“An Elemental Moral Code”—Hugh Heclo

Hugh Heclo, a professor of political science at George Mason University, argued at Harvard University in March 2006 that American democracy depends upon Christianity. Politically, morally, and socially, the doctrines of the Christian faith nurtured democracy. While many grant that religion in general is an important cultural foundation, Heclo asserted that Christianity specifically is a religion well suited, even today, for freedom. He explains why in the following excerpt from his book Christianity and American Democracy. Christianity and democracy share a common enemy: hypocrisy.
[T]raditional Christianity comes with an elemental moral code that helps stabilize and order an otherwise chaotic democratic society. It teaches people to be honest rather than lie, to be fair rather than cheat, to keep rather than break promises, to shun selfishness, and all the rest. Of course, there are many citizens who try to behave morally without the Christian God, or any god at all. And certainly there are many immoral Christians. The point is that traditional Christianity makes it its business to ferret out religious hypocrisy. Given the temptations to misuse freedom, it is likely one will be surrounded by a democratic society that simply works better if it has citizens in it who not only try to do the right thing but who know why, because of the teachings of their religion, they are under a personal and higher obligation to actually do it.1

1 Hugh Heclo, Christianity and American Democracy (Cambridge: Harvard University, 2007), 236-237.

1 thought on ““An Elemental Moral Code”—Hugh Heclo”

  1. The founding fathers, inspired by the Irish revolutionaries you’ve never heard of, very clearly intended our republic government to be made up of Christian men.. they didn’t believe it would work if anybody other then christian men and women were living in it- convinced it would devolve to aristocracy..or chaos. The irsh revived the concept of man being sovereign only to His God, and the government existing purely to allow men to do so. (Men would be an equal opportunity statement intended for women as well…as a girl, I should say so.)

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