By Pastor Neil Stewart of the Christ Covenant Church, Greensboro, NC
If the fabric of the American experiment isn’t actually torn, it is certainly looking a bit frayed around the edges: George Floyd’s thuggish murder at the hands of police officers, rioters and looters running amok around the White House, all while elected officials engage in endless hand-wringing, virtue-signaling, blame-shifting, name-calling, self-protecting, base-pandering blah, blah, blah.
To any sane observer, however, the problem with America is obvious, and it’s not inequality, it’s not racism, and it’s not white privilege. It’s not the poor, and it’s not Wall Street fat cats. It’s not white supremacists, and it’s not Antifa. These are the symptoms, but the real disease runs much, much deeper. The real problem with America is the problem of US, its own citizenry, the building blocks of the American experiment have begun to crumble. What’s more, the ideas, the constitutional glue which once held us all together has dried up and has begun to crack. It no longer provides the cohesive force to bring e pluribus unum. We have sown to the wind and now we must reap the whirlwind. I fear that it’s more than just our cities that are ablaze this week; the Republic itself is burning.
Precisely, what has gone wrong?
First, it seems to me, we have sown to the winds of secularism only to reap the whirlwind of godlessness.
What is secularism, but the idea that life in the public square can (and perhaps even should) be lived without God. It is to believe that a nation can rip God out of the heart of its civic discourse and continue on, business as usual, without suffering any real loss in terms of the good, the beautiful, and the true.
Having witnessed the mad terror of the French Revolution, we really ought to know better. Godlessness in principle always leads to godlessness in practice. Once, Americans were free for religion. Now, by a hellish sleight of hand, many proudly proclaim their freedom from religion.
With this one move, the secularists have swept our Constitution off its theological foundation and have disconnected all our rights from their heavenly origin. Rhetorically, it’s checkmate; the conservatives just haven’t realized it yet. In a secular world, the Preamble to our Constitution no longer makes any sense. How can we claim an inalienable right to privileges endowed by a Creator whom few believe in anymore?
David sums up my concerns most clearly when he said, “The wicked strut about on every side When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.” (Psalm 12:8, NASB)
Second, we have sown to the winds of relativism only to reap the whirlwind of meaninglessness.
Relativism is the idea that nothing is really true – at least, not at all times, in all places, and for all people. Instead of truth, all we have now are social constructs and power plays. Social constructs are the words and rules humans use to play the game of life. In a secular world, we make these mores up for ourselves. And while, they have no higher, transcendent authority of their own, they are useful ploys in the games people play. Games in which the strong abuse their position to oppress the weak. What’s more, with no more meaning than table manners, such rules can be changed at will, and no one can make us stop, at least no one to whom we must listen.
We cannot deny, relativism certainly has its upside. As Aldous Huxley once remarked, ‘I have reasons for not wanting the world to have meaning. And those reasons are mostly sexual and political.’ But there is also a downside: The same logic that renders sin meaningless also renders life meaningless, evacuating our choices of meaning, dignity, and purpose, not to mention the identity and responsibility of the person making them.
Without God and His authorial perspective on human life, what are we? Risen apes? Mud that thinks? Biochemical machines? A mysteriously conscious soup of random chemicals? But how can meaningful reason arise from random chemical reactions? And besides, who really cares what fizzing chemicals think about anything?
Former generations answered these deeper questions of identity, meaning, and purpose by looking up to the Creator, and in so doing, learned to see nature properly, alive with His glory. By contrast, the relativist only knows how to look down to a “nature red in tooth and claw”–a landscape, as barren as it is cruel, where might is right and only the strong survive. As William Murray once observed, “Humanism or atheism is a wonderful philosophy of life as long as you are big, strong, and between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. But watch out if you are in a lifeboat and there are others who are younger, bigger, or smarter.”
If the meaning of life really is no more complicated than survival, how can such a worldview ever hope to lay a foundation strong enough to condemn racism, police brutality, and murder? Are these things not to be expected in such a vicious world? Not only is secularism devoid of any coherent answers to such questions, it is also awash with contradictions. While it rightly and instinctively knows enough to condemn the murder of Mr. Floyd, it can find neither the language nor the will to condemn the cruelest of all euphemisms: Planned Parenthood (which is alone responsible for the death of over 13 million black and brown Americans. Let that number sink in: There are around 40 million African Americans living in America. We have killed 13 million in our abortion mills. Don’t these black lives matter?). On top of this, the secular Left also remains uncomfortably silent when police officers are butchered in the mayhem of a riot. Has it no foundation for acknowledging the value of every human life?
I cannot write these words without thinking of Steve Turner’s blunt postscript, to his satirical Creed of the Atheist, “If chance be the Father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky, and when you hear . . . State of Emergency! Sniper Kills Ten! Troops on Rampage. Bomb Blasts School . . . , it is but the sound of man worshipping his maker!”
In such a world, I suppose we should not be surprised by riots. The real shock is that they don’t happen much more often.
Third, we have sown to the winds of equality and liberty only to reap the whirlwinds of anarchy, misery, and bondage.
Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité have always been the watchwords of leftist liberalism. The only virtue one needs to join this merry band is tolerance.
At first glance, these words sound almost Christian, and they are. Leftist politics has always been the bastard stepchild of liberal theology. The latter grants society freedom from God (the real God who reveals Himself), and the former grants us freedom to deconstruct words that He Himself defines.
So for the Leftist, egalité mandates equality of outcome. Gone must be any and all oppressive class distinctions separating rich/poor, owner/employee, haves/have-nots, citizen/illegal immigrant, et cetera. It’s the every child gets a government-funded-trophy mindset writ large over a culture.
Liberté represents the gospel of personal autonomy and the freedom to cast off any and all oppressive authority.
Fraternité means the brotherhood of those willing to go along with the new rules of the game. These and only these will be tolerated. The Leftist’s motto back in 1789 might have been crude, but it was to the point: “We will strangle the last king with the guts of the last priest.” And when they ran out of guts, they wheeled in the guillotine. We have our own guillotines for dealing with system-buckers. The decapitation levied is financial, not literal, but the effects are just the same.
To understand the way Leftist’s view the world, you have to realize that they view everything through the lens of oppression. To the Leftist, those who cause oppression are villains, and those who react against it are heroes. Such logic appeals to us all. Think of Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot. We all understand his blood lust for revenge. At times its excesses trouble us, but we don’t condemn his rage. Most of the time, if we are honest, we revel in it.
The Leftist has a similar ax to ground with his country. By his reading, America is a story of oppression, not liberty, and she is not the hero but the villain. If I can play with the opening lines of A Patriot’s History of the United States, “Is America’s past a tale of racism, sexism, and bigotry? Is it the story of the conquest and rape of a continent? Is U.S. history of white slave owners who perverted the electoral process for their own interests? Did America start with Columbus’ killing all the Indians, leap to Jim Crow laws and Rockefeller crushing the workers, then finally save itself with Franklin Roosevelts’ New Deal?” From the Leftist’s understanding, the answers to all these questions are yes, yes, yes, and YES!
Do you see now, why Leftists struggle to condemn the looting and burning of businesses and even the murdering of police officers by rioters? The rioters are the heroes in their story. America’s police are the villains–not as individuals, to be sure, but as an entity, they are (we are told) shot through with endemic and institutional racism. Thus the hatred for the phrase, “All lives matter!” From the Leftist’s perspective, they most definitely do not: The lives of the oppressed weigh far more in the balance than do their oppressors!
How should the Church respond to this kind of thinking? Isn’t God the bondage breaker, the friend of the alien and the stranger, the One who sets the captives free?
We should, in the first place, unreservedly condemn the evil of racism and the wickedness of slavery as an institution. This was a terrible blindspot in the eyes of many of our Presbyterian (and Founding) fathers and it has brought a great reproach on the Church. We must never tire of saying this unequivocally.
Second, we should also affirm the unity of the Human Race. We are all sons of Adam, lost and undone by his choice, born under the wrath and curse of God, and yet equal partakers of the image of our Creator. We are also all the same color–the color of melanin. Some of us just have less of it than others. The idea of black, brown, white, and yellow races, etc., is the real social construct, and we must not relinquish its definition to the world. This is Voddie Bauchaum’s point and I steal it shamelessly, but with credit.
Voddie Baucham | the concept of race is not biblical | We are one race
This clip was taken from a sermon by Voddie Baucham in Truth Matters Conference in October 2019 at the Grace Community Church.
Third, we should also pray earnestly for brown and black America. Too many of our fellow countrymen and women are trapped in crime-riddled, drug-infested neighborhoods, single-parent homes, with poor schooling, and have little obvious opportunity to escape. Even when they try, many of their brothers accuse them of acting “white” and of betraying their black heritage. To compound their pain, they often do receive disproportionate attention from Law Enforcement Officers. During the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Roman Catholic members of my own extended family faced similar treatment at the hands of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (the largely Protestant police force back in my homeland). I know well how painful and disorientating it can be when the police seem to be your enemy. As God gives us the opportunity, we should lean in hard to befriend and support our black and brown brothers. Pray in particular, that God will raise up godly mentors for the many young, black men who struggle to find their way in fatherless homes without tangible, credible role models to follow.
Fourth, I think the Church needs tremendous wisdom before she buys into the whole notion of “White Guilt,” “White Privilege,” and “Institutional Racism.” The fall touches every culture in different ways. The same holds true for the gospel. God is not an equal opportunity Creator. Some men are more privileged, enjoy greater gifts and talents, and experience the kind hand of providence prospering their efforts more than others do. This principle knows no racial bounds. God’s glory glows through the noblest parts of Black and White America and in different ways. We each, too, have our own ways of radiating the selfishness of Adam’s choice. We are all, furthermore, subject to the reaping and the sowing logic of life. As I tell my own children, “Be Careful: You make your choices and then they return the favor. You become what you repeatedly choose to do.”
With that in mind, there is simply no life to be found in endless rounds of blame-shifting, complaining and grumbling. By contrast, many a man has arisen Phoenix-like from the fires of affliction–they don’t have to lead to the gutter. In the Biblical account, Joseph faced disadvantage and betrayal at every turn, but he escaped bitterness by turning to God and the truth, “My brothers meant it for evil, but God meant it for good!” My black and brown brothers would be better served by messages inspiring them with this kind of ideology. Instead, too many politicians and pastors prefer to shackle their souls to bitterness with, what Churchill called, “A philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.” This only feeds the endemic angst and despair, which I believe, poses a much greater danger to the culture of black and brown America than any injustice they might face from racists. Is not the grace of God able to make us all more than conquerors through Him who loved us? Or is this just a promise for White and Black Americans who have already risen to the top of life’s heap?
In the final analysis, there is a pathway to true liberty, equality, and fraternity, but it is only found in Christ. Outside of Him, there is only bondage, misery, and division. More than anything, this is what terrifies me for our nation. Listening to the rhetoric coming from both the far Left and far Right of our country, I am hearing a lot more of the murderous and bitter resentment that stained the darkest days of the French Revolution, and not so much of the light and liberty that marked our own war against oppression in 1776. May God have mercy on us all.
For the church, I close with words from Al Mohler’s new book, The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church, in which he writes,
“Christians must not only confront this storm with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must do so with full faith. Our hope does not rest with temporal political victory though it understands the importance of politics; it rests in the One who sits at the right hand of the throne of God; it rests with the One through whom all things were created. Our faith is in the One who was nailed to the cross, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and established His unchallenged rule over the cosmos. Death is defeated, and the head of the serpent crushed. The attempt of secularism to usurp the rule of the Son of God amounts to the height of human folly. Nothing will prevail over our God. Nothing can withstand the power of the gospel.” Amen.
Whatever our political persuasion, in this, I trust, we can all agree