I’ve been in the political business for over three decades all the way back to my days as a Senior Legislative Assistant to two conservative republican Members of Congress during Reagan’s term as president. I was in Washington when I saw and participated in the rise of the Moral Majority and the seeming ascendancy of the “Religious Right.” Those were heady days as many of my evangelical friends began to believe we would soon have much greater control over the “nations” policy. Back then, I still considered America to be a “nation” and I really had no concept or understanding of federalism or republicanism. I may have understood the words, but I didn’t really understand how they should, would or could apply to our “nation” other than to refer to our national government as a federal government. The bottom line is this, neither I nor any of my friends on the Hill understood federalism…but we did understand power.
Back then and even up to about ten years ago, I would have really understood a State like my State of Oklahoma to be nothing more than a subservient agent of the federal government. Sure, we could still have a State border, ours is shaped like a stumpy pot with a panhandle…yours looks different. Yes, as long as we didn’t get cross-ways with some federal law or regulation, my State could manage roads, provide energy to other parts of the country, and generally have some control over some functions of governance in our State. Again, so long as we didn’t conflict with the federal government and if we did, we were quickly reminded who was the master of our State…and it wasn’t us.
But I was okay with that because after all, my side, the Religious Right was ascending to power and our influence was growing. Many believed and I suspect still believe with the Trump victory it was soon going to be our time to show the other progressive States how to live. Translated, we were going to show the other States what it meant to obey the federal government from our point of view of how a “nation” was going to be governed (ruled) because they too were but mere subservient agents of the federal government. Sadly, I relished the idea of the Religious Right having power. As did many at rally’s I attended and meetings I was part of. Like others I quoted many verses that were properly applied to Israel as if they were to be applied to my “nation.” In my thinking, America was a continuation of Israel and God’s unfolding redemptive plan. After all, I had read Peter Marshall The Light and the Glory and “learned” that there was nearly a straight line from the Puritans all the way to the Framers of the Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787. These two groups were nearly one in the same…or so I thought. So, sadly, it never crossed my mind as to whether or not I was using these verses properly, whether I was exegeting God’s holy word properly, whether I was applying a proper hermeneutic. Nope, if a verse referenced the “nation of Israel” well then that must apply to our “American nation” as well and it wasn’t just me who thought this. In fact, there are still many well-meaning pastors who will use Peter Marshall and other questionable sources from their pulpits as they try to make a case that America is exceptional and we’re somehow exceptional because of the the Puritans and George Washington, and the misnomer, the “Constitutional Convention” in Philadelphia in 1787. On, and on and on it goes.
And now comes the election of Donald Trump.
Like Texas would have had Hillary won, we now read reports of some Californian’s openly discussing secession out of the “American nation.” But this raises considerable conflicts for the Religious Right and I see them trying to grapple with with this new idea. Yes, over the last few years, I’ve seen some in the Religious Right warm to secession as long as Texas was leading the way. But now that it is California, well, the Religious Right is struggling how to respond. I generally categorize the struggle into three groups.
The first group is the mean-spirited “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” group. There are many in this group who you may see on Sunday raising their hands toward Heaven in a posture of worship towards a Holy and loving God. But then, when the service is over, the politically active are hurling invective’s and insults at the progressives in California who want to secede. The haughty and snarky comments are all over Facebook but when you look at the persons profile, in many cases they will proudly list Christianity as their “religion” and in many cases they will share verses embracing the idea of loving their God. When I see these, I read these and think of these verses: “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9). And this verse as well; “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
Thus, to my brothers and sisters in Christ who are politically active…we must conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel as Paul writes; “…and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us;…” (1 Corinthians 5:19b, 20a). This standard must be applied even in politics. So, rather than mock #Calexit and scorn them, why not wish them well? Why not be hopeful for their endeavor because while you may not see it right now, it is actually a benefit to you in your State if California secedes. Allow me to give you an example as to why I write this.
California polls pretty strongly towards a pro-abortion position. Now, let’s say you live in a State like my State, Oklahoma or say Louisiana where the polls are the opposite and your State would end abortion if given the chance. Well, if California leaves, on the abortion front nothing will change right away in their new “nation.” But by California seceding, what then prevents your State from leaving? Answer is…nothing. And if your State leaves and the people of your State end abortion, think of how many innocent babies lives are saved. To my Christian brothers and sisters…isn’t that enough in and of itself? To end abortion in your State, the State you actually live in?
The second group are the Christian Nationalists. These are generally well-meaning people who have come to embrace a historical “narrative” about the founding of our “nation” believing it to be somehow tied all the way back to William Bradford, the Mayflower, Jonathan Edwards, all the way to George Washington and James Madison. These people have been taught a very one-sided view of history from the pulpits and by what I refer to as pseudo-historians in the Christian community. From this historical narrative, they then extrapolate that America in the 21st century is a Christian “nation” and they are willing to fight to keep the narrative going. This is visceral to many of these adherents and I have personally seen them get visibly angry and hostile when the narrative is challenged with actual historic facts. For example, bring up the historic fact that the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist and challenge some of the assertions of the Pledge like we’re “one nation” or that were not “under God” or the big one, that we’re not “indivisible” and you’re in for a fight. I’ve been there myself and have heard horror stories from others who challenge the idea of Christians saying the Pledge. My opinion is, they shouldn’t say it. Why? Our only allegiance as Christians is to the Savior…not a symbol of a “nation.” We must remember we our citizens of a “holy nation” and that our citizenship is in Heaven not here in a politically created “nation.”
Thus to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are politically active…our allegiance and devotion can only be to the Savior, there is no other. And our citizenship is in a holy nation, one created by Him, not an earthly political nation. Philippians 3:19b – 21; “who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
If you’re willing to abandon your Christian “nationalism” ideas about taking control in Washington DC and ruling the other States, begin this process by simply identifying yourself as a Christian that lives in America versus a “American” Christian. Make your identity clearly known as a Christian first and only! Pause and ponder the difference between the two descriptions…they are profound.
The third and final group is the group I belong to, I refer to it as the let’s rethink everything group. You see, I now know that history does not prove America is a Christian “nation.” People can believe it is, but belief is not proof. Neither history nor our founding documents prove we are one consolidated “nation” to be ruled by 535 people in Washington DC. In fact, history and our founding documents prove exactly the opposite. We are supposed to be and act like a Union of 50 separate and sovereign States and not one big monolithic “nation” where power politics prevails and if we Christians can just get power over the “nation” well, we’ll show everybody a side of Jesus He Himself never showed while He was here with us! I have zero point zero interest in fighting the Christian “nation” fight any longer. No, my group wants peaceful coexistence with other States. I live in Oklahoma and I have absolutely no morbid interest in controlling what happens in California. If they leave, I hope they’ll be hospitable with Oklahoman’s so we can trade products and visit one another’s States. I hope I can still visit California’s beaches, forests and wineries. But I don’t want to control their political decision making because like I’ve said throughout this piece…I LIVE IN OKLAHOMA! And you live in your State. Thus, I’m an Oklahoman and not an American. And I and the vast majority of people in Oklahoma want to end abortion in our State, where we actually live and continue to pray the people of other States begin to appreciate the preciousness of innocent life and end it in their State. Just like I pray for the people of China and and a good portion of Europe to grow in their appreciation of innocent life and end it there. But again, I live in Oklahoma and not in China or Europe and I can’t control what they do there. I can pray yes, but I can’t control.
Thus, to my brothers and sisters in Christ, I plead with you to end your “nationalist” fervor, the same fervor I used to embrace. Stop being haughty by believing that by virtue of being a Christian well that means we will run the “nation” better. Don’t forget, we’re still fallen men and women and proof of that is the fact that Christians still have a high divorce rate; this should not be, it should be zero percent. Christians are are massively in personal debt. Christians are living off redistributed money taken from their neighbor via Medicare and Social Security and other federal subsidies. We may know a lot of verses and there is wisdom in that to be sure. But being a Christian in America does not make us superior to others.
Second, once you reject Christian nationalism, help others reject it as well. Then, work with California to secede instead of mocking them or hurling nasty invective’s at them about their desire to exercise their unalienable right to free association via secession. The Apostle James writes about the tongue “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;” As Christians who are politically active…this must not be so.
Please ponder the issues I’ve raised here and please consider joining the “rethink everything group!”