On a day when I would have been in the heart of the business district of New York City freely sharing how faith in Jesus can change the lives of the power brokers of Wall Street, another ideology was planning to demolish all the “power buildings” of my country, buildings like the Twin Towers, Wall Street, the Pentagon and the White House. In the weeks after that first 9/11, our country came together with a unified zeal, committed to defending our homeland against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But that soon changed. Very shortly thereafter, the mantra was no longer, “Why are they so evil?” Instead, the question became, “Why do others hate America so much?” Why, indeed? Like a battered spouse, we made others’ evils our responsibility and demonized healthy patriotism and respect for the many blessings of America for all. Just recently, I saw a protestor holding up a sign that said, “Religious Freedom is Christian Terrorism.” The men who flew those planes into our buildings could have said the same thing.
Is America worth defending? Is America worth dying for? I point you to an article by Dinesh D’Souza titled “What’s Great About America” for an in-depth discussion of that question. Here, I share with you his conclusion:
My conclusion is that America is the greatest, freest, and most decent society in existence. It is an oasis of goodness in a desert of cynicism and barbarism. This country, once an experiment unique in the world, is now the last best hope for the world. By making sacrifices for America and by our willingness to die for her, we bind ourselves by invisible cords to those great patriots who fought at Yorktown, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima, and we prove ourselves worthy of the blessings of freedom. By defeating the terrorist threat posed by Islamic radicalism, we can protect the American way of life while once again redeeming humanity from a global menace. History will view America as a great gift to the world, a gift that Americans today must preserve and cherish.
Now, to be clear, it’s true that Christians can exist in any country, under any governmental regime. It’s also true that the Bible doesn’t dictate any particular economic theory or political polity. Having said that, it is also true that there are fundamental, biblical and moral principles that exist FOR ALL, and that some “polities” reflect and uphold those truths better than others. If we are privileged to live in a land that better reflects those enduring truths, we should be eternally grateful.
On a day like today, we should be thankful for America’s “twin towers” of individual liberty and limited, restrained government that are to be exercised by free, virtuous, religiously directed and motived people. Those towering principles still make America a unique country in all the world. And, for those of us who are Christian, it provides great freedom to share the whole counsel of God, and, especially His Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, with anyone and everyone without fear of coercion to the contrary. While Christians are being persecuted mercilessly around the world just because of their faith, Christians in America—who are free to serve God unlike anywhere else in the world—should rise to the defense of a country that politically and legally still seeks to protect its citizens’ right to exercise their faith publicly for the sake of their neighbor and their country.
That’s why that placard demonizing the First Amendment to the Constitution is so troubling. That misguided lady somehow believes that stifling the First Amendment by silencing the moral voice of the Christian Church will somehow lead to a utopian freedom under a “benevolent” government where there will be no more vices or violence, no more fears or tears. Unfortunately, regardless of utopian placards to the contrary, history’s record of humanity’s depravity and the unquenchable thirst for power of an unbound government will prove her wrong anew.
Today, many are being tempted by the false promises of a “benevolent state,” rather than the real opportunities emanating from the notion of individual liberty/freedom lived out in service of family, faith, and community. Today, we can assert even more boldly that America is a country worth defending, a country whose ideals are indeed worth living for and even dying for. As Christians, we must exercise the blessings of our citizenship more boldly, understanding that one’s healthy “independence” is rooted in and empowered by the following:
- our dependence on God in all things,
- our interdependence with each other in community (e.g., family, church, neighborhood, city and country), and
- our humble, steely-eyed willingness to be independent and even “go it alone” for ourselves and for others when God’s fundamental, moral truths are on the line.
It’s incredible to know that the Christ’s cross endures even when towers fall. But thank God also for those temporal towers that allow us to live in freedom as we serve others in God’s name.
The Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz is the executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty.