Beneath the surface of every political slogan lurks the promise of better days to come. It is as if the nation must be delivered from its current bad state; and, there now appears on the stage of history the one individual capable of "saving" the nation. In a sense, inherent in our presidential campaigns, there is a latent political mechanism.
In 2008, America faced a bad economy and an unpopular entanglement in the bloody conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans desperately longed for deliverance. The supporters of then Senator Barak Obama applied the titles of "chosen," "called" and "anointed one" to him. The media took their cue from these descriptions in reporting on the young, charismatic, and hopeful candidate. The use of religious rhetoric reinforced the voters' desire for better times.
Religious language has been a part of the American political enterprise from its very beginnings. America was born with a religious affirmation. It began with the self-evident truth that "all men are created equal" and "they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights."
Our Founding Fathers may have separated church from state, but they did not divorce religion from political discussions. They refused allegiance to an earthly monarch as the guide to the nation's moral life. Instead, they acknowledged deep-seated goodness in each person as a source of national liberty. They realized that a virtuous and moral-living populace is the basis for true freedom.
Many a slogan of today's age of relativism and tolerance trumpets the idea of unbridled freedom. Every individual has the right, so it is said, to his or her own ideas. And, no government has the ability to curtail them. According to this way of thinking, the standards of right and wrong belong to the private realm of conscience, not to the public order of society.
History proves otherwise. Great civilizations collapse when the moral order is violated. Goodness, as given in the moral law, alone guarantees a society's well-being. As George Washington said in his farewell address, "It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government."