The State of God and Our Country
Vietnam...World War II...the Great Depression...the Crash of ’29...the Roaring Twenties...World War I...the Civil War... America has had its fair share of turbulent times.
Does it seem like we’ve hit another turbulent period in our history?
Recently, I’ve read a number of articles and have spoken directly with people who have their fingers on the pulse of what is going on in our country. Every one of them is saying the same thing: the future of this country is hanging in the balance.
Interestingly, we seem to be in a similar situation as the state of Germany between WWI and WWII—the Weimar Republic.
Germany was a country that was very proud of its Christian heritage. Martin Luther, the great reformer of the church, was German. Out of the 60 million people in Germany, 20 million were Catholic and 40 million were Protestant (mostly Lutheran, Reformed, and United). Between the time of Luther and the Weimar Republic, the majority of the people had grown complacent to the Gospel. Many had lost the firm biblical basis of their faith. They were a “Christian” nation, a nation where being “German” meant being “Christian.” But, they had lost the knowledge of what it meant to truly be Christian, to have a relationship with God through His Son based on the Gospel.
The rapid rise of immorality during the Weimar Republic shows this loss of the biblical basis for faith in Germany. Prostitution was legalized. Gay and lesbian bars grew in popularity, and nightclubs became more and more lewd. As the economy declined, the Germans amused themselves—to death.
With the crash of the US stock market in ’29, Germany would be up in arms. They were dependent on America for financial loans to repay their war debts and to keep their economy solvent. Because of the Wall Street Crash, between four- and five million Germans were suddenly out of jobs. The Weimar Republic was seen as inept and was blamed for the economic crisis.
During this time of crisis and mistrust of the German government, a conservative charismatic leader appeared on the scene. He appealed to the Christians—quoting Scripture, promising the return of morality, and pledging stability in the political climate.
During the elections, the German people faced a choice between the communists on the left and the national socialists on the right. The national socialists were chosen. Adolf Hitler, the “conservative” charismatic leader, was eventually installed as chancellor.
As one considers the current American social and political climate, many striking similarities between our country and the Weimar Republic appear. The Church in the U.S. has become impotent, watering down the Gospel in the name of being “relevant” to the culture. Morality is in a free-fall, with a rise in homosexuality, lesbianism, and pornography. Racial tensions and riots are at an all time high. The government has begun overstepping its authority and has lost credibility with the people. In other words, the country is more divided by religion, moral issues, race, and political machinations than any time in its history. As a result, the general populace is incensed at the failures of both political parties to do anything of substance.
The major difference between our country and the Weimar Republic is we have yet to experience a catastrophic spark. The Weimar Republic collapsed because of the economic crisis caused by the stock market crash of ’29. To date, we have had no huge economic crash or national tragedy to cause our government to collapse. Although, it seems unsecured boarders, terrorist attacks, and a stumbling economy have started the ball rolling.
In a 2006 article by Robin Brace, entitled “Worrying Parallels Between the Weimar Republic and Western Society,” he draws the conclusion: “My point is that – at some point - there will be a right-wing backlash [in the West] and if a charismatic leader with extreme solutions should suddenly appear on the scene he will quickly gain the support of countless thousands - many of whom may not have voted for years because of disillusionment with liberal politics.”
The question remains, what will the Church do here in this country? History tells us that there are two options. First, we can conform to society. We can be the church that society and the government would like us to be. We can be politically correct. We can choose not to tell anyone that his/her lifestyle is immoral. We can endeavor not to offend anyone—especially the government. We can decide that it is more important to be a “church” than it is to uphold Scripture and biblically-based theological beliefs. In other words, we can compromise and water down our beliefs so we can continue to meet in public and receive the tax benefits allowed by the government. Though it may not be a “state-sanctioned” church, by cowering to the demands of the government, the church becomes a “government church!”
This is exactly what happened in the early days of the Nazi administration. The government began telling the church who they could, and could not, have as officers in the church. Specifically, they told the church they could not allow Jews to hold any office in the church—even though the Jews had converted to Christianity. The Church in Germany had to make a choice: do they obey the state and keep the peace, or do they defy the state and risk possible persecution? Obeying the state led to additional state interference with the church. Many of the “true believers” had to go underground.
Right now, the American government is in the initial stages of trying to force the Church to sanction same-sex marriage and to curb its other “discriminatory” practices. The government wants to prevent the Church from calling sin “Sin.” As believers, we must choose whether to succumb to the infiltration of the state into the doctrine of the Church so we can keep the peace (and our tax benefits), or to hold fast to the principles laid out in Scripture at the risk of being ostracized or persecuted. Do we cave and agree to the state definition of marriage (and other state-mandated “doctrines”), as the main-stream German Church caved to the pressure of the Nazi government to prohibit Jewish Christians from holding offices in the Church?
The second option we have is to maintain our beliefs and our convictions, no matter what the cost. This is the more difficult option. It may mean that we are persecuted, shunned, or lose status in society; but, society’s status cannot not be compared to Kingdom status. It means we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness . . . and let the cards fall where they may.
Our country is on a precipice. It is at a point of no return. I believe that God is now beginning to hold the nation, and specifically the “Church,” accountable for the moral decay in this country. Each year there are more than 1.05 million abortions, immorality is rampant, and anti-Christian rhetoric and legislation are at a fever pitch. And, the Church has stopped being salt and light. The Church is caving.
God is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. God gives generations a chance to return to Him, to turn from their ways, to repent. When a people does not humble itself and refuses to repent, God brings judgment. We are at that point in the United States right now.
What is our role as true believers? Our role is to continue to be salt and light to this generation. When judgment comes on this country, many will recognize it and will decide that they need God. This is one of the “advantages,” if you will, of judgment—there will be people who realize that there is a God and that they need Him. We must be ready to share the Gospel with them, to lead them to Christ, and to disciple them.
Our role is to unite the true Church in this country and to stand together as one Body. As the Church comes together in unity and love, with the power of the Holy Spirit, God will use the Church to bring this nation under His authority. When the judgment ends, there must be a foundation laid for what’s coming next. We must lay that foundation.
Our role is to continue in prayer, repentance, worship, Biblical preaching, and discipleship. God will allow His people to stand and remain in the midst of trials and tribulations, but we must continue following Him with a right heart.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian and martyr at the hands of the Nazis, suggested that the Church should respond to a rogue state in three ways: it should confront the state with its atrocities and call it to account; it should help the victims of the state, even if they are not Christian; and, if necessary, it should throw itself in the spokes of the wheel in order to stop the continued injustices of the state. We must continue to be the invincible army of the Lord, a beacon to the lost, and a hospital to the wounded. Like Bonhoeffer, we must be willing to pay the ultimate price for our Kingdom efforts.
Jesus came to rescue us from sin and death, not to rescue a Church who is AWOL! This serves as a call to action—not simply a call to awareness. The Church can no longer simply sit idly by and watch! We are called to be salt and light—catalysts, change agents. We must make the choice now that we will stand up for righteousness. Through our commitment to pray, to witness, and to live godly lifestyles, we will see this country come once again under the authority and Lordship of Christ.
As Christians, we have been called to overcome the world (1 Jn. 5:4). Will we be the overcomers? Or, will we be overcome? Will we fulfill His Kingdom purpose for us? Or, will we abdicate? For our country, at this time in history, the question for the church “is not one of victory or defeat. The question is victory or treason (Chilton, Paradise Restored, 99).”
Soli Deo Gloria,
Rev. Ryan Duck, M.Div., Th.M.
Pastor, Franklin Congregational Church