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.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    167 replies to "Is this the End of America?"

    • Vinny


      The Continental Army was an army that fought according to the generally accepted rules of war of the day. It did not target civilian populations. I do not think that its actions could be considered domestic terrorism.

    • Vinny


      It is my impression the that secession petitions have been pretty careful to avoid any suggestion that they are advocating armed opposition to the government. Nevertheless, I grew up pledging allegiance to a republic that was “indivisible” and these people are seeking its division. That seems to me to be a bit more than simply a protest on issues.

    • teleologist

      @Vinny, I haven’t read the petition but that is the opinion of that one representative from that state said. Until I see any indication from any secessionist group advocating violence, I think it would be unfair to suggest otherwise.

      @Vinny said, I grew up pledging allegiance to a republic that was “indivisible” and these people are seeking its division.

      The problem is that the republic that you pledged allegiance to started by seeking division. From the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Again I am not saying we should but this is just the fact. (no offense to the Brits 🙂 )

      IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
      The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
      When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    • Vinny


      I would argue that the difference is that the colonies were dissolving political bands about which they had never been given a choice, whereas, they voluntarily consented to become the United States. When all parties agree to be bound by a contract and no provision is made for the withdrawal of individual parties, it may only be dissolved by the agreement of all the parties. On the other hand, whether the right to secede is implied by the Constitution is a different issue than an individual’s moral right to rebel against a tyrannical ruler.

    • teleologist

      @Vinny, this is a cheap copout. In essence we are all by implied if not implicit consent submit to the ruling authority that we are born under. The colonists by implied consent submitted to King George through conformity to England’s laws until the revolution.

      I have never personally given consent to all the articles of the United States so does that mean it should not be binding to me? I think if you have to appeal to semantics to bind a group of people to a contract, then the contract has lost its power. It is just a matter of time before another Jefferson comes along and draft another article of separation.

    • Vinny


      That was why I was trying to make a distinction between the moral right of an individual or group of individuals to rebel against an illegitimate government and a state’s right under the Constitution to secede from the union. I think that the former is implicit in our nation’s founding while the latter is not.

    • teleologist

      @Vinny, but the problem is what constitutes a legitimate gov’t? Some argued back in 1776 that England was a legitimate gov’t and we have no right to rebel against it. Today we also have people questioning the legitimacy of the gov’t to force people to buy healthcare, refuse to allow citizens of individual states to protect themselves from foreign invasion and the list goes on. Legitimacy is in the eyes of the beholder. Am I being too postmodernistic? 😀

    • Vinny

      I cannot help but be cynical when people start invoking a “founding vision” as if that is something that is easily determined by reading a history book and easily applied to the world today. The Constitution was the result of a compromise reached among a diverse group of people, many of whom had very different visions for the future. Jefferson, for example, envisioned the United States as a collection of citizen farmers producing their livelihoods from the land upon which they lived.

      I am struck by how many things mentioned in this thread go far beyond any discernible “founding vision.” For example Michael “wish[es] the federal government would just build highways and protect us.” However, it is hard to imagine any of the founders who would have approved of the kind of military that America has today and the role it plays in the world. The notion that the federal government should be involved in building public improvements like highways was a very controversial issue during the first eighty years of the republic. There was a large portion of the country that believed such things should be left to the states and proponents of federal involvement in public improvements didn’t gain the upper hand until the Civil War. There is much hand wringing over the decline in support for Israel, but it is hard for me to imagine that any of the founders would have sanctioned that kind of foreign entanglement.

      It is true that many people do not remember the past. It is also true that many people remember a past that never really existed while others remember the past very selectively.

    • Vinny


      It is absolutely a huge problem, however, there has to be a difference between questioning the propriety of particular government actions and challenging the legitimacy of the government itself.

    • teleologist

      @Vinny, I find much of your last comment I can agree with. The biggest problem with I have with selectivism(which we are both probably guilty of) is there are many Christians who view our founding fathers as some Sola Scriptura orthodox Christians when in fact they would probably be branded as heretics today.

      But then from my limited reading including correspondences between Adams and Jefferson they were very concerned with foreign affairs and seems to support a strong military from their references to the 1812 War. But frankly I don’t care what the founders or history says about foreign involvement. My commitment to the support of Israel transcends any argument. It is as intransigent as the Bible.

    • I love America and Americans, but sadly it seems many are themselves becoming their own “conspiracy theory”. And true Christianity must always see and be people of another world! This is very hard, for we cannot see this other world, save by other worldly “faith”! WE are people of another land! (Heb. 13: 13-14) Can we note here the Plantonic ideal and visionary in Hebrews? May it ‘In Christ’ change us!

      Amen Rick! May we be looking for that “real” vision in the appearance of CHRIST Himself! In the New Man or “nature”, which will fully shallow-up the old! (1 John 3: 2)…now this hope really does make a pure desire! (verse 3)

    • Vinny


      I am not familiar with that aspect of the Adams-Jefferson correspondence, but my guess would be that they were still thinking in terms of well trained state militia that could be called upon in time of need rather than a large standing army in time of peace.

    • teleologist

      Thank you F. R.

      Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. And, be not children in understanding, but in malice, be ye children, that in understanding ye may be perfect; and O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you? But now no longer in his own voice; but in Thine who sentest Thy Spirit from above; through Him who ascended up on high, and set open the flood-gates of His gifts, that the force of His streams might make glad the city of God. Him doth this friend of the Bridegroom sigh after, having now the first-fruits of the Spirit laid up with Him, yet still groaning within himself, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of his body; to Him he sighs, a member of the Bride; for Him he is jealous, as being a friend of the Bridegroom; for Him he is jealous, not for himself; because in the voice of Thy water-spouts, not in his own voice, doth he call to that other depth, over whom being jealous he feareth, lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so their minds should be corrupted from the purity that is in our Bridegroom Thy only Son. O what a light of beauty will that be, when we shall see Him as He is, and those tears be passed away, which have been my meat day and night, whilst they daily say unto me, Where is now Thy God?

      Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo, & Pusey, E. B. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine.

    • @Tel, One of my first books as a Irish Catholic lad, right after Confirmation (which one of me aunts bought me), was Augustine’s Confessions, I even still have it…a London, Burns & Oates copy, 1954. It still has the dustjacket (which I have covered with a Brodart). Aye, I was one of those book lovers (and still I am). I have just a few! 😉

    • Nice quote! 🙂

    • And btw, in my day Confirmation was in the 5th grade as I remember?

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