What Kind of America?

By Rita Peters Published on January 10, 2023

As we head into a new year, many of us take time to set personal goals. But what about goals for our community, state, and even our nation?

It may seem lofty, but this week I considered the question, “What kind of America do I hope to leave to future generations?” And then I challenged myself to think of one thing I would do, personally, to make that hope a reality.

Here’s the kind of country I want to leave to my children and grandchildren.

An America That Fears God

King Solomon told us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Sadly, people who “fear the Lord” seem to be in short supply these days.

Even among those who say they are Christians, what seems far more common than a reverent “fear” of the Lord is the view of God as a benevolent grandfather figure who just wants us all to be happy. I long for more of the Church in America to pray to the God described in Scripture. He is loving and kind, yes. But He is equally holy, powerful, and just.

Here’s to a great year. As Gandhi advised, let’s “be the change we want to see in the world.”

In C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy asked whether Aslan, the lion representing Christ, was “quite safe.” Mr. Beaver’s response was, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Whether we bow our knee to him presently or not, God is the King. We live under His immutable moral law just as surely as we live under His natural laws. We have no hope of being wise or living well until we acknowledge that. God’s law is the basis for good, just, civil societies, and for our personal peace and contentment.

For my part, I am committed to spending time each morning studying Scripture, and to challenging my own thoughts of God to ensure that they are in line with it.

An America Capable of Honest Debate About Serious Issues

Note that there are two components there. First, I want to see our society engage in honest debate.

What we tend to do is demonize our opponents. Rather than taking time to understand the heart of their arguments, we label them as stupid — or worse, evil — and move on. We pull their words out of context to make them look silly. We take an honest mistake and use it to discredit them.

I sometimes wonder how much farther ahead we could be, as a society, if we really invested ourselves into understanding the other side’s viewpoint, finding the real point of disagreement, and discussing it with honesty, graciousness, and good faith.

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The second component has to do with the subjects that consume our time and energy. I want us to be a people who spend more time on things that really matter, and less time on the trivial, the sensational, and the scandalous.

Yes, it takes more time and energy to think about appropriate curriculum for our local public schools than to see the latest news from the Kardashians. But what will become of us if we let ourselves be immersed in celebrity gossip and social media sensations? We will cease to be a self-governing people, and become a people who are ruled by those who are paying attention.

For my part, I am committing myself this year to spending more time reading real news than looking at social media. And I’ll focus on my opponent’s best argument and respond to it.

An America That Knows Its History and Understands Its Foundations

We often hear older people say this, but they say it because it’s true: the younger generations of Americans don’t seem to know much about history. And they don’t seem to understand the Constitution very well.

The truth is, I didn’t either, until I began to study more on my own as an adult. For whatever reason, my own public school education didn’t impart much lasting knowledge to me on these topics. But they are so important.

The problem with citizens — and public officials — who don’t know history is that they won’t be able to avoid trying things that have already been tried and failed. (Communism, anyone?) On the other hand, if we do know history, we can start where others left off and build upon knowledge that has already been gained.

And that’s where knowing the Constitution comes in as well. The men who drafted our Constitution — while not perfect — were brilliant students of government. If we learn how the Constitution was created to work, and why, then we can build upon the ingenious system they designed, rather than working against it.

For instance, if we remember that our federal government is empowered only to do the tasks specifically assigned to it in the Constitution, it changes how we evaluate federal policy. Instead of starting with the question of, “Is this a good idea,” we would start with, “Does this arm of government have the power to do this?”

I will spend part of this year studying Rob Natelson’s book, The Original Constitution: What it Actually Said and Meant. And then I’ll write more columns like this one, to share my understanding with others.

Here’s to a great year. As Gandhi advised, let’s “be the change we want to see in the world.”

 

Rita Peters is a constitutional attorney, the author of Restoring America’s Soul: Advancing Timeless Conservative Principles in a Wayward Culture and co-host of the weekly radio program, “Crossroads: Where Faith and Culture Meet.”

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