A House Divided

Stephen J Drain's picture

If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25).

The headlines recently, in America, were certainly unsettling for a news and commentary junkie like myself. The United States seemed to be imploding, committing suicide on live television. For some time now I have believed that we are witnessing the self-destruction of the United States. I often think of the words of Abraham Lincoln, who said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” History will show whether this proves true or not.

On Friday morning July 8th, many of us awoke to the news that a sniper had killed police officers in Dallas. In my shock I thought, “We are in the midst of a civil war.” But an odd hope came to me by way of the thought: “Perhaps these police officers were only killed by some Muslim terrorist, hoping to exploit our divisions.” (Only?) It was very strange to look for comfort in the idea that it might only have been a foreign terrorist and not the beginning of Charles Manson’s Helter Skelter.

But it turned out to only be home-grown hatred.

And the home grown hatred has continued.

One nation?

Under God?

Indivisible?

Will Christians now find one point of agreement with the Secularists, that it is time to lose the “under God” portion of the Pledge of Allegiance? Perhaps we should first be trying to remove the “indivisible” part. (Which came first, the chicken or the egg, rebellion against God’s authority or our divisions?)

This nation is divided.

Perhaps it has always been divided.

I am not one to espouse the “America has always been a Christian nation” belief, though certainly the fact that America was founded on Biblical Judeo-Christian foundations cannot be denied.[1] Our founding documents from the Mayflower Compact to our state Constitutions, Universities, hospitals, laws, etc., were all based upon the Judeo-Christian worldview. We know there were true Christians among the European settlers who first came to America, the Puritans being the most obvious example. But many, if not most, who came to America were Christian in name only. (It has always been the narrow road, and few finding it—Matthew 7:14.) Many of our Founding Fathers were Deists or men who showed more of an interest in following the philosophers of the Enlightenment than on following Jesus Christ.

Were there problems and divisions in America from the beginning? Absolutely! There were sins that denied the faith and the truth of Scripture which tells us that “From one man [God] made every nation of the human race” (Acts 17:26). The treatment of the native peoples, slavery, and Jim Crow may be the worst blemishes on our nation’s record. Thomas Jefferson, often espoused as our greatest Founding Fathers, was in my opinion a person of very low moral character, who while writing lofty ideas about freedom and God given rights was a slave owner. His flawed morals and character may indeed make him the quintessential Founder and American.[2] And in talking of America’s sins and divisions, we could very easily call into question whether the rebellion against England and King George III could in any way, shape, or form be considered right or righteous in light of the Scriptures (Roman 13:1-2).

But we know from the Bible that the inclination towards sin is mankind’s natural bent (Genesis 6:5, Ecclesiastes 9:3, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 1:18-32, Romans 3:9-18, etc.). The Founders acknowledged this and thus composed our government of three branches, a system of checks and balances, because they knew man’s tendency towards evil, factions, and despotism. Those very same Founders, even the ones who owned slaves and “wrote it into the Constitution” (so to speak), also made provision for a way to change what had been written when they included a process for amending the Constitution; so although they were truly flawed people, they set the foundation for the abolition of slavery via the Thirteenth Amendment.

And our flawed nation divided and shed the blood of its children in order to, eventually, purge slavery from our land. Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that the Civil War was very likely a judgment of God for the sin of slavery:

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’ [Psalm 19:9][3]

And it was a preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr., who helped lead the Civil Rights Movement which brought about an end to Jim Crowe and the treatment of blacks as second class citizens. His arguments and actions were very much based upon biblical definition of justice and moral law, God’s laws. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, Dr. King wrote, “A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with [God’s] the moral law.”[4] He also wrote that one of the four major steps “before undertaking any non-violent campaign” is “self purification” which I take to mean, “an examination of self before God’s moral laws.” Dr. King and his movement, shunned violence and destruction. And when the enemies of true justice and morality shouted, raged, and acted with aggression, the cause of the Civil Rights movement shone brighter and eventually succeeded.

Dr. King, in that same letter, also stated, “I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.” So today we must ask ourselves why is America self-destructing? What are the underlying causes?

Let me postulate my first answer: Multiculturalism.

Does anyone remember the lessons of the Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis? When all the people of the earth were working together, when they were of one language and culture and mind, they used that beautiful gift to exalt themselves and rebel against God. (In our rebellion, we always use the gifts God has given us to exalt self and rebel against Him.) Because of this, God divided humanity into different languages and cultures and scattered mankind all over the Earth. The division into different languages and cultures was a curse, not a blessing. The divisions were meant, by God, to keep people from working together and being of one mind and purpose. Because of this truth, I believe that those who desire not join in a common culture, not to join in a common language, etc., are actually embracing division. They are embracing the curse and all that comes along with that curse. When we divide and subdivide, as in “I’m Irish American. I’m African-American. I’m Latino”, when we fly flags of the nations we or our ancestors fled, when we identify more with what separates us than what brings us together, we embrace the curse. (Remember how for a very short time after 9-11 most Americans banded together as Americans, and not hyphenated Americans? It was a short lived dream of a true “melting pot”.) I recently read this line: “An era of diversity and pluralism-without-unity dispels commonalities…. It operates on divisive assertions that fail to anchor individuals in a national community.”[5]

Secondly, the most obvious answer is that America has completely turned away from even a cultural Christianity, of law and morality based upon the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, the Bible.[6] America is doing a good job of sawing off the limb on which it sits.[7] If we erase the influence and morality of God and the Bible in our nation, then we lose the true moral high ground espoused by the Abolitionists, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Each appealed to a higher law. They did not refer to manmade laws or the laws instituted by nations, but laws to which all people are bound by God. And once we toss aside the true morality and the God who revealed it, we surrender the very foundations of our freedom: “We are all endowed by our Creator with certain… rights”, remember? But if there is no Creator, then we are endowed with no rights. If Americans believe more and more that we evolved from primates and were not created by God, if we are all just another species of animal inhabiting this planet (as the schools and universities like to teach), then why is anyone surprised when we begin to act accordingly? The life of the animal is dominated by instincts, following impulses, doing what they desire most at any given moment. And the animal world is dominated by death and violence. “An unmitigated loyalty to our essence as instinct-driven animals will usher in the end of history,” writes one author.[8]

In those days… everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25).

So if your first allegiance is to Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Capitalism, Socialism, or Marxism, if your identity is found in your national origin, your cultural heritage, your skin color, your sexual preferences, or anything else, if your Messiah is Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump, or if your salvation is found in Science or Philosophy, mankind or Humanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or to anything other than the Jesus Christ, then you are headed in the wrong direction. Not only will you be on a collision course with all those other groups (and a thousand other groups like them), but you will be off course for life and eternity itself.[9] After all, even one degree off in course does not look like much at the beginning, but give it time, months and years and decades and centuries, and we find that we are so far from being on the straight and narrow that we are beyond human help.

George Washington on his Farewell Address said,

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public [happiness]. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life [without them]?”[10]

May I posit that when he said “religion”, he was not talking of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or any other religion, but that upon which our nation was pillared, the Christian religion? Note that he also said that no one could claim to be a patriot who would work to subvert this religion and the morality upon which it was based. You are sawing off the limb on which you are sitting.

John Adams said that “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Houston, we have a problem.

In the Final Court, however, not even a cultural Christianity will save America. The divisions between self-centered and sinful groups and individuals will continue. I opened this column with Jesus’ words, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25). I state here for the record: America will not stand. The United States will fall into “the ash heap of history” (whether figuratively or literally, leaves to be seen). Don’t let that frighten or anger you. The same will happen for every other nation on the face of the Earth. (More on this in a moment.)

The earth is… polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5, NASB).

Nothing manmade will stand or survive. The only thing that will last forever is Christ’s (Messiah’s) Kingdom, as promised by God time and time again.[11]

In the days of those kings the God of heaven will raise up an everlasting kingdom that will not be destroyed and a kingdom that will not be left to another people. It will break in pieces and bring about the demise of all these kingdoms. But it will stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).

Only as citizens of Christ’s kingdom and servants of His, will we be one, united, and truly indivisible (Galatians 3:28, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31).[12] This can only happen when Christ rules in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). Christ alone unites and redeems people “from every tribe, language, people, and nation” to be one kingdom and people (Revelation 5:9-10).

But no one joins God’s kingdom by trying harder, doing better, or turning over a new leaf. Believe it or not, our best efforts, “are like a menstrual rag in [God’s] sight” (Isaiah 64:6). Instead, we need to be cleansed and made new by Christ, through His death, burial, and resurrection. And when He ransoms and redeems from the curse (Mark 10:45, Galatians 3:13), He gives us new hearts (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26) and new life (2 Corinthians 5:17). God’s kingdom must take hold in each of us. The change must be wrought in each individual. Do you know what it means to say, “Jesus is Lord”? It means He is the Master and we must be obedient and allegiant to Him alone. We must be willing to forsake all other ties for Him (Matthew 10:37, Luke 12:49-53, Luke 18:28-30, etc.). He is our King. His Kingdom is our Kingdom. We are to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Right now this nation continues to splinter and the world is in turmoil for the very reason that people have no interest in the Kingdom of God. “There can only be one result,” wrote Karl Barth years ago: The people whom reject God’s Lordship and Kingdom, “will reach for dominion over other people, and they will [clash with people doing the same]. The battle over power—the power of the two sexes, the power of individuals, of nations, of classes—must now begin…. This means… the invasion of chaos into creation.”[13]

Chaos is what we have and creation groans (Roman 8:18-25).

Jesus, in talking to His generation about wars and rumors of wars, nations in perplexity and anguish, signs on the earth and in the heavens, said, “These are but the beginning of birth pains” (Mark 13:8). But to what were they giving birth? To what will they give birth in our day and age? To what will they give birth in the end? As Christians, we know, “when these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

The King is coming.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts…. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth…. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth’” (Psalm 46, NIV).

Even now our nation and the world are living under the wrath of God and discovering the “benefits” (consequences) thereof. (Read Romans 1:18-32.) In the end all nations will perish and the whole earth will be destroyed (2 Peter 3). But let those of us who belong to the Kingdom of Christ, not be without hope, nor be ashamed to share the Gospel, the Good News, that God saves all kinds of people through Jesus Christ, that He rescues us from our self-destruction and eternal suicide, and that this world is not the only one that will be. With Jesus is found eternal life and an eternal kingdom (see Revelation 21). 

Beware the warning from first chapter of the book of Proverbs:

How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you—when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them…

Many will be purified, made clean, and refined, but the wicked will go on being wicked. None of the wicked will understand, though the wise will understand” (Daniel 12:10).

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Read my other Bible.org columns here: http://blogs.bible.org/blog/26077




[1]
I suggest one find some of Gary DeMar’s books such as “America’s Christian Heritage” and “America’s Christian History”.

[2] Though he wrote the lofty words of the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” Jefferson owned slaves. Though in his book “Notes on the State of Virginia”, he spoke about the “despotism” of slave ownership and the “Degrading submissions” of the slaves, many believe that he fathered children by at least one of his slaves. And though even George Washington made provision for the freedom of his slaves (and provision for them) upon his death, Thomas Jefferson the lifelong spendthrift, left such debt to his family that a great many of his slaves needed to be sold off upon his death. Jefferson also made his own bible, now known as “The Jefferson Bible”, in which he excised the resurrection, references to Christ’s deity, and the miraculous. Jefferson also, when not President, wanted to make sure Presidents did not overstep the powers enumerated them in the Constitution, but when President overstepped the enumerated powers himself. Lastly, he was certainly one of the Founding Fathers of dirty politics, coordinating vicious attacks against John Adams through surrogates during the election of 1800, while pretending he had nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks. The truth came out, however. History shows Jefferson a person of secular ideas and low moral character, perhaps the poster-boy Founder of this nation as we now know it.

[5] Mark Bauerlein and Adam Bellow on page 240 of their book, “The State of the American Mind”, copyright 2015 by Templeton Press.

[6] Here I am reminded of Voddie Baucham’s story about the old couch he and his wife used to love: It was just about all they had at one time, but over time they acquired new things. The couch didn’t quite fit anymore. They put to the side, then out of sight, and then got rid of altogether. This is how America has been looking at Christianity. See his example here.

[7] Refer to George Washington’s Farewell Address in which he states that “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars…”

[8] R.R. Reno in the book “The State of the American Mind”, the chapter entitled, “The New Antinomian Attitude”, page 223, copyright 2015 by Templeton Press.

[9] Read C.S. Lewis’ “The Three Parts of Morality” which follows the idea that there are three things we must worry about: First, harmony with others. Secondly, our wellness within (not physically). And thirdly, are we headed toward the proper destination with our lives. (This is an extreme simplification on my part.)

[10] Emphasis added.

[11] See 2 Samuel 7:16, Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 2:44, Daniel 7:13-14, Matthew 7:21, Matthew 25:34, Mark 10:29-30, Mark 14:25, Luke 1:33, Luke 13:28-29, John 3:16, John 3:36, John 11:25, Romans 2:7, Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Titus 1:2, James 2:5, 1 John 5:13, 2 Peter 1:11, etc.

[12] As one of my favorite preachers, Tony Evans, has pointed out, if we make ourselves  hyphenated Christians, for instance, a “black Christian” or a “white Christian”, a “Liberal Christian” or a “Conservative Christian”, etc., we make the word “Christian” the noun and the other words (black, white, liberal, conservative) adjectives. “The job of an adjective is to modify a noun,” says Evans. “So if you put Christianity in the noun position and your color or culture in the adjectival position you must keep changing the noun to reflect the adjective…. So if I say I’m a black [or white] Christian, I’ve got to always shape ‘Christian’ to look black [or white]…. But if I put my Christianity in the adjectival framework… then I always adjust my color, class, and culture, to… my faith. In other words our humanity must be defined by our Christianity.” See here.

[13] Karl Barth, as quoted on page 51 of “Insights: Karl Barth’s Reflections on the Life of Faith”, copyright 2009 Westminster John Knox Press.

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