I was filling my car with gasoline and looked across the street to see a barbeque place whose smell caught my attention. The sign out front was one of those with hang-up letters for spelling out messages like: "Today's Special: pulled pork sandwich -- $3.99." But on this particular day, the message read: "America bless God."
It's been more than a year since I saw that sign but I haven't stopped thinking about it. There has been a resurgence in the slogan, "God bless America," since 9/11. While it carries a commendable patriotic fervor, I can't help but find the slogan cliche and I often think in response, "Why should God bless America?" Morality in our country is in a tailspin. Liberal educators, politicians, judges and organizations seem to work especially hard to eradicate any vestige of God from the marketplace. All the while, much of the church sleeps.
I leave for theologians the issue of whether God will continue to bless America and return to the message on the sign. It is profound. I personally believe that God has blessed America abundantly and waits patiently to see what we will do with the blessing. In essence, that's what the sign is telling us to do: "Do something to show God our country is still worthy of His blessing." I hold out little hope for our nation apart from contrition before God and a return to our founding roots of acknowledging God in all sectors of life.
Even my hope in that is beginning to wane. I've just finished reading David Limbaugh's book, "Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War against Christianity." Limbaugh did exhaustive research to specifically document the systematic assault against religious liberty and the Judeo-Christian foundation upon which our country was built. I won't belabor his evidence but will say that the proof of our country's decay lies in classrooms, courtrooms and our halls of government. We've killed millions and millions of babies since Roe v. Wade, the Ninth Circuit Court has removed God from the Pledge of Allegiance and our Supreme Court has, in effect, given its endorsement of homosexuality. Has anybody stopped to wonder why there were no student massacres at schools across our country during the 200 years prior to the removal of the Ten Commandments and prayer from schools? Are the seeds sown 60 years ago by Constitution-revising judges who began the removal process finally being harvested? Why is it that difficult for liberals to draw a correlation?
Christians have a right to yell foul. We are being persecuted. We're being cut out of our culture. But we also need to understand we play a role in our victimization. Our nation's fathers gave us a tremendous heritage and we've failed to adequately defend it. John Adams believed the demise of our nation would not be the British, but illiteracy. Education's primary purpose was to teach people to read so that they could understand the Bible themselves. Our fathers believed personal liberty was a gift from God and understanding how to exercise that gift responsibly came only through intense study and contemplation of His Word. The great universities of Harvard and Yale were established to educate according to biblical principles.
But intellectually we've withdrawn from the front lines of cultural relevance and forfeited our place in the debate. Whereas theology was once considered the queen of the sciences and theologians were respected, our culture now views theologians as little more than hucksters peddling snake oil. J.P. Moreland, in his excellent book, "Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul," gives the genesis of our retreat. Ironically, it was in Christianity's greatest moments, in the "Great Awakenings," Moreland argues, that much of our Christianity shifted from an intellectual approach to God to an emotional response based on personal feelings. "An intellectually shallow, theologically illiterate form of Christianity ... emerged," he writes, buttressing his assessment by quoting historian George Marsden: "Anti-intellectualism was a feature of American revivalism."
Humanists such as Hume and Kant challenged biblical authority. Darwinism surfaced and challenged biblical creationism, and Moreland notes that instead of responding to the attacks with a "vigorous intellectual counterpunch," many believers grew suspicious of intellectual issues altogether. Theologically conservative Christians withdrew from debate with liberal theologians and mainline denominations to start their own Bible institutes. The withdrawal isolated the church even more. A dichotomy emerged between secular and sacred. The humanism of the Renaissance overcame the biblical centrism of the Reformation.
Christianity had a chance to reclaim a position of stature when evolution went on trial during the Scopes Monkey Trial, but we failed to present a convincing case for biblical creationism. Public hostility toward Christianity became fashionable for the first time during the trial as editorials and editorial cartoons across the nation belittled Christian experts.
While the church backed away from culture, culture became more aggressive and began to chase Christianity from the marketplace. In 1947 Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black went against 170 years of legal precedent in Everson v. Board of Education and ruled that the Constitution truly did call for a separation of church and state. The court made the ruling based on zero previous cases and set in motion a court that rewrites the Constitution instead of interpreting the founding fathers' intentions. The Supreme Court expelled school prayer in the 1960s, further establishing a culture devoid of a Judeo-Christian influence. The once complementary "Establishment" and "Free Exercise" clauses of the First Amendment are now opposed, with the free exercise of religion losing out most of the time. Now, Limbaugh's book details the frenzy to make Christianity extinct.
I told a friend of mine that when I finished the book I wanted to grab my wife and daughter and hide in the mountains until Jesus returned. "That would be good," he said, "except that what you described is the very culture where Jesus commands us to go and be salt and light." He's right. Christians and our churches must fulfill our purpose regardless of the obstacles and persecution, and maybe in the process America will bless God again.