We showed “Taking Chance” last night in church. We had a tough transition following the movie to celebrating birthdays with some great deserts. It was a tough transition because of the emotional impact of the film. I think there is something else going on too, which I will try to illustrate.
The church seems to be the natural ally and supporter of our military. This is not true for the church in most other countries of the world. Once again there is something unique about America and its make up. We have been a nation founded on principles of freedom. One of those freedoms is our freedom to practice our faith in any way we see fit. We do not have a church of America, but we do have is a foundation of faith, practiced in many ways, that this country is built upon. Therefore, the church has an intuition that America’s wars and warriors are important for the continuation of that freedom to worship God.
A listing of our wars certainly will include examples of territorial aggression (Spanish American War) and political stupidity (War of 1812). Our wars in general can easily be seen to be as partly a war fought for the preservation of our freedoms including our faith freedoms. We had already become a nation filled with Christian sects, as well as the Church of England, when the Revolutionary War broke out. The war had been preceded by the First Great Awakening, a time of heighted interest in the things of God. The preachers of America with their Jeremiads were synched with the cause of Independence. There always was an understanding of a spiritual destiny, a light upon a hill, that America would fulfill in its relationship to the world.
The Second Great Awakening preceded the Civil War. Thomas Jefferson was maneuvered to remove the clauses in the Declaration of Independence ending slavery in America. It would be John Adams our second president who would humble himself to return to American government as a member of the House of Representatives with one objective in mind: the ending of slavery. His mission, a lonely one at first, would pick up steam as the years rolled by. Just before his death he would befriend and mentor a new member of the House, a man who would only serve one term, his name was Abraham Lincoln. John Adams would die, Lincoln who only knew him for a short time, would be one of his pallbearers at his funeral.
The issue of slavery would divide the nation, as much as modern Southern sympathizers demand that it is only an issue of state rights, it was the issue of slavery, black slavery, that divided the nation. I must add the words black slavery because that is what made our slavery different from the slavery of ancient times and the slavery of the bible. Slavery changed from an international practice that could indiscriminately touch any group of people to a morally sanctioned targeting of only one group of people, those with black skin. The American churches were given chance to right this obvious wrong. It would be the Baptist organization that stretched from England to America that would wrestle with the issue. The Baptist abolitionists wanted to insert a rule that missionaries could not own slaves. Just as our modern day abortionists fight any small denigration to the right to abortion so the Southern slave owning Baptists resisted this rule change. The church would split, thus today we have the Southern Baptists.
The church failed with its God-given chance to repent and avoid war, the war would start and continue on with Union troops marching to their deaths singing “Glory Hallelujah”. We read Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address and feel his pain, yet we are given a glimpse of how he and most of America saw the war. We were paying in blood for the stealing of life we as a nation had allowed slave-owners to steal. I dare add our day of paying with blood for the 50,000,000 murders of babies in this nation is coming.
I want to conclude this essay by examining our last wars. I want you to look at our adversaries in these wars and their relationship with the church. I am pointing out a subtle point to help explain the church’s natural tie to American armed forces. We have Hitler’s fascism with its demonic focus on racial purity. The church in Nazi Germany was just an organization to be co-opted, which it was. That is the problem when the state pays the wages of its preachers. We had become the nation of sanctuary for the Jewish people who had been persecuted and mistreated for 2000 years since the death of Christ and the destruction of the temple. The church stood in support of American involvement in WW2.
We opposed godless communism in a cold war and several hot wars including Korea and Viet Nam. As our nation stood against communism there was an understanding that we were arrayed against the forces of darkness that opposed Christianity and certainly were no friends to true freedom. I am reminded as I write of the 98,000 Koreans who chose to leave communist North Korea after the battle of Chosin to relocate in South Korea. South Korea, would become and still is a bastion of freedom, a freedom that allows the church to grow, prosper and touch the world. That is why freedom, a freedom that seems to be eroding, is so important for the open advancement of the church.
Finally, we have our enemies of recent wars. Who is our enemy? Are they terrorists? Are they Muslim nations? What I know is that my life as a Christian under the banner of the authority of Islam would be a life of persecution and very different from the Christian life I am allowed to live in America. As our military men and women went off to the lands of the Middle East I recognized that they were fighting for my freedoms here. Yes, we could always hope that our freedoms could spread to these other nations, but they were standing and fighting for who we are and what we have. What we have is freedom. Let us make sure to take time out to pray for and honor our military.