Does it have a role in our republic?

In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political thinker and historian, wrote and published Volume 1 of his book, Democracy in America. The second volume followed in 1840. Together they represent a comprehensive analysis of American society, politics, and institutions during the early 19th Century. In it, he addressed the importance of faith in the success of democratic and republican systems in the U.S.

He observed… “I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion—for who can search the human heart. But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions.”

I wonder if this is the case in 2024. Do we still believe, as de Tocqueville pointed out, that religious conviction is essential for our republic to thrive?

First, let’s define terms. What do people mean when they say America is a republic? (Not to be confused with political parties, by the way.) It means we choose our leaders through a democratic process, such as elections, rather than a hereditary monarchy. After the war, many sought to make George Washington our first king, but he opposed this idea, being a strong supporter of the republican principles that grounded the revolution.

Instead, we have a federal republic, with a framework established by the U.S. Constitution, which outlines the government’s authority and responsibilities. The key features of our republic are the separation of powers among all branches of government, and the preservation of individual rights and liberties through a system of checks and balances.

So, where does faith fit in, and should it?