COMMENTARY: An Open Letter to Christian Americans

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Dear Fellow Christian Americans,

As I have watched the election events of the past few months play out, my heart has been deeply saddened.  Yesterday’s events have broken it.  As a history teacher who holds a Masters in Education and in History I am certain that this is not what our Founding Fathers worked so hard to establish!  And it is not pleasing to God!  What I see happening in America now is all too reminiscent of what occurred before the Civil War.  Have we learned nothing?!

Everyone wants to lay the blame for the disastrous state our nation and government is in at someone else’s doorstep.  The liberal left blames the radical right.  The radical right blames the liberal left.  Conservatives blame the liberals and moderates.  Then there are the Never-Trumpers and the Ever-Trumpers.  Everyone is shouting so loudly that they can’t hear what anyone is saying.  And, consequently, nothing ever gets solved.  It is ludicrous!

So, where does the blame lie?  In my opinion, there is plenty of blame to go around, beginning with the total ignorance of America’s history and structure of government possessed by what appears to be the vast majority of her citizens.  Most Americans believe anything the politicians, political parties and media tell them.  They do not know what powers each branch of government possesses, how bills become laws or what the Constitution says.

According to the 2018 survey released by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation only about one third of Americans could pass the same citizenship test given to legal immigrants seeking citizenship[1].  That is horrendous.  How can America survive as a nation governed by its people if the people are that ignorant of how the government is structured?

Apathy and the lack of involvement by the American citizen deserves a good deal of the blame. According to The United States Elections Project, there are over 250 million people in America who are eligible to vote.  In this past November’s election, voter turnout was 66.7% or just under 160 million people (www.electproject.or/2020).

Nearly 100 million people who could have registered and voted did not do so.  And this was a record turnout election year.  Why?  Our government is founded on the principle of “government by the people”.  The first three words of the United States Constitution are “We the people.”  If the people do not show up at the polls and vote, (in local, state, and national elections), then the governing is no longer by the people.

Added to the massive problem of uninvolved citizens is the significant number of voters who cast their ballot for the person who they believe will give them the most “free” stuff or who has the most likable personality instead of the person who would do the best job.  Our Founders were rightfully wary of the “common people” for this very reason.  That is why they included so many protections against pure majority rule.  They recognized that the majority could become just as much of a tyrant and despot as any individual.

Their intention was for the” best of the best” or “cream of the crop” to be placed in government offices.  They wanted true statesmen who were committed to what was the best for the nation and her citizens, not career politicians who were out for personal gain.  Being a congressman or senator was never meant to be a career.  Representatives were expected to support themselves through a career outside of government service.  Elections have now become popularity contests with the candidate promising to hand out the most candy winning.  The blame for this lies at the feet of the voters, not the politicians.

The most disappointing group that deserves a great deal of the blame is Christians.  This nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.  The Founding Fathers intended for the Christians to ensure it would continue to follow that path.  However, the “separation of church and state” argument has been allowed to chip away at those principles.  And the Christian community has allowed this to happen.

First, they allowed it by withdrawing from the political process in the decades after the Civil War and remaining withdrawn through most of the 20th century (many remain disengaged).  They embraced the idea that Christians should be other-worldly minded (focused on spiritual things) and not be involved in the things of this world, like government and politics[2].

For nearly one hundred years, Christians in America allowed a religious void to be created in the public and government realms.  This void has been filled with socialistic and humanistic ideas and values.

More recently, Christians have thrown their undaunting support behind Donald Trump.  This is somewhat understandable as he has been the more conservative candidate in the last two presidential elections, aligning more closely with Biblical principles than the other candidates.  However, Donald Trump is not the savior of the nation, as many Christians have made him out to be.  And many of his actions, attitudes and words have not reflected the principles of Biblical Christianity.

Instead of turning to God and praying for a revival in America, many have worshipped at the altar of Trump.  In doing so, a world already adverse to Christianity has been given ammunition to utilize against Christians and the Biblical worldview. Many Christians have refused to hold Donald Trump and his political allies accountable when they have behaved in an unacceptable manner.  They have offered many excuses for the ugliness shown by these government leaders.

In no way am I implying that everything in the Trump administration has been negative.  Many positive policies have been put in place.  However, when Christians do not hold him or his allies accountable for wrongdoing, either by making excuses or remaining silent, they are reinforcing the self-righteous, hypocritical stereotypes placed on Christians by the world.  Instead of being a loving and unifying force in our nation and drawing others to Christ, many Christians have significantly contributed to the hatred and division that is prevalent in America.

Added to this, Christians are some of the most ignorant citizens regarding our nation’s history and government.  They have allowed themselves and their children to be indoctrinated with humanistic values and revised history through education.  Their disengagement regarding the curriculum being taught and how it is being presented paved the way for indoctrination.  Christians must become much more diligent about what is being taught in schools.

Conversely, many Christians believe the rhetoric and revised history offered by many of the religious right leaders instead of thinking for themselves.  The debate over the “separation of church and state” is a prime example.  Many Christians argue that the Founding Fathers intended for religion, specifically Christianity, to be interwoven with the United States government.  They want Christian prayers and symbols to be prevalent in government buildings and workings.  They believe this not because of their own research but because this is what some leaders have told them.

However, that is not what the Founders intended.  It is true that the Founders wanted America to be a Christian nation and they did not want the government to have a hand in religion.  However, neither did they design a government in which the church as an institution was to dictate policies and laws.  Instead, they believed that when the institutions of state (government) and church (religion) intermixed, neither institution prospered.  They designed a government in which the people chose the representatives to make the laws.

The intent of the Founders was for Republic to remain rooted in religion.  They believed the Bible told them how to have a successful nation.  According to Daniel Dreisbach, Micah 6:8, which says, “No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”[3] was the passage from the Bible the Founders most often referenced.

John Winthrop referred to this verse in his sermon, A Modell of Christianity.[4]  George Washington referenced it in his Circular Letter to the States in June of 1783 when he thought he was retiring from public service.  He ends the letter with a prayer that the citizens of the United States will “do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion.”[5]

Thus only way to preserve the democratic republican government they created was if God was working in the nation.  God worked through people.  If the people obeyed God and followed His teachings, they would be moral and righteous.  If they maintained these characteristics, then they would choose good, moral, righteous leaders.  This trust in and obedience to God would protect the nation from the tyranny of sinful men.

Later, in his Farewell Address upon leaving the presidency, Washington said that anyone who tried to hinder the public role of religion and morality was not a patriot.[6]  As long as they were devout Christians, America would be a Christian nation.  If they strayed from their Christianity or neglected their political duties (as they did after the Civil War and for the next one hundred years) America would cease to be a Christian nation.

Simply put, the cause and the cure rests in the hands of Christians.  What are we going to do about it?  We can continue on the current path and watch America implode or we can seriously pray for true and deep revival to envelope our land and be diligent in both our spiritual and political duties.

It’s “decision time”.  No more sitting on the fence.  Are we going to get educated about our history and government and storm the Throne of God, interceding for our nation?  Or are we going to continue to be disengaged, or worse, be part of the problem, spewing hate and misinformed rhetoric while America dies?  I know which choice I’m going to make.  What about you?

Christy Miller -A Saddened and Concerned American Christian

 

References

Dreisbach, Daniel L.  “Micah 6:8 in the Literature of the American Founding Era:  A Note on Religion and Rhetoric.”  Rhetoric & Public Affairs 12, no. 1 (2009):  91-105.

Electproject.com

Escobar, Allyson.  (2018) Most of us would fail the U.S. citizenship test, survey finds.  www.nbcnews.com.

“Founders Online: From George Washington to The States, 8 June 1783.” National Archives and Records Administration. Accessed June 24, 2020. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-11404.

“George Washington, September 17, 1796, Farewell Address.” The Library of Congress. Accessed June 24, 2020. https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw2.024/?sp=229.

Noll, Mark A. A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2019.

The Winthrop Society: Descendants of the Great Migration. Accessed June 24, 2020. https://www.winthropsociety.com/doc_reasons.php.

[1]Allyson Escobar,  (2018) Most of us would fail the U.S. citizenship test, survey finds,  www.nbcnews.com.

[2]Mark A. Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2019.

[3] Micah 6:8 New Living Translation

[4] Winthrop, “A Modell.”

[5] “Founders Online: From George Washington to The States, 8 June 1783,” National Archives and Records Administration, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-11404 (Accessed June 24, 2020).

[6] “George Washington, September 17, 1796, Farewell Address,” The Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw2.024/?sp=229 (Accessed June 24, 2020).