By Steve Yeaton
On Thursday night, February 28, 2013, Jeff Bush of Seffner, Florida was lying in his bed when he and his bedroom suddenly disappeared into a sinkhole that had formed beneath the home. Attempts to recover his body proved unsuccessful. While sinkholes, as a geological reality, may be mostly limited to Florida, a very large metaphorical sinkhole may be forming underneath the entire country. Once it collapses, it will swallow up all who stand above it, regardless of religious affiliation, political views, color, gender, or age. While many may not want to admit it, Christianity is the biggest deterrent to the formation of this sinkhole that threatens all Americans. Christianity does not need America for its survival, but America needs Christianity for its survival.
America Needs a Memory
America needs Christianity because America needs a memory. The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Unalienable means these rights exist not because they originated with a government decree, but because they originated with God. God, our Creator, has granted us these rights. Our founders were in agreement with the apostle Paul when he wrote, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
A nation that forgets the true origin of these basic human rights is in danger of forfeiting those rights to those who govern, and that would be a threat to all Americans. As inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., Jefferson declared, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
Words on a memorial are a helpful reminder about what is important, but it takes the engagement of thoughtful citizens to ensure that those words continue to be heard and applied. Since Christians are duty bound by God’s Word to be good citizens (see Titus 3:1), we should be at the forefront of holding our nation’s leaders accountable by reminding them that their job is not granting rights, but protecting the rights of all citizens. At the same time, with a growing percentage of Americans declaring no belief in God whatsoever, it falls to Christians to pass on to the next generation a memory of where our rights originate.
America Needs a Conscience
Another reason America needs Christianity is because America needs a conscience. Many Christian churches in America include in their mission statement the phrase “and be a conscience in the community.” Those churches are taking to heart Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:8, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” As a result, the members of these churches expect to have an impact on the community by reflecting the light of Christ. Our founding fathers firmly believed that the result of this impact makes for a better America.
The founders recognized that a free America without Christianity’s moral influence would not last. They wisely allowed for freedom of religion, but that did not mean they were blind to the connection between faith and morality. The Father of the American Revolution, Samuel Adams, said, “True religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness.” John Adams, the nation’s second president, said, “Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
For example, the breakdown of the family impacts all Americans through the crime and poverty that follow in its wake. Children, as statistics demonstrate, do better when raised by married parents. It benefits all Americans for people to wait until they are married to have children and then to stay married after having them. Unfortunately, we live in a cultural climate that devalues traditional and biblical definitions of the family. The church may take a beating from the culture for advocating for God’s design for the family, but if the church does not, children will suffer and, ultimately, so will the culture. Reflecting on the connection between morality and a nation’s survival, John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence, said, “A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery will ensue.”
America Needs a Heart
Along with a memory and a conscience, America also needs a heart. While Christians are not the only ones capable of showing charity to those in need, they are, by the very nature of their transformation in Jesus Christ, best equipped to be agents of mercy. True Christians are devoted to showing the heart of Christ in practical ways. They are compelled to “do to others as you would have them to do you” (Luke 6:31). Christians take seriously these words: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27).
Not every citizen of Holton, Indiana, a small town of 450 people, attends Holton Christian Church; but every citizen saw the heart of the church on display just after a tornado devastated the town on Monday, March 12, 2012, killing three people and destroying dozens of homes. The church quickly spearheaded efforts to help all in need, not just Christians. From serving as a clearinghouse for supplies, to partnering with IDES (International Disaster Emergency Services), to orchestrating cleanup efforts, the church has been front and center in the town’s recovery. According to Bob McCreary, senior minister of Holton Christian Church, other agencies, such as the government and corporations, have helped with finances along with churches, but it has been people of faith exclusively who have provided the thousands of hours in volunteer labor to help rebuild homes and the community in the months since the disaster.
Without Christianity’s influence, how many Holtons would never rebuild? How many hospitals would never come into existence? Without Christianity, what organizations like the Red Cross and the YMCA would never be birthed? How many homeless shelters, soup kitchens, abuse shelters, ministries to addicts, charities to help those in need would cease to exist? If Christianity’s voice is silenced, who will take the lead in speaking up for the rights of the unborn, for the care of the elderly and infirmed? America needs a heart, and Christianity provides it.
America Needs Grace
But more than anything else, more than a memory, a conscience, and a heart, America needs Christianity because America’s people need grace. What Americans need most from Christianity is to hear this message: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Steve Yeaton is a minister and freelance writer in Batesville, Indiana.
The Bible in America: A Point for Prayer
We’re all familiar with gloomy statistics like this one: According to Gallup, in 2009, 77 percent of Americans listed Christianity as their religious affiliation—down from 91 percent in 1948. And here’s another: According to Barna, 64 percent of Americans think professional athletes have more influence in America than professional faith leaders.
Our faith is certainly under pressure, but “What Do Americans Really Think About the Bible?” (www.barna.org/culture-articles/609-what-do-americans-really-think-about-the-bible) reveals an intriguing point of leverage for God’s work in our country. “Nearly 9 out of 10 (88 percent) Americans actually own a Bible. … About 8 out of 10 (79 percent) Mosaics (people aged 18-28) own a Bible, compared with nearly all (95 percent) Elders (who are ages 65-plus). And while it might not be surprising that religiously devoted Christians own Bibles, the study finds that 6 out of 10 Americans (59 percent) who have no faith or who identify as atheists own a Bible. Despite many aspects of society that are secularizing, penetration of Scripture remains high in 2013.”
Furthermore “8 out of 10 (80 percent) Americans identify the Bible as sacred literature, without any prompting from interviewers. . . . Americans’ overall belief in Scripture’s sacredness may also explain why almost two-thirds (61 percent) of American adults also say they wish they read the Bible more.”
Certainly owning or even reading a Bible is not enough to be truly identified in Christ, but it’s encouraging to remember that so many people have ready access to the Word of God—and in truth many more do because of the Bible’s availability online.
Pray that God continues to use the Bible to reach people. Pray that your friends and neighbors who have Bibles in their homes will see the book on their shelf and become curious about who God is. Pray that God will use his Word to bring his truth into their lives. Pray that God will use the Bible as a starting point for conversations between you and your friends and neighbors.