The Responsibility of Citizenship According to the Founding Fathers - Part II
By Donnie Swaggart and Justin Nicholson
Last month we dealt with The Responsibility of Citizenship According to the Bible. This month we want to look at the responsibility of citizenship according to the Founding Fathers. There is no doubt that our Founding Fathers desired to see a nation whereby its citizens would have a say in the governing of its affairs. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.” No longer would the power rest in the hands of an unelected king, but in the hands of its citizens.
Every American bears a great responsibility in the governing of our nation; therefore, every American should be informed about laws, policies, legislation, candidates, and political platforms in order to make an informed decision on election day.
Let us now look at a brief overview of what our Founding Fathers had to say about the responsibility of voting.
“The true principle of a republic is that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.”
—Alexander Hamilton, 1788
One of the most important rights granted to every American citizen is the right to vote. It’s not only a right; it’s a privilege, and Christians are not actively participating in this exercise as they should be. With another crucial presidential election on the horizon, it is time for Christians to stand up, get vocal, and become more involved. Our Founding Fathers didn’t shy away from letting us know that is what they intended when they formed this nation more than two centuries ago.
Sadly, only half of America’s population partakes in the electoral process. Voter turnout has fluctuated over the decades —hitting as high as 63 percent when John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in 1960, and as low as 49 percent when Bill Clinton won reelection in 1996—but, average voter turnout since the turn of the century sits at 54 percent. Needless to say, our Founding Fathers would not be impressed with that statistic. They wanted full participation from every American citizen. In fact, they designed the Constitution to echo that sentiment.
Our founders stressed the importance of each American being a responsible, informed citizen. In order to do that, they believed that its citizens should take the initiative to properly educate themselves.
John Adams argued that one of the primary benefits for literacy is that it makes people better voters and, hence, better citizens. He said, “Every man has in politics as well as religion a right to think and speak and act for himself. I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading? A man who can read will find rules and observations that will enlarge his range of thought and enable him the better to judge who has and who has not that integrity of heart and that compass of knowledge and understanding which form the statesman.”
James Madison also understood that a healthy republic was impossible without committed, well-informed citizens. He said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Thomas Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
Alexander Hamilton expounded on that, saying, “The people commonly act more from their feelings than from their understandings.”
John Adams stated, “Evil, in humankind lies in the lack of governance by reason over the passions.”
The founders also believed that American citizens should be vigilant. It is not enough to be well informed; we must also safeguard our liberties. Thomas Jefferson said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
The founders envisioned a government for the people, by the people, and they hoped that we would exercise this right thoughtfully, knowledgably, and with vigilance. As the 2020 presidential election draws near, we Christians must understand that free elections are at the heart of American democracy. Also, we must understand that not all Christians around the world are able to partake in this privilege. Many believers around the world suffer under governments that despise the Christian faith and effectively silence their voices. These oppressed and persecuted believers not only lack a voice in government, but they also preach the gospel of Jesus Christ at the risk of their own lives. Thankfully, here in the United States, that is not the case. Yet, in this country, two out of every five Christians do not vote. One in five Christians aren’t even registered to vote.
Make no mistake, this world is in a spiritual conflict, and there are many who want nothing more than to drive the name and message of Jesus Christ out of the public arena altogether. Voting is an opportunity for Christians to promote, protect, and preserve a godly government. For a believer to pass up that opportunity means letting those who would slander the name of Jesus Christ have their way in our lives. The leaders we elect have great influence on our freedoms. Do you want them to protect our constitutional freedom to spread the gospel? It’s time to stand up, Christians. Fulfill your civic duty.
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