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The Vital Role of Religion in a Democracy

by Bob Russell

Bob Russell1Gleaned from www.bobrussell.org

This past Friday night I was asked to speak at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner for the Jefferson County Republican Party.  Below is a condensed version of my remarks about the critical role that religion plays in a Constitutional Republic such as ours.

The hostile reaction to the election of Donald Trump illustrates the sharp divisions that exist in our nation.  Liberals verses conservatives, blacks verses whites, police verses inner city youth.  Even in evangelical circles, those who are for strong borders are pitted against those who want to welcome all refugees.  I’ve never seen such widespread and intense rancor.

There is a general feeling that America is headed in the wrong direction.  Something is drastically wrong.  Jesus warned, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

I think what’s happening is easy to explain.  It has little to do with either political party.  Our nation has turned its back on God and we are reaping the sad consequences of our spiritual rebellion.

When the Israelites were about to enter the Promise Land Moses warned them “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.  Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:19-20).

This nation was established by people seeking to do God’s will.  In 1620 the Mayflower Compact read, “For the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”  Our first President, George Washington, said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

Even Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren, one of the most liberal judges in history, wrote, “I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the good book and the Spirit of our Savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses”  (Time Magazine; Feb. 15, 1954).

But in recent years we’ve forgotten God and now are even attempting to erase Him from our national memory.  We’ve banned the Bible and prayer from public education, removed the Ten Commandments from courtrooms, sandblasted Scripture from government seals and dismantled crosses from memorials.

Like the Israelites of old, we’ve turned from the one true God and bowed to the false god’s of multiculturalism, materialism and hedonism.  Two years ago the President of the United States cavalierly proclaimed that we are not a Christian nation but a nation of diversity and inclusion.

It seems to me God has been very patient with us.  However, He has slowly withdrawn His hedge of protection and His hand of blessing.  Now we are reaping the tragic consequences of our spiritual rebellion.

You may ask what does this have to do with the Republican Party?  I suggest it has much to do with you because it’s vitally important that all politicians understand the vital role that religion plays in a democracy.  John Adams, the second president said, “Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other.”

If three men and two women are marooned on an island and the three men vote that it’s okay to rape the women, that’s democracy at its worst.  A constitutional republic requires a righteous moral and religious consensus to function.

Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen once relayed a conversation he had with a Chinese Marxist economist who provided his analysis on America. He contemplated that most Americans have no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy.  He told Christensen, “The reason your democracy works is not because the government was designed to oversee what everyone does.  But democracy works because most people voluntarily obey the law.”

“In the past most Americans attended a church or synagogue where they were taught that they are answerable not just to society but to God.  As religion loses its influence, where are the institutions that will teach the next generation that they too need to voluntarily choose to obey the laws?  If you take away religion you can’t hire enough police.”

Everywhere I go people ask, “Is there any hope?  Can America be restored?”  I believe it can because, “with God all things are possible.”  But it won’t be saved through a political party.  We aren’t going to be saved because there’s a Republican in the White House and you hold the majority in the house and senate.

The formula for restoring our nation is in a familiar verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14.  Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday that this is his theme verse these days.  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

The urgent need in America is for a spiritual revival. That’s more the responsibility of spiritual leaders than a political party. But we desperately need your help.  God has given you a platform of leadership.  You can help to lead us back to our spiritual roots.

– Acknowledge the important role of religion in a democracy and endorse it.

– Embrace evangelicals and don’t apologize for them or marginalize them

– Be a party that aggressively protects the most vulnerable ,especially the

rights of the unborn. Jesus said, ‘The same as you do to the least of  these you do to me.”

– Stand strong for the traditional family, religious freedom, the dignity of

hard work balanced with compassion for the needy

– Appoint and support judges who will respect the constitution and “…act

justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God.”

When you have the opportunity personally, speak up for your convictions.   I respect Governor Matt Bevin and Vice President Pence because they don’t hesitate to boldly testify to what they believe regardless of the consequences.  God has given you that opportunity also.  “Be strong and courageous for the Lord your God goes with you.”

Individually you can repent of the sin that you know besets you.  Like King David, let’s say,  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Abraham Lincoln is regarded as one of our greatest presidents.  Yet he wasn’t too proud to admit, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.  My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.”

That spirit led to the abolition of slavery and a reuniting of a nation that was more sharply divided by the Civil War than we are today.  May God raise up a multitude of Abraham Lincoln’s among you.  People who will put the nation’s interest ahead of self.  People who will abandon pride and unashamedly lead through personal integrity and spiritual conviction.

Perhaps God will use us so that one day soon our children can say with assurance, ”This is one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”


Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY.


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I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13