There are so many ways to look at this. There are so many ways to spin it. There are so many things people say that turn my hair grey. Many conservatives are saying this is the “end of America.” It stresses me out.
Stressors include the fact that nations rise and nations fall. In tragedy and loss of hope, nations morph into something that they were not before, and start down a road that is hard to come back from. I have to deal with this fact. That is the value of studying history. For many, this latest election evidences the beginning, middle, or end of this shift. The freedom we once aspired to may be soon traded for the supposed “stability” Big Brother can provide. And the more people become dependent on the government dole, the more difficult it will be to pull them away. I don’t think the majority of the country understands or cares about what it all means and by the time they do, it may be too late. But that is just my anxiety talking.
On the other side, I am hard pressed. You would think the above expresses the opinions of only the most conservative in America. You would think this is the Christian far right talking. But not really. Not even close. You see, there are some out there who are even more conservative. While those above fear the decline of Christendom (a nationality ruled by Christian principles and leaders), there are many Christians who believe that the fall of Christianity came when Christendom in the West began. They blame Constantine and the favor he gave toward Christianity for the fall of the church. They are continually trying to get back to a pre-Christendom state of affairs so that the church might be pure again. After all, the rise of Christendom facilitated the rise of the Holy Roman Empire (800) and the eventual corruption of the church and the Gospel. We had to have a “Great Reformation” to even begin to recover from this.
And you don’t even want me to start on those who are advocates of a theocracy, where God is the king and the government is run by a law informed only by the Mosaic system. These are so far to the right that they may have even looped back to the left. I just don’t know how to classify them.
The odd thing is that the Great Reformation dethroned much of Christendom. The Enlightenment replaced the Pope, teaching a new hope in man, science, and technology. The shortcomings in the church in the Papal Schism, the Plague, and the lack of Gospel preservation left a vacancy which was replaced by nationalism. We began to trust our nation to provide for us. Nationalism paved the way for the separation of church and state in a way that had yet to be seen in the Christianized West. Many feared what this could mean. No more pope? No more church-state collaboration? Who could run a country but God?
Ironically, America was founded during this turmoil. Those who fled to America wanted freedom from the tyranny of the church, believing that when any organized religious force had definitive political teeth, true faith was less accessible. “We are children no more.” It was time to graduate to something new: democracy. In this, neither the church nor the government had the power; the people did. Democracy is always a risk, but we had learned enough from the tyranny of the church and state to take them out of the driver’s seat of our lives.
I want neither the church nor the state running things. And, until Christ returns, sin makes a theocracy impossible (not to mention that God left that building a long time ago). I don’t want human dictatorships and I don’t want Christendom. But every time we break free from one, the other seems to step in. This is why I love the idea of America, even if we never fully achieve the ideals of America. America ran from both. America ran toward freedom.
Yet the election on Tuesday was evidence that the ideals of democracy are in full force, even if some seem to be voting against the very ideals that got them to the polling booth. Yes, we voted for the most liberal president in the history of the United States. Yes, we did so even after he presided over a failing economy. Yes, we did so even though he took a stand against traditional family values. But I am not sure what this evidences. You must remember that most of the same people who voted for Obama just lived under eight years of the presidency of George Bush, one of the most conservative (in many ways) presidents in recent history! These people are still alive. They still have some recollection of the idea of America, don’t they? Or did everyone just pull a philosophical 180? I just think the reasoning is simple: People like to give presidents a second chance even when they are not totally sold on many of his ideals. And Romney did not really bring anything to the table but “not Obama.” So people went with the second chance. But I don’t know if this amounts to a fundamental shift in America, much less an imminent collapse.
Let me talk about two major issues and the supposed downfall of the American ideal: health care and gay marriage. Correct me if I am wrong, but I would suppose that if Obama were not trying to nationalize health care and was not in support of gay marriage, we would think a lot differently about the “downfall of America.” Add to that the issue of abortion (which I cannot get into here). What if Obama were not in support of abortion? You say, “If all these things were true, he would be a Republican!” Not exactly, but that sentiment does express my point: these are the issues which scare us most. Right? Let me first begin with gay marriage and compare it to health care.
Gay marriage is an interesting animal. Let me be very radical here and scare some of you. Let me go further to the right than you thought possible. Please understand, having performed so many marriage ceremonies and been involved with marital counseling throughout my time in ministry, I have thought about this for a long time. Here is my earth shattering statement: What hath the government to do with marriage? Seriously. What is the government doing in the marital business? When did we concede so much over to them? Why do they have the final and ultimate say on who is married and who is not? Who conceded such an important issue to the competency of the federal government? When did this happen and why wasn’t there an outcry? Ideally, the government does not have any say in who is married and who is not. Then who does? The people who are married. Did you know, in the Middle Ages, marriages were performed simply by the concept of the people getting married? “I marry you” was the agreement made between the two that “officially” wed them. Recognition of the marriage would happen within the church and/or religious system, but this recognition was subjective. Today we have big ceremonies. We have religious provisions and blessings. We have the vows and the rings. But none of this really matters. It all comes down to a government-issued piece of paper. Divorce is the same. The government, through the courts, tells whether someone is married or divorced. Can you believe it? Big government at its best, presiding over the most fundamental human relationship there is. Why do we tolerate this? What a silly question to ask the government without flinching: Can gays be married?
I know what you are saying. You are thinking about all the secondary issues. You are thinking like lawyers. You want to find a way to protect the “investment” of marriages, as they often go bad. You are thinking about things having to do with insurance and liability. And I understand. I am not really calling for us to dissolve this as a governmental function. Why? Because we are already here and we are already comfortable with this system. However, if the government was not involved in the marriage business (which it should not have ever been, liabilities or not), we would not be discussing whether or not it should allow for gay marriage. Society would deal with it and it would be subjective according to the society.
In fact (and I may get in trouble here), that is exactly how I will deal with it. Government-signed piece of paper or not, if a gay couple comes to me, shows it to me, and says they are married, I will say, “Yeah, right…” and go on refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the union, since it fails to meet the standard qualifications that such a union must theologically possess. I cannot do otherwise, God help me.
My point being: What do I think of the gay marriage issue? = What the heck is government doing in the marital business in the first place?
So, where does that leave us? Let’s talk about health care. Nationalized health care is not unlike nationalized marriage. Right? Think about it. The implications of nationalized health care are tremendous in an isolated sense. Yet are they more tremendous than the government being in control of marriage? Not to me. In fact, if we tolerated government-controlled marriage and divorce, why would it surprise me that we tolerate government-controlled health care? Both have implications that may or may not speak to the supposed downfall of America.
Yes, we are going to have nationalized health care. Yes, gay marriage will be the norm. Yes, half of the country is leaning further and further away from the idea of America. Get used to it. But the idea of America can tolerate and eventually survive these blows. The idea of America can tolerate Obama and ObamaCare. We have done it in the past and we will do it again in the future. It is a lot bigger than the issues of nationalized marriage or health care. We must believe this, especially if we hope to change it.
America is tweaking itself. Yes, the tweaks have implications. But I don’t think they are as far-reaching as many “doomsdayers” suppose. Yes, I wish the federal government would just build highways and protect us, then stay out of our business for the most part. Nevertheless, as of today, I believe the idea of America is still intact. This is not the end of America. It is bigger than both marriage and health care. The solution is in our history and in our future. I pray that education becomes the norm for conservative Americans—no, for all Americans, but conservatives are going to have to lead the charge. We need to be educated on the idea of America. People need to understand where we have come from so they have a compass to guide future generations. But without this education, only the grace of God will lead blind people in the right direction. Nations do fall, but I still have great hope for ours. And you know what? As wrong as I think Obama is about so many things, I don’t think he has thrown the idea of America in the toilet. He will veer from the path, but he has not pulled a 180. But we all need to be careful what we tolerate. I have hope. Let us continue to fight by educating people about our great family history. There is great hope there.