The Golden Triangle
I recently read a bit of information about a man named Alexis de Tocqueville. I was fascinated with his research in America and just as the light came on for him so it did for me as well. I prepared bits of his story with the insight I gleaned from scripture. I have prepared the story for my students so I decided to post it on my page as well.
The story begins with our country, “The United States of America.” There is something really special about our country. No other country has ever been governed like ours. You will find governments with kings, religious leaders, dictators, and other ruling powers, but our formula for governance is unique to us. We call this self-government a “Democratic Constitutional Republic.” So let’s just start at the very beginning. You all know the stories of settlers coming to the new world to spread the gospel and to be able to worship God freely. Over time a new nation was born with thirteen states. Americans wrote up a document called “The Articles of Confederation. This was to be their government. But very quickly unrest began. The government did not have enough money to pay soldiers and workers. They could not raise taxes so they had little money. They needed money to sustain and protect the new nation.
So our forefathers held a meeting in Philadelphia to write a new constitution. Representatives from each state came. They locked the doors and windows to keep out news reporters that might give out false information and stir up trouble. They prayed, talked, argued, debated, laughed, yelled and maybe even cried. They sweated, fanned, paced the floor, pointed their finger at each other and swatted flies. It was a hot miserable time. But they were persistent. Finally, they were called one at a time to come up and sign the new document called “The Constitution of the United States.” They emerged from the building into the sunlit streets of Philadelphia with their new government. This new government had a special formula that had never been tried before. The founders knew that only the people of America could make it work. This formula is the story of Alexis de Tocqueville.
Alexis de Tocqueville lived in the far off country of France. He was born in 1805 to a royal family. Unfortunately, his parents were both jailed during a period called the Reign of Terror. This conflict was between the lower class and the upper class of France.
When Alexis grew up he no longer had royal status. But he was an ambitious young man. He became a magistrate which would be like a judge. He kept hearing stories about America. He wanted to know more. He requested permission from the French government to go to America and study American prisons. He was given permission and soon set sail for America in 1831.
He began to travel across the states. He traveled for nine months going into American prisons. Alexis was amazed at how the “Democratic Constitutional Republic” was flourishing. The French people had struggled for years with violence, rebellion, and wars. What were these Americans doing? Americans were enjoying the success that had never been seen before. He was more and more curious about how this could be. How could people successfully govern themselves? What made this government work? Those were the things Alexis must learn in order to understand America’s self-government.
He had been visiting the prisons but one day he decided to start attending the church services in the places he visited. He went into churches of all denominations. They were not all called by the same name but they all seemed equally important to the people. It was there the light came on for Alexis. He wrote, “It wasn’t until I stepped into the churches of America did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America was good and if she ever stops being good she will stop being great.
But you can’t make people do good, so why were they motivated to do good. Why did American’s try so hard to follow God’s law. Alexis could see that American’s had one authority and that was God and only God. They had put their FAITH in God for His divine care in their lives. That is what motivated them to do good.
Alexis saw they were FREE because they had VIRTUE (they were good.) They were good because they obeyed God’s law. And they voluntarily obeyed God’s law because of their FAITH in Him. Alexis said, “America is the freest and most enlightened nation in the world because the people fulfill with enthusiasm all responsibilities of their Christian religion. They adore God in their own way but they all have the same moral law. The people of the United States are part of the great Christian religion and their Christain laws of goodness are the same everywhere for every one.”
What Alexis had discovered was the three important elements to America’s self-governing. FREEDOM- VIRTUE – FAITH. Alexis marveled at this. He saw America as an exceptional nation. Not because they thought they were good or that they were good to themselves but that they were good to everyone. He returned to France and wrote all about his findings in a book called, “Democracy in America.”
Without FAITH there is no VIRTUE. Without VIRTUE there is no FREEDOM.
Sometime later a man named Os Guinness called this the Golden Triangle. He knew that not all Americans were Christians, but like the founders, he knew that a self-government could not exist without good moral citizens and leaders. As a child I was reminded often of the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As I typed up my story, I realized that what Alexis had seen playing out in America was very much like God’s own “Plan of Salvation.”
Man is a sinner. God gave us free will to choose. When we choose to make Jesus our personal Savior by FAITH we are made FREE. When we accept Jesus as our personal Savior through faith we are transformed. We desire to please God and obey His laws, to be VIRTUOUS.
God is a covenant-keeping God. Deuteronomy 28:1-5. If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all His commands I will give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God. You will be blessed in the city and in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock-the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. This is what Alexis saw!!
Not all Americans at that time were believers in Christianity, but the founders all knew this unique government they had established could only be kept if people were virtuous. They had argued long hours not all agreeing, but on this one thing they all agreed. John Adams said, “The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue.” Ben Franklin said, “Only virtuous people are capable of freedom.” Such statements fill the pages of our early history. The founders also understood that it is the duty of each American to do their part if we are to keep this wonderful gift, a FREE country!
May God fill your life with blessings today!!