God, man and the nature of government

By Devin Backholm

The choices we are making in the current election have come into focus for me. There are two fundamental possibilities in play, both having everything to do with a very heavy topic — how one sees the origin of the universe and man’s role in it. Our founders were totally committed to the idea that the universe is the handiwork of God, and mankind was placed here by the Creator to live under “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.”

I say totally committed because that’s what they said. They were willing to pledge “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to defend the rights bestowed upon man by our Creator. (These are direct quotes from our Declaration of Independence.) This was the view proffered by George Washington in his letter to the states as he stepped down as Commanding General of the military after the War for Independence was won. He closed his letter with a prayer, part of which I quote here: “I now make it my earnest prayer, that God … would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love Mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, Humility, and Pacific temper of mind which were the Characteristicks (sic) of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a Happy Nation.” In this view governments are instituted to protect individual rights given to each person by God. The God of the Bible, for them, was the absolute Sovereign.

The second possibility in play is rooted in the French Revolution, which began the year our Constitution was ratified, 1789. They, like we, also spoke of liberty and law. But they defined those words differently. The ultimate source of law was not God, but “the nation.” That meant people would vote to determine what their rights would be. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was approved by the National Assembly of France, Aug. 26, 1789. This is article three of that declaration: “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.” In practical terms that meant that the legislature, not God, would be the bestower of rights and determine morality. In this view the civil government is the absolute sovereign. Robespierre and company used this rationale to murder 50,000 people in public places via the guillotine.

Our current viable choices for the legislatures, state and federal, come from either the Democrat or Republican parties. I have attended the local candidate forums, listened to interviews on the radio, checked the incumbents’ voting record and, in some cases, had personal extended conversations from both sides. It is my conclusion that all the Democrats have more in common philosophically with the French Revolution and the Republicans are more amenable to the philosophy of the American Revolution. My litmus test was their thinking on the recent redefining of marriage to include two people of the same sex. Those of the French Revolution mind-set would agree that the legislature has all sovereignty and can do such a thing. Those who are committed to the American view acquiesce to “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” and refuse to assume such power belongs to a legislature.

Obviously, we face many other issues of importance. But the long-term approach to how we look at law and government is more crucial than the current issues. The French Revolution view is the grandparent of all the socialist, progressive, statist, communist movements since that time. In this tradition are many mass graves full of their citizens who were relabeled as enemies of “the nation.” In the last century, the dead number well over 100,000,000 souls. In stating this fact, I am not insinuating that our current legislators would ever endorse such atrocities. But that is the consequence of their philosophy when allowed to grow to full term. It is possible to be sincere and wrong.

So, as for me, I am voting for those candidates who are more closely aligned with the vision of George Washington. That legacy has been of great benefit and inspiration to the whole world, unparalleled by any other in any other time. Local legislative candidates I support at the state level are Sue Kuehl Peterson, Jim Walsh, Jimi O’Hagan, Danille Turissini, John Alger and George Vrable. For federal House, Todd Bloom and Senate, Chris Vance.

Devin Backholm is an Aberdeen resident.