CALIFORNIA, September 14, 2013 — Whether we are or ever were a Christian nation is a contentious topic. The question is more than just an academic exercise; it has a direct impact on our nation’s responsibility towards the world in general, and Syria specifically.
Many non-Christians believe the United States should be a purely secular country, with Christian influence removed from the public domain as much as possible. This view not only rejects the strong Biblical influence on our national formation; it trivializes the danger of non-Christian worldviews that see man as the ultimate determiner of truth instead of an almighty God.
The United States is not and never has been a Christian theocracy. It has never made the law of the land subordinate to the authority of the Bible, or required that we all submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
In fact, depending upon ones specific eschatological view, a nation under Jesus’ direct kingly rule won’t occur until what the Bible describes as the end times (Revelation chapters 20 and 21).
So, what are we?
The Declaration of Independence acknowledges the existence of God and our ultimate accountability to him alone. The United States was thus designed as a unique experiment in the practical application of Biblical truths, values and justice at all levels of society. Although other worldviews have been able to compete in the arena of ideas, a Biblical morality has undergirded much of our nation throughout its history.
The reality is that the United States has been a “Christianized” country, but not a true “Christian nation,” the later term more appropriately applying to the Body of Christ as described in 1 Peter 2:9.
Given what we are as a nation, would our role towards Syria be any different if we were a true “Christian nation”? Though hard to be definitive, several aspects immediately come to mind.
A Christian nation would have a heart for both Christian and non-Christian neighbors that are suffering in the world, as Matthew 22:39 so succinctly puts it. Individuals and private organizations would be giving sacrificially to help refugees, casualties, and even help rebuild what has been destroyed.
This heart of compassion is consistent with our history of generosity toward those harmed by natural or man-made disasters; it also characterizes our engagement in the current Syrian situation. A Christian nation would use lethal force to protect its citizens and critical national interests when a clear threat exists, since home and national self defense are obvious scriptural principles (Exodus 22:2-3; Luke 11:21; Roman 13:4). In addition, using economic sanctions as tools for good are justified when properly motivated.
Although a Biblical case can be made to rescue those facing harm by civil war (Proverbs 24:11-12), avenging a country’s internal injustice is the purview of God (Romans 12:19). In fact, committing an act of war against Syria for using chemical weapons, while ignoring 100,000 deaths committed through other means, is patently unjust (Proverbs 20:10).
A Christian nation would protect allies that share our values; those that promote a worldview reflective of Biblical principles of justice and mercy and that understand accountability to a higher, divine authority. Those allies, in effect, are our brothers as Proverbs 17:17 implies.
Does any nation in the Middle-East meet this criterion? Only one: Israel.
Our nations share deep spiritual roots from holding much of the Bible in common, and from ancient Israel’s importance as the site of the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the only true democracy in a hostile neighborhood, Israel is a complex mix of reason, strength and self determination that reflects many of the same principles we cherish as a nation.
If our actions toward Syria result in Iran or Syria retaliating against Israel, our resolve to aggressively protect this tiny nation should be clear, direct, timely, and effective. Unfortunately, in recent years this resolve has been weak and uncertain.
A Christian nation would be concerned about the well-being of Christians throughout the world. It would use its influence to help secure their safety as they fulfill their salt and light mandate and the Great Commission (Matthew 5:13-16 and 28:18-20, respectively); while recognizing that faith does not come through coercion, deception or conquest, but by proclamation of truth (Romans 10:14-17). Sadly, for unknown reasons the plight of Christians in other nations is routinely ignored by our government. This has been particularly true for nations that have recently experienced major Islamic power struggles such as Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and now Syria.
Our actual response towards the catastrophe in Syria is a mixture of compassion and political opportunism, reflecting both our good and bad national instincts.
Our national concern for those needlessly suffering is profound and appropriate. As a people, all means of help to alleviate the Syrian human tragedy through humanitarian aid should be used. In addition, we must prepare to provide aid and protection to Christians who will suffer immense persecution should radicalized elements take over power.
Our role towards our ally Israel must be more than just providing support if they’re attacked. Our commitment to protect them with all means at our disposal should be clearly articulated and swiftly administered so that there’s no doubt about our resolve to ensure Israel’s safety.
However, taking unilateral action to punish Syria for using chemical weapons when they pose no direct threat to us or our national interests is an act of war that is unjustifiable and foolish (Proverbs 26:17). It would serve only to show how transparently self-interested our political leadership has become in foreign policy decisions, and how inept we’ve become at using force in a manner that’s consistent with our national values.
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