Blank checks and balances? Americans don’t trust their government
Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported that confidence in government remains near historic lows. Only 24 percent of Americans trust government most of the time, while 75 percent distrust government nearly all the time.
Think about it. More people trusted government during the dark days of Watergate than they do now. And that is a real problem.
In the last years of his life, Chuck Colson sensed this growing distrust, this lack of confidence in government, and he sounded the alarm on this very program. In 2011, he said the following:
“As Christians, we know that God established government to preserve order and do justice. This is why Paul in Romans 13 is so insistent upon obedience to the law and to governing authorities, because their authority comes from God.
“But we need to remember as well that free democratic governments function only with the consent of the governed. And the governed only give their consent when they have confidence in those who are governing them. If that confidence fails, then the whole experiment we have enjoyed in America, known as ordered liberty, fails as well. The result would be chaos, the enemy of human flourishing.”
When Chuck spoke those words in 2011, the context was the government debt crisis. The crisis in confidence is far worse today. I think Chuck would agree with me on this: No system can survive when a) the people believe they are being lied to, and b) government itself is seen as playing outside the rules—that is, in our case, disregarding the Constitution.
The revelations of the past week or two regarding the Affordable Care Act is a case in point. You’ve probably seen video clips of MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber—one of the ACA’s chief architects—praising the ACA’s lack of transparency and claiming that American voters were too “stupid” to know that they were being misled. It didn’t help that the House minority leader and even the President acted as if Gruber had little to do with crafting the ACA.
Even more serious, I believe, is the President’s determination to “go it alone” regarding immigration reform. Meaning, that he will take powers unto himself to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens without the consent of Congress. It seems that he plans to announce this on television tonight.
As a recent Washington Post editorial reminded us, just three years ago, the President himself said he didn’t have such powers. “Believe me," he said, "the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. Not just on immigration reform. But that’s … not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.”
Those are his words. Even the Washington Post, a, dare I say, left of center publication, believes the President’s going it alone now sets a dangerous precedent for executive power.
As theologian and Colson confidante T. M. Moore writes in his regular ViewPoint reflections, “The temptation to use political power in unjust ways … is a very powerful temptation, indeed. When the Founders of this country crafted our form of government, they built in a series of checks and balances between the various entities of our government … so that this temptation could be minimized by lawful means. This system of checks and balances has served our country very well for more than 230 years.”
Folks, it’s a system we need to defend. We must hold our elected officials accountable. We must make our voices heard. And above all, as Chuck told us, we must pray and live out our faith every day in the public square with confidence in God’s ultimate sovereignty.
Reprinted with permission from BreakPoint.