America Is A Good Idea! What Made Us Great?
by Ben Kinchlow

"It will never work", he said. "No matter how much you send, no matter which agency sends it, no matter how many billions of dollars America sends, it just won't work."

The earnest gentleman sitting across from me was most sincere, and had no desire to be controversial nor disrespectful to the American taxpayer (who has, in effect, subsidized bad governments all over the world since WWII). We were discussing aid to Africa, and he was an African Bishop with over 900 churches in 12 countries. "I could have more churches, but it is difficult to train leaders to change communities." I was curious as to his choice of words. Not "save souls" nor simply "preach the gospel", or "baptize people in the Holy Ghost", but to "change communities". What did he mean, I wondered? His answer was startlingly out of character for most church leaders. "Without leadership to change our communities, we simply have "Bible studies".

What an amazing concept! Pastors and church leaders dedicated to changing their community, not just having what amounts to huge Sunday morning Bible studies. Which brings us to an interesting question. Why study the Bible to begin with? Isn't the purpose of the Bible to change individuals, the church, families, the neighborhood, the community, the state, and ultimately the nation?

Israel is a prime example of a society that has been sustained by the adherence of the few to the principles of the Bible. The Jewish people are, statistically speaking, an insignificant minority, yet out of all proportion to their numbers, they impact society and possibly the world. The secret of their success is the adherence, in principle, of the nation of Israel to their Hebrew Biblical roots.

There is another nation that, out of all proportion to its population, impacts the world and has, for the past 6 decades, been the bell weather of economic, social, and spiritual change. That nation began as a statistically insignificant group of people searching for a means to express some deeply held convictions. It was their position that they should not be told who, when, where, and how they should worship. They came to what was a wilderness, and fought the climate, wild animals, savage inhabitants, the land itself, their own fears and personal shortcomings, and carved an empire out of nothing, based on a set of principles we know today as Biblical principles.

The African Bishop continued, "until we have individuals in government of integrity, and people with the understanding that the ultimate responsibility for their well-being rests with the individual, no amount of foreign aid will suffice." He noted that there were places in his country where a man could walk for miles in an area where diamonds literally lay on the ground and just below the surface. "Why", he asked me, "could a continent, which is perhaps the richest or certainly one of the richest on earth, suffer such brutal poverty and savagery?" And then he began to point out that the ultimate success of the African continent would rest in adopting exactly the same principles that brought America to the forefront of the nations. The only true superpower.

I was reminded, as he talked of justice, fair play, integrity, and righteousness, of the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, an early French visitor to our shores...

"I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors?: in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic congress and in her matchless Constitution. 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 America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

He continues, "The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other."

I found it amazing that a native of Africa could look across the miles, and the years, and see clearly the secret of America's greatness.

America? a good idea? No. America? a GREAT idea!! God Bless America!!


We gratefully acknowledge the Trinity Foundation publication, "Civilization and the Protestant Reformation", copyright 1994, John W. Robbins.

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