“In the language of Holy Writ there is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray; but there is also a time to fight, and that time has now come.”
Rev. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg
Emmanuel Church, Woodstock, Virginia
January 21, 1776
Priorities have changed
Less than 24 hours after the Japanese Imperial Navy bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, several hours before FDR would ask a Joint Session of Congress for a Declaration of War on Japan, lines of young men extending well beyond the entrances of military recruitment centers had already formed in cities and towns across America. It would not be long before huge new factories were built and existing industries converted to wartime production. Sacrifice and rationing to conserve vital resources quickly became a part of everyday life. “Don’t you know there’s a war on?” became the oft-repeated catchphrase after the “date which will live in infamy.” Americans young and old knew their priorities had changed dramatically, because they were at war.
Major crises precipitate changed priorities. “Business as usual” goes by the wayside as it did on the early morning of April 15, 1912, after the five forward sections of RMS Titanic were fatally breached in a collision with an iceberg. Once the full weight of what had happened hit home, no one on board the sinking ocean liner was searching for shuffleboard paddles. As the iceberg tore through the ship’s ¾-inch thick steel outer plating, the priorities of every soul on the alleged “unsinkable” Titanic changed instantly.
The Church under threat
The Church in America is facing existential threats, but walk into a typical evangelical church in “Anytown USA” on a Sunday morning, and you would never know “there’s a war on.” You may hear a sermon on abortion if you show up on Sanctity of Life Sunday, on the threat to society of unmitigated sodomy, on the growing threat of Islam or on Christian civic duty, never. The importance of giving and volunteering for some aspect of the Sunday event, however, will almost always be mentioned. But the fact that the world is burning, or that America is crumbling because the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) has surrendered government to the sons of disobedience will not come up in today’s “seeker-sensitive” pulpit, because the Three Wise Monkeys (“see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil,”) are the guiding principle in today’s ecclesial culture.
The IRS has threatened to monitor sermons. Christian ministers, churches, and Christian-owned businesses are being systematically litigated against for refusing to accommodate sodomy. The genocidal ideology that slaughters Christians and beheads children in Iraq and that launches missiles into “the apple of God’s eye,” is growing stronger every day within and just beyond America’s Northern and Southern Borders. Our elected representatives routinely obfuscate and lie to their constituents in what has become political sport.
Where is the sense of outrage over the trashing of the First Amendment and efforts to silence the pulpit? Does the American pulpit have a right not to speak, and in effect, vacate the Charter that constitutes “We the People” as the government of this land? While the power to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8) is still in our hands, is it not our duty to “establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” and to vigorously oppose those who would enslave us and our progeny? Instead, the many shepherds stand silently by while members of their flocks ignore their civic duty, vote themselves tyrants, and in effect, serve themselves up on a pyre.
Does submission to governing authority mean, as some seem to believe, that we should capitulate with the confiscation of our natural rights and those of our posterity? That we should relinquish the right to life of our unborn to the misguided ambivalence of a few in the pew? That we should sentence millions who cannot discern between their right and left hands to the fate of Sodom by preaching around sodomy? That we should let sleeping consciences lie in the place Divine judgment is set to begin? (1 Peter 4:17) That we should surrender our own and the Blessings of Liberty of our Posterity to tyranny without a fight? Did not Adam cede himself and his posterity to the father of tyrants when he submitted to the serpent’s lie?
Silence in the face of evil is the essence of submission to Tyranny, for “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. God will not hold us guiltless.” (Bonhoeffer) Obeisance to injustice is not submission. It is the last refuge of scoundrels and rebellion against the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. It is a damnable dereliction of duty that cedes its posterity to despotism.
For many Christians, one statement, “My kingdom is not of this world,” (John 18:36) serves as the sole basis of their political worldview, and justification for an uninformed, self-serving apathy toward government and the world around them. Many of God’s people have no qualms of conscience about opening a day praying, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and on the very same day, going into a voting booth and contravening their own prayer. This is an indictment of the pulpit, and God will not hold us guiltless.
A word about abortion and homosexuality
God created the first government in Adam, “male and female created He them.” (Genesis 1:26) Adam’s was an administration of the Imago Dei, and God prescribed profligate procreation as the principle means of extending the glorious liberty of his governance throughout the earth. By sanctioning abortion, and more recently, sodomy, America has done violence to the Imago Dei. Nation’s that rebel against the Divine prescription for supremacy over the “elemental principles of the world,” (Gal. 4:3) inevitably come to be ruled by them. America was given a choice between liberty and death. America chose death, and shall have tyranny.
But some will say, “I have not had an abortion. I am not homosexual. I believe abortion and sodomy are wrong. I can’t impose my beliefs on others?” Silence is tacit approval. Therefore, “silence in the face of evil is evil,” as is withholding a single jot or tittle of God’s counsel, or anything else that might be of benefit to God’s people. (Acts 20:20, 27) Rather than equivocate, perhaps we should obey God and “deliver the society that is marching toward oblivion of its own accord, and blindly staggering to slaughter.” (Proverbs 24:11)
This is a time to fight
When Rev. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg stood in the pulpit of Emmanuel Church on January 21, 1776, proclaimed that his was “a time to fight,” threw off his clerical robe, and ordered that drums beat for recruits at the rear of the log meeting house in Woodstock, Virginia, he forever raised the bar on American pulpits in times when Liberty is threatened. Muhlenberg was not alone in recognizing that exigencies of a looming war with England had changed his priorities. Many clergy of the time stood out among chief agitators of “the Rebellion,” and after it began, among the most supportive in keeping it alive, both in their preaching, and on the battlefield. They were the “sons of Issachar” who rightly divined that more parish business as usual would end Liberty and usher in tyranny for the flock of God. They were the “mighty champions of liberty” Bishop Charles Galloway lectured about in 1898, that God had “sifted three kingdoms to find wheat for [the] planting” of “the magnificent Americanism” of his time. There is a far more ferocious and brutal tyranny brewing in America today than the Crown of England, and pulpits must rise up and confront it before the opportunity to speak and act is gone forever.
It is a tragedy of unimaginable consequences how John Winthrop’s “City upon a Hill” has ceased to be the salt and light of America. By failing to teach God’s people their obligation to secure the Blessings of Liberty to themselves and their posterity, pulpits have taught the “salt of the earth” to abandon its cure, ensuring that the Church will soon experience what Jesus meant when He spoke of savorless salt being trampled by men.