Dr. Carol Swain is a Vanderbilt law professor with numerous publications–books and articles–to her credit. Before joining Vanderbilt in 1999, Dr. Swain was a tenured associate professor of politics and public policy at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She has gone on to publish articles in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and many more papers you’d recognize.
I came to know Carol when Vanderbilt University instituted its controversial “all-comers” policy, which in effect took away religious student organizations’ ability to choose leaders who agree with their statements of faith. (Find out more on World radio’s report: See Hour B, Segment 3.) In other words, their right of association is being taken away, and Carol has been front and center in the fight to push back and keep the university from implementing such laws.
With the anniversary of America’s independence just around the corner, I invited Carol to talk with us today about the history of our country, which she believes is deeply tied to our Christian heritage, as well as the challenges to our freedom that children and young adults face today. For those of you who would like to know more about Carol, please see her website, www.carolmswain.net, or pick up a copy of her book, Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise.
1. In your book, Be the People, you say that America is a nation that has “broken [its] vows.” Can you briefly explain the framer’s idea of covenant and how America has broken its vows?
Covenants are enduring agreements that often accompany the establishment of new political and social entities. The English Puritans who settled in Plymouth Rock in 1620 sought to establish a civil government and an enduring compact with the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible. The broken vows include the ousting of God from public life. In recent years, we openly practice and celebrate what the Bible describes as sin. Our leaders use their positions of authority to promote abortion, same sex marriage, and other immoral practices. As a result America no longer prospers. According to Deuteronomy Chapter 28, God blesses or curses nations based on the choices of the people. I believe Americans are reaping the consequences of decades of ungodly leaders.
2. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson–who wasn’t personally a Christian–never mentions Jesus or the Lord, instead referring to nature’s God and the Creator. Isn’t that proof that our framers were drawing more on Enlightenment streams of thought than Christianity?
Thomas Jefferson was a deist who believed in a watchmaker God who created the world and then left it to operate based on natural laws. The Founders rightly recognized that the Creator God is the source of inalienable human rights that we secure through civil governments. Our Founding Fathers were aware of the bloody religious wars of Europe’s past, as well as the existence of non-Christian religions. References to the creator God is acknowledges the existence of one Supreme Being. It avoids conflict that might eventually ensue had Jefferson referenced Jesus. We must remember the deists were fundamentally Christians. They were familiar with the Scriptures and with basic Christian principles and moral tenets. They would have imagined that the “We the People” while differing in denominational affiliations would be followers of the Judeo-Christian God.
3. In Be the People, you criticize “cultural enforcers” such as those in the media, education, and often government who undermine American traditions by promoting tolerance and moral relativism in a “secular cage.” How does this apply specifically to parents and children of the current generation? How are they in the cross-hairs of these “cultural enforcers”?
Cultural elites are often atheists or secular humanists who neither know nor fear God. They not only promote tolerance and immorality but the exaltation and celebration of it. Unfortunately, these individuals are often positioned to make life more challenging for people of faith. It is important for Christians to realize that the cultural elites constitute a tiny percentage of the population. We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by false allegations when we stand for God’s truth and God’s law as revealed in the Bible. We should avoid having ourselves boxed into situations where we are tempted to call good evil and evil good. We must also do a reality check to determine if we fear man more than we fear God.
4. Many religious freedom issues today involve young people. From older issues like prayer in school to newer ones like universities’ all-comers policies, what are a few practical things Christian parents and children can do mitigate the impact of that in their own schools and families?
Politically correct university policies threaten basic civil liberties. Today, we must fight tooth and nail to preserve our First Amendment rights. These include freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. There has never been a more important time for young people to know what they believe and where the stand on the truths that they have been taught by their parents, pastors, and Sunday school teachers. I believe the best prepared Christians will challenge the darkness of the current culture. Hopefully, each young person will eventually have a life altering personal encounter with Jesus Christ. There is something about encounters with the supernatural that reifies who we are and what we believe. Parents can help their children by training them to think independently, by modeling Christian principles and morality, and by teaching them objectively about competing worldviews that might otherwise ensnare them.
5. You quote George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as fiction that can be instructive when it comes to engaging people on the role of government. Can you tease that out a little?
Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four depicts life in a totalitarian society named Oceania where daily surveillance of the population and frequent revisions of history and inverted language enabled the government to deceive and dehumanize the people. I see troubling parallels between life in Oceania and what we are experiencing in contemporary America. We now have drones spying on citizens in major cities and we silence dissenters by using the language of anti-discrimination and tolerance to enforce conformity.
6. Since we’re talking about books, what are you reading now? Any books you could recommend for our young patriots?
In addition to my book, Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise, I recommend Jonathan Cahn’s The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America’s Future. These books offer warnings and strategies for changing the tide in America. I also recommend a documentary film by Curtiss Bowers titled Agenda: Grinding Down America.
I am so grateful to Dr. Swain for joining us today, as well as for all her hard work defending religious freedom in our country. I hope this post will encourage you, as it has me, to persevere with tenacity as well as gentleness and respect, in the face of a culture that disregards many of the foundational ideas of our country.
Do you have any questions for Dr. Swain? Are your kids facing any challenges to their freedom?