Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Country 'Tis of Thee

  • Psalm 33:12, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD."
  • Proverbs 14:34, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people."
July 4th is the USA's birthday, and as such is a day of celebration. On the Fourth, Americans celebrate their freedom purchased by the blood of her patriots. America has been, and still is, a fruitful land; a blessed land of fertile farmlands, limitless opportunities, and matchless freedoms. America is a blessed nation.

The same is not true for every nation in the world. There are places on the planet where one's next meal is not to be taken for granted. There are places on this planet where there is no real possibility for prosperity. There are places on this planet where speaking and worshipping God freely cannot take place. There are places on this planet where it is not safe to raise children, where a good doctor or clean hospitals do not exist. U.S. citizens are truly blessed.

A Christian Heritage

The Christian heritage of the USA is undeniable. Even a cursory study of America’s past will show that a majority of Americans shared a common faith and ethic. Most of America’s earliest founders were self-professing Christians and their documents expressed a belief in a Christian worldview. Fifty-two of the fifty-five delegates to the Constitutional Convention professed to be Bible believing Christians. The most influential study of the U.S. ever produced must be Democracy in America, written in the early 1830’s by the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. One famous quote from that work is…
“there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.”
The voluminous quotes of this nation’s Founding Fathers' faith are well documented. Here are just two examples.
  • In a letter written by John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, co-collaborators on the Declaration of Independence, Adams wrote: “The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence…were the general principles of Christianity.”
  • Patrick Henry was famous for his words, “Give me liberty or give me death.” But he also said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
In its origin the United States was most definitely a nation heavily influenced by Christianity.

A Collapsed Culture

Is that still true? Is it possible to say that the USA still has a bond between the principles of civil government and principles of Christianity? When was the last time that you heard the Supreme Court say that it was your duty to elect Christians as your leaders?

This nation has now embraced the belief that…
  • It’s harmful to say a prayer...
  • post the Ten Commandments...
  • or read the Bible in the public arena.
  • Human life is not sacred, every year over a million babies are murdered in their mother's womb.
  • Homosexuality is just an alternative lifestyle.
  • Pornographic images should be protected as free speech.
Yet the words of scripture remain: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” and “Blessed be the nation whose God is the Lord” (Proverbs 14:34; Psalm 33:12). But will a nation be blessed when God is no longer the Lord?

Consider the words of Thomas Jefferson, who was not a believer, yet was wise enough to write, “Indeed, I tremble for my country, when I reflect that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”


A Biblical Engagement

Should the American churches curse the collapsing culture or isolate itself from it or engage it? The answer must be to engage the culture. Separation from sin does not equal isolation from the culture. Therefore we must ask: What is the Biblical way for engaging our culture?

There are some Christians who believe, in practice if not in statement, that the remedies for our social ills are legislative measures and conservative Supreme Court justices. They seem convinced that lobbying for political solutions to evils like abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and secularization, is the way to go.

That is one way, but not necessarily the Biblical way. If you are known for your political agenda more than for your commitment to Christ, your values are upside down. If you make the Gospel subservient to a political strategy or a partisan agenda, you're probably doing more harm than good. If your political rhetoric obscures, tones down, alters, or clouds the Gospel message, even ever-so-slightly, then you are hiding your true light under a bushel, and you ought to reconsider where the Biblical priorities lie.

Next week we'll look at four Biblical ways by which churches may engage the culture.

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