By Alexander Redd ([email protected])
Inherently, framers of the Liberian Constitution wholeheartedly proclaimed the birth and survival of the Republic of Liberia solely on the gracious reliance and guidance of the one and true Divine God (not many gods). For Christians, the Constitution’s Preamble that acknowledges and proclaims this reality, is the manifestation of fundamental principles and values of Christian heritage. Such theistic declaration of a nation’s constitution is indicative of its foundational spiritual root in GOD – the personhood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, in the throes of national recovery, following tumultuous years of civil strife, war, loss of human lives, property, and scars of national identity and patriotism, our nation will accomplish the peace, progress, and stability it seeks in every aspect of national livelihood through our surrendered hearts to God.
This means that our nation’s spiritual root of Christian principles and values must never be compromised, with an attitude of inertia and neglect of the framers’ original intent upon which Liberia was established. Indeed, Liberia is a Christian nation in a sense that its ideals, principles, and values are foundational in its birth and formation of independence through the laws of the land. These fundamental Christian ideals are constitutional expressions of biblical principles such as freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, of the dignity of the individual, of the sanctity of life, of protection of property rights, of equal justice under the law, of the reservation of power to the people, and etc. Now is time for Christians to stand up to say enough to those who are trying to drown the moral and spiritual fabric that should guide our nation. It is time to reclaim our Christian heritage, not through a new legislation, but through rending our hearts to God as predominant forces of good over evil.
What has happened since our nation drifted from its spiritual root of Christian principles? Are we better off today since the floodgate of secular ideas flourished in national governance and culture? It is regrettable that too many people have ignored and twisted the Christian heritage upon which Liberia was firmly established, and they delight in arguing that we must welcome all religious beliefs from other groups to determine the fate of our political, economic, social and cultural destiny. Secularists, humanists, and rebellious forces are insidiously peddling the false notion of separation of state and religion, concluding that the Bible, prayer, and Christian worship should never be allowed in the public square, as well as in our nation’s public education curriculum. What a tragic error!
The Constitution never outlawed the teaching of the Bible, prayer, or worship in the public square or public schools. Of course, Article Fourteen (14) of the Liberian Constitution gives way to the free exercise of religion, which allows other religions to serve their gods. Nevertheless, the Preamble of the Constitution proclaims the birth and survival of a nation under ONE GOD. Why? This is because the framers were professed theists (believers in the existence of One True Creator of the universe and all therein – God), knowing the practical reality that life, liberty, and the protection of property rights are assured under the sovereignty of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Of course, the meaning of the phrase – separation of church and state or no establishment of a particular state religion, illustrates the idea that the church is not the state, and the state is not the church, due to their distinct spheres and functionalities. Nevertheless, these two institutions co-exist and the framers of the Constitution acknowledged their distinct responsibilities, existence, and survival not under the naked ideals of humanistic and secularistic philosophies, but ultimately under godly principles and values that embody Christian heritage. The indication that the republic shall establish no state religion does not mean the state is autonomous, and the state would have no reference to God in any public institutions, such as a public educational curriculum, to teach the Bible.
The original idea of the constitutional Article Fourteen (14) regarding the matter of state and religion was that no particular religious denomination or sect would enjoy the peculiar support and subsidy of the government. However, this does not mean the government was free to rule without reference to or inculcation of the nation’s Christian heritage into the broader culture. The pilgrims who arrived and founded the nation under God’s gracious providence believed in Christian principles and values. While the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag is laden with such words as, “one nation under God,” and the presence of a Chaplain in the national legislature is evidently ongoing, forces of the secularist mind-set are bent on chipping away Christian values that portray the original intent of the constitutional framers. What has happened in our day is a blatant shift that has taken place whereby it is not only the separation of church and state, but the notion that the state is separate from God, and that the state makes no reference to God in public education.
They have succeeded in barring the Bible from public school curriculum, and a heightened sense of our country’s foundational Christian heritage is being propagated as a secular nation, which is not the case. Although the state still tolerates the practice of religion – no one goes to jail for reading the Bible or praying at home – however, toleration in many ways is increasingly being limited to a very narrow theater of operation, namely the church. We cry for genuine change and progress, but we are looking in the wrong direction of self-effort without recalling our sense of commitment and relationship to God, upon whose providence and sovereignty the constitutional framers solemnly declared the birth of a republic.
Christians are advantageous to lead the way in good works that portray the Christian character, knowing that they are returning Liberia to God. While critics may argue for the separation of state and church, they can never argue for the separation of God and good works. Why? This is because good works that are implemented by Christian organizations are in effect the exact same types of activities that are implemented by secular organizations to benefit a community. Good works done by Christians or their organizations do not constitute an infringement of church and state separation. Today, many seek to illegitimately utilize the state government to control, limit, or even silence the church’s voice and influence in the public arena under the false interpretation and application of the concept of the separation of church and state. A major way this is accomplished is through good works because good works bring glory to God (Matthew 5:16). Thus, when we are about the business of doing good to others – be it mentoring in public schools, helping the needy, restoring homes for the elderly, discipleship of couples in the areas of family and parenting, teaching, training, providing food, comfort, and more – we are about the business of our great God and King.
We must return our country to its Christian heritage under God for reliance and survival and genuine progress because, in the beginning, God was the government. That is why framers of the Liberian Constitution acknowledged and proclaimed God in the Preamble. His model allows for a broad freedom along with narrow restrictions, followed by both quick and severe consequences for breaking those restrictions. Yet after the fall of mankind, God transferred governance of mankind to men. God had set the standard for how his creation should operate and then transferred that standard of government to mankind after sin entered the world. Therefore, a government patterned after the original design of the Creator is a government that does not seek to limit humanity’s freedoms, but rather promotes freedom through the declaration of clear and just boundaries along with the carrying out of immediate and acute consequences for breaking those boundaries. It is in this type of government where individuals, families, churches, and local communities are best equipped to cultivate and maintain high levels of both productivity and enjoyment so that free enterprise can flourish.
Freedom is so important that we must be involved not only in fighting for it for ourselves, but also in empowering others to experience it as well. This is why the greatest demonstration of our Christian value and appreciation for freedom is realized in diligently serving the well-being of others (Galatians 5:13). Freedom’s purest form is manifested through expanding and enriching the freedom of others. Civil government exists, therefore, to promote personal and collective freedom through resisting evil and overseeing the proliferation of good through maintaining a just and righteous society. When a government fails to do this, either because it runs inefficiently or ineffectively, or fundamentally unjustly or unrighteous – it is typically the masses who suffer. Despite our Liberia’s past failure to genuinely reconcile differences and mend broken hearts for the sake of national healing, peace, and stability, it is never too late to come together with a sense of patriotism and destiny – focused under the guidance of God. It is about time to return our hearts to God, Himself.
The problem is that too many of us are looking to the government for solutions, believing all issues of life facing our homeland will be solved by the government. It is time that we trust the Lord to bring healing and allow his Spirit to move our hearts in the election of public officials who cherish and practice Christian principles. We have the privilege to turn our country into its moral and spiritual direction, through the power of our vote. We can choose our leaders every time we go to the voting booth. That means, we can determine where our nation is headed, because we are casting votes for either righteousness or unrighteousness. Our national Constitution is replete with Christian principles, to which we espoused (for example, freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, of dignity of the individual, of sanctity of life, of property rights, of equal justice under the law, and the reservation of power unto the people). However, Liberia will not only genuinely change and stabilize, based on the ballot box as a way out in the election of public officials whose focus and hearts are bent away from God. Authentic change in our homeland begins with trust in God, who framers of the Constitution solemnly proclaimed and acknowledged in the Preamble for the birth and survival of our homeland.
The warning signs for genuine repentance and rendering of our hearts to God for survival are evidenced by the enormous pain, suffering, hardship this nation has experienced through major tragedies such coups, civil war, diseases of ebola, and covid-19. Yet, we continually live in disobedience to God, believing that change and progress can be accomplished in our own strength. Nowadays, many Liberian politicians, pundits, courts, public schools, and businesses, embrace and promote the ugly idea of secularism under the rubric of freedom from Christian principles and values; and they peddle the idea of human autonomy (self-effort without need of God). Secularism is the belief that man or woman does not need God or God’s laws in his or her social, governmental, educational, or economic affairs. Our nation’s wrong view of God’s character is driving our society into moral decadence and anarchy. This is what happens when God’s absolute truth is missing, and then the consequences of bad leadership and governance ensue.
The Apostle James asks, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from desires that battle within you? You want something but you don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight….”( James 4:1-2). The apostle James portrays the reality of a heart and mind not leaning on God and is not content, always fetching for more at the expense of violating the inalienable rights of others. Folks, the heart of the matter is the heart of the matter. When our hearts are consumed with God’s love, we will not be so inclined to harm others for the sake of selfish interests. All the unrest in our country today started within the human heart, which is apart from God, and it is a heart that is “deceitful” and desperately “wicked” and “who can know” its true intentions? Only God searches and knows the heart (Jeremiah 17:10). Moreover, Christ Jesus emphasizes the condition of the human heart and speech that comes thereafter. “Out of the heart,” Jesus says, “proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matthew 15:19).
Because of the heart and mind-set that is far from God and fail to practice Christian principles to upright society, our country is not in good shape. We continue to experience the prevalence of envy, pride, hatred among ourselves and many of us are unwilling to display humility and forgive others (Matthew 6:14; 1 John 4:20, Romans 12:19). And this raises the poignant question about whether Liberia portrays itself as a predominant Christian nation. This question embarrasses professed Christians or even leaders of the church as well as those working in public service or governmental sectors. And this is the matter of where Christians see their true identity in Christ, to be the “light” and “salt” of the nation. Indeed, it is apparent that our imperfections show up in our interactions of how we treat others in the capacity of public service as professed followers of Christ. Of course, God does not expect us to be perfect in all we do, but he expects us to demonstrate integrity through authentic love and respect for the dignity of our fellow citizens.
And, it is where we fall short in the application of authentic Christian love toward each other as well as others of different belief systems. If we are to continually lead the way to making any moral, spiritual, and cultural gain, it is so important that we show measure of authentic love and respect for the dignity of others by the depth of Christ’s love that works through faith. We may rend our hearts to do these things externally, only if they are internally driven as strategy for a long-term, effective national reform. Now is the time! With all of the decays and destructions that we face on so many levels in our country, it is now the time to come together and seek God collectively. We cannot draw near to God if we do not bend our heart toward Him before we bend our knee in devotional prayers. We must return to God, and He must be the center of our lives, homes, churches, communities, and nation. It is about our hearts being filled with the right stuff – the very Spirit of God’s own heart, Himself.
Alexander Redd is a Christian theologian. He’s a founder and servant of Christ at Gracious Hope Bible Fellowship, a global online ministry that exalts Jesus Christ in furtherance of the Gospel (see group page @ Facebook for videos, devotionals, articles and more). Before serving as Counselor at both Berkeley and Oakland Unified School Districts, Alexander Redd worked as a broadcast journalist in Liberia. Contact at [email protected]