Politics and the Church – Reversing Course…Avoiding the Shoal Waters [Part 9]

This week we will take a look at our founding father’s advice on choosing leaders and helping them…even if some appear to be Godless.  In the years following the establishment of the United States as an independent nation we found that the British failed to keep many of the promises they had made to close the Revolution.  They did not abandon positions around the Great Lakes; persisted in stirring up Indian tribes to fight against Americans; continued to board American ships and forcibly impress American seamen into the British navy; and searched American commercial vessels anywhere they found them to seize goods that they believed might be used to assist the French.  When James Madison was elected president, he urged war against Great Britain.  Congress agreed, thus officially beginning the War of 1812.  Governors began calling their states to times of humiliation (humbling) , fasting, and prayer, asking the people to confess their sins before God and call upon his intervention in the war.  On! e such call was by Governor Caleb Strong of Massachusetts.  In his call for prayer he explained…it becomes us, in imitation of our Fathers in their times of perplexity and danger, with deep repentance to humble ourselves before the God of our Fathers, Who was their defense in danger and to Whom they never sought in vain, and beseech Him, through the merits of His Son, that He would forgive us of our ingratitude and the innumerable transgressions of which we have been guilty. [Salem Gazette, June 30, 1812, pg.2]

How many such prayers have we seen in the Bible by transgressing nations and their leaders?

In Charlestown, Massachusetts, the Rev. Jedidiah Morse told the assembled crowd…Rulers are “ministers to God” to the people “for good”; they are “revengers to execute upon him that doeth evil” [Romans 13:3].  Their laws are to be conformable to the laws of God…Human laws, therefore, in order to be obeyed, must accord with the laws of God; where they differ, God is to be obeyed rather than man. [Acts 5:29].   How can an infidel, who fears not God nor believes His Word nor regards His Law, be a minister for good?  Would not such a man, if made a ruler, in all probability be a terror to good works and not to the evil?  Let us resolutely resolve that we will spare no exertions to elect such rulers as God shall approve.  This, believe me, is the only course of relief and safety to our afflicted country.  Under rule! rs of no other character has any Christian nation ever flourished for any length of time.  Under rulers of a different stamp, nations have always degenerated and been finally bought to desolation and ruin.  [A Sermon Delivered at Charlestown, July 23, 1812, pgs. 30-32].  His point: if America was to endure, God-fearing leaders must be elected who would conform their own behavior and public policies to a standard that would please God and bring His blessings on the nation.

Rev. Morse wrote Founding Father John Jay (original chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and governor of New York) a letter and included a copy of his sermon.  Jay questioned whether the Christian religion permits Christians to vote for infidel rulers, a question that was still to be addressed by clergy and laity.  He did comment that the prophet’s advice to Jehoshaphat about his attachment to Ahab affords a lesson to be considered. [The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1893, Vol. IV, p.365, in his response to Rev. Morse on January 1, 1813]

Jay’s response referred to the warning that Jehoshaphat received about unwisely aligning himself with  Ahab as they went off to do battle at Ramoth-Gilead.  After the battle where Ahab was killed, God sent a prophet to confront Jehoshaphat; Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat,”Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on your! self from the Lord?” [2 Chronicles 19:2].  Jay’s Biblical answer was as to whether godly citizens could help elect an ungodly leader.  Clearly aligning yourself with someone opposed to God places you in harms way…shoal waters.  Jay understood that if you helped place ungodly people into office, you jeopardize God’s capacity to bless the nation.

What Jehu said next to Jehoshaphat, who was fully aware that his decision to align with Ahab nearly costs him his life, assures us that we can recover from bad decisions if only we will admit our failure…But there is some good in you, for you have removed the Asheroth from the land and you have set your heart to seek God. [2 Chronicles 19:3].  Though we make some tragic mistakes and awful decisions, He still sees the good there and seeks to fan those embers into full flame.

So how do we apply the wisdom of John Jay’s statements today?  What happens in an election when it’s not clear what the candidates believe or to what they are committed?  Many wear the label “Christian”, but neither their lives nor the policies they promote reflect godly values or Biblical beliefs.  We could clearly say it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer God-fearing,  Biblically thinking individuals for our rulers.  Look for the fruit produced in a leader’s life.  Who do they seek out for counsel?  Is what they do consistent with or contrary to Biblical values?   As our founders would recommend, choose those who are more likely to bring God’s blessings on those over wh! om they rule, whether on a school board or as president of the United States.  Consider well what you are doing.

Next week we will take an in depth look at the term “Separation of Church and State”.  With further investigation it was found that the term came long before Thomas Jefferson and will help us understand why he had no problem using it.  Today that term has been much twisted by the legal system and those who wish that the church would just go away.

– Bob Munsey

Remember the American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation.  Woodrow Wilson

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