Last week a reader of The President asked me during a group Skype discussion whether I think President Trump can return Christian values to our nation. I believe the answer is “Yes”, for him or for any President, though perhaps not as one might initially think, and certainly not by himself.
In answering the question, I think it’s important to distinguish between the goal itself and the methods employed to achieve the goal.
I am reminded that in the case of the Israelites, that nation’s success or failure in following God’s laws and principles usually included a distinction between the leadership and the people. Sometimes the leader was actively seeking God’s will while some or all of the people were in revolt. At other times, the leaders themselves were evil and corrupt, inviting God’s wrath and destruction on the people. The nation prospered when both the leaders and the people themselves sought to follow the Lord’s will.
May we hope for such a time in our nation today. Focusing on the President himself, I do not know him and can only react to his public actions and statements. And of course I do not know his relationship with the Lord. Given that he seems to act from narcissism, petulance, anger and revenge, it is hard to see him walking in the Fruit of the Spirit. But important change may still be possible, if he can provide an environment in which believers can speak and act without being denigrated or marginalized.
What should be our goal in this area? I don’t think it is to pass laws on personal behavior driven by Christian ideals (with the one exception of abortion, because it is murder and cannot be undone). It is hard to imagine that someone determined to try a drug, take a drink, sleep with his girlfriend, have an affair or engage in homosexual activity, would not do so only because there is a law against it. In fact, Prohibition and the current War on Drugs show that the unintended consequences of such laws are often much worse than the original action which we were trying to contain.
Let me make it clear that I am opposed to drug addiction, alcoholism, affairs, homosexual behavior, prostitution and other such vices which separate us from God’s will for our individual lives, and lead to outcomes which are often at least less than God intends for us, and often terrible. But laws alone will not prevent these activities, and when they make criminals of those who engage, it drives them underground and provides a fertile breeding ground for theft, burglary, sex trafficking, murder, gangs, bribes, and all the ancillary plagues associated with organized crime.
And in focusing on such laws, Christians can too-often “check the box” that we have done something “Good”, and then retreat into a holy huddle of looking down on others, when it is only by God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice that we have been saved, and clearly not by our own laws or actions.
So what do I think is the goal of “returning Christian values to our nation”? It is for each of us to reweave our basic Christian faith back into the everyday tapestry of all that we do and say, not just into our nation’s laws.
Returning to The President, if you have a copy, please re-read the State of the Union Address on pages 311-328 in which President William Harrison describes the divide between the two worldviews which generally separate us today:
“The first worldview is the Judeo-Christian one on which this nation was founded. It begins with the belief that there is a God, that He created us, and that He has a purpose for each of us.” (315).
“The second worldview … believes either that there is no God, and we’re all the result of some still unexplained mistake…or that there may be a God, but He simply made us and then left town, leaving us to our own devices. This worldview tells us that we’re on our own and that we’ve got to improve and even perfect ourselves. There are therefore no overriding rules or absolute values.” (315-316)
Over the past half-century the Judeo-Christian worldview has been pushed out of the public square and derided in most discussions by the lie that America was founded on secular principles.
As an aside, any cursory study of our history will confirm that the majority of men and women who founded our nation believed that they were doing so in conformance with God’s precepts, and that His will should constantly be sought for our personal and national well being. This certainly did not make them perfect—slavery being the most obvious example. But that failing (well understood at the time) does not erase their core foundational and revolutionary belief that all people are equal, with certain inalienable rights, because they are all created in the image of God. And, by the way, the next 150 years saw our nation move inexorably to guarantee that truth for all our citizens, sometimes by peaceful means, and sometimes not.
Because the Judeo-Christian worldview has been pushed to the gutter by secularists in government, the media, entertainment and education, our goal today should be to insure that it is again very much in the public square and is a strong factor in all the discussions, debates, laws, and regulations in the land. We will still differ on many details, and probably have slightly different emphases by region or locality, as Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about us back in 1836. But he also rightly marveled that our general, shared Christian faith was the single most important force creating our unique American optimism, our creative industry, and our approach to both challenges and opportunities.
If we are successful in weaving Judeo-Christian concepts back into our everyday American life, it will not be because of one event, or of one person, even a President. And it will be best if the process occurs daily and organically over several years, so that, like a thread in a tapestry, it is woven in and through all the other threads.
So if our goal is to bring the Judeo-Christian worldview boldly back into the public square, what are some means for each of us and for our President/his Team to accomplish that goal?
- Speak up and be bold (in a loving way) in declaring the source of our beliefs and recommendations. For example, I may agree that homosexuality or premarital sex are secularly legal, but then I want those with whom I am having the discussion to understand that those activities are not what God wants for us, and that they will very likely harm us and those whom we love. Sin and its results cannot be legislated away.
- Prepare and act daily focusing on other people, not laws. Please see my post from last April with specific daily action steps, as well as a list of relevant books to read and to have available to give to others.
- Know and defend confidently our American history as it relates to our Christian roots, and to our right to the free expression of our faith guaranteed in the Constitution. David Barton’s book Original Intent is a great starting point. If you prefer a novel format, try The President. Or for one short blog post lesson, see this link.
- As the First Lady did recently with the Lord’s Prayer, pray in small groups and in public, when appropriate, and encourage others to do the same, so that it is clear in Whom the real power to guide, protect and transform people and this nation resides. And that we as Americans should call upon that power as part of our everyday life.
- Serve others, including family and strangers, as Christ directed us to do.
- Insert Grace into as many situations as we can, and when it supernaturally changes almost everything, explain why it does.
- Pray again, this time in private or with the family or friends, that God will continue to protect and to lead our land, and, if He has not done so already, that He will bring our President to a saving faith in His son. And that He will use the talents that He has given each of us to proclaim His Truth to those who do not know Him.
- Don’t be petulant, selfish, or critical of others. Don’t Tweet rebukes. Rather, at work, in social settings, in our families, and even for policy recommendations, be someone whom others want to be around and want naturally to seek input from. Practice the Fruit of the Spirit in all that we do: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22 & 23).
And now that Donald Trump is our President, I hope that he will find a few hours to read The President, the story of a secular leader who becomes a believer and turns the nation around.