"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams, 2nd President of the U.S.
Freedom without individual responsibility [which is the result of consciously chosen psycho-spiritual maturity] devolves toward tyranny. This is true because immature or unenlightened humans are selfish and feel entitled; conditions that, when prevalent in a society move it toward chaos, division and lawlessness. And when the populace gets frustrated with lawlessness, it longs for a strong hand to take charge and set things right. This is why it can be quite satisfying to see a strong parent sternly take charge of unruly children and sit them in the corner until they come back to a place of civility and respect for their elders. [This is not abuse. It is good parenting.] And the same principle applies in the hearts of citizens who see their culture being overrun by selfish, entitled adults who are primarily concerned with their “rights and privileges.” Indignation can rise to the point of desiring a strong hand of law and government to intervene and make people behave. In the early 1970's I asked a German woman who had married an American soldier and moved to the U.S. “How could a man like Hitler rise to power?” She replied “Oh, he made the streets safe to walk again.” The chaos that arises from immature, immoral, selfish and entitled citizens cries out for a powerful, suppressive government—in other words, tyranny. And we do not get to determine what morality is any more than we determine what is healthy or unhealthy for our physical bodies. We did not create our bodies; and we do not create morality. Just as healthy and unhealthy phenomena are innate to our bodies [and we violate their principles to the detriment of our physical health] so also, principles of morality are innate to humanity. We can discover those principles [the main concern of true religion and the best philosophy] but we cannot determine them any more than we can determine the physical principles by which the universe operates. Man always degenerates when he elevates himself above his Creator or, more secularly, when he begins to believe that he can redefine the eternal principles that generated the possibility of his existence.
Everyone suffers when anyone is irresponsible. Freedom is contingent upon individual responsibility. And freedom is costly, as those in Syria who took a stand for it can dreadfully attest. I think it is generally true that those who have lived entirely in a free society are sorely tempted to undervalue it and fail to appreciate its rarity and fragility—thus the tendency toward societal “suicide” that John Adams wrote about in the quote above. We are privileged in our time with freedom to access information via the internet that would have taken our ancestors a college degree to assimilate. And we can see now, more clearly than ever, what is happening in other nations on this earth; and compare them to our own. Perhaps this can enable us to value and protect what we have in a way that John Adams could not have anticipated.
We are free, but we are not entitled. And if we fail to be individually responsible, we have no right to demand anything of anyone. We are gifted with life, but we don't determine the principles by which it becomes a blessing or a curse. Humility enables us to discover those principles; and maturity manifests as the willingness and ability to submit to them. Jesus is the very embodiment of these eternal principles.