By Alan Keyes
On my radio program the other day I was reading from a book of poetry called The Parched Soul of America: A Poet's View of our National Decay. It is by a lady named Leslie Kay Hedger, and it contains some powerful words about America's condition. She describes something that is happening in America today, and then draws - with a sure touch - the moral and spiritual truth of these deeds of ours. It is a moving, even disturbing book. How disturbing? Well, when I shared it with my radio audience, they turned more and more to the question, 'will America survive?'
Of course, I don't mean by that question 'will the buildings still be here?' Because I think we've gone through that period - whether we were all going to go up in nuclear smoke. It was a great fear and a real one. And, of course, we can't say that fear doesn't, in any way, lie over us. But right now, with that shadow a little bit lifted, folks have begun to look around, and they've realized that if we are faced in America today with a threat to our integrity and to the future of this nation, it's not a threat that is going to fall on us in the form of nuclear bombs. It is rather a threat that is coming into being because of what is happening to our hearts and our souls.
We have people in our midst today who are walking-wounded in a spiritual war. Some of them have been struck dead in their spirits, and yet they walk amongst us. And so there is no word that is more necessary to America's life today than a word of healing. But how do you heal a wound that the injured won't even recognize?
At the end of one of these poems, the poet conjured up an image that I thought was so devastating that anyone who read it ought to be stopped in his tracks - to be turned around. It was the image of God, in his nursery in heaven, rocking the cradle of aborted babies, as He commands His angels to dance on the grave of America.
How I wish I could say that it did not strike me with a word of truth! But as God is a God of judgement, so also He is a God of love and a God of mercy, And He will give us a chance...and a second chance and a third chance, as Abraham discovered. I figure that we must be in an Abraham moment right now in America. Because I certainly hope there is an Abraham somewhere speaking to God and asking 'if I find just fifty, will you spare them?'
And who shall the fifty be and who shall the ten be, and who shall the one be, for the sake of whom God might spare this land the judgement for its transgressions? Who might he be?
The most important and beautiful truth that we can represent as Christian people is the truth of God's forgiveness and His Love, and His willingness to bring to every heart that opens to His grace the lightness that comes from knowing that our sins have already been forgiven, if we will but fall upon our knees and acknowledge them. And you know that people are asking for that forgiveness in America now. Forgiveness is the word for us today - and forgiveness will come if we but acknowledge our sins and seek it.
But in order to understand clearly why this has real relevance outside of the communion that we share as Christians, we need to turn back to some truths about America's history, truths that seem always to be forgotten. The foundation is all-important! And this is why - in the course of the efforts I am making these days in the political arena - I feel continually impelled to return to our beginnings - to return continually and call people's attention to the great words and great truths that were spoken at the beginning. This is not surprising, because every now and again in American history we come to that moment when, in order to go forward, we have first to reach back and to pull once again before our eyes that which gives us a sense of the mission for which we as a people are to be held accountable.
Because I think that if you look around you will see that we have been remarkably blessed as a nation - everybody always says this. We are rich, and powerful, and endowed with all kinds of technologies and science that have burst upon the scene to augment our wealth, to deal with our problems and find the cures of our diseases. We are indeed blessed, and we could make the mistake of believing that this all happened because we were so wonderful.
But we should look back at the beginning, and at what the Founders of America made clear right then, when they stood naked of all that power, naked of even the possibility of success. The memory of that nakedness is something we really need to recapture sometimes. Think about it - there they were, a rag-tag bunch of colonialists, going up against the best military power then on the face of the earth, that had already proven itself in battles against its European foes to be superior to the ambitions of those foes in the new world. Surely that force was more than equal to defeating the aspirations of the upstart patriots.
You see, we don't remember that. It is all too easy to look around now at our success and think that when it all began we were fighting with the odds and with power on our side. This is an error.
There was no way at all that anybody in his right mind in 1776 would have put the money on George Washington; the odds were long against him. And they were longer still against those that followed him. So when you stack it up, when you add it all up, when you put the provisions and the money and the training and the resources and all the rest together, there was no way but that you would conclude that this army would lose and that the British Army would win - and that the United States of America would not come into existence.
But we are here today. And if we are here today, it behooves us to go back and remember our fathers in that hour.
In that hour - with no one of power on their side, and nothing in their hearts but their commitment to what they thought was right - they did not stand up and declaim before the world their virtues and their power and their strength and their goodness as the reason that their cause would triumph. They looked instead to Him who is the ruler and will be the judge of the universe. And with a firm reliance upon His Divine Providence, they moved forward to vindicate their claim to liberty.
I think we can understand that, especially those of us who take seriously the Biblical tradition that God is more than willing to offer help, but that His help is not always a free good. It is a free grace, but it is not always a free good. So He is always there when you call upon Him, but when you call upon Him - when you say 'I shall put my firm reliance in Your Divine Providence' - you need to understand one thing. That one thing is that He demands that you respect and endeavor to live up to the standards set by His authority.
And our Founders did understand it, because that commitment to God at the end of the Declaration of Independence was a consequence of the recognition and respect for the authority of God with which the Declaration begins.
Bill Clinton has gone around talking to everybody about "covenants." Of course, in his mouth, this means mostly deals with government as the key to our prosperity. I myself believe that we should not so much be interested in the covenants we make with government. As we look back upon our history, I don't see how we can escape the conclusion that if we have won to power, if we have won to strength, if we have won to prosperity as a people, if we have been put in a position where we can hold up before the world a shining beacon of hope, if we have had, on occasion, the chance to go abroad and join our hands with others whose hearts aspire to live in decency and dignity and freedom, this is not something that came about because of our strength. It came about because we relied upon God's providence, and He did provide.
But if we have relied on His providence, and if we have based our identity and our sense of justice on respect for His power and His will, what do you think is liable to happen if we deny His existence, reject His authority, and hold His will in contempt?
As I look back on the last several decades of America's history, I think that is exactly what we have been trying. And one of the symptoms of this was illustrated by a conversation I had with a young lady who was driving me from the station I did my show on yesterday to the hotel where my family was staying. We were talking about her walk with God, and she was telling me about what a change that had made in her life. And she also was encouraging me, because she had heard one of my speeches where I talked about the Declaration. And she laid it out that she saw it, that it was right there in front of us when I quoted from the words of the Declaration. She said 'you know, it's really right there in front of us.' That's what really struck her. And she allowed as how she felt that those were words she ought to memorize.
I leave that to sink into your heart, because it means that they are words she has not yet been called upon to memorize, and she is already out of college - 22 or 23 years old.
They have been hiding the Declaration from our children now for a couple of decades, and do you know why? Because the Declaration is a very embarrassing document. Right there at the beginning it says 'We hold these truths to be self-evident.' Now, what does this tell you in a world where they say there is no truth, the truth is relative? How can you have a self-evident truth when all truth depends on circumstances? No, you just can't. So they hide it.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal."
Now I want to know how it can be that our children should understand the source of their freedom, their dignity, their human rights as stated in that great Declaration, and yet we should be told that they cannot even be taught the meaning of Creation in their classrooms today. But more, how can it be that this separation of church and state should imply the banishment of God from country, when right there at the very wellspring of our national conscience and our sense of justice, it is made clear 'that they are endowed by their CREATOR.'
We don't think about these words enough, because it is easy enough to go through them and take them as some kind of a mantra - you repeat them over and over again and they sound good. But think of the meaning of this: 'They are endowed by their Creator.' Endowment is an act of will. Endowment is not the act of a faithless, personality-less, nature-god. Endowment is the act of a God who has willed, for the good of humankind. It is the endowment of man, and from a God that can see the human condition and understand its meaning and respond in grace and through His will.
'They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.' Now I pause on that 'unalienable.' We always gloss over it; as a matter of fact we gloss over it to such an extent that people hardly even know what it means anymore. 'Unalienable' - it sounds like we should offer a green card to our rights. But this was not the intention. 'Unalienable' meant that you can't refuse this gift. That is what it means. It's a gift, an offer, that you cannot refuse, because the rights with which your God has endowed you are rights that you do not have the choice to surrender, to destroy, to despise, to corrupt. It is said in exactly the same sense that an aristocrat had unalienable lands that attached to the title, not to the person. So we have unalienable rights that attach to our God-given nature, and not to our weak and fragile self. We can't even give them up.
I try to explain this on the radio sometimes, when people come up with this idea of the 'right to suicide.' If you think through that word 'unalienable,' it shows how ridiculous we have become, how shallow in our understanding of the sources of our freedom. How could you have a right to take your life when you have no right in the first place to surrender your life, because that right is unalienable? It can't be done. You can't claim the right to destroy that which you have no right to give away in the first place. We just don't think about these words.
But if you do, you will realize that while our great Declaration is indeed a charter of liberty, it is also a statement of the Authority on which our claims to freedom and dignity rest. I believe the smallest child amongst us could understand the consequence there. If this Authority is the ground on which we stand, if this Authority is that which grounds our freedom and gives it a firm foundation, then if you use your freedom in such a way as to contravene and deny this Authority, do you not cut the ground out from under your claim to rights, to freedom, to dignity? We cannot deny the Authority of God, lest we deny the source of that which guarantees our freedom in the eyes of men.
And that is exactly what is going wrong today. In abortion and so many other areas, we are starting to stand up and act like we are our own authority and don't have to pay any attention to God. 'God, creative God, what's that got to do with me? I'm God now, and I shall choose who is human and who is not. I shall be the one who decides where the line is drawn between those whose rights can be respected and those who, at any moment, in my whim and will, can be destroyed. And so I will reach into the womb and I will rip out the innocent, God-protected life of the unborn, and I will cast it from this world in the name of my ambition and my convenience and my career; I stand up and claim this as my choice.'
But if it is your choice, then it is the end of your right to choose. If it is your choice so to contravene the Authority on which all choice must rest, then with that choice, your freedom ends, and with that life, your life is forfeit too.
So the Declaration offers us a ground for freedom, but not if we reject that Authority from which this freedom comes. In that sense, though, when we turn to those first principles, it is not only a reminder of our need to respect the Authority of God, it's also a reminder that whatever has occurred in the course of American history must have been part of His plan. If our Founders turned to God and relied upon His Divine providence, and if time and again you can see how successful this nation has been, I think you would have to be far gone in depravity not to realize that if we enjoy the fruits then we had best be on our knees in thanks and praise of His will that provided them.
And that's why I think we - people who are still, I hope, a people of the Declaration - must realize that we - people who are people of faith and people who believe that we and all of humankind have been offered the saving grace of God in the blood of Jesus Christ - we have a special calling. It is contrary to what everyone tries to make us believe, contrary to what you'll see on the TV screens and hear from the radio, and the blaring music, and all the advertisements that will tell you that the American dream is all about the fading goods of materialism, the toys you have, the salary you make, the house you live in - that this is all that matters.
I do not deny, I will not spit with contempt upon, that which results from the fruits of our labor. But I will say that we go far wrong if we mistake that for the real purpose of this land. Because it was not a dream of materialism that brought so many people to give up better lives elsewhere to come to America.
We forget that, in the beginning, the people who came did not come as some did later on - huddled masses. No, many of them came from fairly comfortable situations in Holland and England. They were doing rather well, and decided to commit all their goods to frail barks and go off on practically the stormiest ocean in the world, to a wilderness where they could not even be assured that they would find the wherewithal to feed themselves.
And they did it for what? They tell us why. They went upon this errand in the wilderness to find a place where in the truth and freedom of their conscience they could worship, according to their spirit, the Almighty God.
And if we have won some material success, it has been on that mission, which was not a materialistic, economic mission. Not a mission like the Romans, in search of power or glory or conquest. But a mission to seek the face of God and to read upon His face those laws that might lead us to establish a land where we could live in peace, in brotherhood, in mutual respect, with something like the dignity that God intended.
And it has taken time. We are still human beings, subjects and heirs to this fallen nature. So yes, there have been wrongs done and those ideals set on high have not been perfectly observed. And I myself, a black man - the sign of those who were once slaves in America - I can tell you, it was not always done with respect for His will.
But I can tell you as well, that there would have been no struggle for justice, there would have been no Civil War, no Emancipation, there would have been no forward progress toward a better life for those enslaved, if we had not had emblazoned at the beginning that which calls this nation to respect the will of God and acknowledge His authority.
At every juncture, at every time, when we were called upon to face injustice, the people who successfully rallied the conscience of America didn't do it because they were rich and powerful, and everybody thought they would win. They did it because they were called by God to call this nation back to those principles which bind us to His will. To call this nation to eradicate from amongst us those things which contravene His authority and His grant of dignity to each and every one of us, from slaves then toiling in the fields to children now lying sleeping in the womb. It does not matter the time, it does not matter the color - ALL are entitled to the same respect for their human dignity. Not out of the goodness of our human hearts, but out of the goodness of God's mighty will. That is the conscience of America. And I think that it behooves us now, as we face the disintegration that is resulting from the loss of that conscience, to call this nation in every way we can back to those principles which bind us to God's authority.
The one thing that strikes me, as I look at all these problems they say we are faced with, is that there is something left to do, once we have recaptured the sense that we must call people back to the Declaration, and that in doing so we call them back to God and to God's relationship to America. Much, indeed, is left to do. Because I think that, if it is true that that is the task that faces us right now, then those who are the salt and the saltiness of the salt, and those who are the leaven in the loaf - we have to take the challenge personally. WE do. Because there is no way that this nation is going to reclaim its spirit if those who are especially moved by God to live within His Spirit do not every day call upon His Name.
Because I realize that before me right now is the answer to my question. I was asking whether we were in an Abraham moment, and I believe we are. And do you want to know where Abraham is today, asking God whether in the mercy of His heart, if he but finds fifty good men, He will spare this nation? Abraham is here, he is here. He must cry with our cries and groan with our groans and speak with our prayers to the Heart and Wisdom of Almighty God. And that's why I think it is so important that we realize that, whatever goes on in the way of politics and organization and all the things that people talk about - the messes that we make as we try to straighten out the messes that we make - there is really only one true and sure way to revive the spirit, and that is to seek the face of God, that He might look upon our prayers and heal our land.
So it begins with our prayers. And I believe it must end with the recognition that if we are right about what that Declaration means, then we have at some point to realize that, rightly understood, this Republic was not a dream. It was a prayer, that in the midst of that long human history, that history of man's inhumanity to man, that history of slavery and wrong, of war and killing, of injustice and denial of God's grace, there would be those who would stand up and see in their mind's and their heart's eye the destiny that God intended when He first, with His Mighty Word, said 'Let there be light.'
And they thought it through and offered up, I think, this nation as a prayer, that somewhere there would be a land where people living in the fear of God could learn from His will that respect in which we are to hold one another, and, learning that respect, could learn to build a nation that would reflect not just His judgement, but His love. And of all the people in this world, I come from those who have the right to be most uncertain as to whether this is that land. But I feel He means for us to try - to try, at least - to vindicate the hope that it is, and that it can offer to the peoples of the world an answer which they cannot find apart from His almighty love, apart from Christ's all-serving sacrifice, apart from our surrender to His love.
So I call on you today, as Americans because our creed calls us to God, as Christians because our faith moves us to live in His love and His will. Let us stand up, whether we know or not what the final outcome may be, and do all that we can in our prayers and in our faith and in our lives to bring this nation back to where God says it was intended to be. For we still hold these truths to be self-evident, we can still live in God's promise of freedom, equality, and justice - if we are but willing to fall down upon our knees and demand that in His mercy there be granted to us the boon of bringing back the spirit of justice to a land that has known the blessings of His will.
It is not impossible for us, because nothing is impossible for the God on whom we rely. Take heart then, or it may be true that as we continue down the road, the angels shall dance upon the grave of America. But it may be true as well that if we lift up our hearts to God, they shall rejoice as they rejoice in finding the lost sheep - when once again America comes home.