Monday, October 08, 2012

Founded On Which Set of Values?

As we get down to the nitty gritty and approach the election, I am hearing more and more about the need to choose a candidate that will defend and uphold the Christian values that this nation was founded on. The irony of those pronouncements is that they are often invoked in support of a man who denies every pivotal truth of that very same Bible, a man who will swear to uphold the Constitution with his hand on a Bible that he doesn't believe. Anyway, are the founding beliefs of America really "Biblical Christian values" or something very different?

When the colonists declared their independence from England, they did so by a formal declaration that begins with there famous words (or they used to be famous, not sure if they even cover this in school anymore)....

We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.

Everything else in the Declaration is derived from these values. It is a given that King George was depriving the colonists of the right to exercise the "unalienable Rights" and therefore the colonists were not only justified but indeed obligated to "throw off such Government". This is indisputable for the story of America

To many of us, those values are indistinguishable from the values of the Kingdom. Are they really? Let's look at the three fundamentals that this nation was founded on...


Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
(John 12:25)

"I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:4-5)

Preserving our life is not a Kingdom value, indeed many of those who came before us laid down their lives for the cause of the Gospel, men like Stephen and Felix Manz and Jim Elliot and John Hus, not to mention the Apostles. Our lives are not our own and we have no unalienable claim to them. In following Christ we should plan on being asked to lay down our own lives, not in combat but in martyrdom.


Paul often referred to himself as a bondservant and servants were exhorted to obey their masters (Eph 6:5-8). Christians living under the tyranny of Caesar were told to submit to that government (Romans 13:1-4). We have traded our false freedom for a true freedom, one that often leads to our imprisonment, persecution and death.

We do have liberty but it is not the kind of liberty granted by the laws of man or won at the end of a gun.

Pursuit of Happiness?

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matthew 5:11)

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:20-22)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Our happiness does not come from being able to go to church or not have soldiers quartered in our home. Our joy is in Christ and the culmination that is to come. But for now we should plan on suffering and sorrow.

So was America founded on Biblical principles. I would say no, just the opposite in fact. If you get right down to it...

If America were truly founded on Christian values we never would have been founded at all and would still be British!

Christianity as a faith is one that is very susceptible to being co-opted by the powers of the world, perverted into a moralistic religion that makes people easier to govern or rule. We need to be continually on guard against losing sight of the mission of the church, especially when the forces that seek to co-opt the Gospel are seductive precisely because they appeal to our most cherished cultural beliefs and reinforce our cultural story.

This isn't America bashing. Just reality. This is a remarkable nation in so many ways. I would imagine that most Christians, myself included, have no interest in leaving this country. We are comfortable here and we like it here. All that can be true and yet we can still look at this nation in comparison to others with a eye turned to the cross instead of Old Glory. This isn't a "Christian nation" and it wasn't founded on "Christian values". It is a great country that is nevertheless filled with people who are moral, religious and lost. Those are the people we are called to reach and often they are the hardest to reach precisely because they live in such a religious, moralistic nation.

We need to keep our eyes clear and our minds focused. Our mission is infinitely and eternally greater than the results of one election.

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