With Election Day upon us, I would like to address some questions I
am frequently asked by Christian supporters of the political agenda I
advocate. What should be uppermost in the minds of Christian voters as
they go to the polls on Tuesday? What is the real meaning of patriotic
responsibility for Christians in the often very worldly business of
Our first call is not an allegiance of party; it is not an
allegiance of personal interest; it is not an allegiance to social
good. Our first call is our allegiance to God Almighty. And at the
expense of all things, we must serve that allegiance — for that is what
Our Lord did and that is what, by His example, we are called to do.
How does this apply to the choice voters face in casting their vote
for president? Two things should be completely clear to any Christian.
First, a vote for Al Gore by a Christian is indefensible. Second, there
is no choice available on the ballot that fully represents the real
decisions that the country must eventually make if it is to avoid
disaster. No Christian should believe that the choice of this Election
Day will save this country.
I wish to do no harm to all the good that many Republicans are trying
to accomplish in this election. But I believe it is essential that we
measure whatever we hope to accomplish on Tuesday against the real
standard of our hope for America. To do this, we must remember what the
Christian patriot seeks to accomplish in American politics.
First, what is a Christian patriot? It would not be right for a
Christian person to be patriotic in every country in the world or to
every regime that has ever existed. Surely Christian patriotism in Nazi
Germany would have been a contradiction in terms. So what is Christian
patriotism in America? How does a Christian love this country?
Christians are not called to love country for the sake of country.
We are called to love country as we are called to love in every respect
– namely, always for the sake first of God and serving His will. This
may seem to make it difficult to love anything but God. After all, if
we love Him with our whole heart, mind and soul, with what are we left
to love either our neighbor or ourselves — or our country? But surely
just as we love God in our neighbor, because he is made in the image and
likeness of God, so we can love our country just insofar as we see God’s
truth and glory reflected there. Christian patriotism is love of
country for the sake of God and is possible just insofar as it is
possible for our country to be a reflection of God in our world.
I love America. But I didn’t come to that love easily. I was a
teen-ager when I first confronted the long and terrible episodes of the
suffering of my ancestors in slavery, the degradation of their humanity,
the brutality visited upon them. Reading that story utterly and
absolutely broke my heart, forever. That history is heartbreaking, not
only because of the suffering of the slaves, but also because of the
terrible degradation of those who oppressed them and who were turned
from their true vocation of humanity by the evil that they did to
others. It is not for the sake of that history that I love America.
But as I spent decades studying the history of America more deeply, I
came to appreciate a truth that has ever since dominated my approach to
this nation and its affairs. Despite all the evil to be found in the
history of America, the redeeming feature of the American heritage lies
right there at its beginning. By the providence of God, our nation was
founded by a generation as weak, sinful, and complicit in injustice as
any other. Yet they were endowed with this, at least: that they had
the courage to acknowledge the truth by which their sins were
condemned. They had the courage to acknowledge the God by which their
failings would be judged.
Unlike America today, in which we deny God’s authority so we can kill
innocent children for the sake of our lust, they at least had the
decency to acknowledge that there is a God and that His authority made
them tremble before the truth of their sinfulness. They placed this
acknowledgment at the very beginning of our national life, when they
declared that, “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.” And these words are the gateway through which a
person of Christian heart may step in order to become fully and
patriotically a citizen of America.
If this were not the principle of the American Founding, then I doubt
quite strongly that I would be an American patriot. For the Christian
heart owes its allegiance first to God and cannot have an allegiance
that is not consistent with that first allegiance to His will.
Christians can be patriots only to the extent that their country can be
loved, like our own created persons, as somehow reflecting the truth of
God’s glory. The American Republic meets this standard because it was
founded on a principle of justice that, from the very first,
acknowledged that God is the source of rights, of justice, and of
respect for human dignity.
This encouraging and comforting idea has brought to our political
life all those standards of justice and moderation that have constituted
throughout our history the basis for our ongoing struggle toward greater
compassion, humanity and justice. The secret of American success from
the very beginning has been that we have been a people who knows that we
must go down on our knees to claim our rights, from the hand of the Lord
God, so that we may rise from our knees to stand with dignity before any
human power whatsoever.
I believe that this is what has given our country the wherewithal to
come through so many trials and difficulties — to face even the demons
of our own injustice — and, despite all the terrifying truths that
would tear us apart from time to time, to find the road to healing that
preserved our Union and protected the hope we are supposed to represent
I believe that all Christians in America have a duty to be
patriotic. We have a duty to love our country for what it was founded
to be — a nation striving to be an image of God’s truth. And we have a
duty to reach out to our fellow citizens who do not understand or accept
the fact that respect for the authority of God is the first principle of
American life. We have a patriotic and a Christian duty to recall our
nation to its true nature. In doing so, we serve the country we help
restore — and the God whose truth and glory will be so much more
reflected in that country’s justice and decency. We love our God in our
country, as we must love Him everywhere His goodness is found.
What, then, does the Christian patriot understand to be the real and
fundamental cause of the many evils that threaten America today? Is it
the breakdown of family? The rise in violence? The temptations of
prosperity? Christians, more than any other Americans, should be able
to understand that our present evils derive from the fact that, having
been founded from the very first premise of its life on the
acknowledgment of God’s authority, our country has turned away from the
creed based upon that acknowledgment, has driven His name from the
schools, has driven prayer from the hearts of our children, and has
driven every respect for Almighty God from the precincts of our public
We do not have a crisis because we are losing our families; we are
losing our families because we have turned this nation’s heart from its
allegiance to God Almighty. That is the source of all our ills. But if
that is the source of all our ills, we must let no one sell us a remedy
short of the truth. Or rather, whatever remedies are offered for
today’s symptoms, we must never mistake them for the real remedy of what
What does all this have to do with Tuesday’s election? Let me be
blunt. I believe that Christians are called to do whatever they can at
the ballot box to advance the cause of a renewed acceptance of God’s
authority in American life. Deciding which presidential candidate is
most opposed to this purpose will not be difficult. What may be more
difficult is for Christians to remember that none of the choices for
president on Tuesday represents the choice of Declaration principle that
the country requires. All of them have, to a greater or lesser degree,
scrupulously avoided making true commitments to the task which ought to
be the first priority in the use of the power that they seek. In making
what seems the best short-term decision in our vote for president on
Tuesday, Christians must clearly understand that our allegiance cannot
be to party, nor to the so-called efficacy of the leadership that is
offered us. Our allegiance must be to God. And we must do the best we
can, given the alternatives available, to serve God in our choices.
Whoever wins the presidency, Christians will have to remain vigilant
afterwards if we want the agenda of truth and a return to godly
principle to triumph in America. We may avoid the worst result on
Tuesday but cannot really hope for much more than that. Our work will
not end on Election Day — it will merely begin again.
We can avoid the worst. We can slow it down. But I believe this is
all we can do with our votes. The train will still be headed down the
track in the wrong direction, whichever way things go. And that means
that the burden and responsibility for that renewal and transformation
still rests on us.
It is our responsibility because the same divine providence to which
our Founders appealed in the Declaration has handed to us participation
in a citizen body that still, in spite of all our follies and stumbling,
manages to hold on to the key to this nation’s destiny. Christians
throughout the ages — obeying Christ’s command to “teach the nations”
– have sought to convert the nation by converting the king. In
America, the people are king and Christians who would convert the nation
must not spurn going to that people in their sovereign role — in their
role as citizens. Calling our fellow American citizens back to the
truth of God’s authority is at once a work of high patriotism and of
Christian evangelism. We have no business, either as Americans or as
Christians, ignoring the suffering our nation is undergoing because it
has turned away from God.
Called to teach the nations, and placed by providence in this one,
our Christian duty is to teach this Godly nation to recognize itself.
We will not do so if we tell ourselves or others that a moderation or
partial reversal of the pernicious policies of the Clinton years
represent victory for Christian patriotism. Rather, we must seek to do
the good we can on Tuesday, recognizing it for the partial and dim
beginning it may be, and then resume on Wednesday the perpetual struggle
to make America again reflect the hope which God offers to our nation
and to all humanity.