Do Nations Have Souls?


Today we celebrate the singularly American, most beloved and festive holiday: “the Fourth of July” — The day brave citizens of the New England colonies –tradesmen, scholars, farmers and clergymen — officially declared to the world that they would no longer be ruled by the long arm and intrusive reach of tyrannical Britain. When John Adams, a primary architect of the newly-conceived government, was nearing the end of his life he shared intimate thoughts with those who would follow him. Our name is “posterity”:

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”

At this juncture of our young nation’s history I desire to consider developments that ought to cause all Americans to pause and re-examine our national consciousness.

First, there is the ongoing, seemingly intractable saga of the whisteblower Edward Snowden, an American citizen who remains marooned in the Moscow airport. He leaked information about the disproportionate ever-expanding surveillance program our government has undertaken against a massive swathe of unsuspecting American citizens. Snowden explained his actions: “I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.” Deem him a friend or foe, he now is unable to travel because the United States revoked his passport, which is tantamount to revoking citizenship, which violates Snowden’s Constitutional rights.

Moreover, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Mr. Snowden has exercised this right, with little success (at this writing), which makes him a refugee: a person who is “outside their own country’s territory (or place of habitual residence if stateless) owing to fear of persecution on protected grounds. Protected grounds include race, nationality, religion, political opinions and membership and/or participation in any particular social group or social activities” (as defined under the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees).

We know also that our Vice President petitioned Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa to refuse asylum to Snowden, sabotaging and undermining the exercise of his (Snowden’s) international universal rights. Our government’s insinuating itself into an international situation to manipulate due process rendered a right by international law, violates international law and basic human rights.

We already know (thanks to Edward Snowden) that the National Security Agency (NSA) is monitoring millions of Americans’ phones, email accounts and internet searches (if you’re reading this, count yourself among that number);

We know that journalists are being monitored and in some cases accused of being “co-conspirators” and “aiding the enemy,” which puts them in the same category and thus, as vulnerable, as Edward Snowden is today;

We know that the IRS has illegally targeted citizens of a certain political or religious persuasion, violating their first amendment rights;

We know that members of our government lied under oath regarding NSA surveillance, the IRS profiling, journalists being intimidated and about who knew what related to the attack on the Consulate at Benghazi. They have equivocated when their testimony has been proven contradictory and no one, that I am aware of, has answered for any of this lying and equivocation. This is perjury. Perjury is against “the law.” Has anyone been indicted, prosecuted, even reprimanded?

In one swoop, these ongoing revelations reveal the scope of the evisceration of Consitutional rights by a long arm and intrusive reach of a surveillance-state government.

~ Snowden’s plight violates the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, respectively:

Fifth:  No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger;

Fourteenth: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

~ Intimidation of Journalist violates the First Amendment:

First: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;

~ NSA surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment:

Fourth: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The one shining light asserting of the viability of Constitutional rights has come from key figures in the IRS scandal who, when asked under oath to explain this illegal behavior in congressional hearings, have invoked “the Fifth” (Of course, the Constitution!)

In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, late in his life, John Adams wrote: 

“What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760–1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.”

What he is saying is that the power of any nation lies in the sentiments and sensibilities of its citizenry. In this way, we must remember a critical aspect of our humanity in this troubled time: we are a people with souls. It is one corner of human sovereignty that cannot be seized or bullied, intimidated or infiltrated.

It is the large-souled people who will capture the longings and hopes of any nation and render positive movement toward light, away from darkness. John Adams was a large-souled person. Abraham Lincoln. William Wilberforce. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Large-souled people understand that the frenzied immediate narrative playing out in a given time is often just the backdraft, and so they are unafraid. They understand that real story is still unfolding, moving ever-forward, like Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Comin’.” All the liars and schemers in the world cannot stop it and will one day put their hands over their mouths in the face of it.

On this day, when we ponder what was won for us centuries ago in our nation’s early days, and watch what is being lost in these latter days, pray for the soul of this nation. Pray for your soul and for the souls of others. Pray for Edward Snowden and Joe Biden; for the IRS liars and the NSA perjurers and Benghazi equivocators and the bullies. Pray for courage. Pray for help from God.

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About Wendy Murray

Wendy Murray is a veteran and award-winning journalist. She served as associate editor and Senior Writer at Christianity Today magazine and has written extensively for other publications such as Books & Culture and The Christian Century. She has written 11 books.