Acton Institute Powerblog

Clayton Christensen: ‘If you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police’

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The Founding Fathers understood, in the words of John Adams, that “we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.” An Ivy League professor recently heard the same conclusion repeated by a Chinese Marxist.

“I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy,” the economist told Clayton Christensen.

Christensen, who died last month at the age of 67, taught business administration at Harvard Business School and served as a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS).

Christensen shares the Chinese Communist’s insight that democratic societies work only when their citizens share a commitment to virtue in a short video released just months before his untimely death.

America’s founding documents presuppose that a limited government depends on a free and virtuous society. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports,” said George Washington in his Farewell Address.

On the other hand, a Chinese legal text written three centuries before Christ states, “A weak people means a strong state, and a strong state means a weak people.”

John Mark Reynolds, Ph.D., shared similar thoughts on a recent episode of Acton’s podcast. “People will do for love what they would not do for money,” such as caring for loved ones.

Too often, this includes obeying the law and respecting the person and property of others. Without a commitment to see each human person created in imago Dei, an ever-expanding government must rush to protect citizens in the brutal war of each against all.

“If you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police,” Christensen concludes.

Watch the full video below:

(Photo credit: Betsy Weber. CC BY 2.0.)

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson is Executive Editor of the Acton Institute's flagship journal Religion & Liberty and edits its transatlantic website.