Reflection: Clarifying Thinking & Restoring Hope
I admit it. I wrestled this July 4 with where our country is right now, especially in light of the recent US Supreme Court decisions on marriage. In the midst of this wrestling, one of our staff members sent an article that brought some clarity for me. I share it with you because I am quite sure I am not alone in my attitude or thoughts on this matter.
So what you are hearing today is an excerpt from an article entitled, “Christian Citizenship Today,” by Kevin T. Bauder, a professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. We begin with Professor Bauder asking us some tough questions:
“We pledge allegiance to ‘one nation under God,’ but what ought we to do when that nation is no longer under God? What will Christian citizenship look like in a civilization that is not merely pagan, but, worse, secular and overtly opposed to the true and living God? What shall we do when Christian expression and practice is legally confined to the private sphere?
“First, we should recognize that we are not the first believers to have encountered this question. Indeed, it is a perennial question from which Christians in America have been protected only artificially. It had to be answered by Christians in Nazi Germany and in the nations of the Soviet bloc. It is a question that has to be answered today by Christians in mainland China, not to mention Christians in Islamist societies. In fact, it is a question that Bible-believing Christians have had to answer frequently throughout Christian history. Certainly it behooves us to discover the answers that they have given.
“Second, we should remember that, even though our liberties are diminishing when measured against our national past, we are still comparatively free people. Dark clouds are on the horizon, but none of us has yet had to suffer incarceration, confiscation, torture, or martyrdom. We can be thankful for the liberty that we still enjoy. Indeed, we ought to be filled with thanksgiving—to God, whose Providence rules our days, to the founders of our nation who suspected that times like ours might come and who tried to erect safeguards against them, to generations of men and women who have righteously fulfilled their duties citizens and patriots, and to those at this hour who carry on a rearguard action, impeding the encroachments upon our freedom and delaying the day when either tyranny or anarchy must reign supreme.
“Third, we must recall that even a small minority of committed believers can be used powerfully by God within any civilization. A single Obadiah can spare seven thousand. A single Daniel can turn the direction of an empire. A single Nehemiah can rebuild a civilization. Because these people were rightly placed, because they made themselves valuable to evil rulers, and because they committed themselves to obey the Lord their God, they were mightily used. We ought to be asking how we should go about rearing the next Daniels and Obadiahs. We ought to be asking what our churches would have to give them so that they could survive as Christians in the center of the storm.
“Fourth, we must remind ourselves that the world is as God made it, not as sinful humans will it to be. Virtue will always be virtue and vice will always be vice. Morality is reality. A law or a court decision will never turn non-marriage into marriage. A governmental fiat will not turn paper into wealth. Congress, courts, legislatures, and administrations may declare the world to be other than it is, but they must still live in the world that exists. The longer they pretend that the world is something else, the harsher will be the shock when their imaginary reality collapses. If we are actually living in the world as it is, by which I mean the world as God made it to be, then we are going to be in the best position to mediate the foundations and traditions that some future civilization will require.
“Above all, we ought to rejoice that our place in history is determined by the counsels of an infinitely wise, good, and sovereign God. In His kindness He has given us many years of peace and rest in an earthly country. In fact, we have often experienced difficulty remembering that we are aliens and pilgrims. Perhaps (could it be?) our Ruler now wishes to turn our hearts toward a better country, a heavenly country, a country that we ought to have been seeking all along. In the past, God entrusted us with earthly leisure, wealth, and power beyond any other generation. Perhaps He now wishes us to enter the fellowship of Christ’s suffering so that we may be conformed to His death. If so, then this, too, is a privilege.” 1
My response? Thank you, Professor, for clarifying our thinking and restoring our hope. Thank you for extolling appropriate patriotism. In that spirit, I echo your closing words, “America! America! God shed His grace on thee.”