the GREAT book I’ve suggested for years and once again just yesterday.

  3. Toni Petrella says:

    Our Founding Fathers wanted the best and so true about people working humbly together towards resolving issues that have caused disagreements. All goes back to the one who came to save us all and each of us praying and having good faith in our daily lives trying each day to do the best we can now and forever.

  4. jwfisch says:

    Toni – Thank you for your gift card. You took us out to lunch yesterday!

  5. jwfisch says:

    Mark — I’m not saying that differences or division is new, as you have said we’ve always had that. I’m saying we’re dealing with it differently on a national level. We’re not dealing with it at all. We’re not coming to the table. “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong” is well said. Coming to the table requires an admission that I might be wrong or there might be a better way. The problem today is that everyone is right in their own eyes, myself included. And when everyone is right, there’s nothing to discuss.

    • Mark Dennis Seguin says:

      Excuse me Pastor John I maybe wrong surely have been before, yet don’t recall writing above: “… I’m not saying that differences or division is new..”

      You continue: “I’m saying we’re dealing with it differently on a national level. We’re not dealing with it at all. We’re not coming to the table.” According to who?

      Please, please again, I’ll repeat: “May I please suggest to put down the Newspaper & turn off the News and read a the GREAT book I’ve suggested for years and once again just yesterday.” And add to also consider watching C-Span I, II or III

      PS As I once read in “How to Win Friends..” The EASIEST thing to do is the 3 C’s: Criticize, Condemn & Complain (I know b/c I do it too often!) and that exposes in my opinion a terrible World view – I’ll try yet once again to consider reading another book: “What to say when you talk to yourself 365 Days of positive self talk” by Shad Helmsetter, Ph.D.

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