Thursday, March 22, 2012

They Have Rejected Me, That I Should Not Reign Over Them: Lasting Liberty Through Repentance

The Puritans, that society of early Americans, considered themselves to be a New Israel. They believed their exodus from Europe was a type of Israelite exodus from Egypt and the New England colonies were something like a Promised Land. This Promised Land came to be The United States of America. For purposes here, I will approach the task of describing an American narrative in the same typological hermeneutic. However, one important distinction must be made at the outset. America, as a nation-state, is not to be considered the New Israel, rather the Church, those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and believe God raised Him from the dead are the new Chosen People. This qualification transcends the geographic boundaries of The United States, but since the Church constitutes much of America, she inevitably is molded by a believing demographic. The following puts forth Christ as King and the only hope for salvation contra America the nation-state. The intent is to illuminate the cross-section of Christ, His people, culture, and politics in America.

In a message to officers of the Militia of Massachusetts, John Adams stated, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." In his Farewell Address, George Washington said that religion was the indispensable support of political prosperity. In an interview with Ladies Home Journal, Teddy Roosevelt said that a churchless community is a society on the rapid downgrade. In The History of the United States, Noah Webster writes, "the religion that has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His Apostles. This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government."

Every Founder and subsequent patriot made it clear that the success of the American experiment was rooted in a religious people, which at the time were mostly Protestant, and some Catholic and Jewish. America at large was a group of God-fearing penitents. This was America's cultural solidarity. Because fear of God bestows wisdom, Americans confessed themselves to be sinners. They repented and walked by the Spirit, not carrying out the desires of the flesh. Incidentally a tyrannical government was not needed. A penitent people will live in a community where the Church steeple is taller than town hall. This is part of the vision that Douglas Wilson gives in Angels in the Architecture, and part of a broader truth that sharp minds have known since antiquity. “When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.” (Proverbs 28:2)  The Founders were statesmen and honorable, in part, because they acknowledged this and framed the government accordingly. They did not need to create a despotic government out of necessity because the people could govern themselves and they did not choose to create a despotic government out of megalomania for the same reason.

I think it is fair to posit without lengthy elucidation that this is not the case anymore. The American collective has impregnated itself in an unholy conception of rebellion and given birth to the Leviathan state. “Those who will not be ruled by God will be ruled by tyrants.” (William Penn, The Sandy Foundation Shaken). This is not to say there exists only two tyrants in which to choose, but that that there are two rulers in which to choose. Both are necessary at this point in redemptive history, but one is perfect and one is not. And the more a people incline their hearts to the Perfect Ruler, the closer they get to perfect liberty.

T. S. Eliot in Christianity and Culture defines the culture as the cult, or the common worship. American worship is becoming less common because of indignation towards the one true God and a love of many false gods, therefore incurring an amercement of judgment. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19) The common worship of old America was weaved with the strands of God-fearing and righteousness. Now the country is comprised of God-mockers and decadents. The post-modern wants to thread different strands, but it does not work. “He who sets to work on a different strand destroys the whole fabric.”(Confucius, Analects II. 16) These innovators may give us their tapestry, but it will look something like a pile of shredded rags. The final work is the annihilation of a cohesive and functioning society.

But the unbelieving are not the first cause of deterioration. Though one might think they were since evangelicals clamour for state control in a panicked frenzy.  While this is an important battle, it is only one battle and only a battle. The war is won in the sanctuary of the Church. Here is where the cause is found. Everything else is ancillary. The spiritual and thereby cultural suicide of the unbeliever is a result of the church failing to be Holy because "without Holiness, no one will see God.” (Hebrews 12:14) This does not excuse the unbeliever of his unbelief, but it contributes. If we are to admit this is where to find the first cause, then I would contend that willful unrepentantance in the places of worship is why it is the first cause. Like Gideon removing the Baals and the Asherahs at night because he feared reproach, the new Israel is also frightened to restore proper worship. Though she is given authority to do this by edict of the King, she has refused to obey and thereby has been an irresponsible steward. And so Legion is released because her transgressions are many. “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in the heavens and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in the heavens.” (Matthew 18:18) America has gone from righteous to unrighteous, not because of the foolish pagan, but because of the witless believer.

So what is the Christian's response in this unrighteous America? In the City of God, Saint Augustine argues that the best citizens in the City of God  become the best citizens in the City of Man. America is a group of people given for Christians to serve, whether they are saints or pagans. Whether they are ravenously tearing it to tatters or quietly building it to the glory of God, does not, in my estimation, affect a Christian's faith in a God who commands His followers to love their neighbor - even if their neighbor is crucifying them. Jesus did not defiantly throw down His cross and say, "Hey, I have my rights!" But He did die so that men could be free, even while they were still sinners. (Romans 5:18)

"American society, our lives in common as Americans, is only possible to the extent we share and seek to live up to a common, orverarching story rooted in memory, custom, and current practice." (Bruce Frohen, American Culture) I agree with Frohen's thesis. Notice he had to qualify the term "American society". I do not think the term is going to go away, but it definitely does not mean the same thing it once did. There are remnants of the old, common American culture, but it is being turned over to a multiculturalism which is really a common worship of something else and something ugly, certainly not Christ. But this is what earthly kingdoms do. They ebb and flow by the moon. Thankfully the Kingdom of Heaven is nothing like this, and in the King of Heaven and Earth I place my hope and faith. This does not mean I no longer love this passing kingdom. It is because I love my heavenly home first that I love my earthly dwelling better. There is nearness of the Eternal King and His words are "the time is fulfilled." If Americans would repent and believe then there will be lasting liberty.

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