Influence of God’s People Throughout History
In my last post, I discussed the Christian foundations of America as well as a Biblical perspective on religion and politics. In this post, we will look at the influence of God’s people throughout history as we attempt to find answers to questions such as, “Has the political involvement (or lack thereof) of God-fearing people ever made a difference in the world?” and, “Has the decades-long battle for our culture (in America) been won or lost via politics or the pulpit?”
Moses was the first political leader of Israel and, not unlike our own founders, obtained his position through what some might label rebellion. Moses was not called to sit around and wait for God to drop an Egyptian pharaoh from heaven who would miraculously release Israel from slavery. During the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson borrowed a statement from the First Book of Maccabees when he declared that, “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” That is precisely what Moses was called to when God sent him back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh. We know the story. Pharaoh resisted and God sent judgment on the land in the form of ten destructive plagues. After the final plague – the death of the first born – he finally relented. Make no mistake, Moses’ showdown with Pharaoh was just as much a political battle as it was spiritual and if the book of Exodus occurred in our day, Moses would share in the criticism that befalls every 21st Century Christian who dares to take their faith with them into the political arena.
One of my favorite people from Bible history, Queen Esther, was a political heroine whose courage is rarely found today. She risked her life to confront the King and his right-hand man in order to resist a destructive political policy. Is that too simplistic for you? Consider the following:
To date in The United States alone, there have been approximately 60 million lives taken through abortion, a holocaust that continues because of the church’s complacency in politics.
As was the case during much of World War II and the Bosnian genocide of the 90’s, America’s resistance to one of the worst genocides in history has been negligible at best. Meanwhile, ISIS has published kill lists on various encrypted websites targeting over 15,000 American Christians for death. While I do not believe that war is the answer (bombing Syria’s airport effectively aligned us with ISIS – this is not a war we should be involved with), our nation should be working with private organizations like Mercury One to rescue those “being led to slaughter” in the Middle East.
Political persecution of Bible-believing Christians in our country continues to grow at an alarming rate. There are some, especially among those who work in government, media and education, whose hatred of Christ-followers rivals the antisemitic hatred that fueled the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party in pre World War II Germany.
Most of the colonists came to America seeking to obey God and freely worship Him. The Mayflower Compact explained that the purpose of their settlement was, “… for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith…” and The Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England stated that their mutual goal was, “… to advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace…” The Christian faith remained at the center of life in the colonies and their devotion to God, the scriptures and freedom was the driving force behind the American Revolution. In fact, Christian preachers were so embroiled in resisting the tyrannical government of their day that the British nicknamed them the black-robed regiment.
After millennia of slavery as an accepted practice worldwide, it was Christians who were behind the abolitionist movements in both Britain and America. Most of the American slaves were Christians and virtually all of those involved in ending the practice were Christians. While some argue that our founders were slave owners and bad men, most of our founders opposed slavery and sought to abolish it in our Constitution, although they faced too much opposition from Southern states. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Benjamin Rush, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson and many others all denounced slavery. Jefferson, despite smears by the Progressives, wanted to free his own slaves (which were inherited) but was unable to because of Virginia laws. He spent his whole career introducing laws and fighting to end slavery through political means and one of his most famous quotes, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever” was spoken in regards to slavery. In Britain, William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson were devoted Christians who led the fight to end slavery in their country. Wilberforce said, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”
Sometimes, the political involvement of those who claim to serve God falls on the wrong side of history. Nazi Germany was one of those times. While there were many heroic followers of Christ who risked their own lives to oppose Hitler and save Jews and others, the majority of the church in Germany not only accepted Adolf Hitler, but welcomed him warmly as God’s man. In his article, The Miracle of Hitler, Peter J. Leithart writes,
University of Erlangen theologian Paul Althaus reacted to the German election of 1933 with enthusiasm: “Our Protestant churches have greeted the turning point of 1933 as a gift and miracle of God” (all quotations from Robert Erickson, Complicity in the Holocaust). Althaus wasn’t alone.
A Protestant newspaper warned against finding faults with the Nazis: “We get no further if we get stuck on little things that might displease us, failing to value the great things God has done for our Volk through them [the Nazis]. Or was it perhaps not God but ‘the old, evil enemy?’ For humans alone have not done this, an entire Volk, or at least its largest part, raising itself up into a storm, breaking the spiritual chains of many years, wanting once again to be a free, honest, clean Volk. There are higher powers at work here. The ‘evil enemy’ does not want a clean Volk, he wants no religion, no church, no Christian schools; he wants to destroy all of that. But the National Socialist movement [Hitler] wants to build all this up, they have written it into their program. Is that not God at work?” (41).
They proudly displayed swastikas on their church walls and turned a blind eye to the Holocaust while the remnant – the confessing church – was hiding Jewish people in their homes and risking everything for what was right.
In 1933, the Vatican signed the Concordat with Adolf Hitler. Under this agreement, clergy were required to refrain from participation in all political activities, including holding any political offices, and Bishops had to swear an oath of loyalty to the Third Reich. In exchange, the church was to receive some protections and funding from the state. As with the Protestants, there were some individual priests who opposed Hitler, but the majority of both branches of Christianity embraced Adolf Hitler.
Politics or the Pulpit?
Since the foundations were laid, there has been an ongoing battle for the soul of America. Many smaller battles have been fought along the way. Some have been won and some have been lost, but I contend that the larger battle – the culture war if you will – has ended in a devastating defeat. America is now a bona fide mission field with just 0.5% of adults between the ages of 18 and 23 (today this group is 26-31) holding to a Biblical worldview according to a 2009 survey conducted by Barna Research (10% of all American adults hold a Biblical worldview, a statistic that has remained the same since 1995 – a reflection of why we are where we are today). But, was the war lost in the political realm or the pulpit? I believe the answer is both. We have lost the war because of our failure to integrate politics and the pulpit the way our founders did.
During the revolutionary period in America, civic and religious life were indistinguishable from one another. Colonial preachers did not shy away from political issues of the day, many even preaching sermons concerning the evils of the British empire and why there should be revolution. As I mentioned earlier, these preachers were referred to by the British army as the “black-robed regiment,” so great was their influence in the war – pastors such as Peter Muhlenberg, who preached one Sunday from
Ecclesiastes 3, ending with the declaration, “There is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away. There is a time to fight, and that time has now come,” as he removed his clerical robes to reveal the military uniform he was wearing underneath, walked to the back of the church and asked, “Who among you is with me?” Jonas Clark, the pastor of the church in Lexington, (where the first shots of the American Revolutionary War were fired) was another pastor who unashamedly preached about political issues from the pulpit. On the night that the British planned to begin the confiscation of the colonists’ guns and capture Samuel Adams and John Hancock, the two men happened to be visiting Rev. Clark, whose home had become a regular meeting place. The Providence Foundation records the story this way (emphasis mine)…
The most historic band of minutemen was led by Deacon Parker under the auspices of Rev. Jonas Clark. Clark was pastor of a church in Lexington, Massachusetts. Since the struggle over the Stamp Act in 1765, this clergyman had become this town’s principal leader in its town meetings and issues of liberty and government. Almost every crucial state paper written to represent this town was authored by Jonas Clark. His home was a frequent meeting place for men like Samuel Adams and John Hancock when safe locations could not be assured inside Boston. Such was the case on the night of April 18th, 1775. Adams and Hancock were visiting for the night, unaware that the British had decided to send troops to Lexington to destroy the town’s military supplies and capture these two men. One of Clark’s house guests asked him on that night if the Lexington people would fight if necessary. Clark, who had laid a solid foundation concerning the duty of self-defense of inalienable rights for years through his sermons, responded confidently: “I have trained them for this very hour!” Clark had prepared this people so well in the Scriptures as they related to the issues of the day, that the first shots of the entire war were providentially selected to be fired on his church lawn.
The colonists did not separate politics from their faith, but instead recognized that the Christian faith is one that should consume every area of a person’s life. American Christians are no longer so committed to their faith, instead allocating to Jesus the roll of Savior but not Lord of their lives. In so doing, we have lost many small battles that have culminated in our present situation. Some of those battles were lost because of our silence and some were lost because we were on the wrong side, aligning ourselves with wickedness in the name of expediency, not unlike Jehoshaphat, the righteous king of Judah who aligned himself with King Ahab against Syria. The Lord’s rebuke of King Jehoshaphat for this alliance as sent through Jehu should be a warning to the church today:
“Then Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned safely to his house in Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you.’”
2 Chronicles 19:2, NKJV
At the beginning of the 20th century, the church became an arm of the new Progressive movement in America, willingly aligning itself with a movement that inflicted our nation with such evils as abortion and segregation. Two of the pillars of Progressivism were Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were both heralded by their followers as great Christian leaders (and are to this day). Both men, however, were believers in eugenics and replacing God (and the individual liberty that our founders believed were a gift from Him) with the state in power and reverence and Wilson was an extreme racist who re-instituted segregation and supported the Ku Klux Klan. (See: Letter by Theodore Roosevelt to Charles Davenport; 10 Widely Admired People Who Supported Eugenics; The Evil Legacy of Teddy and Woodrow; Liars: How Progressives Exploit Our Fear For Power And Control; and Top 10 Most Racist Quotes from Progressive Hero Woodrow Wilson.)
For one hundred years, more often than not, the church has been on the wrong side, aligning itself – whether out of naiveté or as willing participants – with wicked people, wolves in sheep’s clothing and when the majority of the American church was not on the wrong side, we were silent, afraid of losing our tax exemptions if we dared to speak out against evil. Because of all of this, the Progressive’s one-hundred year plan has succeeded and the fundamental transformation of America (initiated by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and carried on by people such as FDR, Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush and Barack Obama) is near completion. We no longer live in the nation that was designed by our God-fearing founders, but are now under a soft tyranny, dependent upon and in servitude to the state rather than God.
If we want to get our culture back we must first follow Acts 17:11 and search the scriptures daily to find out if what we are being told by pastors on television, the radio and even in our own churches is true – not in rebellion or an unwillingness to be under spiritual authority, but in the spirit of taking responsibility for our own relationship with God and the health of our souls. Then, we must apply that principle and stand up and stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated and used for sinister purposes by the powers that be and instead read and research and seek out the truth and what the Bible has to say about every political leader and every issue. This is how our founding fathers obtained freedom for themselves and their posterity. They did not depend on anyone else to shape their opinions, but searched continually for truth (not their own truth but actual, absolute truth) and did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to defend it. Judgment begins at the house of God and perhaps part of that judgment is the bondage that comes at the hands of being content in dependency rather than enduring the price of liberty.