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For a while now, I have been attending what is referred to as a “cowboy church”. That is not an announcement of any great change of direction on my part. I have actually attended churches of one kind or another all my life and none have caved in from my presence, so far. I believe a couple might have cracked a little but all have stood throughout.
It is a larger group than I normally seek out but even my highly dominant hermit gene has felt comfortable there. As a friend of mine of similar background observed to me, there might not be that many “cowboys” there in the sense we were raised but there is a goodly cross-section of sincere souls of every stripe who delight in a straight-forward message not gift wrapped in directionless ceremony and pre-approved doctrine. It is genuine. And with a new covered arena and several events in it weekly, it is smelling a little more cowboy all the time. Even if most there might not realize you measure the leg length of your jeans by where the bottoms strike the spurs when the foot is actually in a stirrup, not how it looks on a dance floor or just standing around.
The minister (or preacher if you prefer) only has a high school diploma to hang on his wall. You don’t hang real-life experience or studied conviction on a nail. His beard comes to about the third button on his shirt and yeah he has a tat or two. He has also fought in the ring, been an Army Ranger, a police sergeant, and traveled into the darker reaches of another continent to not just share a message but to refine it with new experiences.
All that is said to refer back to the very beginning of the Great Scare which began in the early days of 2020 and quickly grew into a blind “lockdown” with little defined purpose other than locking down.
Without dialing back to get an exact date, it was around the first of April, deep into the night when the minister made a decision. He called some of his support staff and they met at the church building, directly in front of the tall, wide double doors through which everyone has to pass. The pins were removed from the hinges and the doors taken down. The large wooden slabs were then carried to the gravel parking lot and set on fire in the darkness.
Despite the image some may be forming in their head, this was, for the most part, a drama-free event, not a media event. The services were still available on a live Facebook feed for any who wished to stay home, those who chose to sit in the parking lot in the safety of their cars or trucks could listen on an FM signal. But the opening into God’s House (as seen by this congregation) would remain open to all with no possibility of being closed to any. A vital connection to our purpose, direction and character as a free, self-governing people was symbolized by the ashes in the parking lot and the wide, unobstructed entry.
I have written here often about the culture of Liberty so uniquely woven into our Founding. I have said that Liberty requires order and responsibility, not chaos and license. The beginning of that is a distinct moral order. It is the seed, the beginning foundation of Liberty.
The foundation of our view of government, its purpose and its daily function is based in the Judeo/Christian creed and we cannot succeed without it. It is from this tradition that each person is seen not a member of any tribe or sect but as a single individual with their own unique place in this world and the creation which houses it. It is from this tradition that the sanctity of the individual was first injected into human society. This is the source of all human rights.
Ours was the first government to declare human rights to be universal for all individuals and define government’s purpose as securing those rights for all. The source of those rights was made clear. They were from Nature’s God, the Creator.
The tradition of imago Dei (image of God) meant that every person had a touch of the divine and a special worth that was far beyond anything that secular governance could grant. Each person, not some indistinctive member of some group or tribe, had the divine stamp of their Maker. Their life, their property, their work was to be respected. It is because of the individual and personal nature of the God/man relationship each and every life is endowed with the right of self-determination.
Our society, our government is centered on the individual. It is an extension of the relationship between God and man in the Judeo/Christian tradition. God deals with individuals singularly. The greatest gifts God has for man are redemption and salvation. They are personal, one-on-one gifts and can be rejected, ignored or accepted. The children of Nature’s God have free will. They are lovingly given the dangerous right to be the captains of their own destiny.
Our national experiment had the same vision for man’s secular journey. For the first time in his history, he would be allowed to govern himself not by the force or grace of a ruling government but by the natural rights given him by a power beyond any mortal institution.
But for a society to succeed in governing itself, it has to have a moral code that touches the whole society. It needs a moral order which teaches each of us how to govern ourselves individually. As the Framers finished our Constitution and presented it to a still loosely bound nation many of them expressed that only a people with virtue could make it work.
The secular and spiritual inheritance of the American Character is about the growth and fulfillment of the human spirit. The secular half of that heritage rests on the belief that only in Liberty with its rewards and challenges can man come closest to his potential on earth. That and all other rewards of secular human Liberty begin with the moral order. It is a divine order.
Before this, man’s history had been mostly cyclical, moving from one circle of power, destruction, and struggle to another. With spiritual purpose that sighted in on distinct, divine promises the American history became linear. It was pointed toward a continuing growth and combined fulfillment of an unlimited potential. You see Liberty requires direction, purpose. It is not just about survival today. It is much more about tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. It is about opportunity, growth, and fulfilling potential. That is why the “pursuit of happiness” is a right. Not pleasure, but the pursuit of purposeful fulfillment hopefully moving closer and closer to it as responsible Liberty is practiced.
One of the lies used to weaken our republic is that there has to be a “wall of separation” between the government and religion. Nothing could be farther from the intent of the Founders/Framers. They did not envision a government free from the moral order of Nature’s God. They wished for religion to be free from government. In fact, religion is superior to government. Therefore, religion was left to the individual, not any government.
But for governments to remain useful in their protection of natural rights, they must remain within the Natural Order, the divine order. It is the duty of government to preserve that order or the society will fall back into the selfish and unproductive cycles of the past.
In a world filled with evil, as our secular one is, morality must inform conduct. And wisdom is a necessity. The Founders/Framers did not exclude eternal wisdom from government. They sought it and embraced. They saw Christ’s Church not as the mortal enemy of the state but of malfeasance and a guardian against its practice.
Faith and religion are the strongest pillars upholding the core of any great society, the family. When any government is placed above faith and family, tyranny has already begun. Governments are but institutions created by men. Faith must first be based in principles. Those principles are the basis for any lesser faith to be placed in men or their institutions.
An honest study of our national history will show that every positive turning point in that history has been prefaced by a religious revival of some sort. One clear example involves the question of slavery which gave us one of our darkest moments. The movement toward abolition was a religious one. The question was not completely settled in the summer heat of Independence Hall as the Constitution was pieced together over a long string of debates, even with many of the slave-holder Framers wanting a way to break with the institution. But the document did have the seeds for the destruction of slavery. The Framers, being mortal men, sowed those seeds and left the bitter harvest to others.
But almost as soon as the Constitution was ratified, an abolitionist feeling grew so that state by state did away with something that has been an accepted practice of mankind since recorded history. In fact, it still is legal in half of the world’s nations right now. The development was not one of government but of the church. The moral charge to give equal dignity and liberty to all made in the image of Nature’s God was the driving force that quickly changed more than half of the nation to be “free states” and forced upon government the moral duty it had had all along. Great Britain and the United States were the first nations in history to ban slavery and the United States was the first to ban both slavery and the slave trade. The driving force for this in both countries was the Christian church.
But that is just one example and I hardly intend to cover them all. But it would suggest that the surest way to have a “Rebirth of Freedom” is for a sincere spiritual revitalization to occur.
The original cause of fallen individuals and nations is to assume human plans can supplant those of God, the brazen belief that the morality of the natural order can be improved upon or bent in some way to reflect more of man than of God. I certainly don’t have the time or space to put down all the ways in which that natural moral order has been systemically attacked over the last century. I have probably bored you long enough.
But a simple review of those basic natural rights and the most positive ways in which they can be expressed in human society will help you to understand how the times we seemingly are trapped in have become so very perilous. The destruction of innocent life (abortion), the rejection of necessary, natural roles, redefinition of marriage, dissolution of property rights, blurring the lines between gender, allowing the dignity of work and its rewards to be practically abandoned and a dozen other examples are hardly Liberty. They are rejections of the Natural Order and malpractice of any government that allows it. They are even more destructive abuses of government than any tax on tea. They are actually rejections of Liberty. For those who practice them, Liberty is probably the last thing on their mind.
Man has that gift of free will. But he is not freed from the consequences of his choices or his behavior. I would refer back to the riots of summer 2020 which reached from coast to coast. Those rioters might have been chanting something about liberty or rights but that was probably the last thing on their mind. They were destroying rights. The right of property for those whose buildings were burning, the right of expression for those shouted down and even the right to life for those beaten and threatened were all being cast aside by the rioters. Free will is about choices. There are both natural consequences and natural rewards for those choices. It is our government’s clearly stated role to preserve the natural rights and natural order for all. The growth of all those rejections of the Natural Order mentioned above and allowing the open violations of rights during the riots are the failure of a weak, corrupted, selfish, cowardly, and far too comfortable political class that has abandoned its purpose.
There are moments in our history both as mankind and as Americans when a sudden turn is demanded. The failure to make that turn results in a destruction that requires a faithful rebuilding. If our Liberty is lost, due to our own failures, the only real path back to it will have to begin with Faith in the divine hand and its order.
But we must always remember that Faith and Liberty come before government. For century upon century, governments ruled men by way of force and fear. For those who would rule us again in that manner, the surest course is to tear down Faith and grow fear. Liberty sometimes can actually be a burden to the weak of spirit and the fearful. Alexander Hamilton observed that fear was, indeed, the tool most used “to destroy civil and political rights.”
Besides fulfillment Faith offers courage. If Faith is real, courage will always be required since true Faith demands action. Before the birth of Christ, Cicero who was struggling to keep the Roman Republic from becoming the Roman Empire believed that, “A man of courage is also full of Faith”.
Cicero paid with his life to restore the Roman Republic but failed. But within a generation, the Christian Church began a slow but sure reordering of human society and eventually was a founding stone in a different republic with a much clearer, higher vision.
This moment for this republic is a dark one. But being of simple mind, the coach in me, the horse trainer in me always goes back to fundamentals – to foundations. And the very first foundation stone of our identity is Faith and the Natural Order given us by the Creator. Faith and Liberty both begin in the spirit. Neither survive long in the timid and fearful. Both require, demand action. Both have to be lived or they wither.
There are many things needed for our political revitalization. But the very first, the most vital and fundamental thing is a spiritual revitalization.
You will be glad to know that the front doors of that church were replaced long before April spring turned into winter. And to this point, the whole structure itself has stood up to my presence on an almost weekly basis. But the openness symbolized by the door-less entry says that at least here there will be no lock between anyone and that vital liberty. Perhaps we all need to go even a step farer and walk through that opening, reclaim our heritage of ordered liberty and know once and for all that truly fear is a “liar”.Published in