Summer 1998

Will We Go Forward or Go Back?

The primary purpose of The WallBuilder Report has been to educate and to inspire. Therefore, it is our practice to examine current issues through an historical lens, and to report from across the nation victories which typically do not receive much mainstream coverage.

We started this practice ten years ago when God providentially guided me into the series of research projects which eventually led to the formation of this ministry. During that start-up, I spent exhaustive time in the book of Nehemiah, seeing it as a Biblical plan for rebuilding a nation. Based on those studies, we not only chose the name “WallBuilders” from Nehemiah 2:17 but also discovered a principle in Nehemiah 2:18 which has since guided the content of this newsletter. In those two verses, Nehemiah pointed out areas where action was needed and called the people to rebuild; and he also reported to them “of the good hand of God.” This “good news” about what God was doing encouraged the people, and they rose to the challenge of rebuilding their nation. Based on what we saw in these verses, WallBuilders began to model Nehemiah’s practice.

The only trouble we have had with this policy of reporting what the “good hand of God” is doing across the country is that there have been far too many victories to be reported in each newsletter! The reports we receive from throughout the nation convince me that unquestionably we are winning far more battles than we are losing.

A Negative Trend

Despite this, I see a perplexing trend–an attitude, if you will–taking root among God’s people in America, and in many ways, it is a rerun of a story that occurred nearly four thousand years ago.

Throughout my Christian life, I have always been mystified by the attitudes and the behavior of those who were the beneficiaries of God’s amazing deliverance during the great Exodus. Recall? The Israelites were in slavery and bondage; God sent deliverance through Moses, Aaron, and a host of miracles; the people left their oppression behind and began new lives; their progress to the Promised Land was slower and more difficult then they expected; they turned on Moses and made him, rather than the Egyptians, the object of their wrath. You would think that being out from under bondage and oppression was something in which to rejoice; but no, they wanted to complain and quit.

It seems that this general scenario might now be occurring in America. Ten years ago, the pro-family Christian community, politically speaking, was in Egypt. Oppressed by a Congress whose policies were often hostile to the traditional family and to people of faith, we were losing battle after battle in the war to preserve our religious and moral principles. Then a dramatic change occurred.

In the 1994 election, Christian voter turnout reached its high point of recent years, and as a result, scores of aggressive pro-family and pro-faith Congressmen were added to Congress–leaders like Steve Largent (OK), Todd Tiahart (KS), David MacIntosh (IN), J.C. Watts (OK), Linda Smith (WA), Zach Wamp(TN), Dave Weldon (FL), Helen Chenoweth (ID), and numerous others.

Then, as a result of the 1996 elections, the number of “good guys” in the Senate began to climb through the addition of pro-faith and pro-family Senators like Sam Brownback (KS), Tim Hutchinson (AR), Jeff Sessions (AL), and others. In addition, more pro-family members were added to the House, including Jim Ryun (KS), Joe Pitts (PA), Bob Adderhold (AL), etc. The changes during these two election cycles did, in fact, deliver America from the oppressive stranglehold which the Congress had held over the family.

Good Progress

It is true that we are not yet in the “Promised Land” in the sense that many of the policies that pro-family Christians desire have not yet occurred. In fact, some of the Congressional leadership have promised measures and failed to deliver. Nevertheless, we apparently are out of “Egypt,” and notwithstanding the harsh criticism leveled against Congress by many within our own ranks, several major victories have occurred in the past four years.

Recall that six years ago, Congress did not have the pro-life numbers to confront the issue of partial-birth abortions (a practice occurring for years), yet in the past four years, Congress has debated and twice banned the procedure.

Although President Clinton vetoed each ban, the House overrode his veto on both occasions; the override fell short only in the Senate. Isn’t this a clear improvement over where we were six years ago when we could not even debate the issue?

Additionally, Congress has passed numerous other pro-life measures, including, for the first time during President Clinton’s tenure, a ban on all abortions on U.S. military bases.

On the educational front, even though federal programs like Goals 2000 and School-to-Work have not been eliminated (due in large part to President Clinton’s lobbying efforts),the funding for those programs has been dramatically cut. In fact, in the last four years the House Education Committee has successfully eliminated105 of the 260 federal programs it oversees. Six years ago, this, too, was impossible.

Similarly, six years ago, we could not successfully challenge many homosexual issues, yet today a ban on recognizing same-sex marriages has been passed at the federal level. Also, the House (although not the Senate) halted all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts–something else which was absolutely unthinkable six years ago. The list of our victories, while only modest in some areas, continues to grow.

Taking the Offensive

Notice, too, that our battles are now offensive rather than defensive. That is, six years ago virtually all of our time was spent repelling the attacks of terrible measures like HR 6 (which would have placed private and home schools under the same federal regulations as public schools) and the lifting of the ban on gays in the military. Similarly, we were fighting off the policies of Roberta Achtenberg (an assistant-secretary of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) which would have imposed civil penalties on those who might share their faith in the public workplace.

Today, however, the battles are no longer primarily over which policies we should fight but rather over which of our measures should go forward. For example, the House Judiciary Committee passed and the House voted on a Constitutional Amendment designed to restore school prayer and to protect religious liberties. Although it did not receive the necessary two-thirds vote for passage, nevertheless, it is the furthest that this religious liberty issue has advanced in the House in thirty-six years!

In fact, a genuine spiritual change has occurred in the Congress, evidenced by the fact that ten years ago only 20 Congressmen were involved in weekly prayer meetings and Bible studies. Today, there are over 120. And in recent weeks, I have personally stood in the halls of the U.S. Capitol with some of these Godly Congressmen, singing hymns and offering prayers.

Unquestionably, we are better off today than we were six years ago.

No Time to Quit

Although we are further along than we have been in decades, I cannot recall a period of time in which I have heard so much complaining by Christians, nor seen so many who are so frustrated and discouraged. They seem determined to quit and go back.

Perhaps the problem is that many are judging progress against the promises of some Congressional leaders rather than against where we were six years ago.

Or perhaps it is simply a matter of impatience–that they want to enter the Promised Land sooner. If that is the case, it is wise to recall God’s clear pronouncement:

I will not drive your enemies out in one year. . . . Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you are increased and can inherit the land. Exodus23:29-30

The Lord your God will drive your enemies out little by little; you may not consume them all at once. Deuteronomy 7:22

People always want change to happen faster than God seems to permit.

Returning to the Exodus analogy, recall that although Moses was the one chosen for the initial deliverance, he was not the one who led them into the Promised Land. Similarly, even though the current Congressional leaders were instrumental in the transition from generally hostile to generally family-friendly policies, they may not be the ones to complete the journey.

And just as the people forgot Moses’ accomplishments and began to attack and malign him, many Christians now consider the current Congress their enemy and, by the tens of thousands, are abandoning the difficult journey. Here we are on the verge of victory, within sight of the Promised Land, and–explain this–Christian voter turnout has begun to fall dramatically! That fall first evidenced itself in the 1996 elections (following eight consecutive years of increased Christian voter turnout) and has continued to plummet throughout this year’s primaries.

Who can seriously believe that abandonment will accelerate our journey? Instead of shaking our fists in frustration at the Congress in general, we should focus our energies on sending home Congressmen who oppose faith and family and replace them with pro-family, pro-faith leaders!

Are we really going to give back the last ten years of progress? I certainly hope not.

If you are one of those who is discouraged, don’t quit now. Place your faith in God, not in the Congress, or even in the American voters –and especially not in the current opinion polls. Galatians 6:9 promises that we will eventually win–if we don’t give up. So hang in there!

Don’t let future generations point to us as the American version of the Biblical story of the Exodus. As the Rev. Matthias Burnet warned nearly two hundred years ago, “Let not your children have reason to curse you for prostrating those institutions and giving up those rights which your fathers delivered unto you.”

Remembering the Fourth of July

This Fourth of July America celebrates its 222nd birthday! The Fourth of July is one of our most celebrated holidays, and has been for nearly two centuries–a fact confirmed by a very elderly John Quincy Adams in a speech he delivered on the 4th of July in 1837–America’s 61st birthday.

John Quincy Adams properly reminded the crowd that one of the most important elements of the American movement for independence had been its spiritual underpinnings. He asked:

Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, our most joyous and most venerated festival occurs on this day? And why is it that . . . thousands and tens of thousands among us . . . year after year . . . celebrat[e] the birthday of the nation? Is it not that . . . the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?

The fact that there was a spiritual emphasis at the birth of the nation was confirmed by numerous others. For example, Benjamin Kent, in a letter to Samuel Adams, declared: “It is God’s doing!”

So clearly did John Adams see God’s hand in America’s independence, he even believed that to help America achieve her independence was the single reason God had created him. As he told his wife, Abigail: “The Colonies must be declared free and independent States. . . . When these things shall be once well finished, or in a way of being so, I shall think that I have answered the end of my creation.”

In a similar tone, John Page (later a Virginia Governor) told Thomas Jefferson, “I am highly pleased with your Declaration God preserve the United States! We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong [Ecclesiastes 9:11]. Do you not think an Angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?”

Yet, declaring independence was only the beginning; much sacrifice, patience, and reliance on God would still be required. As signer of the Declaration Abraham Clark explained: “This seems now to be[gin] a trying season; but that indulgent Father who hath hitherto preserved us will, I trust, appear for our help, and prevent our being crushed; if otherwise, His will be done.”

Our Founders knew that without Gods help–or, as they announced in the Declaration itself–”a firm reliance on Divine Providence”–they would never achieve their objective.

While we celebrate our liberties this year, let us not forget that those liberties came only through great personal sacrifice: nine of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration died during the War; and five were captured by the British and tortured before their death; twelve had their homes destroyed by British troops; and three lost their sons to the enemy. Such sacrifices remind us that liberty is never free–every generation must defend it anew.

The possibility that we might forget the sacrifices necessary to preserve liberty was something which troubled our Founders. This was made clear in a letter from Dr. Benjamin Rush to John Adams after witnessing the celebration surrounding America’s 35th birthday in 1811. Dr. Rush told Adams:

The 4th of July has been celebrated in Philadelphia in the manner I expected. The military men, and particularly one of them, ran away with all the glory of the day. But scarcely a word was said of the solicitude and labors and fears and sorrows and sleepless nights of the men who projected, proposed, defended, and subscribed [signed] the Declaration of Independence. Do you recollect your memorable speech upon the day on which the vote was taken? Do you re collect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the House when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress [John Hancock] to subscribe what was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants? The silence and the gloom of the morning were interrupted, I well recollect, only for a moment by Colonel Harrison of Virginia [a large and powerful man], who said to Mr. Gerry [a frail and tiny man] at the table [just before he signed the Declaration]: I shall have a great advantage over you, Mr. Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing. From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes; but from the lightness of your body, you will dance in the air an hour or two before you are dead!” This speech procured a transient smile, but it was soon succeeded by the solemnity with which the whole business was conducted.

While we should remember the sacrifices, more importantly we should remember the proper manner to celebrate the 4th of July. What is the proper manner? The answer was given in a letter that John Adams wrote Abigail on the day they approved the Declaration. He forecast: “I am apt to believe that [this day] will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the ‘Day of Deliverance’ by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty!”

Celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and festivities and parades–but also celebrate it by setting aside a time to thank God for His numerous blessings upon our country.

 


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