The fundamental, founding structure of our American nation is relatively simple. While the federal government should seek the common good, its first responsibility is to secure the liberty of its citizens. Conversely, while citizens should seek to influence their nation through government, their first responsibility is to exercise their liberty toward virtuous ends. This is the essence of the ordered liberty envisioned by the Founders. Government protects our "unalienable rights," yet at the same time our Constitution is made for a "moral and religious people" and is "wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Failure on either end — failure of the government to protect liberty or failure of the people to be virtuous — breaks the compact and places unacceptable strains on our nation and culture. As Christian communities face increasing governmental hostility and struggle with declining church attendance, it's time for both sides of our nation's religious culture war to confront their role in disrupting these core principles of the American founding. Here are two painful truths: Secular government is breaking its promise of liberty, and the American church is breaking its promise of virtue.