Review: This Precarious Moment

A review by Dwight A Moody

What kind of country do these Christian Nationalist want?

 

That was my motive when I decided to find their books and read them; and this is the first one I discovered: This Precarious Moment (with a long, promising subtitle—6 Urgent Steps That Will Save You, Your Family, and Our Country). It is written by Jim Garlow, a pastor in San Diego and David Barton, a lay historian of colonial and revolutionary America.

 

After 252 pages and 530 footnotes, I know what they want—at least these two spokespersons; and here I will reveal to you the qualities of the Christian America they describe (in no particular order):

  • No public schools but homeschooling everywhere
  • Religious mottos on walls everywhere, such as “In God We Trust”
  • No abortion
  • No homosexuality
  • No Progressives
  • Lots of religious rhetoric in public documents and speeches
  • Prayer meetings everywhere and all the time
  • Total and unlimited support of Israel
  • Christians running everything

 

Concerning that last one: by “everything” I mean what they mean—the “seven mountains of cultural influence”. This is the new and trendy appeal for the renewal of American democracy and society—placing (conservative, evangelical) Christians in charge of media, education, business, government, family, arts, and entertainment, and religion.

 

Why they omit other centers of influence (science, recreation and sports, health and medicine, for instance) I don’t know.

 

The book is organized into six sections. Race is first, and slavery is condemned. But the problems plaguing the African American communities are because their people do not marry; only 21% of them do, according to their data. They are to blame for their own situation.

 

Immigration is next; and it is clear they want the wall, and they don’t want Muslims. However, they do propose a path to citizenship for undocumented people brought here as children and a path to legal residency (but not citizenship) for those who came as adults.

 

Israel is number three, and Israel can do no wrong. The United States must support Israel, not because it is good international diplomacy or in our national interests, but solely because the Bible promises to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel.

 

Israel, they assert, was given by God all the land from the Nile River in Egypt to the Euphrates in Iraq, including Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza—but Garlow and Barton never work out the details of how and when Israel is to claim and occupy all that land.

 

Section Four is a sustained critique of the Millennial Generation, those born between 1981 and 1996. They are lazy, ignorant, liberal, single, and disengaged from the religion. Their only redeeming qualities are their opposition to abortion and sex trafficking.

 

As a person who has spent the last 20 years of ministry with this age group—teaching, discipling, leading, listening, inspiring—I can only say: I have no idea who he is talking about. Which is pretty much the way I felt about every section of this book.

 

Section Five surely comes from Barton, who owns an enormous library of documents from the founding fathers and writes extensively on the subject. Here is a synopsis of what he asserts: most of the founding fathers were members of Christian churches and littered their letters and speeches with references to God and the Bible. THAT is what he means by the United States being founded as a Christian nation.

 

There was no explanation of how this religious rhetoric guided those founding fathers in how they treated indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans, or marginalized women. And throughout the book, there was no attention given to such basic Christian values as love, justice, hospitality, equality, health, service, or earth care.

 

Last in their list of failing institutions is the church. And the reason? Preachers are not addressing in their sermons the subjects their people want—and he gives a list of 14 topics that are ignored. They include abortion (of course), Israel, Islam, persecution, sex, the proper role of government, and the relationship of the church to the government.

 

They describe this era as “a precarious moment” in American history marked by these signs: lack of sexual values and standards, violence in the womb (abortion) and on the streets, lousy public education at all levels, and personal and government debt. Who is to blame? The church and their clergy because they are not engaged enough in redeeming the culture.

 

Garlow and Barton are not without hope, mind you; and they list three good things that are happening: lots of public and private prayer meetings (especially among government officials), the installation of “In God We Trust” around the country, and the skyrocketing use of home-schooling to educate the children. I feel so much better, don’t you?

 

One way to summarize this perspective on America is this: According to Garlow and Barton, six of the “seven mountains of cultural influence” are in bad shape—religion, education, media, government, arts and entertainment, and family. Only business escapes their cacophony of condemnation.

 

Maybe executives at Google, Apple, Viacom, and Ford (along with the Chamber of Commerce) are the saviors of our woebegone world. I’m certain Garlow and Barton are busy trying to organize a prayer meeting.