When the Founding Fathers forged the Constitution our identity became better solidified against foreign ideas. As time passed the geographical divide between competing national worldviews has all but disappeared. One need not live in another land to adopt the culture and beliefs of that land. Many watch in horror as American-born citizens align with foreign terrorist groups. The market place of ideas has grown to include ways of thinking that are destructive to America’s future.
The Founding Fathers placed safeguards in the Constitution against elected leaders being influenced by the ways of foreign nations. James Madison argues the point in Federalist Paper 62:
The qualifications proposed for senators, as distinguished from those of representatives, consist in a more advanced age and a longer period of citizenship. A senator must be thirty years of age at least; as a representative must be twenty-five. And the former must have been a citizen nine years; as seven years are required for the latter. The propriety of these distinctions is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages; and which, participating immediately in transactions with foreign nations, ought to be exercised by none who are not thoroughly weaned from the prepossessions and habits incident to foreign birth and education. The term of nine years appears to be a prudent mediocrity between a total exclusion of adopted citizens, whose merits and talents may claim a share in the public confidence, and an indiscriminate and hasty admission of them, which might create a channel for foreign influence on the national councils.
Securing a nation against foreign influence is a biblical concept. In fact, God wrote it in stone. The First Commandment is to have no other gods besides God. The Jewish people were forbidden to practice the ways of other nations and from adopting their gods.
However, the Constitution protects freedom of religion in America. We cannot outlaw the practice of any religion, for the law that condemns one religion will condemn all religions. At the same time, the culture of a nation is informed by religion or the rejection of it. Removing liberty to ensure safety is the hallmark of despotism. How do we maintain a nation built on the Judeo-Christian worldview without undermining the free exercise of religion?
The American Way
The Constitutional safeguard of citizenry for a nine or seven year period no longer provides the same security against foreign allegiances or influences. One may have never set foot in a foreign nation, and yet be fully immersed in the culture antithetical to the American way of life. In the 2006 DC Comics’ Superman Returns, Perry White asks if Superman still stands for “truth, justice, and all that stuff” omitting the iconic phrase, “The American Way.” If we do not have an American Way, we will not have an America. The thing itself will go the way of its identity.
A nation has its own land, government, language, and way of life. If it loses one of these it is in danger of losing the rest. It is important to note that by the very nature that we can have this conversation, the situation has not deteriorated to that extent. When we can see something before it has been lost, we have the foresight necessary to correct it and set it back on its proper course.
The problem is that we do not know what “the American Way” is anymore. The melting pot has morphed into something inclusive of all ways. Instead of an arena for competing ideas, it has become a soup of equal ideas with none being the main ingredient. How can we be “thoroughly weaned from the prepossessions and habits incident to foreign birth and education” if we pride ourselves on our tolerance of all worldviews?
Who’s Way Should Dominate?
Our politicians come from the people, and are to be representatives of the people. If the predominate culture of the populace is the coequal crowd absorbing all worldviews into their identity how do we expect our elected representatives to demonstrate a decidedly American way? Another difficult question to consider is what happens if evangelical Christianity succeeds in becoming the dominate power structure? Would our theology cause freedom to be lost or regained? What would our triumph look like?
The American way is no longer united with truth and justice, but of personal belief and tolerance. This is the reality of post-Christian America. We can look at it as a grim reality, or as a fertile field for discipleship. There are many nations that have never been blessed to have arisen to the status of a Christian nation. America’s decline can be reversed just as other nations can be discipled for the first time.
What are we Building Towards?
But if we are on a quest to restore America to secure her future as a nation, we will need some idea of what the American way is. What is her most basic identity? What is her mission as a nation? What description can afford the way of liberty and not of legalism? Can we give it language that American citizens want to adopt that values religious, racial, and economic diversity? Can we package it into something that can be taught in the schools, colleges, and demonstrated artistically?
To answer these questions is out of the scope of this article. These are not questions for one person to answer, as they need to be owned by a larger representation of Americans. If Madison and the Founders felt it necessary to keep foreign “repossessions and habits” from the hearts of elected officials it becomes a greater concern in our digital age.
Some nations control the internet, media, and educational curriculum to keep out unwanted information from infiltrating their national identity. These nations are not nations of liberty. How does a free nation maintain domestic identity without information control? We cannot restrict free speech or the freedom of religion in efforts to regain our identity. But we can leverage our freedom of speech and of religion to this end as long as we do so responsibly.
Discipling without Dominating
If we, as Christians, persist in participating in the cultural war to become the dominate worldview by the manner of our might and right we could destroy the very foundation of liberty. How do we under-gird that liberty without seeking to dominate people, but champion the biblical ways which provide national stability? If we live in the world without being of it, we will change the world without becoming it. If we live in the world, and are of the world, we will be changed by the world. This is the tension we engage in as Christians.
The American Way is unlikely to succeed as a repackaging of nostalgic Americana. It is more effective for it to be something that speaks to where we are going than only a reemergence of where we have been. It will build on the past to stabilize the future, but will form a picture of the future, rather than the past. It will be something we can grow into as a nation and will be something most Americans will want to become. If we as Christians will be a voice for our neighbors, for the downtrodden, the broken, the oppressed, and the marginalized we will have a voice worth listening to.
Our vision of the future has been limited in scope by bemoaning America’s decline and eventual demise. If the church is the prophetic voice to the nations, what vision are we giving America to conform to? We will be conformed to the image we behold. What do we see? Do we want to become what we see? If not, we need a different vision.
When we prophesy to people, we don’t call out their mistakes and weaknesses; we call out their strengths and promises. When we speak about our nation, we also speak from the reality of heaven rather than the reality of earth. We speak to call our nation out into her destiny rather than condemning it to its frail reality. With hope regained we can work to find our way again.
 Madison, James Federalist Papers #62
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