Dignity, Equality, and Limited Government: The Christian Contribution to America

From Luke Sheahan and Family Security Matters.

“The worth of the person, the equality of all men before the judgment-seat of God, the limitations upon all earthly authority—such Christian convictions as these would shape the American Republic.” – Russell Kirk, The Roots of American Order

“If T.S. Eliot is right, and if culture comes from the cult—society grows out of its deepest held convictions—then Christianity is the most profound influence on the American Republic. This is not to say that the American Republic explicitly incorporated Christian doctrines; no one is required by constitutional diktat to recite the Apostles’ Creed. Rather it was understood at the Founding that Christian teachings were objectively true and American government was designed accordingly. Russell Kirk writes in The Roots of American Order:

American politics is not a matter of national party conventions or of presidential elections and all the other contrivances of American practical politics are means for implementing a body of beliefs about the human condition.  Those beliefs are not Christian only, but they are Christian in very large part. (27)

Christianity articulated the human condition, the Jewish idea of fallen man, and offered redemption, but it was to redeem the eternal soul of man, not his present political condition.  The Christian popularization of the Original Sin doctrine had a profound influence on the American Order.  St. Augustine’s writings on the state described an imperfect institution run by imperfect men.  It could cause much evil, but was itself a necessary evil, as it would restrain the more destructive passions of fallen man. Augustine dismissed notions of utopia articulating a realist position on political affairs.  Man’s duty was to search out the least of the evils and survive. (20) To say that political order would never be perfect was not the same as saying that some orders were superior to others. In politics man could hope to discover an order that restrained evil and encouraged what was good while always maintaining that life and civil government could never be perfect.”

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