What Kind of America Do You Want?
Little is being said among rank and file evangelicals about a recent decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. To sidetrack the issue by saying evangelicals should not become involved in political church-state controversies is, frankly, inexcusable because the future of this nation and much of the world hinges on the outcome of the battle for America’s soul.
The question litigated was this: Should the Ten Commandments be displayed on government property? So far, banning crèches in town squares; Christmas carols in public schools; the mention of God’s name, particularly Jesus Christ, in valedictory addresses and commencement prayers; plus a myriad of other complaints have been but the warm-up to the big push to expel God permanently from the public arena. The Court handed down a decision that satisfied few and confused many. Sharply divided 5–4, it ruled to allow the Ten Commandments display in Texas. In a Kentucky case, however, the Ten Commandments displayed on the walls of two county courthouses were declared unconstitutional. The issue turned on whether the displays were acceptably secular or reverberated with spiritual significance tantamount to advancing religion, thus violating the separation of church and state. What should concern us is why the conflict even exists and how it affects the life and culture of our society. In the end, does it matter which way things go?
The proponents of showing the Lord the door, along with all laws and injunctions ascribed to Him, constitute a familiar lineup of ultra-secularists. Wrote Julia duin in The Washington Times:
They’re part of a network of organizations that shares logistics, troops, board members and funding sources and includes radical feminists, humanists, atheists, and liberal Jewish and Christian groups. Four organizations furnish most of the leadership.
The oldest and best-known is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), whose Kentucky chapter is the plaintiff in one of the two cases before the Supreme Court. The others are Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way (PFAW) and the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF).1
Duin also reported that duke University Law School Professor Erwin Chemerinsky argued that the presence of the engraved Commandments outside the Texas Capitol in Austin is excessive:
It’s the most powerful and profound religious message that this court has ever considered on government property. Here you have a monument that proclaims not only there is a God, but God has dictated rules of behavior for those who follow him or her.2
Chemerinsky did further judicial hand-wringing:
Imagine the Muslim or the Buddhist who walks into the [Texas] Supreme Court to have his or her case heard. That person will see this monument and realize it’s not his or her government.
It seems strange then that over the last 200 years in this diversified nation of immigrants of all faiths, where new life and hope are alive and well, citizens haven’t objected. Furthermore, if Muslims or Buddhists or anyone else suffers such severe angst over a depiction of the Ten Commandments, perhaps another territorial option would be more to their liking.
Mr. Chemerinsky hit the proverbial nail on the head with his arguments. What galls secularists of every stripe is the loathsomeness of the very idea of the existence of God. Furthermore, that people believe in both a Judeo-Christian-based society and the divine rules of conduct (Ten Commandments) is unbearable to them. As far as these secularists are concerned, the rules of the game must be changed.
It doesn’t matter to these folks that they represent a miniscule minority of the American public. An Associated Press survey found that 76 percent of 1,000 people queried approve of displaying the Commandments on government property. One could conclude this to be a fair representation of the population, since there are at least 4,000 stone and concrete replicas of the Ten Commandments scattered across the country. Also, a Gallup survey in March showed that 84 percent of Americans identify “with a Christian religion.”
However, radical minorities have learned that their persistent pounding away at controversial issues can bring success. Initially the general populace is too distracted by self-interests to take a stand or feels the controversy is too bizarre to be taken seriously. Either way, when the sleeping giant of majority opinion finally awakens, it is often too late to alter the outcome.
Bearing the Brunt of the Attack
We must remember that the primary target of liberal/secularist search-and-destroy missions is the backs of Bible-believing, evangelical Christians and their organizations and institutions.
For one thing, liberals have unbridled animosity toward evangelical involvement in politics. To their way of thinking, Christians speaking out on moral and social issues is verboten, and faith-based commitment on moral, spiritual, and social issues is unpalatable and, further-more, un-American. Among the most withering attacks leveled against the current administration is that it contains too many people of faith.
This is patently partisan nonsense. All secularists and liberals carry their aggression against the religious traditions of this country into every venue of their lives, including the voting booths and public offices where they function as advocates for a radical alternative to what we have known for more than two centuries. Their goals are clear: oust conservative “obstructionists”; eliminate Christian participation; refashion the culture; and let the good times roll—that is, their vision of the good times. And the rest of us—the majority—are supposed to swallow it.
Exactly what do these merchants of change for change’s sake plan to instate once they have shoveled away the Judeo-Christian foundation that has undergirded the nation since its inception? In my opinion, their intent was bluntly articulated by the “God is dead” movement.
In October 1965, Time magazine ran a piece in its religious section about young theologians at Emory University, a Methodist institution, who referred to themselves as “Christian atheists.” The leader of the pack was Dr. Thomas J. J. Altizer, a 38-year-old associate professor of Bible and religion at Emory, who believed, as one biographer wrote, “the task of theology must abandon the theology created by Christendom and embrace the dawn of radical theology that proclaims the good news of the ‘death of God.’”3
The resulting furor left a bad taste in the mouths of most Americans. The upshot, however, was that these young anti-God “theologians” admitted what they were: atheists.
In 1966 an Anglican theologian, Joseph Fletcher, came up with “situation ethics.” Fletcher rejected what he referred to as legalism: the theory that there are fixed laws we must obey at all times. His view offered a guide to moral decision-making: reject rules and act instead in the most loving way you decide is right for you.
With God declared dead and His Word pronounced irrelevant, our culture spiraled into a clash with divine injunctions—rules, if you will. These new movements harmonized with the 1960s militant subculture that made it fashionable to rebel against order, godliness, and organized society. In many respects this subculture was the fuse for the cultural revolution of today.
However, these radicals have no discernable program to replace what they are spoiling to bring down. A system based on no moral moorings, no individual evaluations of right and wrong, and no absolutes to govern and guide is no system at all. Instead, it is a prescription for chaos.
More Than a Civil Debate
These new hedonists are not amicable people calmly debating the future of our culture and government. They have an ax to grind, which they’re happy to let fall squarely on the necks of those with a different opinion from theirs, namely, Bible-believing Christians. These superheated, secular “evangelists” are waging a war they intend to win. And they know it, even if the fact has not yet dawned on many of us.
Consider what U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, d-Colo., said recently. He told a radio audience that dr. James dobson and Focus on the Family “are the Antichrist of the world.” What was dobson’s offense? Urging citizens to demand their senators vote to end the filibuster of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. Salazar further opined, “What has happened here is there has been a hijacking of the U.S. Senate by what I call the religious right-wing of the country.”4
In May Harper’s Magazine professed to expose “The Christian Right’s War on America.” The New York Times alleged that House Majority Leader Tom deLay, R-Tex., threatened “the judiciary for not following the regressive social agenda he shares with the far-right fundamentalists controlling his party.”5
A conference in New York City cosponsored in part by the City University of New York Graduate Center and People for the American Way was titled “Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right.” Topics included “Fundamentalism: The Fear and the Rage”; “Is an Unholy American Theocracy Here?”; “Learning About the Christian Right, and What in the World to do”; and “On the Psychology and Theocracy of George W. Bush: Reflections in a Culture of Fear.”6
Need I say more?
A Country Without a God?
In 1863 Edward Everett Hale wrote a fictional story about a man named Philip Nolan, a lieutenant in the United States Army who, while being court-martialed for involvement in the Aaron Burr affair, cursed America and said, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again.” The judge at his trial accommodated him. For the next 55 years until his death, Nolan lived aboard naval vessels and was never allowed to hear the words United States of America. He became “the man without a country.” He died in his cabin, which he had turned into a shrine to the land he had so tragically and irreversibly spurned.
Think of this story when you consider what is truly at stake in this culture clash. There are people declaring they never want to hear God’s name or see any evidence of Him in an American institution again. Should they prevail, America will become a nation without an identity, no longer to be known, even superficially, as Christian, but as a country without a God. Paul warned us, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come” (2 Tim. 3:1).
Romans 1 details the malignant spiritual and moral disintegration that occurs when people reject God in favor of paganism. Little wonder that in such “perilous times,” the thought of acknowledging God is becoming an unthinkable transgression.
We are speeding toward a place we have never been before. Where shall we end up? You must decide.
- Julia Duin, “Religion Under a Secular Assault,” The Washington Times, April 13, 2005 <https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/apr/13/20050413-122937-3482r/>.
- Wilfredo H. Tangunan, “Thomas Altizer, 1927—” Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology, Boston University <http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/WeirdWildWeb/courses/mwt/dictionary/mwt_themes_899_altizer.htm>.
- Quoted in don Feder, “The Left’s ‘dominionist’ demons, May 5, 2005 <www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?Id=17958>.
- “Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right,” The New York Open Center <www.opencenter.org/Trainings/Religious_Right_Agenda.html>.