Christ is reigning over this year’s Fourth of July. The startling troubles before us are as much an opportunity as they are a threat, but only if Christians rise up to our calling as servants of a triumphant gospel in the midst of a sin-broken world.
For Christians, the issue of patriotism is always complicated by our citizenship in two realms, one earthly and one heavenly. The Bible teaches that we have duties to our earthly nation, including obeying laws, paying taxes, and honoring our leaders (Rom. 13:1-7). At the same time, we are subjects of the eternal kingdom of Christ. Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:21). This dual citizenship presents serious complications when the civil and the divine authorities strongly conflict. This was the situation the early believers faced in Jerusalem, resulting in their persecution. Peter told the Jewish leaders, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and for his disobedience he was beaten and later threatened with execution (Acts 5:40; 12:1-6).
While our “two kingdoms” citizenship always warrants biblical reflection, the situation facing Christians in America today demands special wisdom and grace. Throughout our lifetime, there have been two competing Americas, one theistic and the other atheistic; one which more or less respects our Christian heritage and upholds general biblical values, and one which aggressively opposes biblical morality and a godly outlook on life. The pagan agenda, which is apparently pursued by roughly half of America, seeks by all means to change our laws, institutions, and moral consensus in a radically secular and sensually permissive direction. With the assistance of a radically motivated media establishment, pagan America has made steady gains during each of the last several decades. But in the few years marked by the election of our current President, an aggressive use of raw government power is effecting an exponential shift in our society.
The blueprint for the pagan conquest of America seems was discovered in the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which forced abortion on an unwilling society. Prior to the Supreme Court imposing its will on the people, a clear majority of Americans opposed abortion on demand. Over the years, the sheer force of public policy and unrelenting media misinformation has shifted public opinion so that the nation is now roughly split on the issue. The same strategy is now succeeding with homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage. The secularist control of the higher courts has imposed an alien morality on the people and the radical media has used propaganda to confuse minds and control opinions. Last week’s Supreme Court decision to overthrow the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a classic example of this strategy. The majority explanation did not even attempt to establish a constitutional basis for the judicial overthrow of this law. Instead, in flagrant violation of the balance of powers that has kept America free for over two hundred years, the Supreme Court justices simply imposed their personal opinion on the nation, overthrowing the will of the people as expressed through the national legislature.
Let me suggest some conclusions that Christians should draw from recent experience:
1) We face explicitly anti-Christian forces who are determined to paganize America and are completely unrestrained by concerns of integrity, fairness, or democratic process. As Justice Scalia wrote of last week’s DOMA decision, the only thing that will restrain the liberal assault on America “is its sense of what it can get away with.”
2) There is mounting evidence that the current administration will use its vast coercive power to unjustly persecute its opponents.