There’s a lot of Christian despair over disturbing social trends: Bruce Jenner’s transgenderism, the Supreme Court’s likely invention of a right to same sex marriage, intimidation against Christian businesses, increasing legislation to legitimize assisted suicide, marijuana and gambling, the seeming decline of public affiliation with Christianity.
Are America and its churches in irreversible spiral? Should Christians abandon their devotion to our democracy and instead exclusively focus on building private communities of faith to weather the storm?
Such resignation would be a mistake, most likely still believe. Yet how do we understand patriotism when American principles are subverted and American ruling and cultural elites are increasingly hostile to Christian faith and ethical norms?
Maybe Star Wars offers a partial response. I recall its opening day in 1977, as I was the first of my sixth grade class to see it. I still have the “May the Force be with you” button distributed at the theater. Everybody who saw the movie was dazzled. I was intrigued by its political themes. Much of the universe is ruled by the sinister Empire, while its heroes, including a handful of surviving Jedi knights, are rebels hearkening back to the long suppressed old Republic.
America is not quite the Empire, but Christians might at least smilingly recall the old Jedis and their young rebel followers as we seek to capture the imagination of a new generation who’ve forgotten America’s founding ideals that were rooted in Christian worldview and created a republic of unparalleled liberty and prosperity, even amid great flaws. Yes, the culture, including much of government, is now hostile. All the more reason for remembering, persevering, reminding and witnessing to a better way.
In a similar vein, C.S. Lewis offered a WWII analogy for Christian modeling. The Church should see itself as like the French Resistance, living under hostile occupation, covertly disrupting the enemy with sabotage, secretly communicating with central command by shortwave radio, and awaiting ultimate liberation, for which all exertions are but a preparation.
Lewis’ analogy also reminds that hostile occupation is not aberration but ongoing reality. Our fallen world always wars against the Gospel of grace and truth. There’s never a peacetime or even a full truce. Spiritual combat is required of the whole Church at all times. Even in the ostensibly Christian past, vice, injustice and chicanery of all sorts were typically surging, with the Church as chief obstacle to the complete victory of evil, and the chief instrument for redeeming the world.
Times of greater malice are also times for greater Christian witness and victory, that will be memorialized for all eternity. Not that decadence or oppression, which offer opportunity for martyrdom, should ever be welcomed or romanticized. But they are intrinsic to this world and should be addressed with faith and confidence, not resignation or fear.
We know by faith that the Church of course ultimately prevails as the eternally victorious Body of Christ. America is not eternal like the Church, though Christians will always bear the marks of their earthly homes. Our nation has always been a place of great sin and blessing. It may go into irreversible spiral, perhaps under divine judgment. Or its best days may yet be ahead, and today’s trials a testing that will be remembered for all time by the light of the heroic souls who resisted.
Only God knows the future. Assuming the worst negates His power to redeem and His authority over human affairs. Whatever His mysterious will for our society, He expects faithfulness, patience and joy, not complaints or self pity. We are expected to serve as rebels and representatives, even Jedi knights, of the old Republic, temporarily suppressed, but not forgotten or defeated and ultimately vindicated.