We all have certain passages that we keep coming back to. The passages that stick in our brain that we just can’t help mulling over. Foundational passages. For me, one of those passages is from Daniel chapter 2. The chapter tells how King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream where he saw a massive statue with a head of gold, arms of silver, a body of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of a mix of iron and clay. King Nebuchadnezzar sees a giant rock hit the statue and it comes crumbling down. Daniel, as it turns out, is the only one who can interpret the dream for him, and Daniel goes on to tell the king how his empire is the empire of gold, and after his will be successive empires until it all crumbles down.
The United States was NOT founded as a Christian nation. Most of the founding fathers were deists, meaning they pictured God as a sort of clockmaker, who once he wound the clock never touched it. Thomas Jefferson edited out all the miracles in his Bible, turning it into basically a book of wise sayings. One of the articles in the 1798 Treaty of Tripoli, which ended the war the American Navy had been fighting against Muslim pirates in the Mediterranean, said:
“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of [Muslims]; and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.“
Fast-forward 150 years and the United States was no longer at war with Muslim Pirates, but Communist Soviet Union. Without getting into the ins and outs of Communist theory, Communist Russia was staunchly atheist. Because the United States was fighting the Soviets in a Cold War as opposed to a “hot” war, it was fought with things like culture, economics, and religion; not tanks and guns (in political theory this is called soft power over hard power). This meant that the United States had to portray itself as the exact opposite from the Soviets, religion included. The Soviets were the godless horde, so the United States had to be Christian. For the first time ever, the President instituted a National Prayer breakfast, and even more impactful, in 1954 the US added “One Nation, Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. In 1955 the US added “In God We Trust” to money. For the first time the United States was portraying itself as Christian: to be a good American, you had to be Christian; to be a good Christian, you had to be American. For the next seventy years, this was largely the status quo.
That status quo is now ending. America is returning to its secular roots. To be a good American, you no longer have to be a Christian. It’s a big shift, to be sure. But how does this shift impact us in 2023? I’d argue, it doesn’t, or at least it shouldn’t. In the movie Men In Black, when Will Smith joins MIB he is told “You are no longer part of the system; you are above the system. Over it. Beyond it.” For us, since we have joined the Kingdom of Jesus, we are no longer a part of the world system. Going back to Daniel 2, Babylon was described as the golden head, yet even the best part of the statue was smashed by the rock, which Daniel goes onto say is the Kingdom of God. it doesn’t matter whether the United States of America is the silver, bronze, iron, or clay part of the statue, it is going to get smashed by God. It is an insignificant worldly kingdom that is going to be smashed by God. It doesn’t matter what is happening in America because for all spiritual intents and purposes, a citizen of God’s Kingdom is no longer American.
Satan wants to divide us—divide and conquer is a tried-and-true strategy. Long ago, the Enemy realized persecution only united God’s people, that’s why I believe that mass style of persecution is never coming back in any global way. Where are the places Christianity is growing fastest? In the Middle East and in China, places of real, actual persecution. And if real persecution does come to America, all the better because then we truly put it on the line for Jesus. But it isn’t. No, the best way to destroy God’s people is from the inside. A house divided cannot stand. Satan wants us to get sucked into fighting over culture wars in America that ultimately don’t matter. It distracts us from the mission we have as God’s Kingdom people—proclaiming his reign and being a tangible manifestation of that reign in our communities.
One of the big culture wars of the 1920s was left-handedness. Some Christians associated being left-handed with practicing witchcraft, evilness. Christians even claimed Satan was left-handed! Here is a chart of left-handedness in the United States over the last 120 years:
The number of left-handed people didn’t magically explode in 1940s America and then plateau. No, the number of left-handed people remained the same; the difference was people were allowed to be lefthanded. It became a non-issue, culturally. A similar thing happened in the 1960s with interracial marriage. Some Christians protested out in the streets saying interracial marriage should remain illegal because it was a sin for the races to mix. Worldly culture doesn’t matter. It has always been fallen; it will always be fallen. Just like with the Men In Black quote, we are beyond the world now. We still live in it, but we must be above it. Does the person believe that Jesus is the Son of God? That he died for us when we were still sinners and rose from the dead, and through Grace undeserved allowed us to be adopted into the Kingdom? And that we are called to go forth and be disciples that make disciples? If yes to all three then it really doesn’t matter what that person thinks otherwise, because anything else we are arguing over isn’t a Kingdom issue, but a left-handed issue.