REORDERING THE PUBLIC SQUARE

First Things | 5/1/2008 | Gunnar Gundersen
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In the ongoing intra-conservative debates, some have argued that it is the role of government to enforce and protect moral truths in the public square to promote the common good. Others have objected, skeptical of the idea of using government to “reorder” the public square. But this objection is inconsistent with the founding; moreover, it ignores how the left is already radically and arbitrarily exercising authority to reorder the public square.

Reordering society to achieve the common good is what the American Revolution was all about. Government authority exists to promote the good and enforce a public order under which that good can be obtained. This is the message of the Declaration of Independence, which states that “to secure these [God-given] rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” It is also the purpose of government from a Christian perspective:

Princes - Terror - Work - Evil - Wilt

For princes are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?... For he is God's minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God's minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil (Romans 13:3–4).

In his second inaugural address, Lincoln framed the Union as being firm in “the right as God gives us to see the right.” Lincoln would be surprised to hear that government cannot use coercive force to order society toward that good. The Civil War and the postwar effort were intended to reorder the South—not just physically, but morally.

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The congruity between the American and Christian perspectives on government is no coincidence. America is a Christian country. In Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States (1892), the Supreme Court pointed out that Christianity—not just religion—is at the center of the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: First Things
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