Independence requires Reliance

In the spirit of Independence day, I’d like to share the original full text of a speech I wrote for the under-30 speech contest put on by the organizers of the Western Conservative Summit. A shortened version of the speech is given in this video.

The gist of the speech is that our independence and liberty can only be maintained if we have, as the founders did, a firm reliance on God.


Fellow conservatives,
Today I would like to talk about how we can win the fight against liberalism, and save America, both today, and in the next generation.
Right now, America is in peril. I think that most of us would agree that this is a critical time in our nation’s history.
The choices that America makes over the next decade will have a profound impact on her future. It will decide what kind of country my children, and your grandchildren, will be living in when they are my age.
Will America be free, or will she have an oppressive form of government?
We in the conservative movement understand the dangers facing America. We can see the peril.
You saw it coming. And you fought to try to prevent it. And we will continue to fight to turn America around.
Many of you have warned America of what would happen if we forsook our founding principles, and our founding documents.
Those things are the foundation of this nation, and if we allow that foundation to be eroded beneath our very feet, we will fall.
So you have fought to uphold those foundations.
We have signed petitions and called and written Congress on innumerable issues.
We have held rallies, many thousands and hundreds of thousands strong, on numerous occasions.
We have founded organizations to promote our values and beliefs.
We hold conferences like this one.
We’ve raised millions of dollars to take the fight to the courts, to lobby Congress, and to support conservative candidates.
We have recruited and endorsed candidates at all levels of government.
Many of you have held office, are currently serving, or have run for office or are running for office, to advance the conservative cause.
We have done, and continue to do, what we can, to build the conservative movement.
And we have accomplished so much.

And yet… Here America stands, as if at the edge of a great abyss.
And some of us cannot but question whether a movement which has tried so hard to pull America back from that danger, as she steps closer and closer, whether that movement will be able to stop her from leaping over the edge.
If everything that we had couldn’t keep America out of peril, how will it be enough to bring her back from that peril, to restore her footing on the firm foundations of liberty and the constitution, and the values that we hold dear?
Is what we are doing enough?
I think that we have to ask ourselves this question, for the sake of America.
If what we are doing is going to come up short, then we need to form a new battle plan.
If there is anything more that we can do, then we must.
For the sake of America. For the sake of my children, and your grandchildren.

I don’t think that there is anybody here who can say with confidence that they believe America will still be clinging to her conservative moors in two generations.
I don’t think that there is anybody here who can say with confidence that they believe that America, the America that you and I know and love, will be preserved, and understood and embraced, by the next generation.
Even if we rescue America today, can we really be confident that she won’t begin edging back toward liberalism tomorrow?

I was born in ’95. The only thing that I can remember about Ronald Reagan, is the day he died, and his funeral.
But Reagan lives on in a legacy that he left to us.
To many today, he is the paragon of conservatism.
Reagan was a great man, and he was President at another critical time in our nation’s history.

The conservative movement was still young then.
But it fought hard. And won.

And yet, one generation later, a liberal dictator sits in the Oval Office.

How does that happen?
I reckon the conservative movement today must be bigger than it ever was before.
There are more people, who are more involved, raising more money and taking more action, than ever before.
And yet, we still can’t be confident that this time we will win.
Or that even if we do, we will truly be securing America for the next generation.
Will America learn from that, and embrace the principles that can save her?
Or will she once again move toward the abyss of tyranny, from which she will hardly be able to recover herself?

What did America learn from Reagan?
Did America learn from Reagan?
Or did the next generation forget?

We have all done so much. Everything we can, it seems.
And yet it seems that America will likely continue to hover near the edge of socialism for generations to come.
Even if she has her Reagan’s.
She may swerve at times to the left or to the right, but in the end she will continue traveling down the same path.
A path away from our founding documents. Away from our founding principles. Away from the vision of our forefathers. Away from conservative values.

Why is this?
We seem to be doing the things that we are doing with all our might. And yet that doesn’t seem to be enough.
If you are thinking to yourself that you are doing everything that you can, know that I’m not here to tell you to try harder.
I’m not here to tell you that you need to do more.
But that maybe we should ask ourselves whether there is something more that we can do.
And if there is, we have a duty to ourselves, to our children, and to our country, to find out what it is, and do it.
Because otherwise, America will fall, never to rise again.

So, what else is there?
Why is it that all that we have done doesn’t seem to have changed Washington, to have changed the direction of this country?

Our first President, George Washington, once said that “[V]irtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

In other words, you can’t have liberty, without integrity.
Liberty, without integrity, is anarchy.
That ultimately leads to more and more infighting and oppression, and ends in tyranny.

George Washington also said that: “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people. The general government . . . can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any despotic or oppresive form so long as there is any virtue in the body of the people.”

Today we are keenly aware of that very danger. In fact, we could say that it is already upon us. That our government is actively in the process of degenerating into an ever more oppressive form.

According to our first President, it is impossible for this happen while there is any virtue in the people.
So if it is happening now, what does that tell us about the heart of the people of America?

Many of us like to talk about how out of touch so many of the people in Washington are. But I’d like to ask you today, is Washington really the problem? Or is it only the symptom of a much deeper illness?
Today, Washington boasts an incumbency rate of more than 95%. The incumbency rate hasn’t dropped below 80% for the last 30 years.
More than 16% of congress has served for 20 years or more. That means that a sixth of Washington’s aristocracy has remained unchanged for my entire life.
If Washington is so out of touch, and yet the people keep reelecting their representatives, who is really out of touch?
I think it is time that we step back, and consider whether Washington is really the problem, or whether the true problem is deeper than that.
Is Washington really just a reflection, a reflection of the heart of America? Of the heart of her people?
None of us wants to believe that.

But you see, every few years, America has the opportunity to create a new Washington. To change it. To shape it and mold it to be whatever it wants it to be.
And we all know the Washington that it has created, and maintained.

We like to joke about low-information voters.
But I’d like us to ask ourselves whether the problem with the voters is really only a matter of ignorance.
Is the problem that the voters don’t have enough head-knowledge to make informed decisions about whom to vote for, or is the problem really deeper than that?
Is the problem up here, in the voter’s heads? Or is it really down here, in their hearts?

George Washington believed that knowledge wasn’t the key to sustaining our republic. It was virtue.

In the Bible it says, “Add unto your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge.”
It puts virtue before knowledge.
Because without virtue, there is no will to obtain that knowledge.
It is only when you understand and embrace your duty to your God and your fellow man, that you will diligently seek the knowledge necessary to perform that duty well.
An ignorance in regard to our vote—a duty and privilege so precious—is inexcusable.
And it belies the fact that virtue has departed from America.

We in the conservative movement make an effort to reach out to people. To educate and inform voters.
And this is a necessary thing.
But there comes a time when this is not enough.
There comes a time when people won’t just ignorantly choose liberalism. They’ll knowingly choose it.
They’ll reject the country that our founders created, reject the principles in her founding documents that made her great.
Because it’s a matter of the heart.
They’ve rejected good and evil in favor of relativism.
They’ve rejected conservative values in favor of liberalism, or populism.
They’ve rejected virtue.
And that lack of morality, that lack of virtue, provides no foundation for conservatism. No supports upon which its principles can lean.
And so, as George Washington predicted, such a nation will fall from its republican form of government.
Conservatism, in the face of an amoral society, cannot be maintained.

And so I submit unto you today, that we will never truly change Washington, we will never truly change the direction of this country, until we first change the heart of America, and restore her virtue.

It seems like we have done everything that we can to promote conservatism. But America continues to step closer and closer to the edge of the abyss.
We have done everything possible to promote our solutions to her issues, and pull her back.
But it is not possible to impose conservatism upon a virtueless society.
It cannot be generated in a top-down manner. We cannot change Washington, and think that this will change America, and it will see the light.

If we want to change Washington, if we want to restore America, then we have to go to the heart of the problem.
And that is the heart of America. The hearts of her people.

But if the problem is in the heart of America, then how do we fix it?
If that “something more” that we must do in order to restore America, is to restore virtue to her people, how can we achieve that?

You can’t see into someone’s heart and know what’s there.
So how can you change it? How do you know how to change it?

We can’t.
We can’t. But God can.

It says in Psalm 7 verse 9 that “the righteous God trieth the hearts.”
God tries the hearts. As a metal is tried in the fire, tested and purified.
God is the one who can try and purify the hearts of America.
King David, who wrote Psalm 7, goes on to say in the next verse, “My defense is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.”

If we want to save America, if we want to restore her, and deliver her from liberalism, from socialism, from oppression and tyranny, we’re going to need God’s help.

We must rely today, as we seek to restore America, upon that same Divine Providence upon which the founders declared their firm reliance, when they penned the Declaration of Independence, and this nation was born.
If we want a new birth of freedom, it must come from that same Source of all life, which guided those men who first gave breath to our republic.

And God declares that he does help us, and deliver us.
He saves the upright in heart.
But before America can receive that deliverance, it needs to have its heart tried, and purified. It needs to be made upright in heart.

About a year ago, I set out on a journey. A journey of the heart.
A journey that led me unexpected places.
This journey began as I started studying the book of Psalms in the Bible.
You might guess that I wasn’t searching for political advice.
I was seeking to better understand the many prophecies of our Savior Jesus Christ which I knew to be there.
And I found that.
But at the same time I also found something that I was not looking for.
And that is how the heart of a nation affects their liberty, and determines whether they are oppressed or free.

You see, King David wrote the early chapters of the book of Psalms in just such a time as this.
The nation of Israel was in peril.
There was wickedness and oppression in government.
David himself even lost power and had to flee for a short time, while unjust men raised up the people against him, in an attempt to take the power of the kingdom to themselves.

But through it all, David stayed true.
And because he trusted in God, he was delivered, and the power of the kingdom was restored to him.

But that wasn’t the end.
That wasn’t the end because David saw that there was still a problem.
He saw that the upheaval that the nation had experienced, wasn’t just because of a few bad men in high office.
He understood that for these men to have obtained the support of many of the people, there must be a much deeper problem.
And when David returned to the throne, he realized that oppression was still taking place among the people.
He realized that God had delivered him, but that he hadn’t completely delivered them yet.
He realized that tranquility was only transient, and that upon his death the nation would again fall into the hands of oppressors and be destroyed.

And so David cried out to God.
In Psalm 10 verse 1 David asks, “Why standest thou afar off, O LORD; why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?”

The people wanted deliverance from oppression. They were even asking God for it. And he hadn’t brought it.
It seemed as though he wasn’t listening.
But at the end of Psalm 10 David realized that God was listening.
He says in verse 17, “Thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.”

The problem wasn’t that God didn’t hear.
The problem was with the people. In their hearts.
Unlike David, they weren’t upright in heart. They weren’t virtuous.
And so, as a natural consequence, they were loosing their peace and liberty and prosperity.

But David didn’t settle for that.
When David understood what the problem was, he did something about it.
He asked God for help, he asked him to increase the number of the upright among the people. To restore virtue to the hearts of the people of his nation.
In Psalm 12 verse 1 he cries out, “Help, LORD, for the godly man ceaseth, for the faithful fail from among the children of men.”
David asked God to bring the hearts of the people to a place where they could be freed from oppression once again.
And he persisted, until he understood what he could do to change this. Until he understood how the hearts of the people could be tried and purified. How their virtue could be restored.

In verses 5-7 of Psalm 12, David received his answer from God.
In verse 5 God tells him that he is going to arise and set them in safety. He is going to show them how the nation can be delivered, how the virtue of the people can be restored.

In verse 6 David receives what he has been searching for.
He is given an understanding of what could purify the hearts of the people, and restore their morality:
“The words of the LORD, are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”
It was the word of God.
The words of God, which are tried, that could try the people.
The words of God, which are pure, and can purify the hearts of the people.
It was that which would restore their virtue, and save the nation.

And so David took the words of the LORD, and did not cease to proclaim them to the people.
The word of God in the Psalms, words of prayer and praise, were inserted into every trial and every joy.
And through them the people came to see the light of truth, and to understand that freedom from oppression could only come through the fear of God.
That it was only through faithfulness and virtue that they could be upheld as a free people.

And as a result, the nation was restored.
Upon David’s death, instead of the disintegration of the kingdom, what followed was one of Israel’s finest hours.
His son Solomon took the throne, and the nation entered a period of peace and prosperity such as she had never known.

As I came to see this, as the word of God in the Psalms worked in my heart, I came to believe that this is what is needed for America.
That if we want to restore America to her conservative roots, we first need to restore her virtue, through the word of God.

Some may think this quaint, and mock it. Some may believe it, but lay it aside.
But I would remind you, that if so, you are rejecting a truth that the founding fathers believed to be vital to the preservation of our nation.
If we are genuinely seeking to restore America to conservative principles, then we must heed the foundations upon which her architects built her, and the supports that they deemed necessary for her continuance as a free people.

And so we must continue the fight along all those fronts upon which we have drawn up our battle lines.
But we must remember, that the ultimate victory, the restoration of America, cannot be achieved without the restoration of the heart of her people.
And so let us not neglect that vital part of our fight.
Let us take good heed to reinforce the ranks of those that are already fighting on that front.
And, with a firm reliance upon God, let us use his word to purify the heart of America, and prepare it to receive a new birth of freedom. A new dawn of conservatism.
To once again be a shining city on a hill, a lady of liberty, holding forth a torch of light in a dark world.
Because America cannot shine without the light of truth, and virtue.
So let us seek to restore that light to her, with God’s help, through his word.

The Judgement

As you sit in the courtroom, waiting for the judge to appear and give his verdict, you consider the penalty you’ll have to pay. You know that you are guilty, and you know that the judge knows it too. The evidence has been presented, and the witnesses have testified. Execution awaits you.

You look up as the judge enters and takes his seat. He arranges his papers, and then looks you right in the eye. His expression betrays little emotion, as he begins to speak.

“This court finds you guilty.”

There it is. You knew you would be condemned, but somehow you can’t help but feel a heightened fear inside.

“The sentence is death,” he continues, as you bury your face in your hands.

He goes on: “I find no pleasure in delivering a death sentence. It’s one of the hardest things I ever have to do.”

“Yeah, a lot of good that does me,” you think to yourself. “This trial is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, too. Can we please just get it over with?”

But he continues. “Over the course of this trial, I’ve watched you closely. And as I’ve watched you, I’ve discerned that you’re fully aware of your guilt. Through your emotions and words, I can tell that you’re sincerely sorry for your crime, and have admitted to yourself that you’re worthy of the penalty. And I’ve found that I’ve developed a feeling for you that goes beyond natural compassion. As I’ve observed your anguish, I’ve come to love you like one of my own children.”

As the judge pauses for a moment, you look up, and see tears in his eyes. Yet as he continues, his face betrays a smile.

“As a judge, who knows only better than you your guilt and worthiness of death, I’ve sought in recent days to reconcile mercy and justice. During that time my son, who as you know is an attorney, has been helping me. We’ve worked tirelessly to find a means to grant you pardon. And finally, we found a way.”

You think to yourself, “Is this really happening?” In shock, you are afraid to believe your ears. But the judge is still smiling upon you, even while tears yet glisten in his eyes.

He holds up a paper, and says, “This, my friend, is your pardon. All you have to do is sign it, and you are a free man. No strings attached.”

Still unsure whether this is really happening, you stammer out, “But, but Judge, how did you? Why, why did you do this for me?”

“I did it because I love you,” the judge replies. “As to how… well, that was my son’s doing.”

You take a quick glance around the courtroom, expecting the judge’s son to come forward and explain. But he is nowhere in sight.

“You see,” the judge continues in a choked voice, “he paid the penalty.”

Confused, you ask the judge, “What do you mean? How? I was supposed to be put to death. The penalty wasn’t a fine that someone else could pay for me. If it was, I could have just worked it off.”

“Yes, that’s right,” answers the judge, “your penalty was death. It wasn’t something that you could work off. It could only be paid with your life.”

“But you see, my son and I didn’t want you to have to die. So last week, we had an execution.”

The judge pauses for a moment to collect himself, and you ask, “So, you mean, you put someone else to death in my place?”

The judge nods his head.

“But who? Another criminal from the prison?”

“No,” the prosecuting attorney replies for the judge, who is too moved to speak. “That would not have been acceptable. Putting someone to death who is already guilty would only pay for their own crime. They had to be innocent for their death to pay for yours instead.”

You glance at the judge, who is nodding his head in agreement. And then it dawns on you.

“You mean,” you say, “you mean you executed your son?”

Again the judge nods, and says, “You see, I love you like a son, and he loved you like a brother. And he was willing to die in your place.”

Overcome, you begin to weep. “How can I ever repay you?” you ask. And the judge answers, “You can’t. But it is my hope that you’ll return my affection, as a son to his father, and be as a second son to me. And that you’ll live a clean life from now on.”

The judge beckons you to come forward, holding out the pardon to you.

“The penalty has been paid. Sign, and you’re a free man.”

The Rest of the Story

How does the story end? What do you do? Do you sign the pardon?

That is a question that only you can answer.

And it is a question that you will answer. Because this isn’t just a story.

You see, the Bible tells us that we’re all in the same place as the guilty criminal: we’re all guilty of death and are just awaiting the judgement.

But how can that be?

The Bible is the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16), and in it he tells us about how he created this earth and the first people on it (Genesis 1). At that time, all of the creation was perfect and eternal, including man. And God gave it all to us, with only one stipulation: that we obey him. And he established death as the penalty for disobedience. Then he made just one, simple rule. (Genesis 2)

But the first people quickly rebelled against God. They directly defied him by transgressing the one command he had given them. This ended the perfection of creation: the earth is now under a curse of suffering and corruption. And while men are given a chance to live, we are now mere mortals, and all of our lives end in death. (Genesis 3)

All of us have inherited mortality from our parents. And no one has ever deserved anything more: each person has rebelled against God in one way or another, and all are therefore worthy of the penalty of death. (Romans 5:12)

Like the judge in the story, God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4). He knows that we are guilty, and he has to condemn us. But also like the judge in the story, God loves us and is merciful toward us. He made us to be immortal, and he still wants that for us. He wants to deliver us from permanent, eternal death.

And like the judge in the story, God found a way to reconcile justice with his mercy. And he did it just as the judge did: he made a way for our pardon by asking his Son to take the penalty in our stead.

God’s son’s name is Jesus, and when God asked him to take the penalty in our place, Jesus said yes. Unlike us, Jesus always obeys his Father (John 8:29). And like the judge’s son in the story, Jesus loves us like his own family. And now we are, because to take our place, Jesus had to become a man.

As the son of God, Jesus cannot die. To do that, he had to become a son of man. And he did. He was born to a virgin, and grew up to be a man. And like the son of the judge in the story, he didn’t become guilty in the process. Even as a man, he always followed the will of his Father. Only because of his manhood and innocence can he take our place.

And he did take our place. When he was just 33 years old, he was condemned and put to death by the governing authorities on a cross on Calvary. He died, and paid our penalty. And because of that, we can now be pardoned.

But here is where the truth diverges from our story. Because the Bible tells us that Jesus did more than just die: he also rose again (Acts 13:30). He not only died, he overcame death, and passed from mortality to immortality; from death unto life. Those who are pardoned aren’t just freed from the penalty of death, we have our immortality restored. Instead of eternal death, when we die we can receive eternal life. Death no longer has to be permanent, because the penalty has already been paid.

And that brings us back to our original question: will you accept the pardon?

You don’t have to ask God to save you, because he’s already done that. His Son has already paid the penalty. It is finished (John 19:30). There is nothing that you or he can do to provide a more perfect way: it has all been taken care of already. All you have to do is accept God’s pardon. “The penalty has been paid. Sign, and you’re a free man.”

But God’s judgement throne is in heaven, and you are down here on earth. So how can you sign the pardon? How can you have it applied to you?

And the answer is simple: you don’t have to. You don’t even have to sign!

You see, when Jesus rose again, he ascended back into heaven, and right now he is seated on the right hand of his Father (Romans 8:34). And God has appointed him to be your heavenly attorney. You don’t have to sign yourself, he can sign it for you. All he’s waiting for is for you to give him the directive.

But wait! There’s more. Because Jesus is God, he knows everything. He knows your thoughts and feelings. And he knows whether you want to be pardoned before you even ask him. Because of this, the Bible tells us that all we have to do is believe (John 3:16). Just believe, and he’ll take care of all the rest.

The only question is, will you?

One Ending

Let’s return to the courtroom for a moment, and see how our poor criminal responded.

You might think that he ran up and embraced the judge, crying, and laughing, and telling him that he’d never be able to repay him. Telling him he’d never break the law again. Telling him, telling him that he would do his best to take the place of the son he had sacrificed to save him. That he’d love and serve him like he was his own father.

But what if that isn’t what happened?

What if instead, the condemned man jumped up in a rage and started shouting, “How dare you? How dare you condemn me? What right do you have to tell me what to do or how to live my life? Did I ask you for help? No! And I don’t need it either Mr. So-high-and-mighty. I’m a pretty good person, and yeah, I made a mistake, but what right does that give you to condemn me to death? Well, you can keep your stupid old pardon. I don’t want it. Don’t think that you can just come along and think that you can use me to make yourself feel like some great person just because you forgave me for something you shouldn’t have condemned me for in the first place.”

Shocked, the judge would respond, “You were guilty under the law. All I have done is give a just sentence. But I’ve put my own son to death to make way for your pardon. If you don’t sign it, he’ll have died in vain.”

“So what? Your the idiot who had such a crazy idea in the first place. I didn’t ask you to kill your son. As far as I’m concerned, it’s your loss, and maybe it serves you right.”

Would not all in the courtroom leap to their feet, and quickly escort this man to his just death?

Yet God, in his abundant mercy, is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. And so he pushes back the date of execution, giving us more time to accept the pardon. Many of us are given 70 years or more to repent and turn to him. Who could but joy at the honor to serve such a just and loving Creator?

Yet many do not accept the pardon. They think that their long lives, filled with good things, must mean that everything is all right, not knowing that the longsuffering of God leads them to repentance (Romans 2:4). And the Bible says that they are without excuse. Because even if they never heard this good news preached, they are still culpable for not seeking the Creator after having observed his glory through his creation. (Romans 1:20)

One day, each of them will die, and will stand before God’s judgement seat. All of us will stand before Jesus to be judged. Each of us will receive one of two things: everlasting life with him, if our name is on the pardon; or eternal death, if it is not.

Which brings us back to the question: Is your name there?

The Other Ending

Let’s return to the courtroom for a moment, and see how our poor criminal responded.

You might think that he ran up and embraced the judge, crying, and laughing, and telling him that he’d never be able to repay him. Telling him he’d never break the law again. Telling him, telling him that he would do his best to take the place of the son he had sacrificed to save him. That he’d love and serve him like he was his own father.

This seems like a most natural ending for the story. It is the response that we would expect. And it is the response that God expects, too. But he does more than just give us the honor of serving him: he gives us power to serve him.

You see, the Bible explains that Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection did more than just overcome death. He also had to overcome three other things to be able to serve his Father: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Most of us haven’t just given in to rebellion against God. Most of us have struggled to try and overcome these things. But none have been able to do it without fail. All have sinned (Romans 3:23).

All, except for Jesus.

When God’s Son came to earth, he had to struggle against all of these things: the attractions of the world, the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and  the temptations of the devil. The difference is that he overcame. And through him, we can overcome, too.

Because God does more than just call us his children. Once we are cleansed from the stain of sin through the death of his Son, he sends the Spirit of his Son into our hearts (Romans 8:15). With his Spirit within us, we have more than just cleansing from sin: we have the power to overcome it, just as he overcame (1 John 5:4). God doesn’t just call us his children and servants, he gives us the power to fulfill those roles (Philippians 2:13). Through the hope of his resurrection, we can overcome the world; through the power of his name, we can overcome the flesh and the devil (James 4:7).

Your sins can be cleansed, the penalty is paid. You can be God’s child, not just in name, but in deed.

The only question is, will you sign the pardon?

“Sign, and you’re a free man”