Saturday, January 22, 2011

God in the Public Square

I was asked by someone last week whether God will be the source of deliverance for America, or whether He has abandoned America because of the wickedness so prevalent among us.  On its surface the question disturbed me.  Of course God will deliver America!  And America has a role in the world to help deliver other nations from tyranny and oppression.  Could there be any question?

Then he posed this question:  "I notice you write a lot about politics as though you actually believe there is anything to be gained by it.  Isn't God the real source of our power?"

It made me wonder if the heat of all the political rhetoric sometimes fails to shed the light of truth on the problems we face.

It is true, I write a lot about political matters.  It is because I believe there is an imperative duty we owe to God to do the best we can based upon all He has revealed to us to advance His agenda.  We remain silent in these last days at the expense of our collective peril, expecting God to deliver us without any effort on our part.

Because agency plays such an integral role in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must choose and actively participate in the raging debates in the public square.  Indeed, we must speak out in favor of God being invited into the public square when other voices shun Him.  

I read a cleverly titled piece the other day, "How the Devil Celebrates the Holidays."  The author's observations were that the devil delights whenever he can dismantle yet another manger scene somewhere in America at Christmas time.  

Our "unofficial" anthem as a nation is the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  It stirs ours souls whenever we hear it, particularly if it is sung by the incomparable MoTab Choir.  

Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on

He has sounded forth the trumpet that will never call retreat
He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment seat
O be swift my soul to answer Him, be jubilant my feet
Our God is marching on

In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free
While God is marching on

I declare boldly and without fear of repudiation that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are inspired of God.  These precious and rare documents in human history have established the freedom of people not only here but in every clime where men and women love and defend freedom.  America is a beacon light guiding all nations, holding aloft the hope she inspires that freedom of choice is championed by her people. 

I do not wish to lament the days gone by.  History is useful only when it points us forward in hope for a better day.  But it is hard to imagine such a group of men today as we had then in the founding of this great country.  

This past year I have looked into inspiring biographies of George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  I do not exclude Madison, who is often referred to as the father of the Constitution.  There were, of course, many others who attached their signatures to those sacred documents.  If you believe these men were inspired of God to do as they did in the founding of America, then you can easily accept the hope God will once again raise up leaders of their caliber who can in His holy name sustain and preserve us as "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The documents accompanying our founding attest to the founders' love and dependency upon God.  While true they disdained or did not favor any one church as a national religion (they had had enough of that in England), references in their writings to "the Almighty," the "hand of Providence," and other phrases such as the "Deity" are abundant.  

Benjamin Franklin sought for prayer to open the sessions of the Constitutional Convention.  

Our national motto, "In God We Trust," is everywhere.  While our actions in the public square may say otherwise at times, our heritage is clear enough.  

The pilgrims were guided here originally by what they referred to as "the hand of God."  Religious freedom and the desire to express religion in one's chosen manner stamps us as religious at our core as a nation.  Even the Mayflower Compact's first lines reveal our forefathers' convictions:  "In the name of God, Amen."  

George Washington
One of my favorite American heroes is George Washington.  He longed for peace and tranquility on his spacious estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia, but the indispensability of this colossus of freedom forbade his heartfelt wishes.  His humility is stunning.  Drafted reluctantly into service as the General of the Continental Army, he declared to Congress he felt unworthy and not up to the task before him.  Nevertheless, throughout the Revolutionary War he is referred to as "His Excellency."  He was worthy of the adulation, whether he knew it or not, but he did everything in his power to put down the notion of anything that might resemble a monarchy rising up in America. As he finally resigned his commission many years later, he wrote, “I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last act of my official life, but commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendents of them to His holy keeping.” 

He went back to his farm, but only for a short season of respite.  No one could find an acceptable alternative to serve as the President of the Convention destined to draft the Constitution.  He is the only American in our history to have been voted in as President for two terms on a unanimous vote of the electoral college.  Only after that long term of service to his country was he granted his earnest and early request to retire to the farm.

His first inaugural address in 1789 contains this declaration of his faith:  “No people can be bound to acknowledge and ignore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”

There are seditious forces at work within America today.  They demand that we remove all references to God in the public square.  They want God off the coins, the paper currency, removed from the inscriptions on public buildings, banished from prayers at school, and if they could they would rewrite our history to exclude any reference to Him.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln is another inspiring hero for me.  At the darkest hours of the Civil War, a war fought among families over the question of universal freedom (sometimes we forget), Lincoln was driven to his knees in humble secret prayer.  John Wesley Heele reported, "While the battle was being fought [Lincoln] was driven to his knees to struggle like Jacob of old, alone with God, until in Lincoln's own words, 'God told me he would give me Gettysburg and I believed Him.'"  A day of national thanksgiving was proclaimed thereafter, and he acknowledged freely before the entire divided nation the source of the victory that turned the course of events toward healing.

Lincoln would later make this declaration: “What constituted the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts; our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men in all lands everywhere.”

We don't sing the third verse of the National Anthem as much as we might, but the words are meaningful:

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”

Washington, once again in his first inaugural speech, hoped “that the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality.” He continued, “. . . there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained.” 

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson said, “God who gave us life, gave us liberty.”  Our liberties today are a direct result of the faith of our fathers in founding this nation.  We cannot separate ourselves from God and expect to maintain our gifts from Him.  Our gratitude for what we have received in the blood and sweat of the Revolution depend upon our continuing faith that we will be delivered from all enemies foreign and domestic.  

I maintain we must do our part, that freedom's blessings will not always be vouched safe to us without effort in the public square with the same God at our side who led our forefathers.

Alexis de Toqueville
There is a little known figure in American history whose words as an immigrant from France ring as true today as they did when he penned them.  I speak of Alexis de Tocqueville, who wisely observed, “I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors, in her fertile fields and boundless forests, in her rich minds and vast commerce, in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic congress and in her matchless Constitution, but not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and her power. America is great because America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

That observation has been quoted sparingly in recent years, because there are forces aligned against such ideas, but his words cannot be denied.  If not true always, they remain a worthy goal for which to seek.  We may hear the voices of faith squelched in the public square these days, but certainly to the degree we are able we can take our petitions from our private prayer closet into the public discourse perhaps more boldly and ably than ever before through social media unavailable to our founding fathers.  

We can speak boldly, with dignity, never in a belittling way, but as a reminder of the rights protected by the founders to speak freely without fear of retribution by a tyrannous government.

So to answer my friend's question with precision:  Of course God is the source of our deliverance, then, now and forever. . . 

but He needs our help in the public square as His mouthpiece more now than ever.

No comments:

Post a Comment