It never ceases to amaze me how Christians can all sit around and lament the current state of the culture, family and church. Yet whenever someone suggests valid alternatives to how they’ve always done things, they rush to take refuge behind “orthodoxy” and “tradition”—in other words, continuing in the same path that arguably has been the very source of the systemic failure they decry.
May I ask a favor? Can we attempt to maintain an open mind as we encounter unfamiliar ideas? Can we allow a profound concern for our culture’s current state to displace our religious defensiveness long enough to entertain alternatives that might conceivably make a beneficial difference?
We have the distinction of inheriting a cultural era marked by more depression and suicide than has ever been witnessed in human history. Throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, the number of marriages fractured by divorce surpassed those that held together. Now, most couples are, for the first time in our history, simply opting out of marriage altogether. The family, seen for millennia as the core unit of Judeo-Christian culture, is effectively dissolving under our noses. We must wake up! From the perspective of those driving these changes, this escalating crisis is no mistake. The architects of our present-day society envisioned the collapse of the Christian family as surely as Christ envisioned the birth of His church and kingdom 2,000 years ago.
The Five Stages of Family Destruction
Families have been destroyed in five stages: Undermining fatherhood, imposing compulsory education, removing discipline, introducing brain-altering media addiction, and sexual libertinism.
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes—5 times the average. (The National Center for Fathering) (U.S. Dept. odf Health/Census)
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes—32 times the average.
- 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders are from fatherless homes. (CDC)
- 70% of youths in Sdtate-operated institutions come from fatherless homes—9 times the average. (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)
- 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes—10 times the average.
- 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes—20 times the average. (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)
- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes—9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
Is there any question why the devil hates fatherhood?
Family Breakdown, Not Politics
While America is dizzy watching the political football hurl from one party to the next, the actual breakdown and collapse of our society is happening in living rooms, not the halls of Congress. The solution is found in the Word of God and a supportive Christian community, not another government (or church) program.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, the father of modern education, stated:
“Those who control a people’s opinions control its actions, and such control is established by treating citizens from infancy as children of the State.”
John Dewey is touted by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as “arguably the most prominent American intellectual for the first half of the twentieth century.” He influenced and shaped modern U.S. public education more than any individual.
“The teacher always is the prophet of the true God to usher in the true kingdom of God.”
Dewey went on:
“[Soviet schools in Russia are] the marvelous development of progressive educational ideas and practices under the fostering care of the Bolshevist government … the required collective and cooperative mentality. The great task of the school is to counteract and transform those domestic and neighborhood tendencies … the influence of home and Church.” – John Dewey (1928).
Horace Mann similarly declared:
“What the Church has been for medieval man, the public school must become for democratic and rational man. God will be replaced by the concept of the public good.”
Other figures did not have same influence as academic leaders like Dewey, but nonetheless their ideas, in less explicit forms, would eventually pass into the mainstream of American educational thought. For example, in 1932 William Z. Foster, founder of the International Trade Union Educational League and American Communist Party leader, said:
“[We need] the implementation of a scientific materialist philosophy; studies, being cleansed of religious, patriotic and other features of the bourgeois ideology; students taught on the basis of Marxian dialectical materialism, internationalism and general ethics of a new socialist society; present obsolete methods of teaching will be superseded by a scientific pedagogy. The whole basis and organization of capitalist science will be revolutionized. Science will become materialistic, hence truly scientific. God will be banished from the laboratories as well as from the schools.
Among the elementary measures, the American government will adopt to further the cultural revolution are the following: the schools, colleges, and universities will be coordinated and grouped under a National Department of Education and its state and local branches.”
Just consider the extent to which such ideas have come to be reflected in public educational policy.
Early in the 20th century, influential socialist revolutionary, Antonio Gramsci, articulated his own vision for the progressive schooling system:
“Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity … In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
In 1953, one of the leading philosophers and atheists of the 20th century, Bertrand Russell, said:
“Fichte laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished. But in his day this was an unattainable ideal. What he regarded as the best system in existence produced Karl Marx. In the future, such failures are not likely to occur where there is dictatorship. Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible. Even if all are miserable, all will believe themselves happy, because the government will tell them that they are so.”
The New Hampshire supreme court helped set a precedent for compulsory education across the nation when in 1902 it ruled and declared:
“Free schooling … is not so much a right granted to pupils as a duty imposed upon them for the public good….While most people regard the public schools as the means of great advantage to the pupils, the fact is too often overlooked that they are governmental means of protecting the state from consequences of an ignorant and incompetent citizenship.”
According to a recent study by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, the number of students who frequently attend religious services drops by 23% after three years in college; 36% rated their spirituality lower after three years in college.
The College Student Survey asked students to indicate their current religious commitment. They compared the responses of freshmen who checked the “born again” category with the answers they gave four years later upon graduation: 59% no longer describe themselves as “born again”—a fallout rate of almost two-thirds!
We tend to see education as a general good to help us make our way in this life while acknowledging that it has developed some flawed tendencies, including an anti-Christian flavor that has only recently come into it. But I am trying to propose that the original architects of compulsory education envisioned this from the beginning.
Recently, the Barna Group reported that only 20% of “highly churched” teen students remained spiritually active by age 29.
“Christianizing” Education versus Recognizing Two Kingdoms
There is endless talk about getting our schools back and restoring the values once taught among conservative circles. However, such talk misses the bigger question. Should a believer even attempt to Christianize an institution designed to destroy Christianity? This is a little like believing that Lucifer can be reformed with enough teaching! It fails to grasp the revolutionary truth, which Christ insisted upon, that there are two kingdoms: the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of the Son of God’s love. In their blind rush to reform what we will call “Babylon,” believers neglect the revolutionary steps of exodus that could save them from what Peter called “this perverse generation.”
“My Kingdom Is Not of This World.”
When Jesus stood before Pilate, He was challenged by that despot, “Are you the king of the Jews?” In His answer, Jesus poignantly replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” He is telling Pilate here that if His kingdom were of this world, His servants would be taking up weapons against Pilate, so opposed are the two kingdoms.
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this, I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” In this spiritual war between the kingdom of Pilate and the kingdom of Christ, Pilate has swords and spears, and Jesus has a testimony. This is because the purpose of the kingdom of Christ is to be a witness. Here we see that Jesus is indeed at war with an opposing king and kingdom, but the weapons are not carnal but mighty in the Spirit.
Again, in His high priestly prayer, Jesus makes a statement that should prove most startling to modern-day believers: “I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours” (John 17:9).
He refuses to concern Himself with the “world“ and its fallen institutions. Instead, He calls His people to become an alternative, as He had told Pilate was His goal: to bring a “kingdom…not of this world” (John 18:36). But today, we can do nothing except stress and fret over the world because we conceive of no complete community or culture of Christ apart from the world. Meanwhile, the God-haters and State-worshipers have systematically infiltrated all the institutions of America, which once retained a residual flavor of Christianity. Now, they’ve had their way. Now, children are brainwashed and indoctrinated on matters of sexuality, morality, gender roles and so forth. This indoctrination process is so ubiquitous that to millions wholly absorbed into the predominant culture, it is invisible; it has become the proverbial air we breathe.
A Second-Century Christian’s Perspective on Politics
If we rewind to 150 years after Christ, we get a glimpse into the way early Christians viewed their political involvement in the following quote:
“I owe no duty to the forum, campaign, or senate. I stay awake for no public function. I make no effort to occupy a platform; I am no office-seeker; I have no desire to smell out political corruption; I shun the voters’ booth and the juryman’s bench; I break no laws and push no lawsuits; I will not serve as a magistrate or judge; I refuse to do military service; I desire to rule over no one. I have withdrawn from worldly politics. Now my only politics is spiritual, how that I might do nothing except root out all worldly anxieties and cares.”—Tertullian (155 – c. 240 AD)
It is provocative to think that a Christian, less than 200 years after Christ, viewed his participation in world politics in a similar way as did the believers in the New Testament.
A 21st-Century Alternative
Nearly 50 years ago, my parents started a Christian mission in the worst slums of Manhattan, New York. They were stewards of the grace of God, assisting new believers in restoring their families, breaking addictions and all the horrid vices of that broken culture. There, in the slums, living in tenement buildings and renting decrepit public places for fellowship and worship, they started a community. They learned to love and assist one another in spiritual and practical matters alike.
Yet, in time, they came to see that the fruits they sought to foster in the lives of these new believers were at odds with the larger culture surrounding them. That defunct culture’s education, vocations, entertainment and overall matrix represented a hostile environment. (My father would often quote: “You can’t grow bananas in Alaska, nor raise polar bears in Ecuador,” implying that culture creates an environment that either supports or impedes particular forms of life.) Their profound commitment to the new fledgling believers prompted them to do something unheard of. Their whole fellowship left Manhattan and moved across the river to New Jersey. But that wasn’t the end. In time, 130 of them pulled up roots and traveled 1,800 miles to start an agrarian community in Colorado.
They knew they would lose their children through the gradual process of attrition if they stayed in that hostile culture. I was home-schooled because of their decisions, as all the children in this community have been for nearly 50 years. We’re called an “intentional community” because we didn’t come together by happenstance but by deliberate design.
We changed our attitude toward college and intentionally sought to build businesses where brothers of like-minded faith could support and help each other. We exited the public education system entirely and schooled in home and community settings exclusively. None of us have ever been raised with television in the house, nor internet. And before some of you roll your eyes and begin to laugh, let me tell you some of the other things that none of us experience. We’ve never had a single student traumatized or depressed because of peer bullying. We’ve never had a divorce among those families that remained in the community. We’ve never had an individual or family on welfare. We’ve never had an elderly member in a nursing home. We’ve never had children confused about their sexual identity.
God’s Fatherhood versus Loving the World
Before you protest and assume that all of this is too good to be true, imagine—allow your heart to wonder—what Christ had in mind for His church for this day. Try to comprehend the call to the end-time church, now tangled and indistinguishable from the world. I’m talking about the call that says, “Come out of her, My people.” John says, “Whoever loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” And through Paul, the Lord tells us, “Be separate, and I’ll be your Father.“ James drives the point in even further when he says, “Whoever seeks to be a friend of the world makes himself the enemy of God.”
Throughout these New Testament books, the message of God’s fatherhood is always interconnected with a message of separation from the world. Yet those who cannot arrest their affections from worldly entanglement cannot conceive of the beautiful community Christ envisioned His church to be. They cannot imagine Johnny not participating on the soccer team. They blush to contemplate telling their relatives that Johnny and Jane aren’t attending university after all. They are on the treadmill of mimetic rivalry, and the collateral damage is measured in their children’s grief, brokenness and loss.
But the story of our faith began with a man peering from his city dwelling into the night sky, trying to hear the voice of God. Abraham launched a revolution of hope wherein “all the families of the earth would be blessed” when he left that city and trekked out toward the country.
Think about it. When God set out to bless all the families of the earth, He didn’t go on national television nor open a university. He didn’t start a crusade nor institute a church program. He called one man out of a city and made him a herdsman. And He taught that man how to become a dad, and his wife how to be a mom. Through countless failures, misunderstandings, false steps and starts, Abraham persevered with God. Nothing is so revolutionary or capable of overcoming cultures of death and despair as God’s vision of what a family and community should be. If you want to change the world and bless the masses, learn to be a dad, a mom, a son or a daughter.
Protection against Totalitarianism
Covenant Christian communities represent our best chance of withstanding modernity’s bore tide and repelling the onslaught of totalitarianism. Historically, families and communities as voluntary and private units of devotion have offered a powerful resistance to any would-be totalitarian State.
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World portrayed this when he showed that the State would have to break down all alternative allegiances and personal ties and claim all allegiance for itself. But family and community relationships bound within a transcendently given covenant inspire strong and deep commitments that constantly challenge any Hitlerian or Stalinist devotion to the State alone.
Historical Alternatives: Melania the Younger
When Rome’s collapse shook and nearly toppled Western society, the church clung to life in small monastic faith communities in remote regions throughout Europe and the Near East.
Many Christians in the early 400’s, such as Melania the Younger, anticipated the coming storm. Melania—one of Rome’s wealthiest heiresses—sold her numerous estates and donated the cash to finance the construction of monastic and family communities around Europe and North Africa.
Initially, her radical move to sell vast landholdings in Western Europe and give away the proceeds sparked outrage among her contemporaries. Yet, five years later, when the Visigoths invaded Rome and “the city that had taken the whole world was itself taken,” her contemporaries suffered the same divestment but without the ability to reapply their wealth in community-building sanctuaries elsewhere. Historians tell us that apart from these communities funded by those like Melania, the knowledge and sacred texts of Christianity, and whatever was beneficial in the ancient culture, would have been utterly lost at the time of the collapse of Rome.
Altruism, Un-Modern Morality, Authoritative Communities
In more recent times, when modern Nazi totalitarianism threatened to strangle all Europe, historians show us that remarkable resistance was mounted, not so much from other empires, but in close-knit communities.
Researchers and anthropologists Samuel and Pearl Oliner of the University of California, Berkeley, set about to learn what conditions nurtured the unlikely successful pockets of resistance against the Nazi genocide throughout Europe. Samuel Oliner was only 10 when the Nazis murdered his entire family in Poland. Thanks to the help of a Polish Christian woman, he found a place to hide through the war—and survived. He felt that he had to find out: in a time of extreme danger, what led this woman, and a few thousand like her, to risk her own life and the lives of her family to help those who were marked for death—even total strangers—while others stood passively by?
Hitler’s Nazi machine efficiently deployed his “Final Solution,” exterminating nine million souls, including six million Jewish men, women and children. Still, thousands of targeted victims were safeguarded by people who embraced danger to save others throughout Europe. The Oliners sought to reveal what enabled this virtuous salvation.
Nazi success was based on the unquestioned authority of the State. Many Nazi war criminals later pleaded they were simply “following orders.” The Holocaust was the product of Statist authoritarianism. The irony of the Oliner study shows that the answer to tyranny is another type of authority.
Those who can’t bifurcate two kinds of authority—compulsory and voluntary authority—see authority as the problem. But in this study, the Oliners were able to distinguish between the two types of authority and discover that the only effective obstruction to authoritarianism is voluntary authority. It provides a moral compass by which those people who resist tyranny direct their lives.
Bifurcating Two Kinds of Authority
The undiscriminating fail to distinguish between kinds of authority—compulsory or voluntary. The unscrupulous would attempt to brand all authority as equally suspect because of the despotic regimes of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, present-day Iran or North Korea. However, the Oliners’ research demonstrated that the only protection against compulsory authoritarianism is another kind of authority—noncoercive, familial authority based on faith, care, love.
They found that three things marked those who withstood Nazi demands and risked their lives to save targeted Jews from the gas chambers:
1: They had an unsophisticated sense of right and wrong that modern culture had not yet relativized.
2: They belonged to religious communities where the obligation and agency to act had not been outsourced to the State or its “experts.”
3: They lived accountable to an authority transcendent to the State’s authority—God.
Conversely, the atomization of such communities fosters an attitude that cares only for oneself and contributes to a condition of paralyzing moral ambiguity. Examples of this abound in our culture today, as they did in Nazi Germany and Europe in the 1930’s.
In the Netherlands, 5% of the population openly supported or collaborated with the Nazi regime; 5% were part of the resistance movement. The other 90% simply did nothing.
Similarly, the Milgram Experiment found that the hierarchy of science and professionalism can effectively displace God-given values and ethics that would otherwise govern behavior. The difference is: statist apparatchiks can more easily manipulate the priesthood of science and professionalism than the timeless values enshrined in scripture and western society. Once ultimate transcendent authority shifts from God to science, culture is immediately subject to the whims of whatever power intern manipulates science.
The Milgram Study took American students from prestigious universities and placed them in a fabricated setting wherein they believed they were participating with other “volunteers,” not knowing that they were the actual subjects of the study. In contrast, the “volunteers” were merely actors. The goal was to determine how willingly the American students would agree with the authority of “the experts in the scientific community”— specifically, in violation of their personally held moral ethics.
In the study, the students were placed behind a glass partition with controls to an electronic device that would seem to shock their fellow participants upon the orders of the overseeing scientist. The students were assured that everything would be safe. Although the recipients of the shocks might seem displeased or even appear to be hurt, they were to continue with the experiment, trusting the guidance of the “experts” directing the experiment. White-coated doctors repeatedly instructed the students to shock their colleagues with ever-increasing voltage even though the recipients displayed discomfort and pain. The students continued to administer the shocks at dangerous levels even while the recipients pleaded with them to stop. On many occasions, the experiment only ended when the recipient appeared to have passed out from the intensity of the procedure.
Indirect value propaganda from media and schooling conditioned the students to believe they could trust scientific professionals unquestioningly, even to the point of violating their own ethics and harming or killing others. This widely-publicized Milgram study suggested that American students were no more likely to withstand science-backed totalitarian genocide than were their German counterparts under the Nazi regime.
Similarly, Jewish historians have identified a small Christian community in the hill country of France as the “rainbow of hope” amidst Europe’s dark clouds, thunder and Holocaust horror. Descended from the persecuted Huguenots, this group welcomed all Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. At one point, they had more than 5,000 Jewish people, primarily children, staying with them. This community lived by three seemingly paradoxical absolutes:
1: They would risk their lives to save the Jews from the Nazis;
2: They would not use violence against anyone;
3: They would not resort to lying or deception of any kind.
Through networks tying Le Chambon with other Christians, Jewish children began arriving on the train that came to this small Christian community. The nonviolent believers welcomed them, feeding, clothing and sheltering these needy refugees. Sometimes, the community would spirit the Nazi-hunted souls across the border to neighboring safety. Other times, they would harbor them permanently in their village. When the Gestapo came to investigate their town for the first time, the young people of the community felt compelled to present them with the following message:
“We feel obliged to tell you that there are among us a certain number of Jews. But, we make no distinction between Jews and non-Jews. It is contrary to Gospel teaching. If [those Jews among us]… received the order to let themselves be deported, or even examined, they would disobey the order received, and we would try to hide them as best we could.” – Le Chambon Youth
No one knows the conversations behind closed doors in Gestapo headquarters. For no explicable reason, the nonviolent community of Le Chambon was never raided. Jewish historians later called it “the safest place in all of Europe for Jews.” Some have wondered if the God who parted the Red Sea, shut the mouth of lions and saved three Hebrews from a fiery furnace might have supernaturally intervened to protect this community and its 5,000 Jewish refugees because of their uncompromising faith and obedience. The descendants of those initial 5,000 spared from the Gestapo by a nonviolent, close-knit community now number in the hundreds of thousands.
If my proposal today sounds counterintuitive, this seminar is a success. Show me one great miracle from Scripture that did not defy expectations, especially the human conventions of power and relativistic change.
Just as we have confused two kinds of authority with nothing in common, we have also confused two kinds of freedom. Biblical Christianity proposes to be both a liberty and a constraint. It is liberty for love, righteousness, peace and joy. Yet, it unapologetically offers to constrain mankind’s baser nature—selfishness, envy, cruelty and hatred. If we do not bifurcate these two kinds of freedom—liberty versus libertinism—we will be deceived and eventually enslaved, all in the name of freedom.
Many Americans are the hapless victims of an insidious seduction that’s enslaving them in the name of freedom.
Let me explain. The apostle Paul says something puzzling and paradoxical. He describes the appearance of the antichrist (the ultimate totalitarian) as a time when internal restraint will be removed.
External freedom belongs to those who are internally restrained. Conversely, if you unbridle the baser tendencies in human nature, granting freedom to sin and selfishness, external liberties will prove untenable and dissolve.
Constitutional framer and second president, John Adams, once declared:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Think about it. They said they designed a limited government with great freedoms because they were working with a population internally restrained by conscience, community values and faith. These represent God‘s invisible restraining hand. But Paul tells us the antichrist—the ultimate totalitarian—will only appear when “He who hinders is taken out of the way“ and “lawlessness is revealed.” Paul shows that abolishing the noncoercive, voluntary authority of family, church and faith is to make room for its counterpart—coercive, Statist, total tyranny. Still, this latter sinister authoritarianism advances under the banner of “liberty” and “freedom” from restraint.
Liberty Conjoined with Responsibility
True liberty is a responsibility, always correlating to internal restraint. We see this in our daily lives. Freedom is given in proportion to a person’s internal restraint. When do I trust my son to handle a firearm safely? When he has proven his attentiveness, awareness, responsibility and restraint. To give a young child the power entailed in the liberty of functioning a firearm is not generous; it’s dangerous, perhaps suicidal. Similarly, God grants us freedom in proportion to our responsibility—our internal restraint.
Jesus was a man who lived by perfect internal restraint. He said, “The Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). Because of Christ’s complete trust in God, resulting in total submission, He was given unlimited power, power the Father trusted He would not use selfishly. Because of His submission, He was able to say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me!”
Many conceive of liberty only in negative terms—freedom from someone or something. In regard to State power, this is indeed the only genuine type of freedom civil government should seek to protect. But in regard to our private lives, families and voluntary communities, can we not entertain freedom as something positive that we exercise and participate in? The ultimate freedoms are those that provide life. In our community, we have taken responsibility for our children’s education and tasted the freedom of being God’s co-workers, nurturing their hearts and minds for the kingdom. We have tasted freedom by assuming responsibility for providing our own food. We have experienced life in its rawest form as freedom when we took responsibility for birthing our children at home. Whenever the State with its coercive power seeks to take on such responsibilities, it actually strips away true freedom together with individual responsibility.
Many of life’s purest delights are simply the freedoms of assuming responsibility for ourselves, rejecting the State’s endless largesse. Did Jesus not warn against this when He said of the Gentiles, “They lord it over you, calling themselves your benefactors,” thereby suggesting that one can be enslaved through State “magnanimity”?
Destroy the Moral Side of the Liberty Equation, and the Civil End Will Spontaneously Collapse
If you were the enemy of liberty, and you believed the words of John Adams that the Constitution was “wholly inadequate“ for any but a moral, religious people, then you would not focus first, for the most part, on removing Bill-of-Rights liberties, but instead you would concentrate your efforts on dismantling internal restraint, loosening morals, freeing the baser nature from the invisible restraining hand of God. But you would do it all in the name of increasing freedom so that clueless Christians would get on board with relinquishing the boundaries that safeguard true liberty. In time, American culture would no longer justly be called “moral and religious.” Then the civil liberties designed for the moral, religious people would seem absurd. In short, they will prove “wholly inadequate.” Conservatives will then be up in arms at the erosion of constitutional liberties, blind to the wrecking balls that were demolishing Biblical values in living rooms, around dinner tables, in churches, in schoolhouses, and only as an afterthought in the halls of Congress.
“Make the Church More Defensible”
Our church’s leading educator, Jim Truax, was formerly a public school superintendent, as well as being an educational expert and PhD. Before becoming a part of our community, Jim sat down with his acquaintance, famed constitutional attorney David Gibbs. Jim was so troubled by the State’s overreach in education that he was inclined to become an attorney to fight for Christian education in the courts. He asked this constitutional expert for counsel. Mr. Gibbs fixed Jim with troubled eyes and replied,
“Jim, we don’t need more defenders of Christian education; we need to make Christian education more defensible.”
This conservative constitutionalist correctly identified the erosion of responsibility, ethics, morality and truth within the church, ultimately making her ministries and liberties “indefensible.”
Understand Our Choice for Restraint
People look at us (especially Christians), and they’re struck, sometimes even troubled, by what they perceive as too much restraint in our community. But if you were to rewind to the era when constitutional liberties were not so threatened, our community would be almost indistinguishable from the people of that time.
We witness the systematic unraveling of Christian culture expressed primarily in relationships. The American family has been completely reconfigured in the name of freedom, and the church has been mostly silent. In the name of freedom, Biblical morality has been demolished, sexuality has been revolutionized, and the church has only stayed one or two steps behind in its compliance. In the name of freedom, fashion has jettisoned the values of modesty and gender-specific apparel, and while the church initially resisted, it now entirely complies. We call it freedom when we give young people devices that connect them directly to pornography and deception, even though their moral compass is not yet set and their sense of values is still malleable. In the name of freedom, cosmic tyrants have eviscerated Christian culture, creating a population with no moral compass, no ethical absolutes, no fidelity in relationships, or community commitment amongst themselves. The bulwarks of Christianity have been torn down, and tyrants perceive no great hindrance to their advance.
For a century, the architects of tyranny have systematically removed the restraining hand of conscience and conviction from society, knowing that apart from these, the liberties enshrined in the Constitution would inevitably collapse.
Negligence & Responsibility
As you listen to me now and hear the contrast I draw between politics and God‘s eternal purpose, questions may arise in your mind:
- Hasn’t America been a place where Christians could be free?
- As Christians, don’t we have a responsibility to influence the political process?
- Isn’t it gross negligence to disengage from a political system when Christians represent the only force holding back the bore tide of secularism?
When Israel first asked for a king, they requested someone to fight their battles for them. Today’s Americans do the same when they relinquish their God-given responsibilities to the State, insisting that the State feed the poor, clothe the naked, educate their children and otherwise fulfill the obligations Christ would have them assume. “Yahweh said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me”’ (1 Sam. 8:7).
Yet even those believers who recognize that the State should not intrude into these matters and who focus their efforts on political causes in defense of liberty are engaged in battles that divert them from strengthening the foundations upon which liberty can truly stand. Yahweh does not reign from a White House. The Most High does not pass down edicts. Yet His is the safest of authorities because it comes from the heart, and if we choose not to obey, it will not force us. But He wants to build a kingdom where He can incarnate His healing message in a witness kingdom here on the earth.
Satirical “Prayer” of the Babylonian Christian
(The mind-set of those remaining in Ur or Egypt when Abraham or Moses make their exodus.)
“Oh God, we just know You want to do great things here in Ur of Mesopotamia. We just trust You to restore our culture and heal our land and to give us a wise king who only requires women to serve for one year as a temple prostitute instead of two.
“Heavenly Father, we know that the school system here in Ur is just really tough on the children, but we just trust You as we put our dear kids in the lap of Molech, that they would burn as torches for Christ. And, dear Lord, we know that we’re sending Jack and Jill to the university there in Babylon, and we know they’re just going to see all kinds of bad things, even get drunk on the wine of fornication from time to time. But we just trust You to help them be lights in this dark world and just remain salt completely devoid of savor.
“And finally, Lord, we just ask for Your help in resisting the temptations of the enemy that would entice us to disengage the struggle by separating from this culture and going out to this horrible place in the country called ‘Canaan.’
“We just trust You to help us resist this pull and sadness we feel while gazing at the stars or listening to those tales that whisper of worlds and promises lost to us. We just know that worldliness with contentment is great gain, and we ask You to help us to have tranquil hearts here in Ur and just quiet our souls with words of comfort like ‘peace, peace’—for You did not come to bring division or a sword but only placid peace.
“And Lord, because we know how trying it is in these times, we just pray that You would raise up great leaders such as Your mighty prophet Baalam and other strong women like Jezebel and those gifted with encouragement and comfort like Delilah—that in all things Your people might feel boosted to become great and prosperous along with dear Babylon, which You love so much.
“And lastly, dear Lord, just set us free from the deception of dangerous cults led by men like Abraham and Moses who would draw Your people astray into perilous trials through oceans and wilderness. We are mindful of this terrible report from dear Brothers Korah, Dathan, and Abiram—such wise, trusted leaders among their people—and we just grieve for all caught on that trip to nowhere, misled by false prophets. They believe oceans will part and walled cities will crumble at their prayers. They chase notions of God’s ‘alternative,’ a ‘promised land’ where He is king. We just trust You to save them from this cult and return them to their contentment here in Babylon.
“We thank You for the freedom we find in grace, loosing us from all righteousness, obligations to bear fruit or need to hear Your Spirit. Thank You for Jesus, who obeyed for us so that we can continue in our sin and feel righteous about it.
“So just help us call to mind that country You asked us to forsake. We surrender to You all desire for a heavenly country, except as an amorphous concept with no concrete expression or bearing on our lives.
“Amen and amen.”
“The effort to heal the manifest ailments of mankind by intellectual processes or by international conferences and political and social mass movements is superficial and short-lived. The disease is moral and spiritual and can be reached only by moral and spiritual regeneration, beginning with individuals.”
“Revolution” means to turn completely. Whether for good or ill, a revolution occurs when people become weary of looking and reaching for answers in one direction in which they see no results. Some catalyst occurs that prompts them to turn 180 degrees and consider unconventional alternatives to tired, worn-out trajectories.
When has God ever wrought great redemption or salvation through conventional methods? Who would have imagined God would have saved the world from famine through a slave named Joseph? Who would have guessed that God would conquer the mighty Egyptian empire through a conversation of repeated demands accompanied by supernatural signs—from a stutterer who was also the meekest man on earth?
And consider Jesus: You cannot deny the history-altering impact of His life on all succeeding generations. Yet His is a story of a life lived in a conquered nation. He never sought political office, never darkened the doorway of palaces or academies. He wrote no books, led no armies, nor ever touched a sword. He was clean from all the conventions of worldly power, yet with a message of love, humility and service, He reshaped the entire course of human history. He is history’s fulcrum, compass and lodestar, or as some might say, “the bright and morning star.”
The Wesley Brothers: “The Men Who Saved England”
Throughout history, Jesus has used unconventional ways to move through His people. When revolution erupted in eighteenth-century Europe, England was the most corrupt of all her nations. Gin was introduced to England in 1684; within 50 years, the nation consumed half a million gallons a year. Historians tell us that every sixth house in London sold spirits. Women with small children drank as heavily as men. It was not uncommon for laborers to prostitute their wives at the weekly auction to gain more gin money. Gambling was considered the “national disease,” public executions comprised free entertainment for the masses, and gangs of young men roamed the streets, robbing and torturing passersby, compelling all citizens to “travel, even at noon, as if … going to battle.” At this same time, seeds of violence grew in the rotting culture of France.
But a few decades before the French Revolution erupted, a godly English mother, Susanna Wesley, shunned the school system and made the decision to teach her children according to her convictions at home. There the word of truth was burned into the young minds of ten children growing up poor, sometimes hungry, but always guided by their mother’s understanding of her sacred responsibility.
Beginning in 1739, Susanna’s sons John and Charles Wesley preached repentance and holiness across England and helped new believers to form small groups of mutual accountability. They were banned from State churches, so they resorted to preaching in the open air, where tens of thousands of English people heard their message and turned their hearts to God. In the early days of their ministry, the Wesleys were often stoned and beaten by the crowds they came to minister to. But before long, thousands had been converted and had left the gin houses for the study of the Bible and the literature that John Wesley published to help new believers in their new lives. In fact, so many began to study this literature that it was said Wesley had created a “completely new class of reader” in England.
In 1789, guillotines were raised in France as bloody terror toppled the monarchy and the church’s authority. Pent-up bitterness and wrath made murder machines out of the masses, who viciously slew more than 60,000 people in France. The new and novel “scientific” guillotine became regular entertainment for the increasingly vicious Parisians. The knitting needles of old women clicked through endless beheadings of those they had been taught to loathe, kings and commoners alike.
Revolution erupted across France and spread to Germany, Poland, Austria and Italy. But England was spared this violent chaos. A spiritual immune system had been built in that country through the humble words of a penniless preacher. John Wesley became known as “the man who saved England.” When he died in 1791, approximately 77,000 people were members of his “societies” in England and 57,000 in America. The revival that God brought through John and Charles Wesley is said to have “had the effect of a revolution.”
The Oxford Group
Another example of unconventional change began in 1921 when Frank Buchman, an American Lutheran, began to hold prayer meetings with young people. They described themselves as “a group of people from all walks of life who have surrendered their life to God.” They purposed to live by what they called “the four absolutes”: absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness, absolute purity and absolute love. They believed that no lasting change would ever come until people embraced these absolutes “absolutely.” These young people later became known as the “Oxford Group.”
As the group grew, they sent out teams to hold meetings in homes, hotels, schools, universities and outdoor camps around the world. Many lives were impacted and changed by their message.
In 1934, a team of 30 Oxford Group members visited Norway. A newspaper commented at the time, “A handful of foreigners who neither knew our language nor understood our ways and customs came to the country. A few days later the whole country was talking about God, and two months after the thirty foreigners arrived, the mental outlook of the whole country has definitely changed.” After World War II, a Norwegian bishop publicly declared that the Norwegian resistance to Nazism was “laid by the Oxford Group’s work.” The Oxford Group also visited Denmark, where the message of the four absolutes encouraged the Danes to save almost their entire Jewish population. A Gestapo document from 1942 states, “No other Christian movement has underlined so strongly the character of Christianity as being supernatural and independent of all racial barriers.”
Politics may promise to change people’s economic status, improve their health, secure their physical safety, but only God can transform the human heart. And if we would believe Jesus, He said from within a man comes every kind of evil. Change the man, restore internal restraint, and transform the nation.
You see, America’s “strong men“ are weak in the Spirit. Like Peter before the resurrection and Pentecost, they’re full of bold commitments and declarations of their faithfulness. Yet, when it comes to prayer, they fall asleep. When it comes to recognizing and learning to follow the gentle voice of the unseen Spirit of God, their ears hear only the cacophony of this world and its entertainment. Jesus knew Peter would deny Him because He knew that the kind of fight He was waging was through the Spirit and not the flesh. If Christ would’ve conquered with the weapons of carnal warfare, Peter would have fought to the bloody end.
God employs counterintuitive weapons: families, men and women of moral courage, communities bound by common faith. We don’t know what is coming beyond the horizon, though we can sense that “the times, they are a-changing,” and not necessarily for the good.
Let us hear the call of freedom, the call to assume responsibility—the responsibility that we have subconsciously ceded to the State and its institutions. Hear the call of freedom to come out of dependence on anonymous sources we cannot know or trust and come together to form bastions of life and hope for troubled times. Hear and answer the call to become a City on a Hill, whose light cannot be hidden.