By Levi Secord
In the fallout of the George Floyd fiasco, much has been said about what is wrong with America, both her past and present. As a Christian, my current understanding of America is complex. Of course, my primary citizenship is in Christ’s coming kingdom. Nonetheless, God has ordained that I be born and reside in the United States. I feel a healthy form of patriotism that every Christian can have for their homeland, and America is no different. The nations are, in fact, the inheritance of our risen Lord.
But these are strange times to be a Christian in America. Our country’s sins are mounting, and moreover, many trumpet these sins as an inherent good. The sins of sexual immorality, abortion, governmental overreach, and Marxist envy mark our day. Such high-handed rebellion invites the wrath of God. These sins cannot be ignored by any thinking Christian. Yet, they do not tell the whole story. My loyalty to my country is rooted not in what she is right now, but in the principles she was founded upon.
Yet, in saying this, I will surely garner charges of oppression, racism, and white supremacy from many corners. But I gladly affirm that all men are created equal in the image of God, so I renounce all forms of racism, including the new Marxism. The very things I see as destroying America are the very things many hail as progress. While I lament the loss of America’s founding ideals—limited government, checks and balances, and God-given rights—others view losing these principles as an escape from our oppressive past. Sadly, many Christians have parroted the critiques of the fringe left about America and her founding. How is a Christian, like myself, to respond? Should Christians in America be proud or ashamed of our country’s founding? Below are some considerations we should think through in these strange times.
The Blatant Hypocrisy of the Left
The first thing we must note is the blatant hypocrisy of those attacking America’s past. America has many sins in her past and in her present. I make no excuses for those sins; they are all horrible in God’s sight. Sin is sin, but those on the left, including BLM, trumpet Marxism as the cure for America’s sins. To be clear, Marxism is the most deadly political ideology of the last century. We are told to teardown anything connected to the sins of America’s past in pursuit of justice today. But those making this argument are desiring to rebuild our country according to the precepts of a worldview responsible for the unjust murder of over 100 million individuals. Marxism is the most oppressive form of modern government, but leftists ignore those sins. If this movement was really about justice, then Marxism would have nothing to do with it. If this movement was about ridding us of the evils of the past, then Marxism would be in the crosshairs. As it is, this movement is more about power and coercion, than it is about anything else. In biblical terms, those with massive logs protruding out of their eyeballs are trying to tell America to take the speck out of her own eye. It’s absolutely laughable.
America as the Anti-Utopia
One of the complaints about America’s founding is that it wasn’t perfect. The thing is, I don’t believe any of our Founders would have disagreed with such an argument. Marxists desire to make this world into a utopia, and it is this desire which dooms it to become hell on earth. Some may have thought America was to be some paradise on earth, but our Founders understood the sinfulness of men. They knew that America wasn’t perfect and never would be. This is why they placed checks and balances in our governing documents. A utopia ignores the sinfulness of mankind. The Founding Fathers saw firsthand the ease by which oppression spreads through the mechanisms of government. So they sought to limit the power of government and to intentionally make it hard for it to violate the rights of the people. Such a view of government takes the world as it is and doesn’t try to coerce it into some utopian vision.
To be clear, our Founders had optimism about their government, but it was not utopianism. This is why the ideals of America are objectively better than Marxism because they are built on correct assumptions about this world. Man is fallen, sin is prevalent, the government is God’s servant, and therefore governmental power must be limited.
Yes, there were many sins present at the founding of our country—slavery being chief among them. Yet, many are ignorant of our history at this point. About half of America’s states were already Free states at the ratification of our Constitution. Moreover, the Constitution enshrined the processes by which slavery would be brought to an end. Some of our Founders wanted slavery to end sooner than it did, but they wondered what a world without slavery would look like. Slavery had universally existed for centuries , so to envision and bring about a society without it was truly a massive historical shift.
Contrary to leftist rhetoric, slavery is not unique to America and the West. The major unique thing about slavery in the Christianized West is that the West brought about an end to this sinful practice, even at the cost of the blood of free men. Does this context absolve prior generations of their sins? No, but if we want to fairly speak of how our past impacts the future, then we must speak both of past sins and past righteousness. While the legacy of slavery is horrid, the legacy of God-given rights and much of the abolitionist movement are shining examples of righteousness. Both impact us still today because history impacts the present.
Here is where conservatives and liberals part ways. Liberals believe American ideals are inherently unjust, and it is our principles that need to change. Conversely, conservatives recognize that these principles as righteous and worth protecting. The failures of our past and present are not found in the ideals but in us. It is we who need to change, not our founding principles. We have failed to live in accordance with these lofty ideals with everything from abortion to slavery. So what needs to be done? We must repent of our current sins, and pursue a greater faithfulness to these righteous ideals. This starts with recognizing man’s sinfulness and that the government is no savior. We must turn to the God who is there, and live in repentance and faith.
Christian Political Principles are Worth Protecting
Once we realize that our problems are located primarily in us as individuals, and not in our systems, it is then that the importance of our founding principles become clear. The lack of a Christian worldview is the only explanation for why so many young people, even reformed Christians, are so sympathetic to Marxist propaganda. Of course, systems can be sinful, and that is exactly why the founders sought to limit the power of those systems. But to fight against systemic issues by trying to give more power to the system requires a special kind of ignorance.
Our Founders, though not all Christians, thought more Christianly about politics and government than many evangelicals do today. The principles of God-given rights (freedom of religion, speech, etc.), limited government (Render unto Caesar and to God), and checks and balances (the sinfulness of man) come from the Christian worldview. Our founding as a nation was impacted by Protestant Christianity in a unique way.
These ideals are good, right, and true, and Christians should spend time protecting them. Why? Because that which is good and true leads to human flourishing. Many progressively-inclined Christians tell us to embrace life as exiles by seeking the good of the city (Jer. 29:7). The thing is, individual rights and limited government are not primarily about the good of the individual, but rather they are good for all of society. Seeking American principles is objectively better for the city than Marxism. To support a biblical understanding of government in a fallen world is to love your neighbor by submitting to God’s revelation. It is good for a society when it recognizes truth, justice, and righteousness.
Sadly, these truths are attacked in favor of a demonic ideology. Worse yet, many Christian leaders either aid in such attacks or appear indifferent. Much has been said about the power of lament lately, but too many of us are not properly lamenting the destruction of godly governing principles. We need more evangelical leaders like Francis Schaeffer, who lamented the decline of America, “Do not take this lightly! It is a horrible thing for a man like myself to look back and see my country and my culture go down the drain in my own lifetime” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, 29). We need more godly mourning like this. What is happening to America is not ultimate; the kingdom of Christ is. Nonetheless, what is happening to America is evil, vile, and wicked. Christians of this country should take these matters seriously out of our love for God and neighbor. What is needed in politics and government is more Christian influence, not less. Fighting for Christian principles in government is a tangible way to show love for others and to push back the darkness.
Levi J. Secord serves as a pastor at Riverview Baptist Church in West St. Paul, Minnesota. He earned a Master of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree. Levi, his wife, and their three boys live in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they spend their time slaying dragons.