Thursday, July 4, 2019

"Trouble in the States"

There is trouble in the States, it is a most serious moment, and it is a difficult subject to address. Its difficulty is on many fronts and because of its complexity, a comprehensive understanding is difficult. It involves politics, religion, culture, and all the diversity that every individual American brings to the table in their personal experience.

However, the States have been in trouble before, perhaps we can glean some wisdom from our past. One has to be careful in doing so, for even our history is written with a bias pen, the nature of man cannot be trusted. I am aware that even my pen writes with certain preconceptions and presuppositions that can cause the ink to flow in an uneven measure. Therefore I must take that awareness and proceed with caution.

Let's begin on March 4, 1853, as the 14th U.S. President, Franklin Pierce stated in his Inaugural Address:  "It must be felt that there is no national security but in the nation's humble, acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling Providence." Yet, while our President spoke of our nation's humility and our acknowledged dependence upon God and His Providence, one year later, Democrat Senator Steven Douglas would persuade the President to support the Kansas Nebraska Act which would essentially allow Slavery to expand into new territories. This would escalate the already stirring of troubles to the point of violent conflict among our own people. These escalations would later be known as "Bleeding Kansas" an escalation that would be the forerunner of a Civil War. We can see here the far-reaching implications of political legislation and unforeseen and unintended consequences of such legislation. Political ideas instituted in other States can and does oftentimes affect the other States. This is especially true if those ideas are already a national stirring.    
The issue of Slavery was dividing us as a people, it alone was enough to drive us into open conflict. However, it was not the sum total of our troubles, there were many issues feeding this rising moment that would bring us to war with ourselves.

It has been stated there were about 5 categories or veins running through the American Culture prior to the Civil War.

1. Radical Northern Republicans: whose attitude was slavery is wrong--end it now.

They believed all human lives mattered, whether on or off a plantation, and all were equal, created in the image of God.

This group included abolitionists, the Underground Railroad, anti-slavery preachers, and, unfortunately, the fringe John Brown who shot at slave owners. I would suggest this same vein runs within our culture at present concerning abortion, homosexual marriage, etc. It is interesting that during that time, to have a conviction that Slavery was wrong and needed to be ended now was considered a Radical view. I find it interesting in that a conviction in which the abortion of our children is wrong and needs to be ended now is also considered a radical view.  

2. Moderate Republicans: whose attitude was that slavery is wrong but the country should transition out of it gradually over time. We find this moderate position alive today, it attributes to many political promises that seem to be talked about to great lengths with nothing ever really being accomplished. 

3 Practical Neutral Voters: who cared little about the value of human life. They were more concerned about their pocketbook, jobs, wages, economy and tax-tariff issues. It seems to me we differ little from our ancestors, there is a strong vein of life supporting an economic recovery. One that will promise jobs and increase wages, a robust economy with great healthcare and benefits. As long as life's provisions are plentiful and our comforts maintained, little care is given to our moral issues. 

4. Moderate Southern Democrats: whose attitude was slavery is wrong, but it was settled law and the nation should just live with it. People should have the choice whether or not to own a slave--just treat your slaves nice. There are multitudes today who will confess that they don't personally support the idea of abortion and the LGTB agendas, but we must be compassionate and accepting to society's norms. A woman should have a choice on abortion.  We should just do all we can to limit a need for it. One can't help who they love.  Acceptance of same-sex marriage is only a response of a kind and understanding culture.

5. Extreme Southern Democrats: whose attitude was slavery is good and should be expanded into new Territories and States. They wanted Northerners who were morally opposed to slavery to be forced to participate in supporting it through the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This vein makes the most noise today.  We hear it and see it exploding in our media on a continuous basis. The object of their extremity may not be slavery today, but their force and determination are all the same.

Seeing these same veins thriving in our society again, should give us extreme concern. Because of the relative civil peace we have enjoyed in our nation, we will naturally have difficulty believing we could ever rise up and bring arms against each other ever again. However, the very presence of these categories of thought tells us they are feeding a growing monster that if not contained will eventually break forth in a conflict of some degree. That degree, like the War between the States, will be impossible to predict. The horrors of those possibilities go beyond measure.

Knowing what to do is to understand how we got to where we are. I think that can be understood by looking at our previous history. Our beginning was of a religious nature, growing from and laying the foundation upon Biblical principles. That being true, how could we transition from that to killing one another?

In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville stated in his writing 'Democracy in America' "Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” ~ Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 

I find it interesting Tocqueville also stated in that same work, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.” ~ Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.

In all our greatness and genius Tocqueville was able to identify our weaknesses. Those weaknesses reside in a fallen human nature. The pulpits were a restraining power to this fallen nature and strength to our righteousness. So what happened to our pulpits? As now, they became tools of society, to soothe our consciences and justify our desires.

Bad theology gave way to a wrong view of God and man, the restraints upon our fallen nature were loosened and our understanding of righteousness was starved. Vein number four, and to some degree number two, took the Biblical view on slavery and interpreted it in light of their own needs and desires. Category four could then soothe their conscience while living in a culture of slavery and justify their actions as good as long as they lived a good life and treated their slaves kindly or opposed general brutality in the institution. Category two could soothe their conscience and justify their inaction while ignoring the sin of a nation.

Our founders understood the dangers associated with the passions of men, therefore placed multiple safeguards and restraining elements upon government and those who would reside in places of power. They also understood this was only a restraint and that men would still break forth in their passions without proper theology to guide them.      

“It is the Will of Heaven, that the two Countries should be sundered forever. It may be the Will of Heaven that America shall suffer Calamities still more wasting and Distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the Case, it will have this good Effect, at least: it will inspire Us with many Virtues, which We have not, and correct many Errors, and Vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The Furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals…. But I must submit all my Hopes and Fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the Faith may be, I firmly believe.” ~ Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776.

President John Adams placed his hope in the Providence of God, that He would not forsake us in our sin, but bring us through certain afflictions to repent of our errors and vices and instill in us the virtues we lacked or forgotten.

I would suggest there was a need then as there is now for a sixth category or vein running in our society. That group would be a people that did not see in Grey and Blue then or Red and Blue now but in the lostness of fallen humanity and the Glory of the Gospel.

I am not a passivist, I have the passions of a man. You come into my home uninvited with the intent to harm, there will no warning shot. My intent will be to stop you unequivocally. I know the feeling of patriotism, I remember 911 and passions that stirred within me. My nation had been attacked, I could feel the call to defend and respond. It is these movings within human nature that gather us together in conflicts. They are as necessary as they are dangerous, without them tyrants and despots would overrun, with them we are in constant danger of misguided actions. The government is not the answer, for governments are often overrun by unrestrained passions. Self Government is insufficient where personal passions go unchecked without moral convictions. Human efforts are insufficient to fix a broken world. If human efforts were effective, we would be much further along after these several thousand years then we are. However, we find we have not changed at all.

The Christian's call and purpose is not to take up arms and right the wrongs, to fix the world and make it a better place. The Christian's call is to preach and live the Gospel. Rom 8:36  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. I am reminded of a conversation between a missionary and his young son. In preparation for a trip into a dangerous situation among a tribal people to bring them the Gospel, his son noticed a rifle in his plane. He asked, "Dad, will you use it?" the father replied, "No son, we are ready to die, they are not."

Most of the world is not ready to die, we are. The early church joined no militia, they carried no weapons against the world, they carried an uncompromised message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and when necessary gave their blood upon the altar of sacrifice of love. Are there Christian men in the military who carry weapons to defend our nation and its interest? Are there Christian men in our police forces who carry weapons of defense to enforce our laws and justice? Are there Christian men in our society who carry weapons to personally defend their family and loved ones? Yes, and rightly so, there are also multitudes of good moral men who do the same who profess no religion at all or faith in God, these are all benefits to our society. However, there are limits where the Christian can go, he must not cross the line where his rights and privileges in this life superseded his call to deliver the Gospel to a dying world. He must know where this is when it arises and he must then lay his gun down and open his Bible and declare," repent and believe or you likewise will perish!" (Luke 13:3) We must not make an enemy of the mission field.  
The casualties of men's passions leave us in devastation, yet, God's mercy in the Gospel prevails. In the midst of the horrors of the late War between the States, God's mercy prevailed.

In the early months of the American Civil War, the assembly of armies that consisted of thousands of young men that had never before been away from home could be frightening for some and an opportunity for vice for others. Army chaplains complained that seductive influences of sin infested the camps. Among the sins were “spiritous liquors,” card playing, gambling, and profanity. Early in the war, one Confederate soldier said that “if the South is overthrown, the epitaph should be ‘died of whiskey.’”

On may 4th 1861 President Lincoln ordered his commanders to appoint Chaplains in all units. In the South President Jefferson Davis was not so much concerned with Chaplains as he was fighting men. However, Southern Christian leaders through their denominations made great efforts to meet the spiritual needs of their army. The British and even northern Bible societies aided in efforts to supply Bibles to the South as they had little resources for printing. 

In the South General Lee and Jackson displayed a very pious life and were formidable in promoting and encouraging religious duties. In the north Union General George B. McClellan decreed that they should have divine services every Sunday morning. Union General Oliver O. Howard, commonly referred to as “the Christian General,” would himself preach to the troops when a regular chaplain or minister was not available.  

Although revivals took place throughout the war, it was during the Fall of 1863 through Spring and Summer of 1864 that was subsequently called the “Great Revival." Although this event is best documented for General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, it actually took place in both northern and southern armies. In the midst of our killing one another, God set His Grace upon both North and South.  Night after night troops on both sides participated in prayer meetings, worshipped, and listened to ministers proclaim the good news. Virtually every gathering ended with soldiers coming forward to accept Christ or receive prayer. When a pond or river was nearby, the soldiers would frequently step forward for baptisms regardless of how cold the weather was. 

It is estimated that over 100,000 Confederate and somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 Union troops accepted Christ during the Civil War.
A man by the name of Jones, traveling through the South after the war, noticed a crippled man working in a field, guiding a plow with his one good arm. Recognizing him from the war, he stopped to talk with him. This particular young man had left college and a promising career for service in the war, he had been wounded in battle and was baptized by Jones during the war. Jones said “to see him thus, then, his hopes blighted, his fortune wrecked, and his body maimed for life, deeply touched my heart...I shall never forget how the noble fellow, straightening himself up, replied, with a proud smile: ‘Oh, Brother Jones, that is all right. I thank God that I have one arm left and an opportunity to use it for the support of those I love.’” Such is the story of one changed heart. It is typical of many men that lived through our nation’s greatest conflict and met the Lord Jesus Christ along the way. 

There is trouble in the States.  I pray it may be resolved by repentance and the turning of our hearts in a national revival and that our desire to make America Great Again will be to seek after righteousness, to desire right laws and justice in our jurisprudence. That these things will outweigh our desire for prosperity and comfort. That we will gladly forego and spend of our wealth and comfort to acquire righteousness in our land. If this is not the case, my only hope is in God and His great Providence, that out of our sin and misery He will yet again show mercy to our land and give life to a fallen people.

May God's Grace be upon each of you,