Someone once said that when you lose sight of where you are going, it is not time to speed up! Do nations have a sense of direction and do they need to know where they are trying to go? If the nation does not have a clear idea of where it is going, any route will do just fine. The value of having a statement of purpose is not just recognized by corporations, schools, churches, even families, but was included as a preamble to the constitution of the United States of America.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
In this preamble, a course is established and a purpose articulated, introduced by the words “in order to…” followed by six specific purposes to be valued and pursued by the people of the United States:
To form a more perfect union
To establish justice
To insure domestic tranquility
To provide for the common defense
To promote the general welfare
To secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity
In the text that follows, a Constitution spells out the means by which to accomplish these purposes and the form of government best suited to “form a more perfect union” than previously had been experienced under the rule of Great Britain prior to 1776.
So from the establishment of our nation, a basic track was laid out that made sense, one that embraced the worldview of the founders and made certain assumptions about why these purposes should be pursued diligently and persistently.
But along the way, erosion set in and the foundational assumptions have shifted until agreement on the most essential issues proves to be virtually impossible. From a God-centered worldview (whether Deistic, Theistic or Christian), the founders believed that their purposes for forming the union we now enjoy were rooted in what the Declaration of Independence referred to as “these truths we hold to be self-evident.” The cultural drift has been so dramatic that the general populous now has come to understand that truth is not only not “self-evident” but that truth does not exist in itself but is merely the most recently agreed upon ideas of the intelligentsia—subject to change and certainly never to be understood in absolute terms.
So while the purposes stated in the Preamble still stand, what each of the six means has undergone significant revision in the broader national consciousness. New definitions and ideas have arisen about what justice means (justice or fairness?), who gets to define what domestic tranquility should look like, why a common defense continues to be needed as challenged by a growing number of idealistic pacifists, what the general welfare should actually be when the divide between rich and poor keeps growing, and how one person’s liberty can be secured without infringing on the demands for ‘rights’ from another.
Having lost sight of a purpose upon which we all agree, competing agendas, opposing worldviews, hostile perspectives are forcing us to reconsider what it could mean to have a clear direction toward which we are all moving once again. In a radically pluralistic culture, however, no one can gain any ground before it is snatched from under them by advocates of a position pulling in the opposite direction.
What would bring us together on a common purpose? How can we embrace such radically different values and beliefs and agree on where we should be heading? So we waffle and weave and continue to wander around aimlessly hoping somehow an agenda will emerge that forms a more perfect union than the one we have now. But right now, we cannot even agree on what justice means, what domestic tranquility is, why a common defense is necessary, what the common welfare should produce and how one person’s liberty can be upheld without infringing on that of another.
As followers of Christ, we have a clear picture of where we should be headed and how. But without a broad scale spiritual renewal and transformational awakening to the truth of the living God, we will continue to struggle to find a way through as a nation. Purposeless living produces desperation in an individual. That is no less true for a nation!