For quite some time now the US has faced the threat of new hostile powers attempting to do injury to the country’s government, economy, culture, and people. The horrible display on September 11, 2001 shocked the citizens of America and people around the world into awareness of hostility brewing in the dark corners of the globe. This hostility seems to have taken shape several times in the last year, with perhaps the greatest threat coming from a weapons program devised by Sadaam Hussien. One has to pause and wonder what’s at stake in this very dangerous conflict we now find ourselves.
After having lived in or visited eleven different countries, including the US and presently living in Turkey, I have come to see something unique about my homeland. This uniqueness springs up from the first settlers who landed at Plymouth Rock and the waves of similar travelers after them. The people on the Mayflower came to the “New World” because they sought freedom—in particular, freedom to worship as they wished, according to their consciences. While the governments in England and on the Continent still had a confused notion about the Kingdom of God sharing power with the kingdoms of man, these religious dissidents, after suffering many restrictions, persecutions, and deprivations, willingly risked their lives for the freedom to live their lives free of oppression and injustice. In 1851, the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville observed, “In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.”
Is this looking at the past through rose-colored glasses? It would be, unless we openly recognize and discuss their imperfections. In spite of these, they have left a legacy of discerning the boundaries between the temporal and eternal. The challenge for the present generation is to continue having good discernment and not blurring the boundaries.
What is at stake now? During the seventy years of Soviet rule, the communist philosophy posed a grave threat to freedom of conscience and religion. The evil plans of the Nazis threatened to crush light out of the world. This newest round of hostility is driven by the same basic aims, to undermine and destroy the unique freedom that America seeks to uphold in the community of nations. This freedom, which clearly separates civil government from religious government and which should protects a person’s right of conscience, infuriates any philosophy or religion that seeks absolute control over people.
An oft-spoken adage goes that if America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great. We could add that she might also have fewer enemies. What is at stake is America’s goodness, our own goodness, in the face of incredible opposition to this unique freedom we enjoy.