A Larger Experiment

Michael Metzger

On this day we celebrate declaring independence from Britain. It took a few years to win it, then order it as an experiment. Here’s how the faith played a part in this experiment…

Last week we did a little experiment: are Clapham’s resources helpful? This week, a second little experiment, related to a larger experiment, one that Benjamin Franklin wasn’t sure would work out.

Legend has it a woman asked Franklin a question as he exited Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787. “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin supposedly replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

His answer raises a question: How do we “keep” our republic?

The republic Franklin was referring is called America’s “Great Experiment.” It addresses a question: can a free people be self-governed?

The answer lies in how you imagine America’s Great Experiment. And how you imagine religion played a part. And recognizing why the Christian faith doesn’t play a part today—and how it could once again play a part.

Too many considerations for my brief commentary. So we’re doing a second little experiment, a little booklet depicting America’s “Great Experiment.” Open the link below. Tell us: is this resource helpful? Clapham Institute has an Amazon-sized warehouse full of these resources. We’re looking for the best delivery systems to get them to you.

Click here to download PDF


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One Comment

  1. If I may, to go back to your triangles, I’d say nothing new, I think, and paint it as such:

    Personal Freedom & Virtue > Communities that praise and shame > A nation of laws that are encoded and enforced by an enlightened sense of splitting the difference** between communities and individuals > Personal Freedom & Virtue

    **We see this right now with Roe in states rights vs federal mandates. It sounds dystopian but it may come down to “states” vs “counties.” We may need a Lincoln/Washington now more than ever.

    A government of, by, and for the people begins and ends with the value of the person (an enlightened value I might add).

    I think, but don’t have the quotes to prove it, that the Founders put “the people” ahead of The Monarch: not being allowed to self-govern. That was what they meant. The Bill of Rights went the extra mile to prove that: we promote & protect persons, we don’t promote & protect “mobs of people.” The Founders were indeed a mob. But they knew better than to remain as such. Requiring elections was so critical. And Washington letting go of the presidency was too.

    The moment that “the people/mob democracy” matters more than the person is when the mob rules and you have lost the experiment. It’s EXACTLY what secular America fears MOST: The Church being the mob that rules: witness The Supreme Court. Witness Red vs Blue. Why fear the church? The church can’t even govern itself. Self-selected movements are often far more virtuous than its immovable institutional edifices: witness the crises in the Southern Baptist Church & Roman Catholic Church.

    My triangle loses neuroscience and religion inside of Personal Freedom & Virtue. My triangle is relational: person, community, nation. Yours includes the ambiguity of the abstract as a link: religion & science. You cannot have such a weak link work in the self-governing of people. Its weaknesses belong in the collective of persons who are by nature weak, and who need the promotion and protection of communities and the nation, and each needs each other to survive. That which is abstract and ambiguous offers nothing relational.

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