Beginning at the Beginning
At the start of a New Year, it would be foolish not to be prepared in advance. Another year past means another year due tomorrow – with all of its privileges and responsibilities. As retrospect gives way to prospect, I greet the New Year with two renewed commitments:
First, I desire to begin everything with God. If the Bible begins with God, shouldn’t I? The blunders I made this past year might well have been avoided had I prayed as much before I acted as I pined after the damage was done. It would be the height of folly to think I can do anything apart from God. So I desire to begin with God.
My second goal is to continue the work of our nation’s Founders. I realize that Americans have long since lost the civic aptitude of our early leaders. People and Parade and a cacophony of other voices have squeezed out our national charter. The basic principle behind the U.S. Constitution was to maintain the freedom and power of the people in such a way that would neither enable tyranny nor empower egalitarianism. Since then, America has veered from the path so carefully forged by the Founders – the unconstitutional war in Iraq being just one example of our promiscuous violation of the Washingtonian ideal.
James Carroll, in his essay “The politics of the Christmas story” (Boston Globe, December 21, 2004), addresses this issue head-on:
The single most important fact about the birth of Jesus, as recounted in the Gospels, is one that receives almost no emphasis in the American festival of Christmas. The child who was born in Bethlehem represented a drastic political challenge to the imperial power of Rome. The nativity story is told to make the point that Rome is the enemy of God, and in Jesus, Rome’s day is over.
America, he says, has turned the birth of Jesus on its head. Carroll reminds us that the Founders had to fight to liberate themselves from tyranny. The legitimate grievances they had with the establishment led them to establish clear goals to address those grievances. They realized that tyranny would always be in vogue, and that the war on it would continue well into the future.
One of my spiritual forbears was a Baptist in England named Thomas Helwys, who believed that God, and not the King, was the only Lord of conscience. In 1612 Helwys the Baptist came to the defense of the Roman Catholics who were the beleaguered target of the Crown. He said:
Our Lord the King has no more power over their [Catholic] consciences than ours, and that is none at all. [F]or men’s religion is betwixt God and themselves; the King shall not answer it; neither may the King be judge betwixt God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatever. It appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure.
Of course, King James did not appreciate challenges to his authority, and he had Thomas Helwys thrown into prison, where he died. Helwys was just one of many dissenters who paid the supreme price for conscience.
This is also true in America, where the Founders’ work is far from complete. Another King George has returned to trouble the heirs of Washington and Jefferson, claiming Caesar-like powers. What will be the price for standing up to this latest impediment to freedom? This is no rhetorical question. Dissenting voices are rarely appreciated by those in authority. That’s the shame of politics today. The intellectual heritage of the Founders is no more.
So in this New Year let’s put Jesus back where He belongs. Let’s start our day – each and every one of them – by acknowledging His lordship. A “little talk with Jesus” will ready the body and mind for whatever might come our way. And let us boldly proclaim, just as our Founders did, for all to hear, “No King But King Jesus!” Let us make up our mind on “this one thing” and bring all other things into their proper place in relation to that.
Both as saints and citizens let us begin the year at the beginning.
January 1, 2005
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. He is the author of Why I Stopped Listening to Rush and numerous other books.