Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.1"That's quite a claim, Stan. How can you say that it's true?" Well, think about it. Is it not always true? Consider. In order for any government to be good, it requires that government to be good. That is, you might have a monarchy where the monarch is good and it will be good or a dictator where the dictator is good and you will have a benevolent dictatorship. If the governing body is good, the government will be good. Pretty simple. When you then substitute the "better" government of either a democracy or our republican-style government "of the people, by the people, and for the people", what has to be good in order for us to have a good government? The people. Simple. So in order for a republic to have a good government and, therefore, a good country, the people have to be good. And we're right back at that quote.
Here's the problem. While the standard default for most people is "People are basically good", the truth is that they are not ... and now we have a problem. (If you don't believe the Bible's version, simply look at the daily news version.) It is a problem the Founding Fathers understood. They understood that a self-governed people could only have a great nation as long as they were self-governed themselves -- as long as they were moral. The more unruly the people, the more government would be required to step in. Freedom would be diminished because a democracy of unruly, immoral people produces an unruly, immoral government. So when we see "big government" at work, you can be pretty sure it's not because government is evil, but because people are evil.
This last election cycle our now-president ran on a "Make America Great Again" slogan. In this idea, originally the Reagan slogan, is a misconception -- America can be great without being good. That is, "The answer is in a better government." Truth is no president, no Congress, no judiciary has the capability to "Make America Great Again". It is not within their power. And trusting in any form of government to provide that greatness is pure foolishness.
This is when Scripture is handy to have around. Jesus said, "No one is good except God alone." (Mark 10:18) David wrote, "There is no one who does good, not even one." (Psa 14:3) Isaiah said that the best we can do is like filthy garments (Isa 64:6). From God's perspective, if America's greatness lies in having good people, "Make America Great Again" looks bleak. But there is another side -- good news, if you will. Paul's prayer was that he would "be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." (Phil 3:9) He wrote, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor 5:21) That is, while humans by nature are not good, there is a righteousness available -- the righteousness found in Christ. If we want to "Make America Great Again", it is not going to happen by beating the Left into submission, hiring the right judges, or getting rid of or embracing (depending on you persuasion) President Trump's views. It is found in the Good News that we can be saved by grace through faith in Christ. It is not in better government; it is in better people. And, as it happens, we know the One who can make better people. So, in the Internet vernacular, SHARE.
1 The best source I can find for the quote is from two English Congregational ministers who traveled in the United States in 1834. They wrote a book, A Narrative of the Visit to the American Churches by the Deputation from the Congregational Union of England and Wales (London, 1836), in which they wrote, "Universal suffrage, whatever may be its abstract merits or demerits, is neither desirable nor possible, except the people are the subjects of universal education and universal piety. America will be great if America is good. If not, her greatness will vanish away like a morning cloud." Not the same thing, but close.