The Christian War Journal

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”

― General George S. Patton

An often cited issue today is the lack of strong male figures in the lives of young boys and girls, serving as the root cause to a myriad of problems affecting society as a whole. While this is certainly true, sometimes we wait for legendary heroes to emerge who will set the example that will bring order to the chaos. We look for a new Julius Caesar to cross the Rubicon or a George Washington to cross the Delaware, but in the meantime do little to recognize the work already accomplished by the unsung heroes of our day.

There are in fact men who have been carrying out their duties this whole time, quietly providing a model of Christian masculinity for their sons to emulate while setting the precedent for the type of man their daughters should seek in marriage. Unfortunately, we don’t hear enough about these men and their stories, despite the fact that their leadership and wisdom is just as important, if not more impactful, than the famous heroes who we admire.

Less than two weeks ago, the world lost one such man, as an uncle of mine succumbed to a hard fought battle with COVID-19 and passed away alone in a hospital.

My uncle, who was married to my father’s oldest sister, embodied the qualities and virtues of masculinity that allowed him to humbly exude a positive influence on everyone around him. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and brother. He admirably served our country in Vietnam and was awarded for his valor in combat. He possessed a sly sense of humor and a willingness to use his mechanical skills to help anyone build or fix anything at any time. His faith in Christ was evident to everyone around him.

When I was a boy, we spent what seemed like every single day and night of the summer at my aunt and uncle’s house swimming in their pool. Learning to ride a bike consisted of my dad and uncle placing me on the seat, pointing out the brake pedals, and then proceeding to push me down a grassy hill to figure out the rest. I could either learn to peddle and steer or crash into the building at the bottom. I’m sure the Karens of the world today would shriek in horror at this practice but this is truly how boys are turned into men.

Like many military veterans, my uncle never spoke much about his service. When he graduated high school, his own father took him down to the Navy recruiting office and signed him up. A few years later found himself on a river boat, patrolling waters of Vietnam. After my own time in the Army, he and I had a few brief conversations about our shared experiences overseas, but regrettably we never got the chance to talk in any depth.

Following his passing, I decided to search for any relevant information that might tell me more about his time in the military. Through an internet records search, I was amazed to discover that in Vietnam he was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V” device. That “V” stands for Valor, and valorous awards aren’t just passed out for no good reason. To earn one, you have to put your own life on the line in the heat of battle. Not many men these days can say they’ve done that.

Unsurprisingly, my dad said my uncle never mentioned that he had earned this award, but he did have a guess as to how he did so. After many years, my uncle told him a story of how he was on a patrol searching for water mines near the banks of an undisclosed Vietnamese river. Their contingent began to take incoming enemy fire, but when they tried to drive away, they realized something underneath the water was caught on their boat, preventing their escape. My uncle and another sailor dove into the water in an attempt to break it free. After cutting it loose, my uncle came to the surface and climbed back on the boat. To his dismay, the other sailor, who was his friend, never came back up. However, their actions did allow the rest of the crew to escape unharmed. My dad didn’t know for certain if this was the incident that earned him that combat medal, but if it wasn’t, he must have done something even more extraordinary at some other time.

After his year in Vietnam, my uncle returned home and married my aunt. They had two brilliant and talented daughters, and four gifted grandchildren. After thirty-one years of dedicated service, he retired from the local steel manufacturer, a feat which is almost unheard of today. Even after his retirement, he never really stopped working to better the world around him.

I consider myself fortunate that I grew up in a large family surrounded by many men like my uncle. Both of my grandfathers were patriarchs who worked hard to provide for their families and pass down their faith to their children and grandchildren. My own dad has always been present in my life as a teacher, coach, and mentor. I also had nine other uncles who served as role models in my life. There is a now clichéd African proverb that says “It takes a village to raise a child” that is usually co-opted by Progressives for silly socialist arguments. But from a traditional perspective, it takes a tribe of strong men to raise a boy the way God intended.

In our crazy world of deconstructed gender-norms and rising political and cultural tension, there will inevitably be strong men who rise up and assert themselves as leaders of various tribes. These men will be needed, but perhaps the real path to victory for traditional Christians lies elsewhere. What we really need are more men like my uncle. Men who are tirelessly devoted to their God, their family, and their country, who choose to disregard the glamor and greed of our age and go about their business of building future generations through their hard work and leadership.

My uncle will be missed by all who knew him, but his influence on this world will remain. And there is no doubt that when Christ greeted him in heaven, He repeated His words in the Gospel of Matthew:  “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation”[1]

Romans 13:1-2

As American colonists found themselves increasingly at odds with their English King and his Parliament in the years leading to the Revolutionary War, they found themselves needing to justify their actions within the framework of their Christian faith. New Testament scripture, as noted in Romans above and also 1 Peter 2, calls for believers to submit themselves to their governments. As we know from history, the American colonies, made up of a diverse yet devout population, did not submit, declaring their independence from Britain in 1776. How did they reconcile their rebellion with their religion?

One place we can look to for answers is in the sermons of colonial church ministers. In 1750, as dissatisfaction with England was in its early stages, Boston Congregationalist minister Johnathan Mayhew gave a sermon that would influence Christian thinking on government authority. Mayhew believed that Christians living under a respected sovereign should “enjoy under his administration all the liberty that is proper and expedient for us.”[2] However, when a rightful ruler turned tyrant then God’s expectation for obedience changed, and it was no longer considered a sin to defy the will of an unjust man. Mayhew’s sermon was inspirational to Founding Father and future U.S. President John Adams, who later recalled its influence as being read and celebrated by everyone, and a contributor to the start of the Revolution.[3]

Despite their location in the colonies, Americans at the time still saw themselves as Englishmen and entitled to all the rights and responsibilities that were due to them under English Common Law. The violation of this law is what contributed to their dissatisfaction and continual appeal for relief up until the point of the American secession. In December 1775, minister David Griffith gave a sermon to the Virginia Convention in which he referenced the Apostle Paul’s arrest, imprisonment, and flogging at the hands of the Roman authorities in the book of Acts. Like the Americans appealing to their rights as English citizens, Paul appealed directly to Caesar under his rights as a Roman citizen. Griffith argues that event shows that the Apostle’s actions displayed that civil disobedience was sometimes justified.[4]

Just a month later, another Virginia minister would also make a claim for rebellion, but this time in a different manner. On January 21, 1776 Reverend Peter Muhlenberg arrived at his church in Woodstock, Virginia to preach a farewell sermon after being appointed by General George Washington to lead the 8th Virginia Regiment to war. Muhlenberg’s choice of scriptural justification came from the Old Testament. After he detailed his military service to his congregation and sufferings his people had endured at the hands of the British government, he threw off his religious robe to reveal his uniform underneath and cited the book of Ecclesiastes, stating that “there was a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times had passes away,” and that “there was a time to fight, and that time had now come!” [5]

Ultimately, despite scriptural prohibitions against rebellion, American Christians felt it necessary to throw off the yoke of the British government and establish their own constitutional republic. Christian ministers played a huge part in that decision, with one of their own in John Witherspoon even adding his signature to the Declaration of Independence. Whether they were right or wrong is up to God, and Witherspoon’s own words can sum up the sentiment of God’s providence through history, stating that “all the disorderly passions of men…shall, in the end, be to the praise of God.”[6]

This essay was written to fulfill requirements for a graduate level history course.

[1]Unless otherwise noted, all Biblical passages referenced employ the King James (Wheaton, IL: Crossway,  2008).

[2]Jonathan Mayhew, “A Discourse, Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers,” (Boston: 1750), 54-55.

[3]James P. Byrd. Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 131-132.  

[4]David Griffith, “Passive Obedience Considered: In a Sermon Preached at Williamsburg, December 31st, 1775.” (Williamsburg: 1776), 15-16.

[5]Henry A. Muhlenberg. The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg of the Revolutionary Army, (Philadelphia: Cary and Hart, 1849), 53. It should be noted that Henry Muhlenberg was the nephew of Peter Muhlenberg and many question the historical accuracy of this story.

[6] John Witherspoon, The dominion of Providence over the passions of men. (Philadelphia: Printed and sold by R. Aitken, 1776), 534.

In reading historians of aristocratic ages, those of antiquity in particular, it would seem that in order to be master of his fate and to govern his fellows a man need only be master of himself. Perusing the histories written nowadays, one would suppose that man had no power, neither over himself nor over his surroundings. Classical historians taught how to command; those of our own time teach next to nothing but how to obey.

Alexis de Tocqueville

In his second volume of Democracy in America, French diplomat and writer Alexis de Tocqueville touches briefly on key differences in historical approaches toward the past in aristocratic ages as opposed to democratic ages. In short, in aristocratic ages societies were ruled by the elite few and the events of history were recorded to have been shaped and moved by the willpower and influence of select individuals. In contrast, as democratic ages were governed by the masses, events were reported to have been advanced by general causes and movements.

As Tocqueville’s intent was to praise America’s unique democracy, he certainly would prefer the representative form of government over aristocracy, but in this chapter he gives a clear warning that democratic history could pass on a “doctrine of fatality’ to its readers, influencing them to think they were powerless and resigned to the trends of society. As conservatives find themselves on the losing side of our most recent democratic endeavor and ask questions about the validity of the process itself, we must be careful to not succumb to this same feeling of impotence.

Conversely, I would argue that future historians will not see this age as one of democracy, but of a return to aristocracy. The past year has shown that politicians, corporations, and tech media moguls have formed a new ruling class that seeks to dominate the political process through both overt and covert means. Any semblance of democracy is a facade to placate the grumblings of an agitated population. Establishment media is pushing a narrative that the current social justice movements are the will of the people, but in reality these ideas are curated propaganda used by those behind the curtain to maintain their control. 

In my previous essay, I mentioned the “new elites”, and stated that if conservatives and classical liberals ever desire to regain political power we will need to transform ourselves into a new class of men and women with liberties based on virtue. If in fact we are entering a new age of aristocracy then the good news is that there exists the potential for bold and virtuous men to lead our side of it.

Since the Enlightenment, the term aristocracy has slowly descended into a dirty word in democratic societies, associated with the decadence and arrogance of the European elites of the Middle Ages. But the original term, like much of the foundation of Western Civilization, is Greek, a combination of the words excellent and power. The aristokratia were the noble warriors of the ruling classes who led armies into battle. Related to this is the concept of arete, which the Greeks thought of as excellence or moral virtue.

So while it is true that the ancient Greeks were led by an aristocracy that our modern minds might be weary of, their definition of the term required excellence. In the same manner that Greek liberty was invalid without virtue, Greek leadership would have been invalid without arete. 

The Apostle Paul, well-versed in Greek thought, brought this concept over to Christianity when he wrote the following in his letter to the church at Philippi:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence (arete), if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

In America, we’ve spent so much time arguing over the right types of government that we’ve failed to hold the democratic process and its leaders to any standards of virtue. Yet it’s a cyclical problem, as the decadence and vices of our culture, rooted in the disdain for any excellence in our personal lives, have empowered a ruling class whose minimum standard is appeasing those same earthly desires in order to maintain their own wealth and power. An unprincipled electorate sanctions a corrupt oligarchy who returns the favor with promises of material comfort that reinforce the indulgent behavior of the citizens who elected them in the first place.

Many of us see this system as both undesirable and unsustainable. We place our values in a higher plane of existence and would choose a Spartan freedom over an opulent slavery. Yet this slavery is now at our doorstep, offering us solace in exchange for submission.

Submission in and of itself is not the issue. At times of necessity, men will submit themselves to virtuous aristocrats. They will follow the Spartan King Leonidas to certain death at the gates of Thermopylae. They will cross the Rubicon behind Julius Caesar and risk treason against the Roman Republic. They will refuse to desert George Washington despite the brutal winter they endured at Valley Forge. And they will lay down their lives for a God who became man and died so that they may have eternal life. But submission to a corrupt aristocracy offering nothing of true value while demanding our God-given liberties is not something men of virtue do.

In his latest essay “The Gold Pill”, writer Jack Donovan proclaims “We must become heroes and kings, men who right wrongs and straighten that which is crooked- It is up to us to become the men of a new golden age.” In this vein, men of Donovan’s new golden age must become the aristocrats of old; not the selfish elite of the Middle Ages, but the aristokratia of ancient Greece- men of excellence and virtue who lead others to victory. 

When future historians sit down to write their books on the events of this age, they will not write about general movements and trends of faceless masses; instead they will undoubtedly tell the tales of the great men who rose up to defend freedom and liberty against the encroaching forces of tyranny and control. Who these men are is currently unknown, but the opportunity is there for the taking. To men of virtue, striving for arete, the time is now to stake your claim.

A Revolution took place this past year, finalized with the swearing in of the 46th President of the United States on January 20th, 2021. It was not the Revolution that you think it was or the revolution you had hoped it would be. Many had thought that the revolution was Trump himself, saving America from the global establishment that threatens liberty across the globe. In reality, Trump was the last of the old world, a desperate counterpunch from a cornered idea of freedom in an attempt to hold off a Revolution that has been decades in the making. That Revolution delivered its final blow, entrenching a new set of elites, backed by an technocratic oligarchy with an aim of ultimate authoritarian control.

“A Revolution is one set of Elites replacing another – are you prepared and do you have the ability to be the new Elites?”

The above quote is taken from a fellow member of a men’s fitness Telegram group to which I belong. I don’t know the man who said it, or if it is an original idea or taken from someone else, but his words struck something in me when I read them this morning. Indeed, a revolution has taken place, a new elite has taken power, and you are probably not one of them. If you disagree with this new establishment and harbor any antiquated notions of freedom of speech, of faith, of association, or self-defense, you are not only not part of the new in-group, but have earned the title of “the other.” History shows us what happens to “the other.”

History also shows us very few successful slave revolts. Perhaps one of the most famous, led by Spartacus against Rome in the 1st Century B.C., lasted a few years until it was crushed by the Roman legions and six thousand survivors were crucified along the Appian Way leading into Rome.

The original American Revolution that led to the founding of the United States was not a slave revolt, but a movement driven by elite men, inspired not by self-important status but by the mindset that all men are equal under God and should live freely in that manner. They were elite in that they were scholars, soldiers, and businessmen who pushed themselves to that status by their endeavors.

The ancient Greeks had similar ideas of freedom and liberty as modern Americans, yet with a catch. Freedom was not simply the ability to do what one pleases without restraint, but the ability to do what one desires within self-imposed limits of moral virtue. In America today, one is free to do whatever makes one happy, even if it imposes long term harm on the body, mind, or spirit. To the Greeks, that is not freedom, but slavery. For Christians, the Apostle Paul would say that it is slavery to sin.

I look around the country, and at myself, and ask if those of us who now find ourselves as outsiders of the new establishment and clamor for the freedoms of old are worthy of the elite status we so desire? Are we worthy of the liberties we think we have lost? Or are we too slaves to the vices inherent in our infinite freedoms?

If there is ever any desire for a new revolution to push back against our freshly victorious authoritarian masters, a new class of freedom loving men and women with passions tamed by discipline and virtue must rise. This new class must elevate their minds, bodies, and souls to an elite status worthy of the freedoms we have been gifted by God. Only then can we bring about any kind of lasting revolution.

Yesterday in Washington D.C., as Congress convened to certify the Electoral College vote for President of the United States, supporters of President Donald Trump held a rally to protest what many have seen as a fraudulent and stolen election. Following a speech by the President himself thousands of Americans marched to the Capitol building. Through the course of events, a number of supporters broke through lax security and made their way into the Capitol building itself, forcing Congress and Vice President Pence into lockdown and delaying the certification until early this morning. It was an ugly scene, with one female Trump supporter shot and killed by police in the mayhem. Immediately the violence was denounced with some labeling the protestors as terrorists and others calling for President Trump’s immediate resignation or deposal. The most common word I heard thrown around however was the word “sad.” A sad day for America, indeed, but not for the reasons which they would want you to believe. 

This was a sad day in America because this action was the last gasp of air for millions of Americans across the country for whom President Donald Trump stood as the totem for their frustration, grief, and hope for reprieve. Amidst a crushing global economy that has devastated the middle class, an opioid epidemic that has taken the lives of thousands of our citizens, and the recent COVID pandemic that our government at all levels has used as justification for overreach, supporters of Donald Trump saw the potential for four more years of breathing room stolen away in the middle of the night. 

Whether the election fraud was real or significant enough to change the outcome isn’t the point of the matter. The point is that when discrepancies were noted, our ruling class and the media who propagandize for them covered their eyes, stuck their fingers in their ears, and yelled “debunked!” at the top of their lungs while judges across the country dismissed many court cases before they even bothered to examine any evidence. Again, I don’t know if the fraud was real or would have made a difference, but the refusal of our government to even acknowledge the concerns of millions of its citizens is a theme that is consistent with the spiritual force that brought Donald Trump to power. 

This spiritual force of Donald Trump supporters is made up of people who feel as though they have been left behind. They are the mostly white lower and middle class Americans who populate the landmass that exists between the East and West Coasts of the United States. They are the descendants of people who immigrated from Europe in centuries past to become a part of a project that once stood for liberty and opportunity for all. Of course America’s history was never perfect, but the potential for success through self-determination was always there for these people, and now, it feels as though it is not. 

I care about these people because they are my people. I am an Ohioan, from a small rural town in the northeast. Northeast Ohio, like most of the rust belt, was once a booming manufacturing and steel hub with plenty of jobs for those who would work them. Most of those jobs are now gone, outsourced overseas for lower wages and a higher profit margin for shareholders. Nothing has yet to replace them. 

I was fortunate enough to escape. Blessed to be born to a loving family, despite our lack of wealth my parents worked hard to provide our family and stressed the importance of getting an education. Through a combination of hard work and an athletic scholarship, I put myself through college. Through my degree I was able to become a commissioned officer in the United States Army and served for nearly six years with two deployments leading Infantrymen in Afghanistan. Following a combat injury I was forced to retire early, but the skills I gained coupled with my education allowed me to have success in the civilian world. My wife and I both have good corporate jobs and are able to comfortably raise our family in a nice suburb of Ohio’s capital city, where the economy is much better than the rest of the state. 

But outside of here, back home and in similar places like home, things are not as easy for those who remain. I have not read or watched Hillbilly Elegy yet, but it appears to be an accurate representation of a similar world. 

For one, an opioid epidemic has ripped through many communities and thousands have died from drug overdoses. Several years ago, a girl with whom I went to high school got caught up in this mess. A few houses down from my grandparent’s house, the girl’s father shot and killed her boyfriend in self-defense. Drugs were apparently involved. Several months later, she overdosed and died, leaving behind a little boy with no mother or father. If you think our government cares about this crisis, answer me why during my time in Afghanistan we ignored thousands of acres of poppy fields, where most of the world’s opium is produced and eventually makes it way to America. Tell me why we didn’t burn down those fields and teach the Afghans to plant something productive. To some, the answer is that the government doesn’t care about the people whose lives will be affected. 

To some, what the government cares about is maintaining its power. One way to do that is through changing the electorate. By bringing in immigrants, politicians can not only drive down labor costs for their financial donors but can simultaneously create voting blocs that are beholden to the rulers who helped bring them in. This is why immigration is such a huge issue to Trump supporters. As jobs are being outsourced, workers are being insourced at the expense of the people already living here. Our tax dollars are sent overseas to fund foreign nations while our own people go without. Then, when Americans object, accusations of racism and xenophobia are laid on the table, furthering the divide. 

What we saw yesterday in our nation’s capital was not only sad, but embarrassing and shameful. We cannot condone this type of violence in our political system, but we must use this moment to step back and realize that something is very broken in our country. Almost 75 million Americans voted for Donald Trump, and while only a small number of his supporters were involved in yesterday’s chaos, almost half of the electorate believed in his cause enough to cast their ballots for him. 

President Trump is a political outsider and anti-establishment figurehead who wasn’t supposed to win in the first place. Enthusiasm for his leadership means that millions of American’s are dissatisfied with the trajectory of our country and a government that places the interests of Americans at the bottom of its list of priorities. Yet despite Trump’s loss in his bid for a second term, the spirit of the displaced population that he represented will still yearn for leadership and representation. Who will give it to them? 

During yesterday’s protest, a Trump supporter wearing Buffalo-horned headgear, face-paint, and tan sweatpants stood at the dais of the United States Senate chamber and victoriously flexed his left-bicep for the cameras. It brought to mind images of neoclassical paintings of Gothic barbarians tearing down the statues of Ancient Rome. In 452 AD, as Attila the Hun’s armies descended on the eternal city, Pope Leo I rode out to meet them. By some miracle, he convinced the warlord to turn around and go elsewhere. Yesterday, as disgruntled Americans stormed the Capitol, our leadership hid in the basement. Clearly our current political elite lacks the fortitude to defend this once great nation and its people. With President Trump out of the picture, a new leader will arise. The question is, will it be a bold emissary of a dignified state riding out to meet the horde? Or the horned barbarian from outside the city walls, seeking justice for a displaced people?

Outgoing (?) U.S. President Donald Trump has recently announced his intention to withdraw most American military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, with an aim to end two wars that have lasted almost twenty years each, cost the United States trillions of dollars, and have led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. Immediately, most of our political leaders from both parties began to screech loudly in protest, likely at the behest of the defense contractors who write their campaign checks. Tell me again the Deep State isn’t real as the anti-war crowd is now pro-war because fighting Muslim farmers in the Middle East is supposedly crucial to our national security.

To be clear, I myself am not a pacifist or anti-war, considering that I served as an Infantry Officer for six years with two combat deployments to Afghanistan. Had I not been wounded myself, I would most likely still be serving in the Army. I loved my time in the service and enjoyed being overseas, despite the obvious risks and evils that can come with war. Ernest Hemingway once wrote that “There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” Maybe I should talk to my pastor or a therapist about how much that quote resonates with me.

Regardless, the Christian perspective on war is a complicated. Countless works have been written on it and church councils have debated it since church councils began debating, which has been a really long time. The Old Testament is practically a history of the Israelites at war and there is no point in the New Testament where Christ or any of the apostles said they had been wrong in their endeavors (which included some borderline genocidal activities). Clearly as Christians we have an updated covenant with God that requires our behavior to model love as opposed to hate, but it’s definitely a stretch to say that all forms of violence are off limits. Saint Peter carried a sword and he clearly wasn’t hesitant to use it, although Jesus did rebuke him after he cut off the soldier’s ear during his arrest.

Obviously, the United States government is not required to dictate it’s foreign policy based on the Bible or Just War Theory, as we are now a secular state that must act in it’s best interest to defend itself from those who would do us harm. But the idea that there is some real danger to America posed by insurgent forces in Iraq or Afghanistan that requires a substantial troop presence is silly. Our military is more than capable of withdrawing conventional troops from much of the world and utilizing our advanced Special Operations capabilities to surgically remove any terrorist threats as necessary. It’s time to stop wasting our blood and treasure and bring our people home.

And so are more lockdowns. As we speak, the United States is following the rest of the world in implementing massive COVID related lockdowns as case numbers spike, even though the number of deaths remains steady. In some states, Thanksgiving is on the chopping block, and Christmas could soon follow. Most of us already missed out on celebrating Easter in the spring as we were in the early months of the Corona virus. Several months later and its looking highly likely that it will be strongly suggested that you celebrate Christ’s birth from the comfort of your living room. I strongly suggest that we don’t do that.

I’ll refrain from going down the path of conspiracy to say that this is all some deliberate globalist plot to eliminate Christmas and Christianity from the world (ask me about that later when I’ve drank too much punch from the Christmas crock and am wearing my tin-foil Santa hat). Right now we could probably blame this reaction on the Karen-contingent and hashtagscience sycophants who are afraid of their shadows and want to force us all back in our groundhog holes to save us from ourselves. Those folks are being enabled by a fear-mongering news media that may or may not have had some kind of ulterior agenda in an election year and are overhyping a flu that ninety-nine percent of people recover from? (this punch tastes good by the way). At what point do we stand up to these overzealous hall monitors and fight for our First Amendment rights before we pass the point of no return?

None of this is to say that we should be flippant in our actions or completely ignore any safety precautions. COVID-19 is real, people have died, and we should take measured action to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected. But it’s questionable if locking down our entire economy and sacrificing the livelihoods of small business owners and the education of our children is worth it to protect a small minority. And this Christmas, Christians should put our faith above our fears in order to celebrate and worship the birth of our King.

I’ve seen several memes superimposing the face of various government officials over the face of the Grinch from How The Grinch Stole Christmas. If the lockdowns extend into late December and Christians are asked to or forced to not celebrate and worship with our families and friends then we should do as the Whos did and celebrate anyway. We must remember that Christ was born to deliver us from sin and our concern for the hardships of this life which stem from it, which includes the fear of death and disease.

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:9-11

This past Saturday it was officially announced by the news media that after several confusing days of chaos, former Vice President Joe Biden had enough electoral college votes to defeat President Trump in the 2020 election. This occurred despite the Trump campaign’s insistence of voter fraud in multiple states and an intent to challenge the outcome in the court of law. The results of this effort remain to be seen, but Trump supporters fall into one of two categories: those who have conceded defeat and those who have vowed to fight. Within Christianity, the usual proclamations of “God’s sovereignty” or “Christ’s Kingship” have emerged, with the comforting and accurate thought that no matter who wins this or any election, God is still in charge. And while that sentiment is and always has been true throughout history, we must be careful not to simply shrug our shoulders in agreement and attempt to carry on with our lives with a “there’s always next year” attitude. Elections have consequences, as a former President once said, and these consequences have a direct effect on the world we live in. As Christians, we are called to have a direct effect on the world as well, and in order to do so we must take an active role in both politics and culture if we are to make any lasting impression. 

Our primary concern should be that of our ability to exercise the religious freedoms that we as Americans are promised in the Constitution. From a historical perspective, the United States was in fact founded by Christians. Most of these were religious dissidents dissatisfied with a lack of religious freedoms in mainly England but also continental Europe who saw the New World as an opportunity to both worship freely and spread the Gospel to the natives already living here. And because of the diverse nature of the Christians colonists, they were forced to figure out how to coexist with one another and refrain from recreating the intolerant atmosphere from which they had escaped. When the American colonies finally won independence from Britain, our founders enshrined this freedom in the First Amendment, and it was extended to all faiths and all religions. 

Unfortunately hostility toward Christianity is prevalent in our current age. Just look at the recent hatred directed toward Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearings. Barrett is an extremely accomplished woman and mother and she was attacked simply for having traditional Christian religious beliefs. Vice President Mike Pence has been ridiculed for his refusal to ever be alone with a woman who isn’t his wife. Traditional Christian values on marriage, gender, and sexual orientation are labeled by many as bigoted and hateful. Our fight to protect innocent lives from the appalling cruelty of abortion is met with accusations of only caring about life until it is born, despite the fact that so much of our resources go toward helping the poor, the sick, and the underprivileged all across the globe.  

The CoronaVirus pandemic has also had some effects on religious freedoms as churches were forced to comply with shutdown orders in order to “stop the spread.” Churches who chose to remain open were met with protests and some pastors were arrested. Even nine months later in California Christians are not allowed to sing in church due to COVID concerns. And Christians aren’t the only ones running into trouble with the law during this pandemic as Orthodox Jews in New York are being targeted by Governor Cuomo. Trump rallies are called “super-spreader” events, while a blind eye has been turned away from left wing riots in the name of social justice. 

Christian persecution in America pales in comparison to that of other countries, where believers are often murdered for their beliefs. We shouldn’t compare our current problems to that situation, but we should recognize the potential. In the few short days since the election, many on the political left have called for Trump enablers and supporters to be held accountable for their actions. Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and a few others have called for creating lists of these people. It’s not hard to imagine how Christians could end up on these lists and it’s not hard to look at history and see what path these lists lead to. 

Even if Christians agree to withdraw from the world and keep our beliefs to ourselves like many want us to, how long would that last? How long would we be allowed to continue teaching our children our history, traditions, and faith before they were taken away from us for teaching them what progressives consider hate? 

As it currently stands, Joe Biden has won the Presidency and the anti-Christian forces behind him are set to impose their will upon the nation. Whether President Trump’s legal challenge prevails or not, Christian leaders need to prepare to stand strong to represent our people in the public square. We cannot retreat into our churches, we cannot fear the loss of our tax exemptions, and we cannot stop trying to influence the world in the positive way in which Christ commanded us. 

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

– Colossians 1:17

Last night during a weekly men’s Bible study group, we were discussing the word “hope” as found in Colossians 1:27, which ends with the statement “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The Apostle Paul, who wrote this letter while in prison, explains to the Church at Colossae how the mystery of the word of God has finally been revealed to all through Jesus. The Greek word used for “word” is logos, the same logos used in the opening of the Gospel of John that reads “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Thus the mystery of the word of God, the logos that is behind the world, is Christ in you, the hope of glory. But in our discussion the word hope gave me pause to consider both its meaning and implications for Christians living in a present day world filled with a tremendous amount of angst and uncertainty. 

The first entry given by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary for the word hope is “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.” This definition fits with my initial response to the use of the word hope in this passage in Colossians, which sees the term used in the context of uncertainty and wishful thinking. This definition permeates modern Christianity in the sense that as Christians were are often hoping or wishing or waiting for the best outcome to occur in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Right now we are hoping that COVID-19 goes away so we can get on with our lives. We are wishing that the civil unrest that has been taking place in our cities following the George Floyd murder works itself out to a peaceful solution. We are desiring positive results from the Presidential election in November no matter who wins. But this sense of hope is not guaranteed or inevitable or certain. 

I do not believe that the word hope is mistranslated in our Bibles as this is the common word used in almost all English translations. More likely it is that the modern definition of the word has changed from its original meaning. The Greek word used in this passage and the rest of the New Testament is elpis, which can also be translated to the word “expectation.” Expectation, in modern English, has a different connotation than hope. Expectation carries the weight of assurance. It states that an outcome will happen and not that it is just a wish or desire or dream. Perhaps expectation is a better fit for our purposes here: “Christ in you, the expectation of glory.” 

Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection stands as the final victory over sin and death. When he died, Jesus’ final words were “It is finished.” The spiritual battles on earth might still be raging but the war has already been won. There is no hope or desire or wish for salvation in Christ- It is already done. Romans 10:9 states “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

Perhaps it is only an argument of semantics, but I believe that this mindset change, of the expectation of glory in Christ instead of merely hope, can strengthen one’s faith and resolve during tumultuous times such as these. We are not hoping to be spared from the ill effects of COVID; we are expecting that whether or not we suffer from it we will someday be united with Christ in heaven. We can hope that the racial and economic injustice that plagues our fallen world can be solved in our time, but we can expect that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). And while we pray that the political order continues to allow the free expression of our faith in the world, we are assured that even in the face of persecution and possible martyrdom that Christ has prepared a place in heaven for us (John 14:2). 

I believe that this expectation of the glory of Christ is what drove Paul to completely change his course in life from persecuting Christians to being the one persecuted for Christ. As he sat in that prison cell, knowing that eventually he would be executed by the Romans once his mission was complete, he had assurance after having met the risen Christ himself while alive that he would be granted eternal life upon his death. And we too, as Christians living in uncertain times, should freely and fully live our lives with those same expectations.