by PPL Board Member Rev. Jonathan B. Leach
Pastor, Reformed Presbyterian Church in San Antonio
Within our lifetime, these United States are suffering the accelerating collapse of a national façade. It’s the façade—the outward appearance and reputation—of moral righteousness. At what particular point in history the collapse began is difficult to say. But the mask is off now, and that which for generations lay hidden beneath is painfully evident.
It’s not a pretty sight, is it? Author Harold Evans at the close of the twentieth century dubbed those preceding hundred years “The American Century.” But whatever its merits, that century is now well behind us. Today lawlessness—reminiscent of the tribal days of Israel’s Judges—registers no genuine respect for life, liberty, family, or property. “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” today resembles more closely any banana republic as riots, homelessness, and devastated businesses provide the grist of our daily news. Schools serve not to produce a new generation of informed critical thinkers so necessary to the maintenance of freedom, but more as mere government-sponsored indoctrination centers. Beggars and panhandlers regularly ply their trade on the street corners of my own hometown. Human trafficking thrives here. Defenseless innocents are murdered for personal convenience, and for parts. Such long-revered institutions as the federal government in all its branches—and the free press originally designed both to guard and to challenge it—repeatedly violate their sacred trust. There festers across the heartland a profound and deepening distrust in the electoral process itself. Our constitutional republic established in 1787 consequently totters, it would seem, on the very brink of oblivion.
How did we get here? True patriots carefully examine what’s going wrong with American culture—what, if anything, was missing from the national foundation laid for these United States that might explain why its twisted superstructure today should be leaning so precariously. The metallic groans we hear as the building shifts around us are deep and ominous.
I can still recall the palpable, unapologetic bias of “American exceptionalism” exuding from the civics I learned in public school back in the 1970s. The Cold War was on. Soviet political, economic, and social systems were laid for comparison beside our own and, point by point, were found wanting. The Soviets were wrong; we were right. They were evil; we were good. To the mind of this public school seventh grader, that’s really all there was to know. Case closed.
So when the Soviet Union eventually fell in 1989, many of my generation saw it as a long-delayed inevitability. Of course the Soviets couldn’t keep playing the game of atheistic communism they’d been playing for over seventy years. Of course a nation’s institutional sin—not squarely faced, confessed, and repented of—sooner or later consigns that nation to the dunghill of history. Because the living and true God has spoken. And while he’s not only marvelously longsuffering toward the errant nation—not only gracious and merciful—he’s also absolutely just. So the door of gospel grace that’s open to us today, at the appointed time inevitably will shut.
Our second chief executive John Adams famously wrote, Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Adams advocated for “a government of laws, and not of men.” In fact his assessment of the governments of mere men could scarcely be more pessimistic. He said, "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."
Now, John Adams was no saint. But he was an astute student of history. And today, from the virtual deathbed of history’s latest suicidal “democracy,” his observations certainly have a prophetic ring to them. If it was upon the foundation of no more permanent, legitimate authority than “We the People of the United States” that our Constitution was established and ordained, then our Founders built this republic and its laws upon shifting sand. If we don’t go to the trouble of digging deep and building our most sacred institutions upon the rock of God’s revealed Word, then what’s to stop us from enacting whatever foolish, disastrous, democratic laws may seem right in our own eyes?
It is God’s holy law—enforced by duly appointed officers and his own direct, providential judgments—that protects human life, liberty, family, and property. The “demos” (Greek: “people, crowd, public assembly”) cannot guarantee these things. Too often “We the People” have shown not the slightest inclination to guarantee them, either to ourselves or to our posterity.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a disturbing dream one night many, many years ago. In it the God of heaven showed him the fall and rise of a series of imperial superpowers destined to succeed his own. In the days of the final empire signified—the Roman one—the prophet Daniel assured the pagan Nebuchadnezzar that The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. Now is the time—and past time—to return to God’s law and to his testimony. Now is the time that every knee should bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. How blessed is that nation whose God is he.
Rev. Leach served for 27 years in the US Army Reserve chaplaincy, with eleven years as chaplaincy program director for a state-run intermediate-care facility in Pennsylvania. He now pastors a mission church of the RPCNA (Covenanters) in San Antonio, Texas.