No doubt any Christians who read my yesterday post would wonder how I could seem to face the loss of morality in our culture with equanimity. I do not. I share George Washington’s view, that religion and morality are the foundation of political prosperity:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
My point is that the time of political prosperity is over; the time of social peace is past. It is now God’s time to clear the land for a new government, established in righteousness.
The United States, with its public education, its early infusion of enlightened, relatively tolerant Christian and Jewish minds, and its early spirit of freedom, was a great gift to human history. But the wineskins established by Washington are now old and worn, our current population is much more diverse culturally and spiritually, and freedom or license has multiplied in ways that would be shocking to George Washington.
What I was trying to say yesterday, is that true Christianity should not, (and, I believe, does not) identify with this or any other government, because the practice of true religion is an individual matter of conscience. Nowhere in the Bible do I see the imprimatur of governance handed to Christians. That is held in abeyance, until our personal obedience is complete. I think it is fact of history that morality cannot be legislated by human governments, and in a fallen world those who govern cannot always act squarely on the side of true religion and true morality — partly because of the limitations of human judgment and discernment; and partly because a government that is egalitarian and free must allow freedom of expression to those whose religion is different and whose morality is different. The first amendment is a good thing in a government in which immature and evil people are permitted to dwell with mature and good folks… even though the first amendment often creates conditions which are violations of the 9th commandment.
For example, it is the law of the land in the United States that a fetus does not have rights; that the mother can end its life if she chooses. A president swears to uphold the law of the land. Therefore a president must place his hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the right of a mother to kill the unborn child within her. From the first moment of a president’s tour of duty, he is thus a sworn opponent of what the Bible says in Exodus 21:22. (And no credible leader today would think to enforce Exodus 22:20).
Christians are taught to allow their experiences in life to humble them, to bear up under injustice, to submit to authority, for the purpose of learning lessons that will equip them to be merciful and humane “priests” and “kings” in a future age. Christians can live effectively as aliens and strangers, as guests in the countries where they reside, taxpayers and encouragers of what is good and noble and pure… but to grab the wheels of power and attempt to bring about the kingdom of God on earth has been proven to be a mistake in fact, as it is warned against in the Bible. Christ’s kingdom is not “of this world”.
So as society crumbles, and the elemental, foundational principles of social order (such as marriage, respect of parents by children, love of children by their parents, respect for law and order, etc.) melt away as Peter predicted they would, Christians have lots of work to do. Not by campaigning for power and attempting to turn back the clock on the United States — but by telling people not to worry, that the future will be tough but God is working to teach the world the lessons they need to learn — bitter at first, but sweet later.