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Kiss the Son
King, Country, and the Christian Conscience
I think that it’s time that we had a talk about the U.S. Constitution. That venerable document, forged in blood and fire, is the product of one of the greatest experiments in human history. And there have been a lot of experiments. It rightfully stands on the platform alongside the Magna Carta and Hammurabi’s Code, and in many ways outshines them both in terms of breadth and depth. These inspiring documents, while different in many respects, do share a single common characteristic that is lost on most modern Americans—inspiring though they may be, none of them are inspired. In the end, it is still only an experiment, not an edict from on high.
This should go without saying, but the problem is that we have gone so long without saying it that people have forgotten this obvious truth. Though historical ignorance is frighteningly pervasive, it is a safe bet to assume that most American Christians know more about the founding of America than they do about the founding of Israel. A fact which may seem inconsequential until we remember that their history is also our history. Indeed, those who braved tempestuous seas on leaky boats to come to our native shores conceived of the “New World” as the platform for Israel 2.0.
Reagan wasn’t the first to speak of “a shining city on a hill,” and his forbearers weren’t nearly as negligibly ignorant of the theological overtones of such a declaration as we tend to be.
Since we know more about Washington, Jefferson, and Adams than we do about Abraham, Moses, and David it is not surprising that when push comes to shove we throw in our lot with the Yanks. The Bill of Rights warrants a higher place of prominence in our minds than do the Ten Commandments. The laws of God and of nature are circumscribed and circumvented by the fiddlings of legislators. Most of whom are willing to sell their favors on the cheap (giving credence to Reagan’s dictum that the second-oldest profession bears a striking resemblance to the first). This is fine by us since it is, after all, the “American way.” The Constitution has become the all-sufficient rule for faith and practice.
That said, I am a proud American. I have lived elsewhere in the world and have found their systems weighed and found wanting. But honesty demands that I not press my thumb onto the scales of reason in order to render a verdict more favorable to my own national sympathies. The Constitution is not the Bible. Congress is not the canon. The State is not sovereign.
The genius of American exceptionalism was that the founders didn’t think of themselves, or of their experiment, as all that exceptional. There’s was a measured humility, balanced by gratitude and wisdom. By their best lights, which were considerable, they offered to their brothers a program for liberty, security, and prosperity. This they did cognizant of their own short-sightedness and finitude. While it is honorable to pay tribute to their ingenuity, it would be a stain upon their legacy to attribute to them the divine attributes of omniscience and immutability. They made mistakes, as numerous amendments testify. This is ok. This is expected. They were only men after all. Not one of them strove for apotheosis, which has ironically been conferred upon them despite their mortality having been so ably demonstrated.
Those who name the name of Christ should not feel it necessary to choose between being an American and being a Christian. But neither should there be any hesitancy if such a time for choosing should ever come. The King comes first. Scripture is our ultimate authority. This is true whether the subject is tithing or taxes, the incarnation or immigration, or anything between aardvark and zygote.
Good Christian citizens are those who know when to bow and to whom. Righteous men are always willing to bend their neck to pray for Nebuchadnezzar, they are never willing to bend their knee to his idols. Godly patriots can never kiss the blackened boot of a secularized state; they are bound by love and duty to “kiss the Son” lest he be angry with them.
This has largely been a theoretical exercise up to this point. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. There are many difficult decisions that need to be made in our nation regarding abortion, marriage, war, immigration reform, the problems of pluralism, and countless others. We must recover the true conviction of our fathers, Moses along with Madison, and inquire as to whether our positions are biblically right rather than just politically feasible.
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