America, Where Are You? Part 2

The Attack on Voluntary Prayer

[A]s D. James Kennedy once pointed out, in 1935, what was the most educated nation on earth? The answer was Germany. But that didn’t prevent Auschwitz from taking place. So there is such a thing as education, where if it’s devoid of God, it is dangerous.
Jerry Newcombe


Key point: In 1962 the Supreme Court denied school children the opportunity to acknowledge God and seek His blessings for their leaders and the nation. America has been paying a heavy price for this ever since.


For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

On June 25, 1962, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Engel vs. Vitale, a case involving voluntary school prayer. In New York, the state Board of Regents had written a prayer and encouraged students to recite it in school. Participation was voluntary, but in New Hyde Park, New York, a group of students’ families took the matter to court, contending the policy violated their religious beliefs. The group was led by Steven Engel, who was Jewish. The ruling was 6 to 1 in favor of the plaintiffs, and it would have been 7 to 1 if Justice Felix Frankfurter had not suffered a career-ending stroke. Justice Byron White did not participate because he did not take his position on the court until after oral arguments had been made.

Potter Stewart, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, 1958-1981

Justice Potter Stewart, the lone dissenter, did not believe the prayer was unconstitutional because the Frist Amendment prohibits Congress from establishing an official religion, not from encouraging prayer. Focusing on the Constitution itself, Stewart wrote, “I cannot see how an ‘official religion’ is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it.”

On the heels of the ruling, Erwin Griswald, former dean of the Harvard Law School, also objected to the majority’s opinion. He pointed out that the First Amendment of the US Constitution had not been violated, since Congress had made no law establishing a state religion. Neither had the State of New York, for that matter. This, he maintained, was a local matter, not a federal one. Moreover, he contended, “In a country which has a great tradition of tolerance, is it not important that minorities, who have benefited so greatly from that tolerance, should be tolerant, too?”


In a country which has a great tradition of tolerance, is it not important that minorities, who have benefited so greatly from that tolerance, should be tolerant, too?
—Erwin Griswold, former dean of the Harvard Law School, objecting to the Supreme Court’s ruling against voluntary prayer in Engel vs. Vitale


What was the prayer that so offended the majority of justices, as well as the plaintiffs? It was this:

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.

The 1962 decision became the basis for other Supreme Court rulings that have further restricted school prayer. Other decisions followed after these, and they’ve affected far more than education: In and through them, “the Supreme Court gave birth to an atheistic tyranny that has bedeviled America ever since.” According to the information site conservapedia.com, “Since the banning of school prayer, there have been a 225 percent increase in amount of children without fathers, a 343 percent rise in illegitimate births, and a 454% enlargement in the violent crime rate. These data are taken from the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, which in turn relies on statistical data collected since 1960.”

A Departure from Founding Principles

The Founders and early leaders of the United States never intended that God would be separated from government, only that government would not establish an official religion. Consider Noah Webster (1758-1843) who has been called the Father of American Scholarship and Education (also go here), or simply, the Father of American Education.

Noah Webster, the Schoolmaster of the Republic

Writing in 1788, Webster said,

In some countries the common people are not permitted to read the Bible at all. In ours, it is as common as a newspaper and in schools is read with nearly the same degree of respect.…Select passages of Scripture…may be read in schools, to great advantage.…My wish is not to see the Bible excluded from schools but to see it used as a system of religion and morality.

Returning to Engel vs. Vitale, we note that in this critical decision, the Supreme Court severed an acknowledgement of God—actually, an opportunity, not a requirement, to acknowledge Him—from the younger generation of Americans.

When a nation, in this case through its court system, kicks God out of public life, what happens? We’ve seen evidence that God steps back! We see this not only in the unraveling of American culture since the early 1960s, but also in the other two Supreme Court cases my friend Steve cited when he wrote about America’s decline.

Stay tuned!

 

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About “Education” (see top image; photo credit here)

At the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Faith stands atop the Monument, with Liberty and Morality seated at the base in front of her, and Law and Education seated at the base behind her. Education benefits a nation to the greatest extent possible when it affirms each of the other four values and ideals portrayed. The National Monument to the Forefathers was dedicated on August 1, 1889.

America, Where Are You? Part 1

A Sobering Assessment

I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that—the supreme of the courts. It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God, when it comes to prayer, when it comes to life, and when it comes to the sanctity of marriage, the court cannot change what God has created.
Mike Huckabee


Key point: Three landmark Supreme Court decisions have helped chart America’s direction and helped define who and where we now are as a country. To help America recover her moral footing, we first need to understand just how far off the stable path these decisions have propelled our country.


For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

In Genesis 3:9 (go here for the context), God asked Adam a powerful question: He “called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” This question came on the heels of Adam’s and Eve’s disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It came for Adam’s benefit—not because God was looking for either Adam or Eve. Adam needed to assess where he now was in terms of his relationship with God, and, as it would turn out, in his relationships with everything else.

God Judging Adam by William Blake, 1795

The beginning of a new year gives us a unique opportunity to reflect on where we are in terms of our relationship with God—not just individually, but also as churches, nationally, and culturally. We need to take advantage of this opportunity. Accordingly, this will be the theme of this series of articles.

Steve, a friend and coworker of mine, reads my posts regularly and encourages me a great deal. A few months ago, he told me he would like to write a piece reflecting his own thoughts about where America is right now and what can be done about it. On November 11 of last year, he emailed me an article consisting of 338 words. Steve not as “long-winded” as I am.

President Trump and his wife Melania visit a Las Vegas shooting victim

My friend began by citing the recent mass killings at the First Baptist Church of Southern Springs, Texas on November 5 and at a Las Vegas concert on October 1. These incidents left 84 people dead and 566 injured. To what can we attribute these horrific events? Are some people just that mean? Do we need stricter gun laws?1 Steve indicated that if we go down these paths, we totally miss the main message of the larger picture. He wrote,

Three events in the USA’s past are keystone moments in the history of our great nation.

The Authority of Law Statue at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC

First, in 1962, the Supreme Court ruled unfavorably regarding prayer in schools.

Second, in 1973, the Supreme Court made murder of our most helpless citizens legal.

Finally, in 2015, our nation, again through the Supreme Court, declared that people of the same sex could marry.

These three events present a drastic change from the attitudes expressed by the Founding Fathers during the last half of the 1700s.


The Declaration of Independence acknowledges, affirms, and upholds “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” yet on numerous occasions, the Supreme Court of the United States has thoroughly rebuffed them.


To murder, to not be allowed to pray, and blaspheme the institution of marriage by making legal an act that God calls an abomination is a dangerous set of events. Historically, in the Bible when people take these paths, destruction follows.

In the book of Romans, the last 15 verses of chapter 1 describe the current state of the culture of the United States. Our nation has been given over to itself in its wickedness.

Then my friend essentially said this:

America has a chance to make a change for righteousness and to be saved from destruction, but needed changes will occur, not primarily through the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of our government, as important as the decisions made in all of these institutions are. The changes that must occur to make America truly great again will come when people of faith turn to God.


The changes that must occur to make America truly great again will come when people of faith turn to God.


The church has to be concerned about reaching people—I get that. And it must reach younger generations if it is to survive in the long term. Yet in its well-intentioned efforts to reach the young, it has become a place of entertainment rather than a place where the truth is upheld, a place where people can find a large gym to maintain physical fitness but not discover the gutsy challenges of the gospel, and a place that all too often seeks to be “relevant” over being authentically truthful.

Upholding the Truth in Love

Is there hope for this country? Yes! But to be the lighthouse this nation needs, the church must repent of its entertainment mentality and once again uphold the truth of Scripture, all the while demonstrating genuine love.


To be the lighthouse America needs, the church must repent of its entertainment mentality and once again uphold the truth of Scripture, all the while demonstrating genuine love.


Concluding, Steve cited two verses of Scripture—one from the Old Testament, and one from the New.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the Lord declared, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

While we must remember that God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 was extended to His people—those making up the nation of Israel—and that we cannot assume it applies to America in exactly the same way it applied Israel, the principle behind it does have a measure of application for the church in America in the 21st century. Similarly, in the context of Matthew 6:33, Jesus was challenging His followers not to worry about their material needs but to put God’s kingdom first. Even so, the principle of putting God’s kingdom first and of God’s taking care of everything else still is valid and has points of application for the church and the culture today.

Is Steve right in his assessment? I believe he is, and in future posts, I’ll explain why. We’ll look at each of the Supreme Court cases he cites, and then at the state of the church.

Be sure to return next time.

 

top image: www.lightstock.com

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Note:

1While this isn’t a post on the effects of gun-control laws, this article offers some important insights on that subject.

 

Five Takeaways from the 2016 Presidential Election

A century and two score years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the propositions that all people are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator—not government—with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We who are here and committed to the ideals of our Founders must be dedicated to the task remaining before us. We must highly resolve that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
—adapted from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863—

abraham_lincoln_o-55_1861-crop

With malice toward none; with charity for all—
—Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865

 

As the above adaptation from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address indicates, I really do believe we are engaged in a great civil war for the soul of America (go here, here, and here). If we as people of faith and as American patriots don’t realize this, we never will win. At the same time, my perspective as an evangelical Christian compels me to strive constantly to speak out and write “with malice toward none [and] with charity for all.” This post is no exception.

The 2016 presidential election offers many lessons. Here I’d like to highlight five important takeaways.

First, at least half of the American people do not want the nation they live in to be governed according to “progressive” principles and ideas. The outcome of the election proves this. People have been hungry for a leader who will speak forthrightly and demonstrate a willingness to genuinely oppose the leftist agenda. In the past, they’ve elected Republicans who talked about opposing it when they campaigned but surrendered after they were elected. The people are fed up with this approach.

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, conventional wisdom failed to see this. We were constantly offered rhetoric and propaganda stating that racism and other forms of hatred motivate Trump supporters. Here’s an example from an article titled “Trump and His Angry White Base Want Revenge Against America.”

The kind of people who love Donald Trump most are angry they are not the center of, or control, all American life and culture; it drives the current “make America great again” movement that began when Americans elected an African American man as President. These “so-called Americans” see the nation with a Black President and more diverse population as an abomination to “their white Christian” America and it drives their heartfelt embrace of Trump’s mantra that “it’s payback time.”

Trump’s supporters in particular, and the conservative movement in general, include the kind of people who believe they have been assaulted by the Civil Rights movement, feminists, minorities, women’s movement, and the LGBT community they are convinced robbed them of “their America.” They also firmly believe the rest of the population owes them due deference for being the only “real Americans” instead of being mocked for what they really are; bible-thumping racist knuckle-draggers stuck in pre-Civil War America.

Not so fast! While there is truth to the notion that many of Trump’s supporters believe that religion, morality, and liberty are inseparable and that we must return to the morality and ethics that were upheld and enshrined in our nation’s founding, it is not true that we are a bunch of white, bigoted hatemongers and racists who believe we are superior to everyone else. On the whole, America is not a racist country. In fact, despite many obvious differences, Trump supporters have a host of shared concerns—and they’re all legitimate.

Donald Trump’s supporters are a diverse coalition that includes women, blacks, Latinos, and Asians. Even some Muslims supported Trump.

One African American posted this on this page on Yahoo News:

I am a black American male and I will tell you; a lot of black Americans were not sold on Clinton. She pandered for our vote, but was too obvious about what she was doing. A lot of pundits would be surprised about the fact that black Americans are not quite liberal. If you look at carefully, especially amongst middle class and upper class black areas, we are more conservative than liberal. Look at Savannah, GA. It is a mostly black and heavily Democractic city, yet have elected a white Republican mayor. The pundits and political think tank are going to say the black Americans did not come out to vote. But we did; we just did not vote for Clinton.

In the end, I believe these results are because one issue: and that is Affordable Health Care Act (AHC, aka ObamaCare). It was a bad piece of legislation. Over the last two years, every and Novemeber we have seen our health insurance premiums sky rocket; drug costs are out of control; and many people, while signed on the ObamaCare market place, cannot find an insurance carrier. In an around-a-bout way the law also restricts the number of hours a person can work. (Any person working more than 32 hours a week must be provided with coverage). So what has happen is while people are finding jobs, most of them are finding parts jobs or having to work two jobs and still have no coverage.

On the same page, Giovanni wrote,

I’m an Arab American and I wasn’t alone in supporting Trump as the media is trying to portray it. Look at Michigan, the biggest Arab community voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Same thing in Nashville, where you have the second largest Arab Americans, again overwhelmingly for Trump. What’s really funny is that when people here in San Francisco know that I voted for Trump, they assume I’m white even though I look very middle eastern. That is because the media told them that no minorities voted for Trump… how can they, eh?

Latinos don’t fit into the image the left offers of them, either.

On his radio show on Wednesday, November 9, Rush Limbaugh expressed it well. He declared that the left’s

policies, their agenda was told to take a hike last night by all kinds of people.  The average black construction worker in Michigan, the legal Mexican mechanic in Texas, has a lot more in common with the average white American laborer than, say, some elitist Obama family of Martha’s Vineyard vacationers.  This was a coalition of all colors and stripes and backgrounds that came together last night to send this policy regime packing!


The average black construction worker in Michigan, the legal Mexican mechanic in Texas, has a lot more in common with the average white American laborer than, say, some elitist Obama family of Martha’s Vineyard vacationers. 
Rush Limbaugh


Of course, none of these facts negates the egregious nature of any racist act taking place since the election. A CNS News article cites some of these, but it also points out that incidents of hatred aren’t exclusively dressed up as pro-Trump; many are anti-Trump, as well.

Second, progressives will continue to use racist and sexist tactics to divide America, grow government, and increase its own power. For more than a century, Democrats have done this. We saw this on display both during the campaign and after the election, and we can expect it to continue. On election night, for example, Van Jones called Donald Trump’s victory a whitelash. He apparently believes there is widespread racism against blacks in America, but even that conviction, I believe, is evidence of Democrats’ success in dividing America by class and race. Rush Limbaugh’s response to Mr. Jones is worth reading. In addition, watch this presentation to black voters by Rev. William Owens, a black pastor and head of the Coalition of African-American Pastors (also go here and here).

Again, Donald Trump’s victory wasn’t about race, but policy! Erick Erickson, a Never-Trumper, was amazed at Trump’s support. As he regrouped and sought to make sense of the election, he, wrote,

Democrats overplayed their hand on cultural issues. They had a Supreme Court impose gay marriage on the country and then tried to force men into women’s bathrooms. On top of that, they ruined healthcare for many Americans and drove up premiums.…I have never seen anything like this election. The disdain for Hillary Clinton is obvious, but the real struggles and hurt of many voters went unregistered.

The results of the election leave these realities in the open for anyone willing to see.

Third, the leftist media will continue to abandon its job of reporting the truth, and they will work to advance a “progressive” agenda. Nothing could stand more contrary to the ideal of journalistic integrity. Edward R. Murrow, a reporter and anchor for CBS News during and after World War 2, once said, “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”

Being truthful, however, doesn’t seem to even have been on the list of goals for many reporters covering the election this year. Here’s a sterling example.

These clips also showcase the agenda-driven mentality of many broadcast journalists, as well as their willingness to throw all objectivity out the window to get Hillary Clinton elected president. Of course, biases are reflected by in numerous ways, including in what is covered and for how long, in how opposing views are treated, and in what items are given little or no attention at all.

When it became apparent that Trump would win, media personnel went ballistic. Reflecting on the defeat, in a rare moment of journalistic introspection, Will Rahn of CBS News wrote,

We diagnose them as racists in the way Dark Age clerics confused medical problems with demonic possession. Journalists, at our worst, see ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs divined from an advanced understanding of justice.

You’d think that Trump’s victory—the one we all discounted too far in advance – would lead to a certain newfound humility in the political press. But of course that’s not how it works. To us, speaking broadly, our diagnosis was still basically correct. The demons were just stronger than we realized.…

We have to fix this, and the broken reasoning behind it. There’s a fleeting fun to gang-ups and groupthink. But it’s not worth what we are losing in the process.

The Media Research Center, a media watchdog group, took note of Rahn’s article. As we indicated, reflections of this type are all too rare; so unfortunately, it is unlikely anything will change. Viewers already are becoming wiser and more discerning. Distrust has hit an all-time high.

mrcbuilding

Media Research Center Headquarters Building, Reston, Virginia

Fourth, prayer works, and we need to pray for our country now more than ever. Many concerned citizens prayed for this election. Dinesh D’Souza, executive producer of the films Obama’s America and Hillary’s America, said, “The country dodged the bullet on Tuesday in a way that I don’t even think most Americans realize.”

David Kupelian, author of The Marketing of Evil, How Evil Works, and The Snapping of the American Mind, agrees. The following statements are excerpted from an article titled “Why Hillary is too evil for voters to comprehend.”

Could it be, Kupelian wondered aloud, that Bill and Hillary Clinton are so sociopathic that the average American can’t even comprehend their dark motivations, since they don’t harbor such impulses or feelings within themselves?

“I don’t think people get criminality,” said Kupelian….Most voters…size up candidates according to their politics and worldview. “We are so used to thinking about liberal/conservative, big government/small government, you’re against gay rights/you’re for gay rights or gay marriage, and so forth. We get that—and then we vote accordingly.”

But truly sociopathic or criminal thinking is foreign and opaque to the average voter’s thinking, he said.


The Clintons are so dark—they are in the grip of such dark forces and the kinds of thoughts and feelings that most people don’t even have at their darkest times, their most angry times—that we give them a pass because we can’t—we don’t see it inside ourselves, so we can’t project it out when we see it in them,” the author [David Kupelian] explained. “So…we believe the crap: ‘Oh, well, she’s always been for women and children.’ It’s unbelievable.”
—article: “Why Hillary is too evil for voters to comprehend” —


The point we’re making here is that, given the depth of Clintons’ corruption, it wasn’t just a great campaign on Donald Trump’s part that spared America a Hillary Clinton presidency and all its negative results—it was God! Just ask David Kubal, the President and CEO of Intercessors for America. In a post-election article titled “Did God Answer Our Election Prayers?” Kubal listed four specific requests Christians repeatedly made in their prayers in the months prior to the election and how God answered each one. One of these was that the media would report the truth and that voters would respond to it. I would add this to Mr. Kubal’s analysis of that element. While, as we have noted, the media did a dismal job of telling the truth, it is apparent that not enough viewers were deceived to sway the election Hillary Clinton’s way.

Here are some excerpts from Mr. Kubal’s conclusion.

  • [W]e we have witnessed a mighty move of God! No one would have predicted that Clinton would win the popular vote and Trump the electoral vote. This is simply unbelievable! Isn’t it just like God to surprise us in a way that we could not foresee? There have been many prophetic words in the prayer community about Trump winning, Trump being a “Cyrus,” etc., but who saw the end results this way?
  • I can tell you that more unified prayer went into this election than any in our nation’s history. I can say this simply because of the use of technology to mobilize prayer. Social media, webcasts, conference calls, and prayer resources were all used in great measure to bring people together to pray the promises of Scripture. There have been nationwide fasts and prayer desperately calling out for God’s hand to move in America across many prayer networks. It is incredible to join God in shaping history through prayer and fasting!
  • Finally, now is the important time to continue to pray.

Franklin Graham also would affirm that prayer made a difference in the election. In the months leading up to November 8, he held prayer rallies at all 50 state capitals. The first occurred on Tuesday, January 5 in Des Moines, Iowa, and the last on Thursday, October 13, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Here is a list of the dates for all the rallies in the Decision America Tour. You may remember my reporting on the rally in Nashville on Monday, May 2, just 3 days prior to the 2016 National Day of Prayer.

about-tour

At the rallies Graham encouraged concerned citizens to sign this pledge. As of November 12, 2016, 117,423 had done so!

You’ll note that the Decision America Tour Pledge doesn’t just encourage prayer—but action. This is the fifth takeaway from the 2016 presidential election: Become informed. Vote. Inform others. Stay engaged.

In 1996, Billy Graham said,

After World War II…we had the opportunity to rule the world.…Something has happened since those days and there is much about America that is no longer good…the list is almost endless.…We have confused liberty with license—and we are paying the awful price. We are a society poised on the brink of self-destruction.


Bad politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote.
—Billy Graham—


Graham also has declared, “Bad politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote.” Fortunately, in this election, evangelical Christians and other people concerned about values did vote. In fact, SAGE (Spiritually Active Government Engaged) conservatives came out and supported Trump in greater numbers than they have any president since Ronald Reagan. Donald Trump the support of 94 percent of this group.

religious-freedomA great many factors came together to draw this level of support, including the Republican Platform; Trump’s strong pro-life stand, especially during the third presidential debate; his stand for religious liberty; and his commitment to appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court. Of course, all of this bodes well for the issues committed Christians care about most—including life, religious liberty, and marriage. By the way, even though same-sex marriage has been legal in every state in the United States for a year and a half, the percentage who say marriage still should be defined as a union between one man and one woman remains virtually unchanged—at 53 percent. Marriage, too, may well have been a concern that helped pull off Trump’s victory.

Christian pollster George Barna declared, “Mr. Trump did not win because of superior political strategy or performance. God produced a miracle in response to the prayers and fasting of His people.…The challenge is now for the body of Christ to be agents of reconciliation and unity, and to now lead the country toward policies and behaviors that will honor God and His life principles.” Tony Perkins agrees. He put it this way.

If the media had questions about the influence of the Religious Right, they were answered early Wednesday morning by the greatest coalescence around a Republican nominee in two decades. It turns out the press had about as much success writing the obituary of the evangelical movement as it had predicting this election.

Anyone who traveled the country these last few months saw how values voters were drawn to Donald Trump, not because of shared values, but because of shared concerns over the damage a Clinton Supreme Court would do to our freedoms. Recognizing that national security hung in the balance, they saw this as an opportunity, after eight years of President Obama’s repressive policies, to make freedom mean something again.

At the same time, Perkins also understands, and he stressed, that the 2016

election is just the starting gun. Donald Trump may open the door to America’s solutions, but he was never meant to be the solution. The true transformation of a society starts in the hearts and minds of men. And under an administration with no interest in continuing the eight-year war on the First Amendment, we may finally see what the Church is capable of.

Thus, the election has called the church to action. Individual Christians and the church must never abandon or minimize their primary call to bring the world to Christ. Yet, flowing from this primary responsibility are a host of other vital duties, including upholding God’s truth and righteousness.

Are you ready? We must promote racial unity, pray, and stay informed, active, and engaged! Indeed, it will be extremely exciting to be a part of a movement against which the gates of hell will not be able to prevail.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

for further reading: from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, After the Election: 5 Biblical Reminders

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Aimlessly Adrift!

From “In God We Trust” to “Anything Goes”
Twelve Principles on Drifting that Show How America Has Slipped Far Away From Her Starting Point

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation’s processes
Are organized Decays.

’Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust—

Ruin is formal—Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow—
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping—is Crash’s law.

Emily Dickinson

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.”
Robert Robinson

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.
—Jesus to the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:5

 

John Philpot Curran, an Irish politician who lived from 1750 until 1817, wisely observed,

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

Shortened variations of this statement, such as “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” have been widely quoted in speeches and books throughout American history by numerous American statesmen.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Unfortunately, in recent decades America has not been careful to preserve the affections it once held or its allegiance to virtue and integrity. While the abandonment of virtue and integrity is both a symptom and a cause of societal decay, one of the direct causes has been kicking God out of public life.

Historical Markers Show Us Where We Once Were—And How Far We’ve Fallen

A culture does not unravel overnight, but over time. Only when we see where we once were can we begin to understand how far we’ve fallen. Today I’d like to invite you to unlock several time capsules with me.

  1. first prayerFirst, read this, the First Prayer in Congress, offered by Reverend Jacob Duché, Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 7, 1774.
  2. Next, visit this page to explore “Some of ‘the principles upon which our nation was built.’” The page showcases a small sampling of quotes from several of America’s Founders and subsequent leaders. These insights place a bright light on the secret to America’s greatness.
  3. Read this prologue to a Gideon’s New Testament and Book of Psalms. Written by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and dated January 25, 1941, it commended “the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States.” Indeed, in numerous instances throughout America’s history, presidents and other leaders have encouraged the reading of the Scriptures, not just among military personnel but also among the citizens. Even so, the military has banned special editions of the Scriptures published specifically for personnel in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps (also go here and here).
  4. Listen to the prayer offered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the occasion of the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, on D-Day—June 6, 1944. Tellingly, President Obama opposed including this prayer at the World War 2 Memorial at the nation’s capital.
  5. Listen to this special D-Day radio broadcast. In it, NBC reported on the “Cross Country Reaction to D-Day.” The broadcast could be subtitled “A Nation at Prayer.”
  6. Listen to the prayer offered by Dwight D. Eisenhower on the occasion of his inauguration as president, January 20, 1953.
  7. Appreciate our national motto, “In God We Trust,” and learn the story behind it. On July 30, 1956, President Eisenhower signed into law a directive that the words “In God We Trust” appear on all US currency and coins. Many US coins had born this inscription since the latter half of the 19th century, but now paper money would showcase it as well. (The postage stamp shown at the top demonstrates the motto has appeared in other places too.) In the bill that passed in the House of Representatives, Florida Representative Charles Edward Bennett, a Democrat, made reference to the Cold War. He declared, “In these days when imperialistic and materialistic communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, we should continually look for ways to strengthen the foundations of our freedom”
  8. Listen to this special, long distance Christmas Eve broadcast from 1968. As the three-man crew of Apollo 8 orbited the moon, they gave the world a very special Christmas present.

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Apollo 8 Launch, Saturday, December 21, 1968, 7:51 a.m. EST

Twelve Principles Show How We Abandoned Our Heritage

No nation is problem-free, even if—and when—it faithfully acknowledges God and seeks to honor Him. Yet, as America has drifted, its citizens have seen their national problems multiply exponentially—and their freedom and liberty curtailed. The fact that these have taken place simultaneously is not coincidental. How did we move so far away from the solid ground on which we started? Rather than cite specific events in our history that indicated movement away from God, morality, and truth, let’s examine several principles and trends. They tell the story quite well.

  1. It is natural to drift away from a secure place. The drift involves letting go of moral virtue and ethical disciplines and moving along with the pull of the current downstream.
  2. It’s always easier to drift and to follow the current than it is to fight against it to stay anchored in a safe place. Remaining where we are requires discipline.
  3. military_compass_of_j-_lindsay_broughThe drift becomes almost imperceptible when we have no absolute standard by which to judge our movement, or when we ignore points of reference indicating where we once were. Yet we hear from experts (here, here, and here) that to prevent getting lost, one has to focus on fixed points of reference and adjust one’s course accordingly.
  4. The drift becomes imperceptible when we listen to the popular culture—those surrounding us and moving with us—over the sage wisdom of the ages.
  5. The drift becomes almost imperceptible when we act on our emotions rather than our intellect, when we follow our hearts rather than our heads.
  6. The drift inevitably involves choosing to please ourselves over God. In other words, it involves developing patterns of sin—departing from God’s absolute standard of righteousness.
  7. Sin is pleasurable, but not forever (see Heb. 11:24-25). Still, the immediate pleasure it brings keeps people traveling down its road.
  8. Sin is subject to the law of diminishing returns. In other words, when we develop a pattern of sinning, we typically have to go even further the next time to get the same “rush” we got the last time. This increases the speed of our downward spiral.
  9. People have a tendency to ignore or deny sin’s inevitable consequences because facing them is neither fun nor pleasant.
  10. When an individual or a culture is drifting, it is difficult to see clearly looking forward. We look toward the future with short-term rather than long-term vision. This makes it harder to break free of our downward spiral.
  11. We have a problem seeing clearly as we look back. Over time, during the drift, we develop a habit of denying the realities of where we’ve arrived and how far we’ve traveled. Put another way, we can say that when we’ve been sick for a long time, we forget what it was like to be well.
  12. We have a problem understanding just where we are in the present. A decaying culture is a one of darkness rather than light. Darkness hides the truth about the nature of the place to which we’ve come and its inevitable consequences. (See John 3:19-20.)

Where We Are Now

Rather than cite several examples of where we are as a culture, let’s highlight two.

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In a BreakPoint commentary, John Stonestreet of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview reports that recently, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IV) “informed employees that they were expected to align with traditional Christian teaching on marriage and human sexuality. If they couldn’t they were asked to come forward.” A Christian ministry that upholds Biblical teaching has every right to make sure everyone on its staff adheres to biblical teaching in every area of life, especially major areas like marriage and sexuality. Some, however, don’t see it that way.

TIME magazine reported on the event:

Staffers are not being required to sign a document agreeing with the group’s position, and supervisors are not proactively asking employees to verbally affirm it. Instead, staffers are being asked to come forward voluntarily if they disagree with the theological position. When they inform their supervisor of their disagreement, a two-week period is triggered, concluding in their last day. InterVarsity has offered to cover outplacement service costs for one month after employment ends to help dismissed staff with their résumés and job-search strategies.

The article went on to effectively pounce on IV by calling the move a “theological purge.” Certain church and ministry leaders expressed disapproval as well; a group of progressive leaders in what Stonestreet refers to as the “post-evangelical” community wrote a letter to IV stating,

[W]e strongly believe that disagreements over the role of gender and sexual minorities in the church should not be treated as primary, creedal issues that determine the legitimacy of one’s Christian faith.…This decision will cause profound pain, suffering, and trauma for countless LGBTQ Christians. It will tarnish the image of Christianity on college campuses, and it will hinder InterVarsity’s work to provide supportive Christian communities for students seeking to follow Christ.

Yet nothing IV did was arbitrary or abrupt. The organization had studied the matter in light of biblical teaching over a four-year period and had written a 20-page position paper, which it shared with its staff months—not days—ago. No one serving on IV staff should have been surprised, nor should anyone familiar with IV’s work and ministry.

It’s becoming increasingly evident that when Christians, churches, and Christian organizations remain true to their faith as taught in the Bible, they will be maligned. Just ask Watermark Church in Dallas, Texas. John Stonestreet reported on the attacks against this church in a BreakPoint commentary a mere nine days after letting his listeners know what was happening with InterVarsity. Watermark Church removed from its membership rolls a man who was involved in an ongoing same-sex relationship and who had no willingness or desire to change his behavior.

Take note: This wasn’t an arbitrary decision either. The decision was reached after meeting with the man on numerous occasions and seeking to help him understand that a commitment to Christ and a decision to remain in a same-sex relationship are incompatible. Watermark’s actions may seem harsh, especially to the outside world. Yet it wouldn’t seem as harsh if church discipline weren’t practiced so rarely in the body of Christ.

Stonestreet notes that

John_Stonestreet_photo

any firm stand for Christian morality, even within the walls of the church, is hard these days. Those who violate church discipline—especially when it has to do with sexual freedom—will be hailed as the good guys of the story.

Which makes the faithful the bad guys. As George Orwell once wrote, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” It’s not hard to imagine that lawsuits will likely accompany the bad press in the near future.


The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.
George Orwell


Thus, these two events shed a great deal of light on the place where our culture has arrived. American society once revered God and upheld ethics and morality; yet today it has drifted so far from its starting point that it condemns those few Christians and churches who still do these very things. Remember as well the overall ministries of organizations like InterVarsity and churches like Watermark. IV’s position paper and Watermark’s decision to hold a straying member accountable must be seen against the backdrop everything they do, not judged in isolation from it.

Make no mistake. Whoever becomes president, faithful believers will continue to swim upstream against the culture. Yet we must do this even though we will be misunderstood and hated. Why? Because our first priority isn’t to be loved, but to faithfully represent Jesus Christ in the world. He who was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) also was misunderstood.


Since we’re going to be misunderstood, let’s make sure we are misunderstood because we lovingly stood for the truth, not because we avoided doing so.


In this culture, we as Christians will be misunderstood. Let’s make sure we are misunderstood because we lovingly stood for the truth, not because we avoided doing so.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Misinformed and Misled: How a Distorted Perspective of Rights Is Leading America into Tyranny, Part 2

The Revolutionary War Was Over, but not the Struggle to Establish a Free and Stable Country

For the first time in human experience, the legislative power of a nation was forbidden from legislating the conscience of man.
—Stephen Mansfield on the first ten words of the First Amendment—“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”1—

Part 1 is available here.

Last week we highlighted We Hold These Truths, a special radio broadcast written by Norman Corwin to commemorate the 150th birthday of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1941. The program still is important today for many reasons, especially its emphasis on the Founding Fathers’ perspective on rights. The Founders believed that because rights are God-given, government has no authority to take them away. To preserve rights, therefore, government must be prohibited from interfering with individual liberties. The Bill of Rights was created to restrain the federal government of the United States in this way. The historical record of the genesis of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights showcases the Founders’ wisdom in this regard.

After the American Revolution, the thirteen states rejoiced over their independence, but they still were thirteen individual states, each of which, in many ways, acted as an individual country. Previously the war against Great Britain had united these Virginians, New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians, Marylanders, and the residents of the other states, but now other matters confronted the new nation. How could the states work together? Could they establish a central government that would acknowledge states’ sovereignty, yet unify the states to address the issues that would confront them all?2

An attempt was made in the Articles of Confederation. This document was drafted under the authority of the Second Continental Congress, which appointed a committee to begin the work on July 12, 1776. In the latter part of 1777, a document was sent to the states for ratification. All the states had approved it in the early part of 1781. The states now had a new central government, but it wasn’t long before problems arose. The national government was too weak. It had no executive authority and no judiciary. Too high a hurdle had been established for the passage of laws. Furthermore, the states had their own monetary systems, so understandably, buying and selling across state lines became difficult. Without free trade between the states, the national economy was severely hindered. In western Massachusetts in 1786, an uprising occurred when some farmers found that money they had been paid when they were Revolutionary War soldiers wasn’t valid tender for their taxes. The central government was powerless to bring order, although stability eventually was restored anyway. The uprising, which became known as Shays’ Rebellion, was a wake-up call for the entire country. The Articles had to be fixed.3

Accordingly, the states were asked to send their representatives to Philadelphia in May of 1787. This meeting become the Constitutional Convention. Delegates soon realized they shouldn’t try to fix the Articles of Confederation but needed to replace it altogether. The Convention met from May 25 to September 17, 1787. George Washington served as its president. Fifty-five delegates in all worked together to draft a constitution that would effectively address the problems the Articles of Confederation had failed to resolve. As you can tell from the timetable, the task was not easy. At one point when impasses seemed insurmountable, Benjamin Franklin stood to implore the assembly to pray regularly for God’s help in the deliberative process. Here is a dramatic presentation, along with music, relating what occurred. Here is a brief speech about the event. The task remained formidable, but consensus was indeed reached and signatures affixed, and the Constitution was sent to the states for ratification.

One of the Constitution’s brilliant provisions was the division of the government into three separate branches so as to prevent leaders from seizing absolute power. Moreover, this model has its roots in Scripture.

Another issue related to states’ representation in lawmaking. Some delegates said all the states should have an equal say in the making of laws, while others contended that the larger ones should have a greater voice. Delegates reached a compromise in their design of the legislative branch. The lawmaking arm of the federal government—Congress—was divided into two separate bodies, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Every state would have two senators as well as a population-based delegation of representatives in the House of Representatives. No proposal could become law unless it passed both houses of Congress. Thus, states’ interests and the concerns of the people at large would be adequately represented.4

In any contemporary discussion of the Constitution and the liberties it seeks to protect, the question of slavery will understandably arise. If the Founders believed that “all men are created equal,” how could they have allowed the practice of slavery to continue under the new government? This discussion is beyond the scope of this article, but I would commend these resources to you for further study. Also remember that we need to evaluate our Founders not in light of our own culture, but in light of theirs; America’s “Founders were born into a society that permitted slavery.”5 Despite this, some swam against the tide as they expressed resistance and even opposition to the practice. Yet in the end they realized that forcing the issue at this point likely would have have resulted in an unratified Constitution and a divided nation.6

The truth still remains that in and through the Constitution, the Founders set the stage for slavery eventually to be abolished in the United States. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t happen until after a bloody civil war had ended nearly a hundred years later. Nevertheless, it did happen, and the principles upon which America was founded paved the way for slavery’s demise.

On the last day of the convention as delegates were affixing their signatures to the newly drafted Constitution, Benjamin Franklin reflected aloud regarding the image of the sun carved and painted on the back of George Washington’s chair. Was it a rising or a setting sun? Franklin said, “I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I…know that it is a rising…sun.”

With consensus reached among delegates, the support of the people now was needed. Actually, it was essential. As it then stood, the Constitution wasn’t law, but only a proposal. Ratification required formal approval from nine of the thirteen states. Those who believed in a strong national government—a group called the Federalists—supported the Constitution strongly. Anti-federalists, however, were great in number, and typically they opposed the Constitution because it did not have a bill of rights.

Take just over 15 minutes to watch this video about the drafting and ratification of the US Constitution—and how the Bill of Rights became a part of it. Be aware that contributors include individuals with whom we strongly would disagree about certain public policy issues today. For example, Theodore Olson is a strong supporter of same-sex marriage and has worked to advance it, even arguing in favor of it before the Supreme Court in 2013. Susan Herman, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, is a contributor as well. Even so, this particular video is enlightening and informative from a historical perspective.

Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen summarize the first ten amendments to the Constitution in their landmark work, A Patriot’s History of the United States:  

The First Amendment combined several rights—speech, press, petition, assembly, and religion—into one fundamental law guaranteeing freedom of expression. While obliquely related to religious speech, the clear intent was to protect political speech.…However, the Founders hardly ignored religion, nor did they embrace separation of church and state, a buzz phrase that never appears in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. [James] Madison [who is considered the Father of the Constitution and of the Bill of Rights] had long been a champion of religious liberty.…[He] rejected the notion that the exercise of faith originated with government, while at the same time indicating that he expected a continual and ongoing practice of religious worship.…Modern interpretations of the Constitution that prohibit displays of crosses in the name of religious freedom would rightly have been shouted down by the Founders, who intended no such separation.

James_Madison_Portrait2

James Madison

The Second Amendment addressed Whig fears of a professional standing army by guaranteeing the right of citizens to arm themselves and join militias. Over the years, the militia preface has become thoroughly (and often, deliberately) misinterpreted to imply that the framers intended citizens to be armed only in the context of an army under the authority of the state. In fact, militias were the exact opposite of a state-controlled army: the state militias taken together were expected to serve as a counterweight to the federal army, and the further implication was that citizens were to be as well armed as the government itself! The Third Amendment buttressed the right of civilians against the government military by forbidding the [government forced] quartering (housing) of professional troops in private homes.

AP_Documents_BillofRights

Amendments Four through Eight promised due process via reasonable bail, speedy trials (by a jury of peers if requested), and habeas corpus petitions. They forbade self-incrimination and arbitrary search and seizure, and proclaimed, once again, the fundamental nature of property rights. The Ninth Amendment, which has lain dormant for two hundred years, states that there might be other rights not listed in the amendments that are, nevertheless, guaranteed by the Constitution. But the most controversial amendment, the Tenth, echoes the second article of the Articles of Confederation in declaring that the states and people retain all rights and powers not granted to the national government by the Constitution. It, too, has been relatively ignored.7

Then Schweikart and Allen make this critically important observation, a principle that America needs to rediscover today.

These ten clear statements were intended by the framers as absolute limitations on the power of government, not on the rights of individuals. In retrospect, they more accurately should be known as the Bill of Limitations on government to avoid the perception that the rights were granted by government in the first place.8

The above video highlights the distrust of government on the part of the people—especially those who actively fought in the Revolutionary War. The citizens demanded a bill of rights. Although it already had been ratified, the Constitution was accepted when the Bill of Rights, which placed limits on the federal government, was proposed. We thus see that there was, in the minds of this first generation of US citizens (not just the Founders), a direct relationship between the thriving of personal liberties (rights) and restrictions that kept the federal government from intervening in people’s lives.

This truth is echoed in many places. Here is a sampling.

  • On its page on the Bill of Rights, the Bill of Rights Institute acknowledges, “One of the many points of contention between Federalists and Anti-Federalists [when the Constitution was debated] was the Constitution’s lack of a bill of rights that would place specific limits on government power.…The Bill of Rights is a list of limits on government power.”
  • The American Center for Law and Justice affirms, “The Bill of Rights illustrates that our Founders understood that for personal freedoms to be broad, the power of the federal government must be limited.”
  • Lamenting the departure of the Founders’ understanding of rights, David Barton of Wallbuilders writes, “Sadly, in recent years some federal courts have…declared that ‘The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect the minority from the majority,’ yet this is ridiculous. No individual is to lose his or her right to free speech, self-defense, the rights of religious conscience, or any other right simply because he or she happens to be in the majority rather than a minority. To the contrary, the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights were all based on the philosophy that government is to protect the God-given rights of every individual, whether they are in the majority or the minority, from the encroachments of government.”
  • Of special significance are these words from the Preamble to the Bill of Rights itself. “THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution” (emphasis added).

Again, rights and liberties are preserved when government is restricted from forcing individuals to act in certain specific ways. This does not negate the validity of general laws that require or prohibit specific actions for societal cohesion and stability. Constitutional rights can coexist with these statutes. What they cannot coexist with are laws that, in the name of extending rights to all, violate the Constitutional rights of others.

Here’s just one all-too-common example affecting a great many people: Laws and policies that force people like the florist, the baker, the photographer, the artist, and the venue operator to lend their property, time, talent, and other resources to the celebration of a same-sex union against their consciences clearly are not about expanding rights to all people.

  • First, no one desiring these services for a same-sex ceremony would have any difficulty finding them, so their “right” to any or all of these services isn’t being denied. These laws, therefore, don’t protect the vulnerable. How are advocates of same-sex marriage vulnerable if they easily can secure the services they want?
  • Second, generally speaking, bakers and others aren’t refusing to sell their goods or services to homosexuals; they simply don’t want to be forced to participate in a ceremony that violates their deeply held views on marriage.
  • Third, rather than leveling the playing field, laws that force participation in same-sex ceremonies give the proponents of same-sex marriage a legal wedge to coerce those with whom they disagree to celebrate with them. Christian merchants, therefore, can easily be targeted and punished for their beliefs. Whatever happened to the provision that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”?
  • Fourthly and finally, such laws represent the antithesis of the philosophy of rights reflected in the first ten amendments of the Constitution—the Bill of Rights. They empower government rather than limit it, and they embolden government to force compliance on one side of an issue still being widely debated on the national stage.

So you see, we’ve traveled a great distance from the Founders’ view of individual rights and liberties in this country. We’ve even come to embrace a philosophy opposed to theirs. Next week, we will explore how we got here; we’ll consider the subtle way in which Americans have been enticed to depart from the Founders’ perspective on rights and liberty. Once we realize how we departed from where we started, we will be better able to return to the place where we began.

Part 3 is available here.

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Notes:

1Stephen Mansfield, Then Tortured Words: How the Founding Fathers Tried to Protect Religion in America and What’s Happened Since, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), xvi.

2Marilyn Prolman, The Story of the Constitution, (Chicago: Childrens Press, 1969), 6-8.

3Prolman, 13-15.

4Prolman, 19-20.

5William J. Bennett, America, the Last Best Hope—Volume 1: From the Age of Discovery to a World at War, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 122.

6Bennett, 122-123.

7Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror, (New York: Sentinel, 2004), 125-126.

8Schweikart and Allen, 126.

Good News About Obergefell

People used to blush when they were ashamed. Now they are ashamed if they blush. Modesty has disappeared and a brazen generation with no fear of God before its eyes mocks at sin.1 I’ve quit saying civilization’s going to the dogs out of respect for dogs. I wouldn’t want to insult the canine kingdom with any such remark as that.2 [Yet] it makes a difference when you’re looking up instead of when you’re looking down, like you’re going by what you read in the paper and see on television. May the Lord help you! Get your sights up! Your vision’s bad. Maybe you need your glasses cleaned. You can’t be optimistic with a misty optic! Get your eyes cleared up, and let the Lord open your eyes, and you’ll see things you didn’t even know where there. The outlook’s bad, I grant you that, but the uplook’s good—as good as ever!3

[The account of Elijah on Mt. Carmel demonstrates that] there had to be a confrontation on earth before there could be an intervention from heaven.…Elijah poured 12 barrels of water all over that sacrifice.…He wanted to make it perfectly clear to those people that there were not tricks about this thing, that nothing was going to happen unless God moved onto the scene.…I tell people all over the country it’s the drenched altar that God sets on fire.4

Christians, like snowflakes, are frail, but when they stick together they can stop traffic.5

—Vance Havner—

A couple had two young sons who were like night and day with regard to their outlooks on life. One was consistently positive and upbeat while the other was unwaveringly pessimistic. One morning the two awakened and discovered a massive pile of manure in their front yard. The pessimist wondered who would do such mean and cruel thing to their family—but the optimist went straight to the garage and grabbed a shovel. He promptly ran to front yard and began shoveling through the manure. “There’s got to be a pony in here someplace!” he exclaimed.

Of all people, Christians should be decidedly optimistic. Of course we must temper our optimism with realism, because we understand we live in a sinful world. In the language of our illustration, there really is a pile of manure in our front yard. Obergefell, the Supreme Court ruling that redefined marriage nationwide to include same-sex couples, underscores this. In saying this, we do not mean that those who fought for and celebrated the marriage ruling don’t deserve to be treated with dignity or respect. Surely they do, for they, like all human beings, have been made in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27). However, they are blinded and unable to see clearly the dangers of getting what they think they want (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; John 3:16-21; 2 Cor. 4:3-6). We must be burdened for them and seek to help them come to know Christ, but our responsibilities do not end there.

As Christians, we have been given the Great Commission (see Matt. 28:19-20) and the Cultural Commission (see Gen. 1:28). As Chuck Colson so eloquently said, “Christians are agents of God’s saving grace—bringing others to Christ. But we are also agents of His common grace: We’re to sustain and renew His creation, defend the created institutions of family and society, and critique false worldviews.” Defending man-woman marriage, even after the Obergefell ruling—perhaps especially after it—is part of our job, our duty, as believers.

Today I have some good news about Obergefell. As we resist this ruling—and we must resist it—we will be well served to remember these five things.

First, Obergefell rests on lies, propaganda, illegalities, a false view of reality, and injustices on many different levels. Put another way, we can say that the marriage ruling, like the seat on a three-legged stool, rests on three legs: judicial activism, a faulty worldview, and bullying by militant homosexual activists. I plan in the future to discuss this idea more fully; but for now, be aware that in previous entries, I have written about each one of these. The good news we must understand is that each one of these supports is illegitimate.

Second, we can work to point out the illegitimate nature of each of Obergefell’s supports. If we keep at it, then over time God will use our efforts to effectively weaken these supports, not just in the legal arena, but also in the public’s eyes. We have seen similar things happen with abortion because of the pro-life movement, and they can happen with marriage because of the protect-marriage movement as well.

Third, the church, which has been a sleeping giant on this issue, will be compelled to address it head-on. The good news is that the church has a strategic opportunity to take a stand for biblical truth, yet in ways that demonstrate respect for proponents of same-sex marriage (SSM). SSM proponents still may accuse the church of hate, but we must remember that regardless of appearances, it never is loving to look the other way when a fellow human being is being led astray by a lie.

Alliance Defending Freedom has a website that helps pastors address issues from the pulpit that many may consider controversial. When we’re tempted to think that preachers and churches need to “stick to presenting the gospel,” let’s remember that we must obey the Cultural Commission as well as the Great Commission. If we ignore the Cultural Commission, we’re also disobeying the Great Commission, for Jesus affirmed the importance of obeying “all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Jesus’ teachings address not just spiritual matters, but every area of life, including marriage (see 19:4-6). When it acts as it should to fully represent Christ in the world, the church is indeed a powerful force. Jesus said of His church that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Fourth, God is sovereign over all of life, and, despite appearances to the contrary, He remains in control. Proverbs 21:1 declares, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” In Psalm 11:3, David asked, “If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?” If we assume the answer to this question is in the next verse, then in times of moral decay we have a powerful reminder that will help us with every action we must take: “The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men” (v. 4). Many more verses also speak to this issue, but we’ll cite just one more. Proverbs 15:3 states, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

Fifth, prayer is a powerful, forceful weapon in spiritual warfare. It is not mentioned as a specific piece in the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-17, but in verse 18 Paul writes, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” As James wrote in his letter, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

Thus, the Obergefell ruling offers Christians and the church opportunities to stand out for Christ and to represent Him effectively before a watching world. If we take advantage of these opportunities and remain faithful, we will marvel at how God will use us! (See Eph. 3:20-21.)

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1 http://likesuccess.com/author/vance-havner

2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4li2FS2jg

3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4li2FS2jg

4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4li2FS2jg

5 http://likesuccess.com/author/vance-havner

 

Pray for the Preservation of Natural Marriage in America

www.pray4marriage.org

 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. —Proverbs 21:1 (NKJV)

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. —James 5:16 (NKJV)

 Dr. Richard G. Lee is the president and voice of There’s Hope America broadcasting media in Atlanta, Georgia, and the founding pastor of First Redeemer Church in the Atlanta area. Dr. Lee is the author of twenty books and the general editor of The American Patriot’s Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers).1 2

 One of Dr. Lee’s books is titled In God We Still Trust: A 365-Day Devotional (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010). In this publication, the entry for October 15 is titled “The Biblical Basis of Marriage.” Dr. Lee begins this important reading by upholding the clarity of the Bible concerning marriage in both the Old and New Testaments. He quotes Genesis 2:24, which in the New King James Version reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” At the dawn of civilization, says Lee, God ordained marriage—which consists of one man and one woman—to be the foundation of civilization. Then he affirms that Jesus “also taught that marriage is an institution established by God and designed as a lifelong covenant relationship between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:1-6).”

Lee continues. Because of the way God had designed the man and the woman, the command He gave Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) actually required them to come together. It’s true the ideal does not occur in every situation, but it still should be upheld. God’s ideal is that every child would be born to a mother and a father who are committed to each other in a marriage, and that married parents would bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

Concluding, Lee writes, “Preserving the traditional family is vital to America’s future. We must join together to maintain the God-ordained truth that marriage is one man and one woman committed to each other for life. Beyond being a basic unit of society, the family is a sacred institution.”3

Today, the institution of marriage as designed by God is hanging by a thread. Soon the Supreme Court will consider a case that could result in the redefinition of marriage nationwide. Unfortunately, even many who hope marriage will be preserved do not realize just how ominous the implications will be if the court imposes same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Several Christian leaders are laying the groundwork for some very bold action—including non-violent confrontation and peaceful civil disobedience if necessary—in the aftermath of a ruling striking down all the states’ marriage protection laws.4 5 Can God’s judgment against such a wayward nation be far behind?6

Right now, however, there is perhaps no more important or effective way for ordinary citizens to contend for natural marriage than to pray that the God-ordained definition of marriage will be preserved. Accordingly, a group of concerned citizens is calling the nation to 40 Days of Prayer for Marriage: March 19–April 27, 2015. The website for this effort, www.pray4marriage.org, informs readers that the 40-day period leads up to “April 28, the day the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of marriage laws in Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.” Because the ruling in this case has the potential to redefine marriage for the entire nation, “it is critical for the Body of Christ to stand in the gap and pray for God’s design for marriage to be upheld in our courts. Also, you can join us on Facebook for daily prayer updates and suggestions.”

I encourage you to participate in this prayer effort and to encourage others to pray as well. Browse the website. Download the marriage prayer guide, share it with others, and pray fervently! The question of the king of Nineveh in Jonah’s day echoes down through history to apply to us: “Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” (Jonah 3:9, NKJV).

 

Notes

1http://thereshope.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=73&Itemid=54

2http://moodyaudio.com/person/61919/dr-richard-lee

3Richard G. Lee, In God We Still Trust: A 365-Day Devotional, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010), 298.

4http://www.wnd.com/2015/03/top-christians-prep-civil-disobedience-over-marriage/

5http://skyangelsradio.com/religious-broadcaster-warns-christians-to-prepare-for-martyrdom-if-supreme/

6http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/franklin-graham-gay-marriage-god-will-judge-nation

March 26, 2015

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.