This is my fourth attempt in the last week to write a blog post. There is so much to say that I don’t know what to say. Wearing my biblical worldview lenses, I’m always looking to interpret the visible world through spiritual lenses — seeing the temporal in light of the eternal.
When we entered 2020, many people were excited about the year, seeing some special meaning in the number 2020 — as in 20-20 vision. Admittedly, we were hearing news of some infectious sickness tormenting some cruise ships, how terrible, but that was just a dark blotch in the corner of our vision. “God, have mercy on those people,” we thought, and continued on our way. No 2020 vision there. Looking ahead, many thought the year was looking good. I too had this sense. It never occurred to us that those cruise ships were a microcosm of what we would become worldwide — a foreshadowing of the year and maybe years to come. And pandemic was but one (very large) aspect of the coming collisions. I don’t need to name them.
I just finished reading the new biography of Elisabeth Elliot written by Ellen Vaughn entitled Becoming Elisabeth (published in 2020). Hmm. And what does this title mean? What was she before? She was Betty. Betty. Not Elisabeth. She became Elisabeth after the publication of a side work she did at the bidding of others, taking her away from Ecuador for a year, to do a work which would introduce her to the world. She returned to her missionary work before her manuscript was published, drawn back to the people who killed her husband and four other missionary men. Through Gates of Splendor introduced Betty to the world as Elisabeth, and so she has ever been. Elisabeth Elliot. E.E.
And who are we? What are we becoming? As individuals? As Christians? As whatever identifying group? As a nation? Becoming ________________?
These are some good questions we could ask among ourselves — an after dinner conversation (not during), a small group discussion, a Zoom chat with some friends.
Paul and I have compared our cultural-political concerns with our spiritual concerns for our own personal growth and for the spiritual needs of others. Are we becoming more Christi-centered? Where is our focus? Can various interests coordinate under one, overarching focus?
Our concern for our country is driven by our desire to see the church here and abroad grow stronger, for the increased spread of the gospel (Romans 1:16), and in order to be able to live “peaceful and quiet lives. . . .” (I Tim. 2:1-4). A strong America, committed to religious freedom, first amendment freedoms, the protection of human life, liberty of conscience, and such are good desires. They are not selfish, although they can be. We know that American liberty blesses the world; the world looks to us.
Christians who say that we should not be entangled in our own country’s politics sometimes say we are being worldly, and we misrepresent Christ. Well, certainly, we all misrepresent Him at times; we do not live up to Him, so we need to consider such issues. But just as Jesus is God incarnate, who came to live among us in a dusty and messy world, so we “incarnate” Him as His hands and feet in every segment of society, wherever we touch. Christ’s kingdom is not here yet; however, influences of His kingdom are here — through us. Yes, we are exiles in this temporary land, but it is our land for now.
I take seriously Jeremiah’s instructions: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7, ESV). This is one sentence from a letter that Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish exiles who were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. You may want to study this chapter and book. You’ll find relevancy for today. I don’t know our immediate future. I don’t know when Christ will return. But I know to keep on being faithful.
In this series, The Grammar of Government, which I began last September, I presented some foundational ideas (grammar points) and some sample resources. We’ve inspected a number of key concepts and ideas (so many others we could…):
- Government means control. (We could evaluate various forms of civil government.)
- Government as self-government.
- Self-government as personal self-government, as spiritual self-control (fruit of the Spirit).
- Self-government as civic: the American political system of representative government.
- Building a biblical worldview of government and social involvement.
- The principle and directive: “In God We Trust.”
- The necessity of praying for our nation (and the world).
- The lesson of the Leprechaun: The necessity of knowledge/truth to preserve freedom.
- And more could be added.
As I scan our history and the trajectory of our current political situation, I have a few observations:
- It appears to me that our wisely designed system of government as a Constitutional Republic (with three branches and our system of federalism), is greatly twisted and abused. It is not to be counted upon, yet we should work to retain any scraps of it that we can.
- It appears that our system of representative government is so weak and confusing, that we cannot depend upon our representatives to represent us. Yet, we should communicate with them, inform them, help them (volunteering?), and encourage them all we can. And some of us can become involved in local and state government.
- It appears to me, even as we have prayed and prayed, that God, who is our refuge, is withdrawing further His hand of blessing and protection. We’ve quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14, but it is apparent that we have not turned from our wicked ways; our humility is largely superficial. God has always blessed us, and He still is merciful, but He is weaving in bolder and stronger strands of judgment upon us. He will not treat us “better” than He did His chosen people; He is not unfair. .
- We need to prepare for more direct persecution (I and II Peter).
- We need to cultivate relationships with neighbors and with those we know who are of a different social/political persuasion. We need to hear and understand them. We need to share our lives with them and integrate the gospel message.
- We need to focus on our own personal self-government. As our Republic’s self-governing system erodes and may be destroyed (in spite of efforts to recover and save it), we always have some control over some things, and that’s our own person, our personal, spiritual, self-control — the ninth fruit of the Spirit that enfolds the previous eight. No matter the form of our civil government, by God’s grace and His Spirit, we always will have control over our self-control.
Ours is not a young government anymore. And our country, as these United States of America, has aged. What is our country becoming? In the book, Becoming Elisabeth, Betty had to grow up, engage in life — in joy and in sorrow, grief, and suffering — through which Betty was formed into Elisabeth.
What have America’s blessings, pursuits, sins, sorrows, wars, lusts, innovations, churches, missions, and gods formed us to become? Becoming what??
We just passed the 400 year anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620. On its 200th year anniversary Daniel Webster, then Secretary of State, spoke at this site.*
“We feel that we are on the spot where the first scene of our history was laid; where the hearths and altars of New England were first placed; where Christianity, and civilization. . . made their first lodgment, in a vast extend of country. . . . ‘If God prosper us,’ might have been the. . . language of our fathers, when they landed upon this Rock, ‘. . . we shall here begin a work which shall last for ages. . . We shall fill this region of the great continent. . . with civilization and Christianity.’ “
“Our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. . . . Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.” Daniel Webers continues,
“Our fathers came here to enjoy their religion free and unmolested; and, at the end of two centuries, there is nothing upon which we can pronounce more confidently. . . than of the inestimable importance of that religion to man.”
“Whoever shall hereafter write this part of our history. . . will be able to record no. . . lawless and despotic acts, or any successful usurpation. His page will contain no exhibition of. . . civil authority habitually trampled down by military power, or of community crushed by the burden of taxation. . . . He will speak . . . of that happy condition, in which the restraint and coercion of government are almost invisible and imperceptible.”
Webster spoke these observations 200 years ago. Whoever shall hereafter write the subsequent history. . . . Many of these words do not describe us today, and where are we headed?
Webster, that day, explained why the governing principles bequeathed to us by the Pilgrims (Mayflower Compact) still anchored America 200 years later. He claimed, “Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. The sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary. Let us cherish these. . . and extend this influence still more widely; in the full conviction, that that is the happiest society which partakes in the highest degree of the mild and peaceful spirit of Christianity.”*
Read through his words carefully again. Compare and contrast Webster’s view of America in 1820 and our view of our country today. What were we and what are we becoming? Can you see some reasons why we did not retain a knowledge of our founding principles and did not cherish either those principles or the religion/faith supporting them?
Is there any hope for us?
Yes. While our country’s vision of itself has changed, we have a stable biblical vision. “Seek the welfare of the city in which you dwell. . .” for “Thy kingdom” is coming.
The current collision of opposing forces (personally and nationally, both internally and externally) shakes this world. Only that which can be shaken will be shaken.
Mission: Feed on the Word; pray continually; govern yourself; love people; share the gospel; focus on the Lord as Savior and Refuge.
* From Daniel Webster’s speech as quoted in William J. Federer’s Who is King in America? (Amerisearch, Inc., 2017), 59-61.