In his closing at one of the second-tier GOP Presidential debate, Governor Bobby Jindal expressed a perspective that is common among conservative Christians: “The reality is the idea of America is slipping away. As Christians, we believe that the tomb is empty. As Americans, we believe that our best days are always ahead of us, and they can be again. We must win this election. We cannot allow Hillary Clinton to take us down this path towards socialism – further down this path. I’ve got the courage to apply our conservative principles. I can’t do it alone. With your help, with God’s grace, we can save the idea of America before it’s too late.”
To my mind, this expresses the mentality that Christians need to purge. The easy movement from the fear that America is slipping away, to the gospel of resurrection, to the belief that America can be revived and saved is breathtaking. Though Jindal does not say it explicitly, he implies that the resurrection includes some promise for America, some divine pledge that the idea of America will not slip away.
No one knows the future of the United States, but we can say with confidence that we have no divine assurance that the United States will last; we should have every expectation that the United States will not remain as it currently is. No city of man ever remains, or remains the same. The empty tomb says something about the endurance of a people, but that is not the American people. It’s the church.
America is not the novus ordo saeclorum, no matter what our currency says. The new order of the ages began roughly 1750 years before the Declaration was signed, and it will be around long after the American centuries have passed.
If we become thoroughgoing churchmen and churchwomen, and if we insist that America take a secondary place in our politics, we will be accused of double-citizenship and suspected of being unpatriotic, or, worse, traitors. We should be willing to take that accusation, not least because it’s fundamentally true: We are double-citizens. We are citizens of heaven first of all, citizens of the church, the earthly outpost of our home city.
We are citizens of America, and that means we have obligations toward out country and our fellow citizens. But that is not our first citizenship. We Americans, we conservative Christian Americans, have often forgotten that. It’s past time to start remembering.