Post-Election Duties for Christians and Americans
Republican puritans were not altogether exaggerating. Northern Democratic urban political machines were often closely aligned with saloons, and the accompanying casinos, pornographic theaters, brothels, bath houses, including, it must be assumed, abortion mills, which performed their grisly work even then, though slightly more covertly after reforming legislation. The Temperance and Prohibition Movement were the swelling reaction against politically protected vice. The moral stakes were even higher as Republicans, again not entirely inaccurately, portrayed Democrats as the party of sedition during the Civil War. Of course Democrats had their own moral crusaders who eventually emerged, such as evangelical William Jennings Bryan, who inveighed against the immorality of octopus like banks and eastern corporations.
The morals and spirituality of a culture or nation ebb and flow, seldom following a straight line for constant good or evil. To what extent America now enters a new epoch of spiritual conflict we cannot yet fully know. But even anticipating the worst, despair and fatalism of course are not options for people of faith. The God of the Bible, in His constant mercy, constantly throws open doors for return to Him. There will be the increased temptation for many Christians toward cultural withdrawal. And perhaps some are called to step back to focus on rebuilding the crumbled edifice of the Church in America. Neo-Anabaptists especially will grow increasingly insistent that all believers must reject the "empire" in favor of exclusive focus on the Body of Christ. But nearly every Christian tradition calls at least some of the faithful to cultural and political engagement, no matter the adversity.
Of course there should be renewed passion for the integrity and life of the Church. But in dire times, a renewed passion for the nation, while certainly subordinate to the Church and its Lord in ultimate loyalty, may also be the providential vocation for many. Eric Metaxas' popular biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer recalls the German pastor's brief New York sojourn in 1939 when he sought refuge from possible military conscription. He was miserable and abruptly cut short the stay despite the lavish plans for him by his many friends, such as Reinhold Niebuhr. Not only did Bonhoeffer feel intensely called to share in the sufferings of his fellow anti-Nazi Christians back home, he sensed a compelling call to serve his nation by serving within the Resistance.
It's noteworthy that many in Bonhoeffer's family, including his father, were not religious believers, though respectful of religion. Even his devout mother did not often attend church. But they were all deeply, richly committed to Germany, whose moral corruption under Nazism to them was odious. It was Bonhoeffer's non-religious brother-in-law who pulled him more fully into the conspiracy and specifically into service within German military intelligence, headed by Admiral Wilhelm Carnaris, an ardent German patriot and anti-Nazi ultimately hanged along with Bonhoeffer. They shared in the sentiment of fellow anti-Hitler conspirator General Henning von Treschow, who recalled the biblical story of God offering to spare Sodom if Abraham could find only ten righteous men: "He will, I hope, spare Germany, because of what we have done, and not destroy her."
Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.