Author reveals the one alarming stat that shows US Christians are in trouble

Is America a Christian nation? The numbers don’t look good.

Glenn and Stu were stunned on today’s show to hear about American Christians by the numbers from Jonathan Bock, co-author of “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back.”

Bock and co-author Phil Cooke looked at statistics from Gallup, the Pew Research Center and LifeWay to get the data on how many so-called Christians are living out their faith. Did you know that 40 percent of Christians who go to church “rarely or never” open their Bible?

“We were absolutely shocked,” Bock said. “All of the things that non-Christians are saying about us, that we’re hypocritical … it’s true.”

Here are some of the numbers he cited on today’s show:

  • While 70 to 80 percent of Americans call themselves Christians, just 20 percent go to church.
  • That 20 percent counts people as “regular” church attendees if they go just 19 times a year.
  • 37 percent of Christians who go to church don’t think prayer is essential.
  • Of the 20 percent who attend church, only 10 percent tithe a tenth of their income.

What do you think? Are we still a Christian nation? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.

GLENN: You know, and in that spirit of asking these -- these questions, you know, one of them is -- there was no absolute anymore.

Nothing is known anymore.

There is no higher reason for being. I was at Silicon Valley, and I was listening to a -- I was listening to one of the venture capitalists. And he was talking about the future. And, I mean, he is Facebook, Twitter, everything. Biggest venture capitalist guy in the world.

And he said, you know, I have to tell you, the Christians and people of deep faith have a leg up on the rest of us.

Well, how do you mean? He said, because jobs are going to become so scarce. Life is going to become so easy, if we're right about technology, and if we survive this turnover, that most people get their meaning out of what they do. And he said, people of real faith get their meaning out of service for others. They find their meaning outside of themselves.

That's really important. And I think that's what's happening to our kids. We've lost meaning. But what does it mean to be a Christian anymore?

What does it mean? It's -- it's like it's not even living in the world we're in. Not that it should be of the world, but it has to be in the world.

So there's a new book out, called The Way Back. Now, this is written by two people, Eric Metaxas turned me onto this. Phil Cook and Jonathan Bock. Now, Jonathan Bock is the founder of Grace Hill Media, which has done every movie that you can imagine that you might like, that has a good message to it. It was -- it's the company that did Chronicles of Narnia. The Lord of the Rings. What else?

Blind Side. So here is a guy who is in the media. He works in Hollywood, and yet he says, Christians have lost their credibility. And here's the way back. We want we wanted to get him on now. Jonathan Bock. How are you, Jonathan?

JONATHAN: Brother, Glenn. How are you?

GLENN: I'm very good.

JONATHAN: I'm actually happy to hear that the (inaudible) has moved to Saint George, Utah.

GLENN: Yeah. Isn't that bizarre?

JONATHAN: That's a real retreat.

GLENN: Yeah, it is. Yeah, it is.

Okay. So, Jonathan, it's interesting that, you know, being Hollywood people, that you see this.

And you're not -- I shouldn't say you're Hollywood. I mean, you're a -- you're a believer. But you're seeing this. And you're -- you're largely responsible for the renaissance of spiritual and faith-based films in Hollywood proper. What is it that we are missing? How -- what do you mean, that Christianity has lost its way?

JONATHAN: Yeah. Well, I sit and have for the better part of 20 years on a funny fence, where I market mainstream films and television, to the Christian community, to the faith community around the country. And even now around the globe. But I'm also a practicing, believing Christian. And so it's -- it's an odd little place to perch and sit. And so I get to see, maybe into both sides of things in a way that somebody sitting on one side of the fence doesn't necessarily get to.

And, look, I don't think I'm saying anything extraordinary here, to say that over the last several decades, we've seen a real failure on the part of the Christian community to influence culture.

We've just seen it ebbing away kind of day after day after day.

And we're to the place now, where people can be openly hostile. And are openly hostile to -- to the Christian community and to Christian values. I mean, for example, Bernie Sanders, like, 18 months ago, said that Christians shouldn't be in a position of any kind of authority in politics. You know, it's things like that, like, what is going on, right?

And so my concern is as simple as this, is that there is a disconnect between how Christians perceive themselves and how non-Christians and the world actually sees us. And so a very simple example of that is the fruits of the spirit, which Christians are supposed to be known for. You know, you know the list: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. You know the list.

Tell me which of those words, non-Christians use to describe us.

GLENN: None of those.

STU: Wow.

JONATHAN: Right. That's a real problem, right? It's a PR problem.

GLENN: Yeah.

JONATHAN: You know, it's how we're viewing ourselves and how they're viewing us, are just -- just not --

GLENN: Okay. So help me out. Is this a -- I know perception is reality. So you have to deal with the reality that you're handed. But is that perception coming from -- is that because there's this movement on the left to crush Christianity, or is it, well, Christians aren't living what they preach, or a combination of both?

JONATHAN: Yeah. Well, as a PR and marketing guy, and my cowriter Phil Cook, is also a media expert. He actually works on the Christian side of things. I like to say that Phil helps Christian television suck less.

(laughter)

And he's been doing that for, you know, the better part of 30 years.

We came at this -- you know, we've been friends for a long time. And we talk about this kind of constantly around fire pits and conversation.

And, you know, we come at this as PR, marketing guys. So we viewed this initially as Christianity has a PR problem. So every marketing problem can be solved by better marketing. So if your house is small. Don't call it small, call it cozy, right?

And so that's how -- where we started. We started at a place of, great. How do we fix this PR problem? Let's use our expertise to do that. But the more that we dug into it, the more we wrote the book, it just didn't feel like we were really capturing what the real essential problem was.

So we decided to go back and look at our community, the Christian community and just look at behaviors, and where the Christian community is right now.

So, for example, on the movie side of things, if -- if you do research, you ask people, hey, do you like movies? Everybody likes movies. It's like 99 percent of the country says, yes, I like movies. Okay? Well, as marketers, we're not interested in those people. We're actually interested in the people who show up and actually go to movies and plunk down their money once a month and go to movies, or who are on Netflix. You want people who are actively involved.

So we went to all of the best researchers out there, bar none. Gala, the Pew, Lifeway Research, to dig into the actual stats of what's going on in the Christian community behaviorally.

And I have to say, we were absolutely shocked. So depending on the researcher you talk to and the question that gets asked, essentially, somewhere between 70 to 80 percent of this country classifies themselves as a Christian. Okay?

Then you start to look at -- we just decided to just look at basic behaviors. You know, where do you spend your time, where do you spend your money? And what are the markers that you would say, okay. Yeah, that's definitely what Christians should be -- they should be going to church, right? You would assume that Christians would go to church.

We looked at prayer. We looked at tithing. And we looked at Bible reading. And we were shocked. So, for example, if 70 to 80 percent of the country claims to be Christian, how many people are showing up on a weekly basis to church? It is 20 percent.

GLENN: Oh, my gosh.

STU: Hmm.

JONATHAN: Right. And the new rule of thumb, with churches, with pastors, is you are now a regular at church, if you're showing up three out of every eight Sundays, or 19 whole times a year.

GLENN: Holy cow. That makes you a regular congregant.

STU: How many years again was it?

GLENN: Nineteen.

JONATHAN: Nineteen. You're a regular if you show up 19.

GLENN: Wow.

STU: It's like my gym attendance.

JONATHAN: Exactly. And you can see what difference that's making.

STU: Yeah, I know. I look great.

GLENN: Hey, wait a minute.

STU: Wait a minute.

(chuckling)

JONATHAN: So then we looked at --

STU: You didn't laugh. You didn't laugh.

Are you actually just calling me fat? I don't understand what just happened.

GLENN: Hey, he's a Christian. He can get away with that. He loves you.

STU: Okay.

JONATHAN: I speak truth, man. I speak truth.

GLENN: That's right.

JONATHAN: So then we looked at, prayer. Okay? And what we found is that 63 percent of Christians say prayer is essential, which sounds like a great number. Oh. Okay. That's a good number. Except the corollary to that is 37 percent of people who go to church don't think prayer is essential.

GLENN: Wait. Wait. 37 percent, what?

JONATHAN: 37 percent of Christians who go to church do not think prayer is essential.

STU: What. How is that possible?

GLENN: How is that -- I mean, it's the Lord's Prayer. He thought it was pretty -- how is that possible? Okay?

JONATHAN: Well, this is where we are in the world.

So here's the really shocker, which is Bible reading. So Lifeway Research. This is Southern Baptist. This is not -- I mean, they want this to be a good number. But their researchers, what they found is that of church-attending Christians. We're talking about that 20 percent, right? We're talking about essentially the regulars that show up. Forty percent of them rarely or never open the Bible. So, again, we're not talking about Christmas and Easter Christians. We're talking about people who are actually showing up in the pews on a regular basis.

GLENN: Nineteen times.

JONATHAN: Right. Well, 40 percent of them are never cracking the Bible at all. Okay?

And then, of course, tithing, you would assume it's terrible. And it is terrible. Of those, 10 percent -- excuse me, of those 20 percent who are showing up on a regular basis, only 10 percent of them are giving 10 percent.

GLENN: Well, at least they're consistent. It's a 10 percent rule.

STU: Wow.

JONATHAN: But you look at those numbers and you start to realize, oh, my gosh, all of the things that non-Christians are saying about us, that we're hypocritical, that we're negative, all those things -- that whole list, it's true.

GLENN: Okay.

JONATHAN: It's true.

GLENN: So hang on, Jonathan, because we want to continue the -- continue the conversation. So how does that change us? And then, also what do we do? Because I think people feel this. They just know, Christianity is on the ropes. It's declining everywhere. And it's on the ropes. And it's because perhaps we're not living it.

So we'll go there here in a second. And how do we make -- how does it become relevant to people?

GLENN: We are talking to the author of a new book, Jonathan Bock, and Phil Cook, have written The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility, and How We Can Get It Back.

He is a marketer. And started looking at the problems of Christianity. And saying, well, we just have a marketing problem. He said, no, after doing research, no, we actually have real fundamental problems. And, you know, people are not viewing Christians as we view ourselves.

STU: Yeah. He brought up a list -- you know, positive virtues that you must associate with Christianity to keep it as secular as possible.

GLENN: Yeah.

STU: And it was --

GLENN: Nobody associates any of those words with Christians.

STU: Right. And part of me believes that because there's been, A, kind of a negative -- there is a PR problem. I think that is part of it.

GLENN: Yes, I do too.

STU: But also, you know, maybe we're not living the lives we're supposed to live. I'd love to see what people do associate with Christianity.

GLENN: So we'll get into that. And -- and how much of this is -- is -- you know, he mentioned that he -- a lot of the research they did, one of the big research firms is Barna. And I've seen the Barna research on Christians. There's no difference between Christians and non-Christians in divorce, pornography, you know, lying, cheating, stealing. There's no difference. We are not different because of our faith. And I think that's why a lot of people say, you know, you're just a bunch of talk. You're just a bunch of hypocrites. Oh, you preach goody-goody. But there is no difference in studies done by religious pollsters. There's no difference between us. That's a problem. So how do we get it back? Continue in just a second. The name of the book is The Way Back.

GLENN: There is a new book out, it is called the way back. How Christians blew our credibility, and how we get it back.

Jonathan Bock is one of the coauthors. He is with us now.

He is in the film-promoting industry. He is a Christian. And his coauthor is a Christian. And they thought that this was a PR problem. And as they looked into research, they realized, no, it's not a PR problem, alone. There is a problem in Christianity, and he just addressed, you know, people who say they go to church, that's only about 20 percent of the population that says they're Christian. Twenty percent of those go to church on a regular basis. And that means 19 times a year. 63 percent of Christians say prayer is important. But 37 percent of Christians say, no, it's not. And only 40 percent -- or, sorry, 40 percent of Christians rarely or never read the Bible.

STU: So going over some of the positive terms that are not associated with Christianity, apparently, for good reason. In some ways, Jonathan. But what do people think of when they think of Christians?

JONATHAN: Well, I mean, we've all heard the list, right? We've all heard the -- the terrible adjectives that are used. But what we discovered with -- when we started to look into this research is that, you know, the fact that Christian is now essentially synonymous with hypocrite, is not a PR problem. What it is, is it's a sales force problem. It's on us. Because we're just not living the life. We have essentially become the fat guy on the gym who is lecturing other people about good health.

STU: Hmm.

GLENN: Hmm.

JONATHAN: And so researchers know that when conversion happens -- and it doesn't matter -- we're not talking only about religion. It could be anything. Good health. Anything. It's because you see someone else and you want to be like them.

GLENN: Yeah.

JONATHAN: So when you have 80 percent of the country saying they're Christian, but only 20 percent showing up, you know, you look at that and say, well, who wants to be part of that group? Who wants to be part of that? And it's a little bit like if you went to -- for a meeting at Coca-Cola. And three-quarters of the people around the table are drinking Pepsi. Like, what would you think about it?

GLENN: Right. I will tell you -- I have a problem, but even in my own church, but all churches. You know, they talk about baptisms and getting people in the faith. And I just keep -- it drives me nuts. Because I just feel like, yeah, okay. That's important. But love people. Love people.

And they will just come themselves. Jesus didn't have to say, get into the water. Get into the water. He loved people, and that's what turned their life.

They saw it and they wanted that fruit. And I don't know what our fruit is anymore.

JONATHAN: Exactly. Exactly. And so we looked at this and said, okay. Well, here's the symptoms, right? But what's the real cause of this? And it really also shocked us is essentially what we determined is that when -- you know, when you talk about idol worship, that -- that sounds like an Israelite problem. Right?

GLENN: Right. Right.

JONATHAN: A long time ago kind of problem. Oh, those silly Israelites. The second Moses is away, they're making a golden calf. We don't do that if our pastor goes on vacation. We don't make a golden calf.

GLENN: Speak for your church. Should have seen what happened to our church last week.

JONATHAN: But what we feel is that a lot of Christians out there -- a lot of people calling themselves Christians are actually the most sophisticated idol makers in the history of humanity. Because essentially what they've done is they've created a God that looks like God. That has the veneer of God. But it's God who doesn't mind that I'm only going to church 19 times a year. And fine with me not tithing and reading the Bible. You know, is cool with us divorcing, as you brought up. Divorcing at this exact same rate as everybody else. Who demands no obedience from us all. And it's essentially, we have created a God, who -- who conforms to our view of the world, as opposed to the other way around.

That's idol worship. And I think that's what's going on here. And what you realize is the greatest threat facing American Christianity in 2018, is not radical Islam or the rise of secularism or prayer in schools or gay marriage as a whole. The greatest threat to American Christianity in 2018 is American Christians.

STU: Hmm.

GLENN: That's a powerful statement. I will tell you this, I had to write something this week, this last weekend, for church. And so I was doing some study on -- on unconditional love, and how God's love is unconditional. And started doing some research and found that was not part of the Christian vernacular until the 1960s. God's love is not unconditional. He has divine love. He loves all of us, no matter what we've done, but it is also conditional. You -- you know, all of his promises are, if you do these things, then I will promise you these things.

That is the very definition. And it was put in there -- you know, the unconditional love really kind of entered our vernacular, because it was, you know, hey, you can just be a good person. You can sleep with people and whatever, and God doesn't matter. It does matter. It does matter.

JONATHAN: Yeah, well, and, you know, as you read the stories of Jesus, you know, he's got all the time in the world and all the love in the world for murderers and prostitutes and lepers and, you know, the list goes on and on and on. The folks he can't stand are the complacent.

GLENN: The hypocrites.

JONATHAN: The hypocrites.

GLENN: Yeah.

JONATHAN: You know, he has no patience for them. None.

GLENN: So what is the way back?

JONATHAN: Yeah, well, so we had to -- that's one of the things that we did. We said, well, how do we fix this? Right? Because a lot of people have accused us as having the spiritual gift of discouragement. So what do we do about this, and how do we fix this?

And so what we decided to do was just go back and say, well, how did the early church do this? Right? Essentially on the Mount of Olives, when Jesus disappeared in the sky, you know, the disciples were standing there. And as they're standing there, they have nothing. Okay? They have no political power. They have no money.

They have no influence. They have essentially no education. They have no plan. As a matter of fact, two angels had to show up and say, come on, fellows. Let's get to it. You know, it's time to go. So they had nothing. So how do they go from being a backwater cult, you know, in the far reaches of the Roman Empire to 200 years later, Christianity being one of the most influential forces in all of the western world. How did that happen? How did they go from nothing to that? In a relatively short period of time?

And it's really two things, what we came up with. First is, they were all in. I mean, these guys were 100 percent committed.

GLENN: Yeah.

JONATHAN: They were in it for sure. And that's the first thing. And the second thing is that they went about a process of deciding intentionally to astonish Roman culture. Roman culture -- let me give you an example of it. Roman culture was a culture of death, really. I mean, militarism was really strong. Infanticide was a huge problem, in the early church. I mean, excuse me -- in Roman culture. Right? They -- they didn't really name their children for ten days after they were born. Because they were still deciding if they wanted to keep this or not, if it was a girl. Or too many mouths to feed. They would just expose the child. They would just leave it by the side of the road or out in the trash or put it in a field.

GLENN: They put them literally in garbage barges.

STU: Ugh.

JONATHAN: Yep. Just garbage. It was a piece of garbage. So the early church who believed in life and believed that everyone was sacred, started picking up these children and raising them as their own. And the idea of that so astonished the Roman culture. They didn't know what to do with it. Who are these people, and what are they doing? And how are they doing it?

And so, we looked at that and said, all right. Well, what are the ways that we can astonish culture again? And if you go back again to the early church -- think of the things that they created. Hospitals and orphanages and universities. I mean, the list goes on and on of things that were so extraordinary, that culture decided, hey, we need one of those. We want to be part of this.

And so what are the things -- I don't think a hospital or soup kitchen is really -- another one of those is going to astonish culture. But what are the things that we can do as a Christian community, both individually and corporately, that can astonish culture once again?

So as an example -- we have a bunch of examples in the book of those kinds of things that we can do. And I'll give you an example of one.

The foster care system is a disaster in this country. 450,000 kids living in the foster care system, essentially abandoned. They're abandoned children. That's what it comes down to. And we can look at that and go, oh, my gosh, that's an unbelievably huge number. What could I do where I'm sitting?

Well, there's actually a lot you can do. 450,000 doesn't sound so terrible when you realize there's 350,000 churches in this country. So if one family in one church, in every single church in the country, took in a foster -- an orphaned child into their family, and everybody else in that church supported them, we could wipe out the foster care system in this country in a year, just like that. That's the kind of thing that would astonish people and go, well, who does that? How did this happen? That's unbelievable. Because everybody knows this is a tremendous societal problem right now.

Foster kids have a 1 percent graduation rate from college.

GLENN: Wow.

JONATHAN: Within one year, 25 percent of them will be homeless, when they're finally emancipated. Seventy-five percent of girls who go through the foster care system are pregnant by 21.

STU: Seventy-five percent, wow.

JONATHAN: Seventy-five percent. So if we want to do something about it, we need to -- this is the kind of ways we can astonish culture, is by working together. But we have to be committed.

STU: That's amazing.

Now we're like, oh, I can't believe Chick-fil-A is closed on Sunday. Jeez, what are they doing? These basic steps now mesmerize us. That's not even close to what the plan was.

JONATHAN: And what's especially amazing about Chick-fil-A is that they make more money -- they're only open six days a week -- than other chains.

STU: Yeah.

GLENN: It works. Yeah. Yeah.

So, Jonathan, what about the -- instead of the grand plan -- which I love -- I love that about, you know -- you know, the foster care idea.

Too many of us are just not doing it. I mean, we're just not living it. We're not -- we're no different than the rest of society.

JONATHAN: Yes.

GLENN: So, I mean, how much of a role do we as individuals play? Because if our churches can say, hey, we're going to do this. But unless we -- unless we reduce our divorce rate, you know, our pornography usage, our drug usage, our lying, our cheating, whatever. Unless we start to moving those numbers, we're not a unique or peculiar people at all.

JONATHAN: No. Right. And it's going to start with ourselves. Right? Because we have to look at ourselves and decide, what do I want to be? Right? Do I want to be this complacent person, or do I want to essentially be a Navy SEAL for the Lord? Right? Like all in. And then the church you go to is important. Is your church pushing you hard like a trainer for your soul, into a deeper and more profound relationship with Jesus? Or is it like a rose-scented convalescent hospital, which is keeping you warm, dry, and comfortable, right? What's your faith? Is your faith an active, all-in faith? Or is it a 401(k) faith, where you're just putting a little bit away and hoping you have enough for the very end.

GLENN: So great. Jonathan Bock. Thank you. The name of the book is The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back.

Thanks, Jonathan.

JONATHAN: Thank you.

GLENN: I have to tell you, the book has a companion devotional on YouVersion. It has hit 800,000 downloads in the first ten days.

STU: Wow.

GLENN: Yeah. So it's -- this is gaining traction, and that's a good thing. The way back. Available everywhere.

By July 9, 1776, a copy of the Declaration of Independence reached New York City, where British naval ships occupied New York Harbor. Revolutionary spirit and tension were running high. George Washington, commander of the Continental forces in New York, read the Declaration aloud in front of City Hall. The crowd cheered wildly, and later that day tore down a statue of King George III. They melted down the statue to make 42,000 musket balls for the ragtag American army.

America's separation from Great Britain was officially in writing. Now came the hard part.

The Declaration of Independence defines who we are, what we believe, and what we aspire to be. It is a mission statement. But no one said it would be easy to implement.

The Declaration was not simply an official announcement of our split from Great Britain. If it was just that, it could've been a lot shorter. It was also an announcement that we're starting a new company, and here's what we're basing it on. It didn't just declare independence — it declared principles. It declared how we were going to organize ourselves once we were out on our own, and it set up guardrails to help ensure we didn't end up like the country we were leaving in the first place.

The Founders set us up for success, but America is now fumbling it away, largely thanks to our dangerous drift from the original blueprints.

In our national discourse, it's hard to find agreement even on fundamentals like the Declaration of Independence anymore. There's no time for old-fashioned things like the Declaration when social media can fuel our outrage around the clock.

We have lost touch with our national DNA.

How often do we jump to outrage before we have any kind of perspective on a matter? In 2017, President Trump had only been in office for one month before over 100 activists rewrote a version of the Declaration of Independence, rewording it with Trump in the King George III role. Trump had been in office for a single month. The focus has shifted from unity to partisan winning at all costs. We have lost touch with our national DNA.

Our basic knowledge of the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights is so weak that we don't have a clue how they relate to each other. As of late 2017, 37 percent of Americans could not name any of our First Amendment rights. And 33 percent of Americans could not name any branch of our government.

Here's another example of our painful misunderstanding. In a Psychology Today article written before the 2016 presidential election, Dr. Mark Goulston was trying to figure out a way to understand Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This is what he came up with:

Trump represents the Declaration of Independence. Clinton represents the U.S. Constitution.

He tries to explain that Trump supporters are eager to declare their independence from the political swamp system. For the Constitution side of things, he wrote:

It [the Constitution] may have stood the test of time for so long because it was drafted following a long, costly and awful war that the founding fathers wanted to prevent from happening again. That intention possibly enabled them to create a document that was relatively free from special interests and personal agendas. [Hillary] Clinton is more like the Constitution than the Declaration of Independence and appears to be more about getting things done than declaratively taking a stand.

Besides being a completely bogus way to interpret Hillary Clinton, this comparison makes your brain hurt because it so fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between the Declaration and the Constitution. They are not rival documents.

He says the Constitution has stood the test of time because the founders wrote it to prevent another long, costly war. What? No. It stands the test of time because it was designed to protect the “unalienable rights" of the Declaration.

He goes on to say that we need a new Constitutional Convention because, “We may just need to retrofit it to fit modern times."

This is the primarily leftist idea that America is up against today — that the founding documents worked well for their time, but that they now need an overhaul. Progressives seem to live by the motto, if it ain't broke, fix it anyway. Rather than “fixing" things, however, when we understand the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights as they already are, we discover that they still work because they're tied to universal principles, not a specific point in time.

Here's one way to think about the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. The Declaration is our thesis, or mission statement. The Constitution is the blueprint to implement that mission statement. And the Bill of Rights is our insurance policy.

Aside from the practical business of separating from Great Britain, the gist of the Declaration is that humans have natural rights granted us by God, and that those rights cannot be compromised by man. The Constitution, then, is the practical working out of how do we design a government that best protects our natural rights?

The creation of the Constitution did not give us rights. The existence of our rights created the Constitution. The Constitution just recognizes and codifies those rights, clarifying that the government does not have authority to deprive us of those rights.

The Founders were extremely paranoid about corruption and abuse of power. They designed a system to avoid as much of that as possible.

The Progressive and postmodern idea that rich white guys founded America as an exclusive country club for enriching themselves doesn't hold water. If that had been their true intent, they seriously handicapped themselves with the emphasis on rights and the checks on power that they included in these three documents. Any honest reading of the Constitution, and of the massive ratification debates that dragged on in individual state legislatures, makes one thing very clear — the Founders were extremely paranoid about corruption and abuse of power. They designed a system to avoid as much of that as possible.

Still, this Declaration-Constitution-Bill of Rights-trifecta thing is just a conservative line, right? It's just something we say because we're stuck in the past and we're in denial about the new and improved, diverse, post-gender, postmodern America, right?

As the Declaration puts it, “let facts be submitted to a candid world."

In 1839, on the 50th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration as the nation's first president, the New York Historical Society invited former president John Quincy Adams to deliver a speech. As the son of John Adams, John Quincy wrote a speech about something near and dear to his — the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He said:

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, are parts of one consistent whole, founded upon one and the same theory of government… it had been working itself into the mind of man for many ages… but had never before been adopted by a great nation in practice…

Even in our own country, there are still philosophers who deny the principles asserted in the Declaration, as self-evident truths — who deny the natural equality and inalienable rights of man — who deny that the people are the only legitimate source of power – who deny that all just powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed… I speak to matters of fact. There is the Declaration of Independence, and there is the Constitution of the United States — let them speak for themselves.

They can, and they do. They don't require any interpretation or updates because our inalienable rights have not changed.

Progressives and Democratic Socialists believe our rights come from the government, but the Declaration emphasizes that our rights are inalienable and are granted to mankind by God. By the way, we usually only use the word “inalienable" now when we're talking about the Declaration of Independence, so we often don't even understand the word. It means something that is not transferable, something incapable of being taken away or denied.

We don't know our founding documents anymore and we're witnessing the disastrous results of this deficiency. We've lost sight of what made the American Revolution so unique. It was the first time subjects who had colonized new lands, rebelled against the country they came from. Government by the people and for the people is a principle that changed the world. Most countries fall apart after their revolutions. We thrived because of the firm principles of the Declaration, and the protection of those principles in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It's a unique system with a remarkable track record, in spite of our human frailty. But this system is not inevitable — for it to continue to work, we must understand and protect it.

From the moment the 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson arrived at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776, he was on the radical side. That caused John Adams to like him immediately. Then the Congress stuck Jefferson and Adams together on the five-man committee to write a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain, and their mutual admiration society began.

Jefferson thought Adams should write the Declaration. But Adams protested, saying, “It can't come from me because I'm obnoxious and disliked." Adams reasoned that Jefferson was not obnoxious or disliked, therefore he should write it. Plus, he flattered Jefferson, by telling him he was a great writer. It was a master class in passing the buck.

So, over the next 17 days, Jefferson holed up in his room, applying his lawyer skills to the ideas of the Enlightenment. He borrowed freely from existing documents like the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He later wrote that “he was not striving for originality of principle or sentiment." Instead, he hoped his words served as “an expression of the American mind."

It's safe to say he achieved his goal.

The five-man committee changed about 25 percent of Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration before submitting it to Congress. Then, Congress altered about one-fifth of that draft. But most of the final Declaration's words are Jefferson's, including the most famous passage — the Preamble — which Congress left intact. The result is nothing less than America's mission statement, the words that ultimately bind the nation together. And words that we desperately need to rediscover because of our boiling partisan rage.

The Declaration is brilliant in structure and purpose. It was designed for multiple audiences: the King of Great Britain, the colonists, and the world. And it was designed for multiple purposes: rallying the troops, gaining foreign allies, and announcing the creation of a new country.

The Declaration is structured in five sections: the Introduction, Preamble, the Body composed of two parts, and the Conclusion. It's basically the most genius breakup letter ever written.

In the Introduction, step 1 is the notificationI think we need to break up. And to be fair, I feel I owe you an explanation...

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

The Continental Congress felt they were entitled by “the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to “dissolve the political bands," but they needed to prove the legitimacy of their cause. They were defying the world's most powerful nation and needed to motivate foreign allies to join the effort. So, they set their struggle within the entire “Course of human events." They're saying, this is no petty political spat — this is a major event in world history.

Step 2 is declaring what you believe in, your standardsHere's what I'm looking for in a healthy relationship...

This is the most famous part of the Declaration; the part school children recite — the Preamble:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That's as much as many Americans know of the Declaration. But the Preamble is the DNA of our nation, and it really needs to be taken as a whole:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Preamble takes us through a logical progression: All men are created equal; God gives all humans certain inherent rights that cannot be denied; these include the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; to protect those rights, we have governments set up; but when a government fails to protect our inherent rights, people have the right to change or replace it.

Government is only there to protect the rights of mankind. They don't have any power unless we give it to them. That was an extraordinarily radical concept then and we're drifting away from it now.

The Preamble is the justification for revolution. But note how they don't mention Great Britain yet. And again, note how they frame it within a universal context. These are fundamental principles, not just squabbling between neighbors. These are the principles that make the Declaration just as relevant today. It's not just a dusty parchment that applied in 1776.

Step 3 is laying out your caseHere's why things didn't work out between us. It's not me, it's you...

This is Part 1 of the Body of the Declaration. It's the section where Jefferson gets to flex his lawyer muscles by listing 27 grievances against the British crown. This is the specific proof of their right to rebellion:

He has obstructed the administration of justice...

For imposing taxes on us without our consent...

For suspending our own legislatures...

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us...

Again, Congress presented these “causes which impel them to separation" in universal terms to appeal to an international audience. It's like they were saying, by joining our fight you'll be joining mankind's overall fight against tyranny.

Step 4 is demonstrating the actions you took I really tried to make this relationship work, and here's how...

This is Part 2 of the Body. It explains how the colonists attempted to plead their case directly to the British people, only to have the door slammed in their face:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury...

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice... We must, therefore... hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

This basically wrapped up America's argument for independence — we haven't been treated justly, we tried to talk to you about it, but since you refuse to listen and things are only getting worse, we're done here.

Step 5 is stating your intent — So, I think it's best if we go our separate ways. And my decision is final...

This is the powerful Conclusion. If people know any part of the Declaration besides the Preamble, this is it:

...that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved...

They left no room for doubt. The relationship was over, and America was going to reboot, on its own, with all the rights of an independent nation.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The message was clear — this was no pitchfork mob. These were serious men who had carefully thought through the issues before taking action. They were putting everything on the line for this cause.

The Declaration of Independence is a landmark in the history of democracy because it was the first formal statement of a people announcing their right to choose their own government. That seems so obvious to us now, but in 1776 it was radical and unprecedented.

In 1825, Jefferson wrote that the purpose of the Declaration was “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of… but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm… to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take."

You're not going to do better than the Declaration of Independence. Sure, it worked as a means of breaking away from Great Britain, but its genius is that its principles of equality, inherent rights, and self-government work for all time — as long as we actually know and pursue those principles.

On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania State House, better known today as Independence Hall. Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies' independence. The “Lee Resolution" was short and sweet:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Intense debate followed, and the Congress voted 7 to 5 (with New York abstaining) to postpone a vote on Lee's Resolution. They called a recess for three weeks. In the meantime, the delegates felt they needed to explain what they were doing in writing. So, before the recess, they appointed a five-man committee to come up with a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain. They appointed two men from New England — Roger Sherman and John Adams; two from the middle colonies — Robert Livingston and Benjamin Franklin; and one Southerner — Thomas Jefferson. The responsibility for writing what would become the Declaration of Independence fell to Jefferson.

In the rotunda of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., there are three original documents on permanent display: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. These are the three pillars of the United States, yet America barely seems to know them anymore. We need to get reacquainted — quickly.

In a letter to his friend John Adams in 1816, Jefferson wrote: “I like the dreams of the future, better than the history of the past."

America used to be a forward-looking nation of dreamers. We still are in spots, but the national attitude that we hear broadcast loudest across media is not looking toward the future with optimism and hope. In late 2017, a national poll found 59% of Americans think we are currently at the “lowest point in our nation's history that they can remember."

America spends far too much time looking to the past for blame and excuse. And let's be honest, even the Right is often more concerned with “owning the left" than helping point anyone toward the practical principles of the Declaration of Independence. America has clearly lost touch with who we are as a nation. We have a national identity crisis.

The Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

It is urgent that we get reacquainted with the Declaration of Independence because postmodernism would have us believe that we've evolved beyond the America of our founding documents, and thus they're irrelevant to the present and the future. But the Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

Today, much of the nation is so addicted to partisan indignation that "day-to-day" indignation isn't enough to feed the addiction. So, we're reaching into America's past to help us get our fix. In 2016, Democrats in the Louisiana state legislature tabled a bill that would have required fourth through sixth graders to recite the opening lines of the Declaration. They didn't table it because they thought it would be too difficult or too patriotic. They tabled it because the requirement would include the phrase “all men are created equal" and the progressives in the Louisiana legislature didn't want the children to have to recite a lie. Representative Barbara Norton said, “One thing that I do know is, all men are not created equal. When I think back in 1776, July the fourth, African Americans were slaves. And for you to bring a bill to request that our children will recite the Declaration, I think it's a little bit unfair to us. To ask our children to recite something that's not the truth. And for you to ask those children to repeat the Declaration stating that all men's are free. I think that's unfair."

Remarkable — an elected representative saying it wouldn't be fair for students to have to recite the Declaration because “all men are not created equal." Another Louisiana Democrat explained that the government born out of the Declaration “was used against races of people." I guess they missed that part in school where they might have learned that the same government later made slavery illegal and amended the Constitution to guarantee all men equal protection under the law. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were an admission of guilt by the nation regarding slavery, and an effort to right the wrongs.

Yet, the progressive logic goes something like this: many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, including Thomas Jefferson who wrote it, owned slaves; slavery is evil; therefore, the Declaration of Independence is not valid because it was created by evil slave owners.

It's a sad reality that the left has a very hard time appreciating the universal merits of the Declaration of Independence because they're so hung up on the long-dead issue of slavery. And just to be clear — because people love to take things out of context — of course slavery was horrible. Yes, it is a total stain on our history. But defending the Declaration of Independence is not an effort to excuse any aspect of slavery.

Okay then, people might say, how could the Founders approve the phrase “All men are created equal," when many of them owned slaves? How did they miss that?

They didn't miss it. In fact, Thomas Jefferson included an anti-slavery passage in his first draft of the Declaration. The paragraph blasted King George for condoning slavery and preventing the American Colonies from passing legislation to ban slavery:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights to life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere... Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce.

We don't say “execrable" that much anymore. It means, utterly detestable, abominable, abhorrent — basically very bad.

Jefferson was upset when Georgia and North Carolina threw up the biggest resistance to that paragraph. Ultimately, those two states twisted Congress' arm to delete the paragraph.

Still, how could a man calling the slave trade “execrable" be a slaveowner himself? No doubt about it, Jefferson was a flawed human being. He even had slaves from his estate in Virginia attending him while he was in Philadelphia, in the very apartment where he was writing the Declaration.

Many of the Southern Founders deeply believed in the principles of the Declaration yet couldn't bring themselves to upend the basis of their livelihood. By 1806, Virginia law made it more difficult for slave owners to free their slaves, especially if the owner had significant debts as Jefferson did.

At the same time, the Founders were not idiots. They understood the ramifications of signing on to the principles described so eloquently in the Declaration. They understood that logically, slavery would eventually have to be abolished in America because it was unjust, and the words they were committing to paper said as much. Remember, John Adams was on the committee of five that worked on the Declaration and he later said that the Revolution would never be complete until the slaves were free.

Also, the same generation that signed the Declaration started the process of abolition by banning the importation of slaves in 1807. Jefferson was President at the time and he urged Congress to pass the law.

America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough.

The Declaration took a major step toward crippling the institution of slavery. It made the argument for the first time about the fundamental rights of all humans which completely undermined slavery. Planting the seeds to end slavery is not nearly commendable enough for leftist critics, but you can't discount the fact that the seeds were planted. It's like they started an expiration clock for slavery by approving the Declaration. Everything that happened almost a century later to end slavery, and then a century after that with the Civil Rights movement, flowed from the principles voiced in the Declaration.

Ironically for a movement that calls itself progressive, it is obsessed with retrying and judging the past over and over. Progressives consider this a better use of time than actually putting past abuses in the rearview and striving not to be defined by ancestral failures.

It can be very constructive to look to the past, but not when it's used to flog each other in the present. Examining history is useful in providing a road map for the future. And America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough. But it's right there, the original, under glass. The ink is fading, but the words won't die — as long as we continue to discuss them.

'Good Morning Texas' gives exclusive preview of Mercury One museum

Screen shot from Good Morning Texas

Mercury One is holding a special exhibition over the 4th of July weekend, using hundreds of artifacts, documents and augmented reality experiences to showcase the history of slavery — including slavery today — and a path forward. Good Morning Texas reporter Paige McCoy Smith went through the exhibit for an exclusive preview with Mercury One's chief operating officer Michael Little on Tuesday.

Watch the video below to see the full preview.

Click here to purchase tickets to the museum (running from July 4 - 7).