By Bob Russell
Imagine that a godly couple unexpectedly inherits $10 million. How should they react? Their first response should be one of deep gratitude both to the benefactor and to God, the giver of every good gift. There should also be an overwhelming sense of responsibility to be wise stewards and not squander their fortune. Unearned wealth could spoil their kids or destroy their faith if unprepared, so they need to train their children to be sensible money managers. The Bible says, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).
The same stewardship principles apply to our country. We have inherited the invaluable gift of a constitutional republic from our forefathers—a unique government of the people, by the people, and for the people. This has produced the freest, most prosperous and opportunistic country in the history of the world. The precious liberty we enjoy cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers and patriots.
Sadly, Americans today have been very poor stewards of that trust. Instead of being grateful, we take it for granted. Instead of taking the necessary effort to preserve it, we don’t even bother to be informed voters. Instead of training our children to appreciate God’s magnificent gift, we have allowed Marxists and others intent on destroying the country to brainwash us with propaganda about what a racist, materialistic, war-mongering nation we have been. We are frittering away our precious heritage like the prodigal son who squandered his wealth in wild living.
It’s especially disappointing to encounter evangelical leaders who have very little appreciation for our nation’s uniqueness and spiritual heritage. Two recent Bible college graduates working on the staff of a local church taught their high school students that socialism was a good idea and reflected the spirit of Jesus.
That, folks, is the sad result of a church attempting to separate itself from politics. When youth are not taught a biblical worldview, they are easily influenced by the cunning propaganda of the left. Like the man in Jesus’ parable who evicted a demon from his house but failed to replace it with anything, we soon discover seven demons worse than the first come in to occupy the house.
In Kingdoms in Conflict, Charles Colson wrote, “[Christians have] always had trouble with the concept of patriotism. They have vacillated between two extremes—the God-and-country, wrap-the-flag-around-the-cross mentality and the simply-passing-through mind-set.” Colson points out that since the Vietnam War, the “passing-through” mind-set has become more prevalent among followers of Christ. “[It] is represented by those who believe they are simply sojourners with loyalties only in the Kingdom beyond. Patriotism has become a dirty word to them.”
Christian leaders excuse their political inactivity in one of three ways:
1. They contend, “We don’t want to be guilty of ‘nationalism’—worshipping our country rather than worshipping God.” But it’s not idolatry to give God thanks for a special country any more than it is idolatry to give God thanks for your beloved mother on Mother’s Day. Granted, patriotism can be taken to the extreme, but so can multiculturalism.
2. Some Christian leaders excuse their passivity by arguing, “The apostle Paul never advocated the overthrow of the corrupt Roman government; therefore, we should remain apolitical” because politics is sleazy. But the government of Paul’s day was more tyrannical. We live in a constitutional republic in which we are the government. That means we each have a stewardship responsibility to protect and preserve the Constitution of the United States.
3. Some believers reason, “We don’t want to alienate the seeker by getting involved in political issues. If there’s one thing that turns the millennial off to the church, it’s the preacher becoming political.” That’s true. But this is the problem: Politics has encroached on religious matters in recent years and our silence surrenders precious spiritual territory. Consider the current political subjects that were originally biblical issues: intelligent design; the right to life; the sanctity of marriage; racial equality; the proper treatment of the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens; religious freedom; parental rights; criminal justice; and especially the source of truth.
ERODING RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS
While churches withdraw from the public arena, godless policies, like a dangerous virus, invade spiritual territory and threaten the vitality of the church. If Christians don’t reverse the trend and get involved in political issues soon, the precious gift of liberty will be squandered and our grandchildren will not enjoy the religious freedoms we cavalierly take for granted.
In The Insanity of God, Nik Ripken relates the story of a minister in the former Soviet Union who was imprisoned and tortured for his gutsy loyalty to Christ. This courageous servant, whom the Communist Party singled out for abuse, gave Ripken this challenge, “Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution!”
Consider the little-publicized political decisions we nonchalantly release to the secular world that will impact the future church: tax exemptions for charitable organizations, minister’s housing allowances, minimum wage laws, zoning laws, and civil rights laws . . . to say nothing of freedom of speech from the pulpit. I fear our descendants living under severe restrictions will one day ask, “What were our grandparents thinking? Didn’t they believe Jesus is Lord of all . . . including politics?”
Consider the dangerous trend toward the forced endorsement of homosexuality that has taken place in America for the past 30 years:
1991: “We have no long-term agenda. We just want fairness. We want to end discrimination against the gay community in housing and the workplace.”
2009: “How is my gay marriage going to hurt you? We just want marriage equality.”
2012: “Chick-fil-A restaurants are not welcome in our city as long as president Dan Cathy maintains his biblical view of marriage and the company contributes to hate groups like the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.”
2019: “We intend to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches, charities, and colleges for their failure to change their views on gay marriage.”
As the goalposts continue to move, it’s obvious the original agenda was not just to curtail discrimination but to completely eliminate the right to disagree respectfully. The LGBTQ goal is not just fair-minded tolerance but wholehearted endorsement of anti-biblical behavior. Even though the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom, anyone who holds to the biblical view of marriage and morality must be silenced.
Last spring, Attorney General William Barr delivered a powerful speech at the University of Notre Dame on the subject of eroding religious freedoms in America. He argued that “secularists” are now attacking the moral order that is the foundation of our liberty and threatening religious freedom in pursuit of their cause. He spoke of the “fervor and comprehensiveness of the assault on organized religion we are experiencing today.” Barr said, “This is not decay. This is organized destruction. Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”
Barr boldly stated, “The problem is not that religion is being forced on others; the problem is that irreligion is being forced; secular values are being forced on people of faith.”
For example, the Obama administration’s Supreme Court fight to force Americans, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, to betray their conscience by mandating they buy insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.
Barr pointed out that the ultimate battle is for the hearts and minds of America’s children. “Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the schools.” As an example, he cited an opinion issued by the Orange County Board of Education in California that said, “Parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction.” In other words, if you can’t afford to put your child in a private school, you must allow a government school to teach your child that a boy can become a girl and vice versa.
AWAKENING THE NATION
If the attorney general of the United States is courageously sounding such a strong warning, how can church leaders possibly remain silent? The church is under a vicious, satanic attack! It’s one thing to be kind to those with whom we disagree. It’s quite another to be cowardly and say nothing when basic biblical principles are under assault.
America’s pulpits must awaken the nation while there is still time. Let’s not be more concerned about offending the seeker than we are about offending our Savior who commissions us to “preach the word in season and out of season” and urges us to “fight the good fight of faith.”
In the mid-19th century, Lord Melbourne, the chief political adviser to Queen Victoria, was pro-slavery. He objected to William Wilberforce and other Christians who used spiritual arguments for the abolition of the slave trade. Melbourne argued, “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life.” Courageous abolitionists didn’t remain silent because slavery was a political issue. As the salt of the earth, they made a huge difference in the political arena. So should we.
A.W. Tozer wrote years ago, “A frightened world needs a fearless church.” It is time for God’s church to be aggressively strong and courageous in full belief the Lord our God will go before us. We don’t have to be angry or obnoxious, but we do need to be informed and involved. Carl Henry said the Christian has a duty “to work through civil authority for the advancement of justice and human good.”
Some who are influenced by hyper-Calvinism assert, “God is Sovereign, he’s ultimately in control. He doesn’t need us being concerned about politics to accomplish his will.” With that kind of reasoning, we needn’t bother to fasten seat belts, support the military, or invite neighbors to church.
Let’s wake up before it’s too late! Our hope is not in the government; it’s in God. But God works through committed people. He warns: “The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). Some think America has already passed the point of no return. They say, “It’s all over but the funeral. The coronavirus is just the beginning of God’s judgment on this country.”
However, nothing is impossible with God. If God’s people will repent, pray, and seek his face, he still assures us he will hear from Heaven and heal our land. As long as we have breath, we can still lay claim to his promise: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance” (Psalm 33:12).
Bob Russell retired as senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky, in 2006.