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Speech
"God Bless America"
Alan Keyes
March 26, 2000
Wisconsin

Praise God. Thank you. Thank you very much. Praise God! I was glad when they said unto me, "Let us go into the House of the Lord!" Amen.

I always feel a little badly, though, because I feel so wonderful and inspirited. I've had some great experiences in the last few days here in Wisconsin, and then I took a little outing, just a brief break from what we were doing here, and I went off into Montana--and I don't know if any of you have ever been to Bozeman, where the Missouri River rises, but I had an incredible experience. I was supposed to be going there to give a speech, instead I spent, well, I gave the speech, but in addition to that, I spent an afternoon riding horseback around those hills and all.

I, myself, kind of feel that it's almost sacrilegious for a Christian to believe that there are certain places on earth that are closer to God than other places--right?--because, I mean, you have Jesus in your heart and you're as close as you can get. But on the other hand, you've got to admit that just as the world's feelings go, there are times when you feel a little closer than otherwise. And my scheduler told me when I got there to wave, and I must confess that I felt close enough to touch. It was wonderful, but I have the same incredible and enormous feeling, with greater certainty of its truth, right this minute. I sure do.

But in this case, you see, it's not that I can reach out and touch God, it's that He reached down and touched me today. And I'm deeply grateful to you all for sharing the wonderful Holy Spirit of your faith with me. I have to tell you, it does make it a little more difficult for me to do what I have to do in the next few minutes, because, having been given this great gift of peace and joy, which is obviously making it difficult for me to get right to the point here this morning, I have to follow it up by doing my best to make you feel gloomy and depressed about the state of your country.

See, I deeply believe right now that if we can't open our eyes to what's really going on, then we're not going to feel what we ought to feel right now, a tremendous responsibility--one that falls more heavily on the shoulders of Christian people of faith than it does on the shoulders of any other Americans right now, because we are in a situation where we are probably the people who most understand, because we look at the world with Christ's eyes. We most understand what it needs right now.

And so, if we don't act on that understanding, it's very unlikely anybody else will. So I think, looking at the world with those eyes, we have to appreciate that some of the things the world sees right now aren't necessarily for real.

The world is looking at things, and you look out in America today and you'd feel pretty much at ease and comfortable, wouldn't you? The economy is chugging along and doing all right. The world's relatively at peace, and so forth and so on. Now, we know that a shadow hangs over all this. We can see it almost every time we turn around: some new report coming in that tells us that the chill shadow of violence and depravity is reaching all over the country, into places that at one time we would have thought would have been safe havens from it all--the hallways of our schools, the lives of our young children. Nothing is untouched by it anymore.

But nonetheless, we have folks who want to take the happy face approach to everything. I call it that because it's like the approach some folks have taken in education in recent years--a kind of, "I don't care whether you're doing well or poorly, I'll put a happy face sticker on there just to know you should feel good about yourself." You see?

And I often wonder about that. There's a deep lie involved in all that, because you and I both know that sometimes if you want to do good to yourself, you shouldn't feel good about yourself. At those moments when you have turned your back on the thing that God wants of you, when you have crossed the line into those things that He forbids, there are times in life when, if you want to do yourself any good, you better start feeling badly.

And so, the notion that you should always be wearing a happy face no matter what's going on, this is a deep lie, because one of the things that a real encounter with the Lord can do to you is, it can break your heart sometimes. And it breaks your heart at least in part because, having encountered the truth, you feel the weight of all those lies you've lived by, and it can break your heart--especially if those lies have strewn your path with a lot of the broken hopes and dreams that come of believing the world's way, instead of God's way, is the way that leads to joy. We often find that that's not the case.

And I think that's the case with this country. We have a lot of these things that ought to spell joy--prosperity, a wonderful economy, low joblessness, low inflation, peace in the world--and yet, still we live in this shadow, which is indeed the shadow of death.

And every now and again, the truth of it breaks through and it mars the happy-face lying we're doing to ourselves, but we still don't want to look at it--and especially, we don't want to look at it in our politics and in our public life. And, indeed, the happy-face approach to everything characterizes politics these days. It has for the longest while.

One of the great symbols of it is, of course, the fact that, you realize there was a time in American life and politics (it lasted pretty much through the first part of this century), when no politician would ever get his picture done, whether it was a portrait, or later when they had photographs, you never wanted to be seen smiling. You were supposed to look grave and statesmanlike.

And now (and I, myself, am of course prey to this), everywhere you go you're supposed to give everybody a big grin, and look like you're happy to be here. And I guess there's nothing wrong with that. I have been admonished, from time to time, by some folks in politics that I don't smile enough, but that's because, generally speaking, they don't come looking when we're worshipping God; then you smile a lot. There's a time for that smile.

But, see, when I am looking at the real condition of America these days, I think I'd have to be out of my mind to wear a smile all the time, because I think the portents are very clear, and even though it's very unpopular (and especially somebody in American public life, you shouldn't even come close to saying this today), there are some things we need to understand that are not so pleasant, and yet, if we don't look them squarely in the face, as a people we will end up losing the dearest thing that together we own as a nation.

And in the past, our leaders were loath to tell us the truth about things. Even when the country began, our Founders first of all articulated the great truth that is there in the Declaration, and that is the moral foundation of this nation's life; a truth that is, these days, either ignored or much misunderstood, in spite of the fact that every now and again you'll still find it on the lips of folks.

But you'll find it on their lips without necessarily a willingness to understand what it really means to go in depth into it, because at that point it becomes for some people quite embarrassing, given what they profess to believe about the nature of our politics and public life. For, after all, what did our Founders say in the beginning? "We hold these truths to be self-evident . . ."

I don't want to go into the fact that even there, in some of our universities, you're already in trouble, since this whole notion that truth exists has been thoroughly and roundly discredited, right? "We're not supposed to believe that. Truth is relative and circumstantial," and all this. But leave that aside.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed," now here's where the embarrassing part comes, "by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."

Now see, I say "the embarrassing part," because here we live in a society where we are told--I was reminded of this just the other day. They were arguing a case before the Supreme Court recently about whether or not there can be student-led prayer at football games, I think in Arkansas or some place. Texas. Student-led prayer. Can we have student-led prayer at football games? And the lawyers are in front of the Court, and Justice Kennedy was speaking, in his "magisterial" way, asking his questions, because he deeply suspected that this business of praying at football games violated the separation of church and state.

And so, here we sit in the world, because of this doctrine of separation of church and state, we're supposed to believe that you can't even pray at a football game. Now, I, myself, didn't play football when I was in high school (I did track and stuff), but I know that when you're engaged in sports, a lot of the time there are definitely moments when you sure feel like praying. And now they're going to tell us that if somebody wants to stand up in the stands and give you a little help in that prayer you can't do it.

Oh, you could stand on the sidelines, probably, and scream every encouraging curse word that comes into your mind, and they'd want to interfere with anybody who told you to shut up out of common decency. That would be a violation of your freedom of speech. If you want to call down curses on your enemy, you're protected by the Constitution. If you want to pray up some help from Almighty God, well, then it violates the separation of church and state.

I got a question about this--some of you may have seen it in the debates--where one of these reporters actually asked me, "When you become president, since you're always talking about morality and everything, what are you going to do, or will you respect the separation of church and state?" And she thought I was going to embarrassedly say something or other, "I don't know, of course I won't," so I looked at her and I said, "Well, before I answer that, can you tell me, where is that in the Constitution?"

That's what I would ask, see, and what was interesting was that it was obvious that, in spite of her question about it, she hadn't actually looked at the document in a long time, because she came back at me with a kind of, "Well, I know it's in there," and I said, "Well, I know it's not."

And it is very true, nowhere in the Constitution do these words appear--and, in fact, the language of the First Amendment was intended to make sure that the whole question of the approach to religion would never be determined by the Federal Government. That's what they intended.

And I frankly don't understand how we have so docilely accepted these lies over the years, but we have. They come forward with these questions and we're supposed to feel all daunted because somebody says these words. And in point of fact, though, there's that great Declaration of our founding principles, and writ large on the very first page of this nation's history, in the principle that in its words and concepts defines the heart and soul of the American identity, what do we have but an appeal to the existence and authority of Almighty God?

And what I keep trying to figure out with all these folks is this very simple question. Here we are a people who appeal to God and His authority for our rights. Isn't that right? We appeal to God and His authority for our rights, and yet we are now going to say that in our lives, schools, everywhere else, we cannot acknowledge the authority of God, indeed, we cannot even speak the name of God? It doesn't worry anybody but me, that we now have whole generations of young people going into schools, where, even if we teach them to mouth the words of the Declaration, we are forbidden to teach them its meaning? Since it is not possible to teach the meaning of the concept that our rights come from the Creator, if you can't talk to them about the Creator, how then do we think we are going to sustain this way of life?

The fundamental claim we make to rights and dignity rests on our acknowledgment of the existence and the authority of God, yet we already have produced several generations of Americans who have been taught nothing about the Creator's existence or authority in their schools. We are literally wiping out the foundation, in heart and consciousness, of our claim to individual rights and dignity. Strutting around now speaking the language, oh, we still whine about our rights, demand our rights, campaign for equal rights, but what meaning does this word have, if there is no power beyond human power, no will beyond human will that sanctions our claim?

No matter who we are, no matter how poor, no matter how voiceless, no matter how helpless and without strength and dignity in the eyes of the world, yet we can stand before every power on this earth and claim our human dignity, because it does not come from the powers of the earth, it comes from the power of God!

And if that's true, and I not only believe it's true, it is the fundamental principle of our identity that all of us, as Americans, profess to believe that what I just said it true. Our claim, therefore, to all those things that characterize our distinctive way of life--the elections, the due process, the participation, this wonderful and exceptional system that we are able to participate in--all of it rests on this fundamental truth.

But in addition to thinking about the truth itself, I think we need to think, as our Founders did, about its implications. There are some people, for instance, in America today who are fond of saying, "Well, that Declaration doesn't mean anything, because those Founders owned slaves and therefore we don't have to pay any attention to anything they said." I always find that argument both kind of fascinating, strange, well, and also silly. And why do I say that?

Well, I'll illustrate the silliness of it in a very simple way. How many people here profess to believe in the Ten Commandments as the proper standard and guide of human behavior in the world? Raise your hands. There you go. As a matter of fact, stand up, everybody. Stand up. I want everybody to stand up who professes to believe in the Ten Commandments as the guide, the fundamental, clear guide for human conduct in the world. Now, if you have never, in the course of your whole human existence, violated any one of them, please remain standing.

You know, I have done that with audience after audience and, thank the Lord, nobody remains standing? And you know why? Because they know that if they remain standing, they probably already violated one of the Commandments!

Now, this is why we rely on the forgiveness and the mercy of God, and why we needed the salvation of Jesus Christ. The Commandments are clear. But in our fallen nature are we clear all the time about obeying them, about doing what's necessary to obey them? We need some help in that department. But for the grace of God, all we'd do is stumble around like drunken people.

And so the truth of the matter is, that the fact that you and I aren't always able to do it right up to the standard that's needed, that doesn't mean the standard's not true. So which of us, because of our own frailty, will then say, "Well, that discredits those Ten Commandments. Forget that"? And yet, we still profess to believe in them as a standard.

So, obviously, truth and our frailty are two different things, aren't they? And our Founders could acknowledge a truth, the fundamental truth, that all worth, and dignity, and justice, and claim to justice in this world comes from God, and yet still be unable to live according to that truth. And that's exactly, of course, what happened with the Declaration--but they knew it when they did it.

One of the things that actually has over the years preserved my great admiration for them, as I come to understand more about our own depraved time, is that by comparison with the Founders, we're actually far worse off today. I know that there are those who think that "hypocrisy" is the worst of evils in all of human existence. There is one that's worse, though--because hypocrisy means that you know what the standard is, and then are false about observing it. In our time, we go that one, one better. Because when we want to do what's wrong, we don't acknowledge the standard, and then go ahead and do it. What we pretend is that there is no standard, that there is no difference between right and wrong. And I've got to tell you, I'd rather live in a world with people who at least have the decency to acknowledge the truth even though they can't live up to it, than with people who want to destroy the truth because they wish to violate God's will.

There is hope for the folks who will at least acknowledge the standard. There's some hope that if you stand firm and long enough with that truth you'll move their hearts, because at least somewhere in their hearts there's that little seed of acknowledgment of the truth that is God's will and light and existence. But if you turn your back utterly, even on the possibility of that standard, then you could be lost indeed, God help you.

And that's why I think our Founders were doing better than we, because they acknowledged the standard. But in doing so, they also understood the implication of that standard for America's future. Jefferson, for instance, in the notes on Virginia when he wrote about slavery, with a description, sociologic, and otherwise, of slavery, and then he ended it with a discussion that, of course, dwelt on the injustice of it all and came to the conclusion which I think was interesting, startling, honest.

"I tremble for my country," he said, "when I think that God is just, and that His justice will not sleep forever."

And I mean, think that through, because what he understood was, having acknowledged the standard of truth, and what is even more, as Americans, having built our way of life on the claims that come to us as a consequence of that standard, and here we stand, a people all ready to say, "God's on our side when it comes to our rights. You can't do that to me, because that violates God's will." We want God with us all the time when we're whining, and yelling, and demanding, and fighting, and struggling for our rights and dignity. Well, my friends, if you're going to call on God when it comes to help to asserting your rights, what makes you think that you can ignore God's authority when it comes to the abuse of those rights?

If you are going to look to God when you claim them, you'd better keep Him in mind when you're using them, because if you don't, as Jefferson understood, the natural consequence is judgment. For, invoke the authority of God to claim that freedom, and when you abuse that freedom, you occasion the judgment of God, as well. And that's why Jefferson trembled. As it turned out, if you listen to Lincoln, Jefferson was right, too, because the country was judged--and it was judged in a way that eventually produced what remains to this day the most terrible, bloody, tragic, and awful war that this nation has ever experienced.

And sometimes, I know, at the end of the 20th Century, we think we must have done everything with greater intensity than it was done in the past. After all, we built the greater bombs, and the greater planes, and the automatic weapons, and that must mean that our wars fought in the 20th Century were more costly, and etc. Not for this country. The costliest war, in terms of loss of life--and so costly, by the way, that it's not only costlier than any individual war we ever fought, when you add all of the deaths in all the wars we fought in this century up, they still don't equal the total of American dead in the Civil War. It remains, to this day, the most tragic bloodletting that our people have ever experienced, and, of course, the only one since that time that actually ravaged our countryside, destroyed our cities, laid waste to our homeland.

This terrible war visited on our people, and in the midst of it, you had the leader on whom, in a way, the burden in justice, and in heart, and spirit of that war probably fell more heavily than on any other individual: Abraham Lincoln. And he stands up in his second inaugural, still in the midst of the struggle, no idea yet when the whole thing will come to an end, to address the American people as he embarked on his second term.

Now, this second inaugural speech of Lincoln's, you will see it, along with the Gettysburg Address, if you go to the Lincoln Memorial. You're standing there, and the Gettysburg Address is over here on your left, and the second inaugural is on your right. I've always thought that was interesting, because it makes me believe that, given the usual order of precedence in the West and in our tradition, if you're standing there and the second inaugural is on your right, and the Gettysburg Address is on your left, that means Gettysburg's a great speech, but whoever built that Memorial thought that the second inaugural was actually a greater speech.

And I actually believe they're right, because Gettysburg is wonderful, and it was an enormous and eloquent speech, but the second inaugural was an enormous and eloquent act of statesmanship, in which, as the leader of this nation, leading the country through this awesome travail of war, Lincoln articulated that truth which became, for the people of this country, the settled moral and spiritual understanding of the significance of all their suffering.

And what did he say? Well, he asked rhetorically in that speech the question, "How long will this war go on," which was, of course, on the hearts of all decent-minded people in the country, all the people who were losing their spouses and their sons, and watching their farms be ravaged and the cities destroyed, and seeing the blood so deep that you walked through it like mud, and the rivers ran with it for weeks after the battles. And they wanted it to end!

And so, Lincoln addresses this question that is so deeply and painfully on the heart of all our people ("How long will it go on?"), and he says, "If this war must continue until all the wealth laid up by the bondsman's 250 years of unrequited toil is sunk, until every drop of blood drawn with the lash is requited by another drawn with the sword, then as it was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said: 'The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

Do we understand the significance of what he did there? Because here, and remember, thinking about Justice Kennedy and "separation" and all of that, that was the President of the United States in the midst of the most terrible and tragic war in our history, and he did what today the media would scorn. He looked the American people in the eye and he told them, "This is the judgment of Almighty God against us for our sins." That's what he said.

So, you see, if we stand and we look honestly at our situation, we, in that tradition, need take no shame whatsoever in understanding that we are a people who, by virtue of our own decision, even if it were not the case that God is sovereign over all, He would still be sovereign over us, because we have invoked His authority in order to build what we wanted, in order to claim what we valued. And by that same token, that sovereign God, as was said, by the way, in the Declaration, is the Ruler and will be the Judge of the universe. That's what it said.

I say things like that, and some people reproach me when I say them in places other than a sanctuary like this, because they claim that "that's religion." But no, I just quoted the Declaration of Independence. They said it. And I know that some of my colleagues in this whole endeavor, like Al Gore, I know he invented the internet, you all have heard that, but much as I admire the Declaration, and quote it all the time, and have thought about it so much in my life, I have to tell you quite honestly and openly right here, it'll come as a great shock to you, but I didn't write it. I admire it greatly, but it was actually written, it was not even just the work of Thomas Jefferson, as some people claim. No. It was the collective product of a group of folks who represented, by the way, the collective wisdom of our founding generation. And it was their acknowledgment of God, and their calling on His authority, and their acknowledgment that He is the Ruler and the Judge, not mine.

And of that acknowledgment, by the way, some people may say, "So what if they thought it."

What do you mean, "so what if they thought it"?

Once they had articulated it, it became the truth for the sake of which we rallied people then to the cause of American patriotism.

And the bloody footprints in the sand at Valley Forge were the footprints of those whose hearts were animated and inspired by its truth. And when those rivers ran red with blood during the Civil War, it was the blood of those who sacrificed for the sake of that truth.

And when we sent our men and women abroad, and when they risked their lives in the wars of this century--in the names of "rights," and in the name of "liberty," and "self-government," and "democracy," and all these words we throw around--they, with their lives, and with their sacrifice, and with their risk, and with their blood, they hallowed that truth and made it the heart, the soul, the living essence of our American identity.

So, don't try to tell me, in the face of their sacrifice, in the face of all the years in which Americans have labored, and spoken, and struggled, and worked, and risked their all for the sake of that truth about our rights, that that is my belief. That is the belief that built this nation and made it strong and kept it free!

And from that heart of American principle comes, therefore, the consequence: that as we stand on the ground of God's authority, so we shall be judged by the same authority.

Now, having firmly established that, and remembering what Jefferson said about his own feeling, because he looked at slavery, and he trembled for his country when he thought that God is just, and that His justice will not sleep forever. See, I'd only make one correction there. As wise as Jefferson was, I wouldn't have said, "His justice will not sleep forever." I think you could leave off that "forever" part, because I think God's justice never sleeps, we just think it does! Because, even when we think it's not at work, the work is still going on. And it may very well be that the final outcome of judgment is still in preparation. But what we have to tremble about is, indeed, that preparation.

And in the 19th Century that was very true. You can see the whole history of our country, after the Founding, as the preparation for that terrible moment of the Civil War. People lined up on one side or the other of the terrible truths that would be the basis for that judgment. They chose in their hearts and minds, until finally, that division of the house reflected itself in blood, because there had been too many willing to compromise, too many willing to lie to themselves. And what had been merely a "possible" judgment ripened into a "necessary" one--and this, over slavery.

One of the things that I like to point out to people about slavery is, terrible a system as it was--and I've spent many years reading and thinking about it. It blasted human dignity, it tore down structures of family--all terrible things. The one thing you can't say about slavery, though, is that it aimed at the destruction, physically, of the slaves. It did not.

That would have been irrational, of course, since the whole point of the slave system was to use the slaves! And you don't destroy what you profit from! So, very often, great pains were taken. You wanted slaves that were strong and fed, and could go out and do their work. You no more simply abused your slaves than you simply abused your oxen. The travesty of slavery wasn't physical abuse. It was the moral abuse of looking at a human being as if they are an animal.

But here is where, for our present [unintelligible], because I want you to think now about what we are doing, because what we have done in the last thirty-odd years or so, is we have lived under a regime in which we have, in effect, in our law, and sadly, in our politics, turned our back on the truth of our Declaration. We still mouth the words. We still pretend we live in a country that's dedicated to the truth and respects rights, but we don't.

The question isn't whether our allegiance to that principle is dead. The question is are we going to struggle now to revive it, because it's definitely gone. And it died on the day that our highest court lied to the women of this country and the people of this country, and told them that they could have the right to take the life of their children in the womb.

On that day, they struck a blow, and it was not only the blow that has since then taken the lives of tens of millions, upwards of forty or forty-five million of our children, dead as a result. No, it wasn't just that blow, but that was a blow that struck to death, as well, this nation's commitment to the fundamental principle of its freedom.

You can't have it both ways. Either our rights come from God, or they come from a human choice. And if that child sleeping in the womb has no rights that have to be respected until its mother decides, then we have dethroned the choice of God and put in its place a merely human choice. And the very terms on which we have worked that revolution suggest that it is a human choice made for the sake of injustice, not for the sake of right.

Think of the arguments that they make about this: "Abortion's okay because it's a woman's privacy, and that's her body, and that's her womb, and the child's in the womb, totally incapable of surviving outside her body. It can't be viable anywhere else, and because of that total and complete dependency and subjection to the mother's power, she has the right to decide what she's going to do with its life in any way she pleases."

Now think about this, my friends, because I don't think we do often enough. People make these arguments and they act like "that then leads consistently to choice, and that's an American thing." No, it's not. You know what they just said? Think it through: "because the mother has absolute power over the child, she has the absolute right to dispose of the child in any way she pleases." That's not an American principle, that's the age-old principle of every ugly tyranny, of every conqueror's despotism, of every oppressor's will. That's the age-old principle that "might makes right," that if I have the power, that power gives me the right to abuse those within my power in any way I please.

That is not an American truth. That is an age-old truth against which decent Americans have fought ever since this country was founded!

We are supposed to represent a nation of people who believe that even if you're powerless, you are still protected by the power of God; that even if you're voiceless, He still speaks in His laws of justice for the justice that is due to you. And therefore, when we embrace this abortion doctrine, we are not only turning our back on our principle, we're actually running into the arms of the principle of tyranny that this nation, by God's providence, was founded to refute.

And this is where we stand right now, tragically. Having surrendered the ground of our justice, surrendered the ground of our liberty, we stand now on ground that leads, in the end, back into the dark age of human oppression and absolutism and subjection. And what is more, what is worse, given where we come from, it is also the darkness that results from the receding light of God's truth. See, that's the consequence.

Now I want you to think, though. We, therefore, countenance and practice today an injustice that does not even have the mitigating aspects of slavery, because we don't aim, in any way, merely to exploit and abuse the life in the womb, we aim simply to destroy it. And that life, innocent of all wrong, the taking of it an abomination in the eyes of Almighty God.

But worse still, think about this, we're not only taking an innocent life, some stranger's life, whatever it might be. No. We are taking the innocent life that God has entrusted, by His providence, to our special care and responsibility. By a two-fold principle, we are therefore condemned, for it is wrong to take the life of an innocent stranger, but it is wronger still to take the life that God has given you to be your own flesh and blood.

We therefore would stand under His judgment in a greater degree, just on those grounds, than did our ancestors for their tolerance of the practice of slavery. But it goes further, too, because, see, we now live after a fairly long train of American history, and we can look back and we can understand, in some ways, how wonderfully God has blessed this country.

I was thinking about it today, because we really revel, don't we, in the wonderful tune, "God Bless America," and we're asking for God's blessing, but you and I both know that somewhere in our hearts we're also reveling in God's blessing. Somewhere in our heart of hearts, that song is actually us looking over America and just feeling pride and joy and all the signs of God's blessings on this country: the power of our economy, the strength of our agriculture. We eat well, and we have jobs, and we do work, and we stand the envy of the world. God has blessed us.

There's more pride in that song than we would want to acknowledge--and I mean the wrong kind, but leave that aside. It does bring to our minds, doesn't it, that when we look back over American history, even from its beginnings, because right next to the bloody footprints in the sands at Valley Forge, you would see the knee prints of George Washington. And his prints would be in that sand because he spent a lot of time on his knees, relying on God's help and recognizing God's miracles when that help came and that bedraggled, barely-armed force was able to stand against the greatest military power on the face of the earth; times when God called up mists out of nowhere to veil their departure, and summoned up ignorance to veil their ways, and in those days he understood that that was God's answer to his prayer.

So, he understood it. So did those who, in the years following, in their faith marked out this nation's destiny as we opened up this continent, and followed, as well, by those who prayed up justice during the Civil War, followed by Lincoln, whose days of prayer and fasting got this nation's soul through that war. And even in this 20th Century, as late as D-Day itself, we would not go into battle with only our arms and our pride. We went into battle, first, on the very moment when our troops were launched, a nation on its knees, following its president in a prayer for their preservation and victory.

At every stage of this nation's life, in the face of every challenge that we have met and overcome, we have found ourselves on our knees, begging for His aid.

And we look back now on a history where, if we're honest, we have to acknowledge that in spite of all our faults, in the end He never failed us. He was always there. He always responded to that prayer--and I have to believe that He responded to that prayer because there was in the midst of our people, for all the faults, for all that leaven of wickedness that is there for everyone, there were enough decent hearts and faithful people calling on His name with a sincere belief in Him and a willingness to acknowledge in their ways His will, that He favored that truth of faith with His blessing. And this nation has indeed prospered--in spite, sometimes, of itself.

But I want you to remember that God says, "Of those to whom much has been given, much is going to be required." So, here we sit, in a generation where we not only offend with a two-fold intensity against the will of God, but we add to this another crime. For, we, being fully aware of all His blessings, nonetheless will countenance a policy in our land that turns its back on His existence, and His will, and His truth, and His justice.

So, I've got to tell you, if those folks back in the 19th Century looked at what they were doing and trembled for their country because they thought that God was just, what had we better be doing now? I tell you, I honestly believe that if Americans understood the situation we were in, the trembling of our people would bring on the first disaster of an earthquake throughout this country. That's how scared we'd be. That's how much in the fear of God we'd be living right now, because I don't care what they say about the stock market and the economy, this is the day before tragic disaster for America.

This is the day before that judgment falls. And that doesn't mean that we can't avert it, because you and I both know that, you read the stories, and one thing that always strikes me as remarkable in the Scriptures is that, right up to the very moment, it seems like God's ready to forgive you. All you have to do is accept. He will take "yes" for an answer. All you have to do is be willing to give it.

It's true, even of Sodom and Gomorrah and all these things, I mean, when all the angels were walking on their way, Abraham's pleading, and God's is still saying, "Sure, I'll forgive them. You find me just ten, and I'll forgive them." And right there in the midst of it, they're walking through the streets, and you and I both know, if they'd been treated with hospitality instead of called out for perdition, those cities would have been spared.

God was ready, even then, to back off, to delay. And the same is true for us. If we're willing to turn back, and we're closer than they would have been, but we also have to remember the other side of it: fail to make that turn, and you may end up just the way they did, because we're still arguing about where they were. He wiped them so thoroughly off the face of the earth, we don't even remember where they were.

We don't want that fate for America, do we? And yet, it seems to me that it hangs over us now. And insofar as there is this role we've played in the world, where, two and three times in this century, we've been at the edge of the battle of the shadow of the deepest evils that human societies have yet produced. And because of God's blessings, we were provided with the strength and the courage and the wherewithal to lead the world in its battle against those evils. What shall the 21st Century be if the power and strength that results from those blessings no longer stands to fight the shadow of evil, but instead represents a nation casting that shadow over the rest of the world?

And don't tell me, "Oh, Alan, we would never do that." We're already doing it! You look at what's going on right now under this administration, in the United Nations, pushing abortion and the culture of death on countries that don't want to kill their babies, but that are being forced to do it by a government that tells them, "You're either going to follow our culture of death, or we'll cut you off without a dime, without an aid, without a cent." And they have done it. Our will, our money, our great pride and prestige, all of it being abused right now, in order to promote those things which destroy the life and the justice that is due to every life, for human beings around the globe.

So, we already are casting a shadow, and our fate, therefore, affects not only our land, but, even as Lincoln called it, "the last best hope of Earth." So, today, we have it in our hands to promote that hope, or to betray it. And sadly, at the moment, betrayal seems far more likely--unless we're willing to wake up to the truth, and not only wake up to it, but especially in our Christian vocation, start to act like the people we're supposed to be.

One of the things that I find most surprising these days, for instance, is that folks will actually, from time to time, say stuff to me where they're pretending it requires some great courage to speak. At one of the debates, when we had one of those things where they give you a few minutes to say your piece during the debate, and then they give you one minute to close it off, and having witnessed what had gone on during the debate, I thought that maybe it would be an appropriate moment for prayer. So, I said a little prayer. And I will have to tell you, if you saw the debate, you realize it wasn't exactly any kind of earth-shaking prayer. It was just a little prayer. And the reaction to the "temerity" would have made you think that I had committed some terrible crime, on the part of some people.

But, truth to tell, why would we in the heritage of our country, with a Declaration that invokes the authority of God, have reached a point where we are so timid, as people of faith, that we are given in to this notion that we don't have the right to pray where we please, that we can't bring to bear the judgment that God has put in our soul in our vocation as citizens? Why not?

It was done when the country was founded. It's been done at every moment of its progress, and yet, we'll still accept this specious nonsense. Judges can sit on the bench, as they have done in Alabama--you have some judge on the Federal bench telling Roy Moore, a judge in Alabama, he can't put the Ten Commandments up on the wall of his courthouse. And we actually sit still for this! We'll sit there thinking, "Well, I guess if they dress up in those fancy, black robes and tell us things, they must be true."

No. No. God, as you may have probably noticed, didn't give any greater share of infallibility or wisdom to lawyers than He gave to the rest of us. Matter of fact, you listen to some of the things that they say, and meaning no offense to the lawyers here, you have to admit that sometimes that gibberish would lead you to believe He gave them maybe a little less of a share, if not of intelligence, then of common sense. Because it does seem sometimes, doesn't it, that they take a lot longer to say simple stuff than the rest of us.

But, in any case, we listen to this, and in that case, for instance, just as an illustration, here you have a judge telling a state court judge he can't put the Ten Commandments on the wall. And meanwhile, if you go to Washington into the halls of the Supreme Court, and you're looking around, and so forth, and you walk into the chamber, and right up there behind the Chief Justice, what will you find? Etched deeply into the stone, you will find the Ten Commandments. They're not only there, my friend, they're in a form, you'd have to get a sand blaster, no, you'd have to knock the whole wall down in order to take it off. What does that tell you?

What it tells me is that when some judge tells us we can't put the Ten Commandments up in the courtroom, we ought to tell him to go to Washington and learn from his own Supreme Court what the truth is, and that we will not be denied in our states the right to do the same thing that is done at the highest reaches of our Federal Government. Matter of fact, the Constitution forbids them to try to deny it to us, but they don't pay attention to that anymore.

But what I'm kind of angry about here is not them, it's us, see, because why are we putting up with this? Why have we become timid? Not only that, we even have people who will try to talk us now into believing that since we are Christian folks, we shouldn't even be involved in politics. We should stay out of it. It's not our business. Now, it's been an age-old argument among Christian folks, one that I frankly don't quite understand, between people who think that somehow Christianity involves withdrawing from the world, and those who think it doesn't. Christ wouldn't have been crucified if He hadn't involved Himself with the world. Do you think the Pharisees would have been upset with Him if He had just spent His time in His closet praying to God, and not out on the hillsides preaching to everybody who would listen? They wouldn't have minded Him at all if He had just minded His own business, stayed out of the Temple, instead of taking a whip and driving the moneychangers out of the precincts of God.

So, don't tell me, don't try to tell me that a Christian person locks himself up in the closet. The prayers that we are called upon to pray are prayers that are like the prayers of Jesus Christ. And He prayed those prayers, not only with His lips and with His sounds, He prayed them with His hands, and with His heart, and with His feet, and with His work, and with His healing. And we are called upon to live out His presence in our lives, and our faith in that presence, with the overflowing of our faith in the same good fruits. And we know it.

But we are then to believe that that sense, that we carry our Christian heart into all our vocations, is to be withdrawn from our vocation as citizens. Why? I honestly have folks who try to tell us, "Well, look at the Epistles, and Paul says that a magistrate does this, and we . . ." Yeah, well, that's true, but when Paul was writing, he was very clear that the servants had certain responsibilities, slaves had certain responsibilities, masters had certain responsibilities, magistrates had certain responsibilities. Who are we, though, in that list of things?

See, we're not Romans, we weren't born in the Roman Empire. If we had been, we might be different. We were born in America. And I would want you to consider carefully, when you think of your citizen vocation, when applying the words and passages of Scripture, when you're thinking about Paul's Epistles for our purposes, who are we? Any slaves here now? Thank God, no. Any masters here now? Thank God, no. But there are some people here right now who do some very interesting things.

We are a people who, when you get right down to it, we participate in the choosing of the ministers. We decide who's going to sit in judgment in the courts of law. We decide who shall shape the legislation, who shall wield the power of the sword. In Roman times, who was it who made all those choices and decisions? Caesar.

So, will you kindly tell me who we are here? Taken as individuals, we are merely citizens like any other. Taken together as part of the body of the people, we are God's anointed in this land. The people of this country are chosen out like David was chosen, like Solomon was chosen, to shape the destiny, by God's providence, of this land. And as they stood before God to answer for their responsibility, so we stand before Him to answer for ours. And I think that this is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in a passage that is often cited by people. They try to say, "Separation of church and state. See, even God said, 'render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.'"

This came up in a debate. McCain, or somebody, was trying to use this, and it was just one of those things that illustrated for me that, whatever this man may claim--well, I won't go into that. But, in any case, so here he was trying to cite this passage. I won't go into a long song and dance about it, but read the passage over some day. Think about it carefully, as some years ago, God had the grace to give it to me to do, and what struck me at the time was that since Christ is the Word made flesh, we must always remember that when we read the Scriptures, don't just listen to what He's saying, watch what He's doing, because what He does is often very interesting.

And in this particular case, they come to Him to challenge Him and fool Him and try to catch Him up. And they say, "Should we pay taxes to Caesar?" and they know that if He says, "Yes," He might be considered guilty of blasphemy under Jewish law, because Caesar was worshiped as a god in Rome, and if you paid tribute to Caesar it was like worshiping a false god. On the other hand, if He said, "No, don't pay taxes," then they were going to run to Pontius Pilate and say, "He's preaching sedition against the Roman Empire. String Him up." So, either way He went, He was in trouble. Either way He went. And then, Christ ends up giving this answer. He says, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," and some people think that's just a marvelous answer, because it sounds just like one of these politicians today--you know, "Give a little to this one, and give a little to that one."

They had a god in those days called Janus. He was the god of boundaries, because he had two heads. One face looked one way, and the other face looked the other way. I've thought of Christ as many things in the course of my faith, but I've never thought of Him as two-faced. So, I've got to tell you, when somebody tells me that he's shrewd and wonderful because He says, "We're going to give to Caesar," but I'm there reading Matthew 22, and then I go back to Matthew 6, and Christ says you can't serve two masters. That sort of suggests that you can't wear two faces. And that means that if you look at this passage rightly, you can't interpret it as "give to Caesar what belongs to him, and give to . . ." because that would imply that you could serve two masters and you can't.

So, what is God saying here? Well, I think what Christ is saying is clear in His words, because He says, "Give me a coin." Now, unlike some of our modern types, like that fellow who kept running around in the movie saying, "Show me the money," Christ doesn't usually ask for the money first, and so that's an unusual gesture, don't you think?

It calls your attention to what He is doing. And He looks at the coin and He says, "Whose image is stamped on this coin?" And they answer Him, "Well, that's Caesar's image." And then He says, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."

But that begs a question, doesn't it? We know how to determine what belongs to Caesar, because the coin has Caesar's image stamped upon it. How do you determine what belongs to God? You look for what has His image stamped on it. And that's why their jaws dropped at that point, because in answer to their little pitfall, Christ took them back to the very beginning of all their faith, to that moment when the Bible says that "God created them, male and female He created them; in the image and likeness of God, created He them." That's right.

So, I want you to see that what He was saying at that point, He wasn't saying, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God." No. He was saying what you and I know to be true. He was affirming what our faith tells us in every degree, and the truth of the matter is that Caesar belongs to God, and you belong to God, and I belong to God, it all belongs to God. And therefore, when we do our work with our faith in that God, it doesn't matter whether it's our family work, or our business work, or our farm work, or our lawyers' work. It doesn't matter what we're doing, or where we're going, or what we're saying, and whether it's in this sanctuary, or in that voting booth, we belong to God, and our will belongs to God, and our choice belongs to God.

And if we are willing to make that choice in accordance with what we know to be His precepts and His will, then you know the beauty of living in this country? The government can't impose God on us, but if we are willing to live out in our choices that which accords with the will of God, then we can sure impose His will on government. And that, I think, must be the aim of our vocation as a Christian people. Not by force of arms or terrible persecution, but merely through the faithfulness of our walk with our Lord, let us go forth and in every respect, including in our citizen life, be to our nation what Christ has been to us: the saving vessels of the transforming power of God.

And in that hope, we can walk into the new century confident that if we live out faithfully the responsibility of our Christian calling in all of these vocations, then that century will be not a century of tragedy and judgment, but a century of hope in which God can still fulfill the great promise, that gathered here from every corner of the globe, all people of every race and kind and color that there is, we come together to affirm His gracious will, His better hope. Not just for us and for our children, but for humankind, wherever they may be, holding aloft a beacon of hope to them, that there is a future in which we can affirm our oneness as a people, because we are willing to affirm and live our faith in our God.

I believe that this is what, as good Samaritans to our nation's life, we are called upon to do for our bloody and beaten country, deprived by so many lies of God's truth, to whom we can offer, one at a time, but also as citizens to the whole, the saving grace and mercy of God's word. If we do this, then you and I both know that we will have offered to our nation the hope that does not fail, the light that cannot be extinguished, and that will, indeed, show us the way to a future in which all of us together as human beings can live in the fulfillment of that promise that this nation is supposed to represent. God bless you.

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