When Christians Ruled

[click HERE for “Lament and Longing”]

 

by Dwight A. Moody 

 

It started the last time our country was in such a mess—1968.

 

Civil Rights. Vietnam. Demonstrations. Drugs. Sex. Political Divide. Assassination. Rock Music. I remember it—I was 18years old.

 

The Supreme Court had already decided that public schools could no longer use the Christian Bible and Christian prayers to start the day; and a few years later, they decided a woman has a right to both privacy and agency when it comes to pregnancy.

 

Somewhere in the middle of all this—perhaps in 1968—some Christians decided it was their time to win the struggle for our culture, it was their time to take this country back to God, it was their time to rule.

 

Thus began what we soon called the Culture War.

 

The fifty years since have comprised the entirety of my adult life. Like many of you, I have watched as these Christians—mainly white Evangelicals joined by a good swath of Roman Catholics—organized to seize political power. “If we could only get our kind of Christian elected to office,” they reasoned and often said, “we can turn our country around and make it righteous again.”

 

What they meant by “righteous” came to mean these things: private schools rather than public schools, birthing babies rather than aborting babies, heterosexual marriage rather than homosexual marriage, local control rather than federal control, and America and Israel rather than American and the world.

 

It took them almost fifty years of hard work, but in the end they won (at least a battle if not the war). With the election of Donald J. Trump, they won something. They put in place here, there, and everywhere a cadre of like-minded minions: running agencies, hiring staff, setting policy, spending money, deciding cases.

 

Which is why President Trump walked across the street this week, stood in front of a church, and held aloft the Bible. Their leader was sending this signal to all his soldiers: “We made it. Stand firm. God is good. We will prevail.”

 

The rest of us, believers and unbelievers alike, look around and survey these United States.

 

We say to one another, “So, this is what it looks like when Christians rule the country.”

 

One hundred thousand dead of a pandemic. Twenty-seven trillion dollars borrowed by the federal government. Twenty percent of the American people out of work. Civil unrest from coast to coast.

 

Beyond these immediate images, we see our country receding from global leadership: treaties canceled, allies ignored, tyrants coddled, trade and travel curtailed.

 

In a world periodically overrun with refugees fleeing war, famine, death, and drugs, we see our borders closed, our welcome cancelled, our haven for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free shut down and out of business.

 

We see and we think, “So, this is what happens when Christians pray in the White House, study the Bible in the halls of Congress, and pledge allegiance to one nation under God?”

 

We remember the tax cut of 2018 that cancelled billions of dollars in public support from the wealthiest of our citizens. We hear of efforts to sell our national parks and discontinue safety inspections of food, and drink, and workplaces.

 

We watch as one after another young white males, many without experience, are elevated to district courts, appeals courts, and the Supreme Court.

 

We stare in disbelief as the President vetoes student debt relief while his team of Christian leaders divert money from public schools to fund the great charter school experiment.

 

We turn to one another and say, “Is this what we expected when we elected Christians to run the country?”

 

And now we watch in respectful silence as Ahmaud Arbrey, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, and George Floyd are laid to rest. In the distance, we hear the sounds of Trump and his Christian underlings plotting to unleash the army on a grim and grieving country.

 

We look again at that image. President Donald Trump, leader of Christian America, standing defiantly before the boarded up windows of the sanctuary that faces his own house, holding aloft the book he neither reads nor heeds, sending a signal to the white warriors awaiting his orders: “Stand with me. Victory is ours. God bless America.”

 

Read the other commentary for this week: Lament and Longing

(June 2020)