The Prodigal Son and Christian Nationalism


What it all comes down to is that America needs an intervention. Suppose a loved one in your family decides to go on a bender, let’s say, and it lasts for a couple weeks longer than it ever did before, and so then somebody calls a family meeting, and there is much discussion amidst the lamentations. At the end of the meeting, a representative of the family is chosen to go talk to the errant one. The family ambassador is urged to be kind, but stern, like a Dutch uncle.

The backslider had a good upbringing, they all think, and still has “good bones,” as it were. But the good bones don’t obscure or mask the reality of the big-time sinning, not at all. Like the prodigal son in the story, the good training seemed to come out in the repentance, which was straight up the middle. But unfortunately, this was preceded by a lot of whiskey and not a few women, also pursued straight up the middle. The repentance was good, which is good, because there was quite a bit of bad material to work with.

Only One Solution

The American problem of the moment is our American sin and rebellion. There is therefore just one solution, one that has two biblical steps to it. Those two steps are repent, and believe. But repent of what? Believe in what? Believe in whom?

When the prodigal son ran off to squander his inheritance, his central sin was committed in the first quarter mile of the road to the far country. The central sin was committed long before he ever saw the first tavern, or went into the first brothel. That sin was the sin of stepping out on that road at all. The sin was in thinking he had the right to blow out an inheritance that he had taken from his father while thoroughly despising it. He was thoughtlessly spending something he did not understand at all.

If we are in the place of that prodigal, and we are, the flamboyant sins we are currently engaged in committing—drag shows for tots, trans-surgeries for teens, porn in every motel, sodomite mirages, demented pronouns, our declaration of war on women’s bodies, blood-soaked abortuaries, and all the rest of our leprous diseases—are the sins of actually wasting our inheritance. When it comes to “all abuse and waste of his gifts” (Heidelberg Catechism #110), we are at the head of the class. But the sin of despising our inheritance came earlier. And that was the initial sin of secularism, the high sin of secularism. Secularism is not high political philosophy, but rather low ingratitude. That was our sin the moment when we first hit the road.

Allow me to put this as bluntly as I know how—being the designated Dutch uncle and all. This is not the only way a reasonable someone might choose to put it, I will grant you that, but allow me to state it in the language of our current controversy. Our central sin was that of abandoning a well-established, well-attested, centuries-old Christian nationalism. If this makes you start to stir in your seat angrily, I am going to have to ask you to sit back and hear me out. You want gospel, and not politics? This one is going to be a gospel banger.

And a large number of evangelical Christians, while they are not (necessarily) participating in the riotous living—at least not yet—are nevertheless major players when it comes to encouraging this prodigal nation of ours that we are perfectly within our rights to despise the inheritance. But those who have looked at the historical record with a biblical eye know better.

We were in fact in covenant with the God of the Bible, and we took it into our heads to just walk away from our solemn obligations to Him. Conservative Christians are all aware of how guilty we are of the roster of sins at the end of Romans 1, but somehow we neglect the root of our troubles, found there in plain sight—”without understanding, covenantbreakers” (Rom. 1:31). That root is the rot, and as my friend Jared Longshore put it, “the rot always rots.” But we persuaded ourselves that there would be no consequences to our civic defection into the great fog bank of secularism, we thought that the monies from the family trust would never ever dry up, no matter what we did, and yet now here we are, staring enviously at the pig food.

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

Jeremiah 2:13 (KJV)

Now as long as the prodigal son is only staring at his “broken cisterns,” lamenting how thirsty he is, he has not yet fully repented. No. He has finally repented completely when he says “I will arise and go to my father.” The initial sin, the primal sin, was in the forsaking.

There is absolutely no way for the prodigal son to repent while leaving his father out of it. And there is no way for America to recover herself without recognizing the actual sources of the actual legacy we actually squandered. That legacy came from somewhere, and all the wishing in the world won’t transform it into something that will have come from somewhere else. Subtle uses of the subjunctive can’t alter the past. And our past is a covenanted past. Our past is a Christian past. Our past is the source of the good gifts we are now using in the pursuit of our debauchery.

Don’t Get Distracted, They Say

The way some critics talk, you would think that what we are after is to put a little cross on the flag or something, as though that would fix everything. You know, some meaningless gesture, the kind that no one is proposing. This meaningless gesture, the one that no one is proposing, is then represented as a distraction from actual gospel preaching.

But for us to call America to repentance without addressing our impudent abandonment of our Christian heritage, a legacy grown painstakingly over centuries, is like thinking it would have been a good solution to encourage the prodigal son to sneak back home in order to try to borrow $200 from his older brother.

We are so individualistic that we actually think that our covenant-breaking is no big deal. But it is our central sin. Fastidious Christians think that our problem is what we are currently spending the money on. That is immoral enough, to be sure, and all of those things really are wicked sins. But the great problem is where we got all that money we throwing away.

We are a nation of ingrates, the vast majority of Christians included. Even the Christians who want us to stop spending our wealth on the painted ladies are also those who want to help the secularists figure out some way to do it without having to return to the father in true humility and brokenness. But leaving the father out of the repentance is leaving out the repentance.

But leaving the father out of the repentance is leaving out the repentance.

We had inherited a massive amount of moral capital, accumulated over centuries, which we impudently took from the family trust in order to squander on whores. But if someone tries to admonish our nation for that particular insolence, there is no shortage of Christian leaders around to rebuke, not the profligate nation, but rather the person who dared to suggest that the bacchanalian revels were not the way to go.

So if you read to the end, you will see that I am going to present the gospel of free grace to a host of enslaved Americans, and I am going to do it without stinting at all. But I am going to try to do this without pretending—as so many do—that the chains aren’t there. And I am not going to pretend that our evangelical leadership hasn’t been a central part of the problem. So read through to the end and then you can decide whether or not I am allowing “politics” to muddle up my understanding of the need for gospel.

In a Nutshell

The message of the New Testament is repent and believe. Americans need to repent of our wantonness in sin, and underneath that we need to repent of despising the Lord’s material kindnesses to us—unparalleled in the history of mankind—which we have used to turn ourselves into a botched simulacrum of a republic. In our banana republic, the bananas aren’t even healthy, and have a soft brown rot all over them.

But take heart. Christ has always been willing to put His holy hand on the foreheads of lepers. And while we certainly qualify, the lepers still need to come to Him. What happened to the lepers who stayed home?

The second part of the gospel message is that we must believe. Believe what? We must believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth. We were bedazzled by Darwin, but we must repent of all that now. We must believe in the God who created us in His image, male and female together. We must believe that for us men and for our salvation, the eternal Word was sent into the world in order to live a perfect, sinless life, in order to be arrested by the authorities on bogus charges, in order to be nailed to a cross of wood, in order to be laid in a borrowed tomb, and then to rise triumphant three days later. And all of this was in fulfillment of the words of the prophets. This message, and only this message, can set our nation upright again. This is the message that will save us, and it is also—not so incidentally—the message that was the cornerstone of our freedoms originally, the cornerstone we abandoned. “What’s happening to our freedoms?” they all cried out. To which the answer from Heaven comes, “What did you do with the cornerstone?”

So then, some might say. It appears you left off blogging, and started in with preaching. Well, so I did. Are you going to do anything with it?

Those evangelicals with a truncated and anorexic gospel will then say, “Well, that part’s all fine. The problem is when you get into politics.” Politics? Chopping babies into pieces and selling the parts is just politics, and not a grotesque sin to be repented? Politics? Calling sodomy matrimony is just a political issue now? When Jehovah rained down sulfur on the Cities of the Plain He was getting out of His lane?

Perhaps Christians who talk about repentance in this way are not intruding the gospel into politics improperly, but rather rebuking the attempts of the godless to censor anyone or anything that confronts their high-handed political wickedness.

Think About This For Just a Minute

Someone might grant my point on those big issues, like abortion and marriage, but only for the sake of the argument, so that he might move on to something else. That something else would be chimerical phantasms, straw men, cloudy vapors. Time to change the subject. “Let us now worry for a bit about the potential rise of Christo-fascism.”

So you don’t want a red Caesar to arise. Well, neither do I. You don’t want Baptists to be flogged for failing to understand Romans 11. Nor do I. You don’t want women to be relegated to breeding status only, and forced to wear those scary red dresses. The thought never entered my head. You don’t want Donald Trump to be made the Lord Protector. This is really fortunate, and I am glad we are having this little chat, because neither do I. You don’t want to source your raw milk from the contingent that a friend of mine called the anime Nazis. Neither do I, and I can score virtue points on two counts here—I don’t want anime Nazism or the raw milk. You find resurgent antisemitism distasteful and believe it needs to be nipped in the bud. I find it more than distasteful; it is a disease of the heart, and a compromise of the only gospel that can save us. More on that gospel at the end of this.

You recoil at the idea of a strong man Bonaparte arising, and I recoil right along with you. But here is the difference between you and me. We both don’t want Bonaparte, but I also don’t want the Revolution that necessarily produced him. And you make excuses for that Revolution whenever or however the subject comes up. So more on this Bonaparte Option of yours at the end.

Now all those things mentioned above are representative of the sorts of things I don’t want. What don’t you want?

You don’t want a return to the America of 1902, when the slaughter of millions of the unborn was unthinkable because we were a Christian nation. You don’t want to go back to a moment in time when same sex mirage was inconceivable because Christian monogamy was instantiated in the law. You don’t want to return to an America where drag queens twerking for kids was the stuff of nightmares—or at least nightmarish for a Christian people, which is what we were back at that time.

And unlike the dystopic outcomes that you insist I repudiate (which I dutifully do), this “utopian” ideal was not a utopia at all. My great grandfather used to live there. He lived there his entire life. From his birth to his death, there was never a moment when the Supreme Court justices said that murder was okay with them. There was actually a time when the Christian ethos of this country was manifested in our laws, our customs, our manners, our mores, and our Supreme Court decisions. And you and your people don’t want to go back to that. You don’t even want other people to try.

When a cocaine addict gets converted, as in, radically saved, is his freedom from his craving a distraction from the gospel? Or perhaps we might call it the fruit of the gospel?

And please remember that none of this is written with some kind of Pollyanna filter on. It is not as though the inhabitants of that earlier generation had their act together in all respects. They did elect Woodrow Wilson as president, for example, and we are still paying for that one.

Yet Another Evasion

Another way this need for repentance is fended off is by means of maintaining that America was never really a Christian republic. That would mean the cornerstone I am appealing to was concocted somewhere in my febrile imagination. But while I grant that there was never a time when America was closing in on the Eschaton, and while I acknowledge that we have been guilty of some pretty glaring sins, it is also undeniable that there was a time when we were not slaughtering children by the million under made-up constitutional penumbrae. Our Christian understanding of life forbade it. There was a time when the mandatory celebration of sodomy in the public square was out of the question, not on the table, preposterous, and insane. There was a time when Utah couldn’t come into the Union unless they adopted a Christian approach to monogamy. There really was a time when we hadn’t all lost our minds.

Someone will obviously jump on that phrase “pretty glaring sins,” and sneer that it was Christian America that was big into chattel slavery. Some Christianity, hey? Okay, I’ll bite. If there is no God in Heaven, and if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then there was absolutely nothing wrong with that institution of chattel slavery. Unless there is a transcendental right and wrong above us, outside the world, enslavement of others is just one more thing that human beings have always done to other humans. Don’t worry your secular little head about it—above us, only sky. But under the authority of Christ, reformation of true social evils becomes a real possibility. But then, just as soon as you recognize the authority of Christ over all nations, the specter of Christian nationalism arises. “Oh, no, anything but that.” Right. Anything goes, and you’re the one who picked it. Gulags, genocides, and gangs of slaves. As for myself, I consider William Wilberforce to be one of my heroes. But that figures, you say, because he was kind of a Christian nationalist. According to our critics, Wilberforce intruded his Christian faith into politics, when he should have been out somewhere preaching the gospel. He got distracted, and spent a lot of time messing around in Parliament.

Going back to the time of Alfred the Great, the common law of the Anglo/Americans was Christian common law. All of the colonies at the time of their founding were Christian colonies. All of the colonies, when they became independent states, were Christian states. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, it was filled with expressions of what the Southern Poverty Law Center would call religious extremism—we are entitled to a station “to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle [us],” we are “endowed by [our] Creator with certain inalienable rights,” they appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of [their] intentions,” and they did all this “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” That they were saying all of this within a Christian framework is manifest. When Benedict Arnold’s plot was uncovered (in 1780), Congress appointed a national day of prayer and thanksgiving that included the words “to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.” The theological case made for our resistance against the king was thoroughly Christian, robustly in the Protestant resistance tradition, and not a whitewashed Lockeanism (Steward). In one study of the Founders’ writings, the apostle Paul was cited at about the same amount as Montesquieu and Blackstone, who were the two most-cited secular writers, and the book of Deuteronomy alone was cited about as twice as often as all of Locke’s writings put together (Driesbach). When the War for Independence was concluded, the Treaty of Paris that ended the hostilities began with the words “in the Name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity.” In celebration over the end of the war, Congress again declared a day of prayer and thanksgiving: “Whereas it hath pleased the Supreme Ruler of all human events . . . and above all that he hath been pleased to continue to us the light of the blessed Gospel.” At the time the First Amendment was ratified, 9 of the 13 colonies had official relationships with Christian denominations, up to and including formal establishment (e.g. Connecticut). In the early years, part of the political conflict between the Federalists and the Republicans was that the Federalists wanted to adopt the British system of common law, which was Christian, to bring it into our system formally, and the Federalists won that battle (Hazony). There are many such examples, far too many to recount here, so let me top off this extended paragraph with the Supreme Court decision of 1892 (Holy Trinity v. the United States), the decision that traced the history of our nation from the very beginning, and which declared unambiguously that the United States was a Christian nation. Dog-ear this point. We shall come back to it.

How Cultural Apostasy Works

When Moses stayed on the mountain a little too long, at least in the judgment of the restless children of Israel, and they talked Aaron into the Golden Calf fiasco, how they described what they were doing is quite striking. First, read how they described Moses . . .

“And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.”

Exodus 32:1 (KJV)

They wanted gods to go before them, and so please notice how they described these new gods, still hot from the furnace. This is how they described gods that did not exist when they were delivered from Egypt.

“And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”

Exodus 32:4 (KJV)

They knew good and well that Moses was the one who delivered them from Egypt. They had just said so. They had just admitted it. He brought them out of the land of Egypt, and then went up on the mountain. And so the people decided, in their vainglorious hearts, that they needed to place the credit for that achievement elsewhere. So the issue for them is not what they knew, but rather what they wanted. And what they wanted was to follow their lusts.

Just like Americans do.

The fact that America was a Christian nation is obvious. It is as obvious as the fact that a hummingbird’s heart rate is not the end product of mindless evolution. It is stinking obvious. The only reason people won’t admit this glaring fact is that certain conclusions would follow from the acknowledgment, and those conclusions would interfere with who people get to have sex with.

The Wrath of God

The reason Americans are currently acting in the lunatic way that we are is because we are under the wrath of God. Scripture does teach that particular sins incur the wrath of God, which will be visited upon the sinners at the Last Day. But Scripture also teaches that there is a class of sins that in themselves constitute the wrath of God. They incur the wrath of God on the day when all accounts are settled, but they are also an example of God beginning to settle accounts in the course of human history. They represent wrath in real time.

The sins that have us by the throat currently—sodomy, dismemberment of small children, our hatred of feminine fertility, and all such related sins—are in this wrath category. Remember how the apostle Paul describes it.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”

Romans 1:18 (KJV)

The fact that we have pride parades in all our major cities is plain evidence that the wrath of God is already being poured out on us. God is judging America, and He is doing it right now. The wrath is already here.

And the fact that evangelicals, millions of us, are represented by men who argue that pride parades and drag queen story hours are “price we pay” for living in a free society, this too is evidence that God is angry with us. We have gotten the kind of leadership we deserve, and it is terrible.

“Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.”

Ezekiel 34:7–10 (KJV)

And the way out is repentance. Repent and believe. We must repent of seeking out teachers with soft words and hard hearts. It really is Christ or chaos.

The Benedict Option, the Boniface Option, and the Bonaparte Option

Christians who see all the trouble are naturally discussing the three basic options that lie before us. The Benedict Option is that of seeking out enclaves where we can keep the faith alive until all of this blows over. The Boniface Option is where we are told to be more respectful of Thor’s tree, and we chop it down instead. That is where I am. The Bonaparte Option is selected by those Christians who want God to deliver us “off budget,” as it were. We need a strong solution, they think, not necessarily a Christian one. So a strong man of some sort will rise up, and he will say “we need to restore some order around here” in a gruff sort of voice, and because he will do this against the backdrop of all the current lunacies, to a certain kind of chump he will look like a real statesman. This is where the simpatico-noises for Hitler are coming from—but what they are likely to get is a bargain-bin Mussolini. No thanks. This is also the driving force behind the extreme Trump worshipers.

All of has happened before. It has happened many times before. So let me conclude with one pertinent example from Anglo/American history. I want to talk about the evangelical awakening in England under Whitefield and the Wesleys, and its counterpart, the Great Awakening here in America under Whitefield.

In the eighteenth century, both France and England were ripe for revolution. That revolution came in France, with all of its horrors, and it did not materialize in England. The reason there was not a massive upheaval in England is because God had raised up some preachers who were willing to tell all the people what their sins were, and what Jesus Christ could do with them. There was consequently a huge, convulsive revival. Because of that movement of the Spirit of God, there was not a huge, convulsive revolution. In that moment, their politics was in no way a savior. But the politics of that moment—just like our politics now—desperately needed to be saved. The England prior to the Evangelical Awakening was a filthy place. Unless God shows us the mercy He showed to them, awful judgments are headed our way.

But in the meantime, pietistic preachers extol the name of Whitefield, while at the same time circulating lies about those who would see the works of Whitefield repeated. Not only do the secularists have to repent of all their outrageous rebellions, so also evangelical leaders need to repent of carrying water for those rebellions. I am not talking about a change of mind, but rather a change of heart. The word is repentance. Only God can give it to the unbelievers, and only God can give it to believers. The second word is faith. Only God can give that faith to anyone. If you simply look to the cross of Jesus Christ, you will discover that He has done so.

I have the authority to place everyone under a moral obligation to believe this. The terms have been laid out plainly, and there remains no excuse. I am a minister of the gospel, and because Jesus, the Son of God, died on a tree outside Jerusalem, was buried in a tomb, and rose again from the dead, He has been given full possession of all the nations of men. Those nations do not have His permission to do what they are currently doing. More than this, He has forbidden them to be doing what they are currently doing. God has commanded all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). He has not suggested that we repent, but rather He has commanded it. I am simply a herald, and am delivering the message that was entrusted to me.

Jesus Christ came back from the dead, and He is there in the Garden talking to Mary Magdalene. Picture a scroll in His right hand, and if you look at it closely, you will see that it is the title deed to all the nations of men. Anyone who comes back from the dead in this world is necessarily the owner of this world. He purchased every last one of this world’s nations, including this sorry empire of ours, and He did it with His blood. And so what He says to us all is the same thing He said to Peter by the boats . . . “Come, follow me.” We might try to fend off this authoritative summons by pulling out our tattered misunderstandings of the First Amendment . . . “but, but . . . wall of separation,” we start to sputter. He turns and looks at us. “I said come.”

“Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; Renew our days as of old.”

Lamentations 5:21 (KJV)

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