In today's America, government is everywhere. A person cannot take two steps in any direction and not stumble across some kind of governmental intrusion into his life. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World or George Orwell's 1984 no longer seem so far-fetched, do they?
The government's presence is so pervasive that we no longer notice it; we have become used to it and thus apathetic to it through sensory overload. The government controls our roads, airways, railways, subways, and all other means of transportation. It regulates the airwaves, telephone lines, cable lines, wireless frequencies, and all other methods of communication, including, to some degree, the Internet. It sanctions our food, water, housing, money, automobiles, medication, and other necessary consumables. It has its heavy hand in education, recreation, land use, trade, manufacturing, entertainment, even religion—and just about every other sector of society. It is surprising to find any area of life that that government (city, state, national, international) has not stuck its interfering nose into.
From the label on our breakfast cereal to the tag on our mattress, government is always with us.
If some liberals had their way, American government would be even more invasive. They take as their models some of the European socialist states, such as Sweden and Belgium, which have cradle-to-the-grave welfare systems. They would create a similar "nanny state" here.
The United States of America was founded to keep government out of its citizens' lives, but over more than 225 years of real-world experience, the federal government has become the overbearing, intrusive state against which the colonists rebelled. The cycle has come around fully, and if the American nature has not fundamentally changed, serious revolutionary measures may perhaps be around the corner. In fact, many libertarian leaders and writers are already calling for something like a second American revolution.
But would that really change anything?
If the Constitution were restored to its former authority, if the government reverted to its mandated limited role, if America's leaders forsook the pursuit of power and re-election, if we enforced the good and necessary laws of the land, would this country reclaim its freedom? After all this nation had been through, could it ever return to the idealism of its youth? It is doubtful.
The answer lies in the heart and mind of every average Joe and Jane in the country. It is simply this: The average American is so accustomed to his state of bondage that he has no desire to leave it. The nanny state has so coddled him and bound him in security blankets that he is afraid to venture forth without them. His life is so ordered and limited from without that he no longer has the wherewithal to direct it from within.
This may seem to be cynical hyperbole, and it probably is an overgeneralization. However, the fact remains that too many Americans are comfortable with the unconstitutional restrictions government has imposed, and if they were taken away, such people would not have the character or the principled foundation to chart their own ethical, upward course. A person who is sick for an extended period soon atrophies, becoming dependent on his nurse for even the most basic acts. Isaiah uses this same illustration to describe Judah in a situation perilously similar to ours (Isaiah 1:5-6).
God recognizes how human government works (see Romans 13:1-7), and His advice is to obey its dictates as long as they do not contravene His own law. His government, however, is not so heavy-handed; it prefers to persuade its citizens to conform voluntarily to its standards (Romans 12:1-2). Certainly, it can and will use force as necessary, but God wants us to come to desire His way of life as our own. Perhaps the best illustration of this is found in Jeremiah 31:33:
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
God longs for the time when His people will no longer need an external law to coerce them into living morally. He wants His law to be internal, written into our very character, so that we follow it as naturally as we breathe because we know without a doubt it is the right way. In that day, government will not be an oppressive, ever-threatening force as it is today. In fact, it will not feel like government at all but life itself.
- Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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