by Rod D. Martin
June 1, 2002
People have strong feelings about the idea of Christian culture. They have even stronger ones about Christian politics. Few of those feelings are good.
This is understandable, not least because the left is good at what we are not, specifically, selling their message. The far left comprises only a tiny percentage of America’s population; what’s more, they live in a country where large majorities are at least nominally Christian and functionally conservative. Yet the left has successfully sold the idea that the First Amendment – which protects the church from the state – means Christians are prohibited even from holding political opinions; and so well have leftists sold this obviously ludicrous position that it is taught even from conservative pulpits across America.
To hear Tom Brokaw – and some pastors – speak, you’d think religious people are inherently dangerous, and certainly more so than those who lack any moral code whatsoever.
Yet the doubts about Christian culture and politics are also understandable because so many Christians are what their enemies claim: self-righteous, unsmiling jerks. They lack any comprehensive, positive vision of what their nation ought to be; and because they lack that, their activism consists not of building the future but railing against it, or at best of stamping out fires. Drifting from one “moral crisis” to the next, they are always the people complaining (they would call it “standing for truth”), always the ones pointing fingers (they – but no one else – would see themselves in the role of Old Testament prophets), always the ones saying “Stop!” when others say “Go.”
You’d think these people were orphans. Because if they weren’t, their mamas would have told them that you catch more flies with honey; and their daddies would have told them that you can’t beat something with nothing.
It’s easy to see why, listening to many of these so-called Christian leaders, even a lot of Christians would fear a “Christian” America. But don’t worry: none of these “leaders” will ever produce any such thing. Whether alienating the culture they’re supposed to convert, or running from it by building “Christian” ghettos, or (more often) being absorbed by it without affecting it at all, they are absolutely no threat to the status quo.
Likewise, it’s easy to see why the left fears Christians. People who worship political power, who want government to direct (and thus control) all things, who have effectively deified the state, cannot imagine anyone feeling otherwise. Like Tolkein’s Sauron, the thought that anyone would choose to destroy the ring of power is beyond them. And because that power is today so pervasive, they not only covet it, but cannot permit it’s falling into the hands of men with whom they disagree.
But that is just the point. We do not seek some statist theocracy, substituting our dogma for FDR’s, Robespierre’s or Stalin’s. Our King, Jesus, sits today on a throne in Heaven: why would He need one in Washington? And unlike the left – whose denial of original sin has recently produced such lovely societies as the Soviet Union and Pol Pot’s Cambodia – we’re not especially excited about anybody else sitting on that throne either.
It is no accident that Christians – not others – abolished slavery, brought liberty to women, and unleashed human creativity through the free market (“thou shalt not steal”) and its corollary scientific inquiry such that the world has been repeatedly transformed in just a handful of generations. It is no coincidence that Christians revolted against British statism, that they applied the principles of the Bible to creating a new system of government the like of which none had ever seen, and that the example they set and the hope they inspired has enlightened a world which had previously known almost universal tyranny.
The left must coerce. We need not, and must not. God alone saves sinners; and just as the doctrine of original sin teaches us not to trust governments with too much power, the doctrine of salvation by grace and not works teaches us that coercion is not only ineffective, but pointless.
When we speak of a Christian culture, we envision a society suffused with the truth God has shown us in His Word. This cannot be imposed: it is spiritual to begin with, and requires the broad acceptance of ideas which the heart cannot hear without a grace and repentance only God can give. This sort of culture cannot be built in a day, or even a generation; and yet, as more and more see His wisdom, both in principles and results, they will act upon it, and transform everything they touch. As salt they will preserve what remains, and as light they will dispel the darkness, until their light shines so brightly that all can see, and the nations marvel at the wealth and the wisdom of their land.
Politically, our vision is the same; but we do have shorter-term goals. We seek the end of the idolatry of our age, state-worship. We wish to take back the freedoms on which the statists have encroached, again protecting everyone’s life, liberty and property. We intend to restore a Constitutional system which – like the Bible – requires many checks and balances, as well as the rule of law, so that men are always accountable, and so that power cannot corrupt.
Do we think this can be done in a handful of election cycles? Of course not: the God of sanctification rarely works so quickly even in individuals – much less nations – and even the left took more than a century to bring us here.
But America is a great country, a land of promise and hope, and its very best days are yet to come. We firmly believe that God has raised up our nation to be that shining city on a hill, an example to the world. And if it is less than that today, it is we who must humbly provide the solutions and the vision which will again make it so, bringing morning again not only to the New World, but to the Old.