When as a chaplain I respond to help at crisis scenes, folks are usually grateful to see me. For instance, when I recently showed up at the Robeson County emergency operations center in Lumberton to assist with the North Carolina flooding following Hurricane Matthew, a sheriff’s lieutenant greeted me with the words, “I’m so glad you’re here—we need you!” Here he wasn’t talking about my personal qualities, which—having just met me—he knew nothing about and in any case are questionable even on good days going downhill with a tailwind. He was talking about the need for a chaplain—for an emissary from Christ to share comfort, encouragement, assistance and prayer in devastating circumstances.
This welcoming attitude is usually but not always the case. To cite just a few examples, over the years I have been told on different occasions that I cannot pray in Jesus’ name in a public gathering, that the Ground Zero Cross could not be displayed, that I could not distribute our Peace Officer Ministries’ Bibles, or that as a chaplain I could not share my faith with others. I always try to get along and go along, but I will not compromise on principle. I will pray in Jesus’ name in any setting (remember the First Amendment?). The Ground Zero Cross still stands on public display in the 9/11 Memorial in New York. We have distributed more than 35,000 POM Bibles over the years in many settings and circumstances. And yes, I try my best to appropriately share my faith with people who need to hear the Gospel. Sometimes despite my best efforts I run into a brick wall, which sometimes hurts.
The opposition I have personally received is only my own tip of a huge iceberg that threatens our ship of state. Many of us are discouraged by the cultural and legal climate that casts a cloud over our country’s future. Our Christian faith is also under severe assault. Many are depressed about today’s political scene. For instance, many have a cynicism approaching despair about the upcoming election, but now is not the time to give up. A crisis is a call to action. In the dark days leading up to World War II, when told by his despairing young friend Ronald Cartland that no more could be done, Winston Churchill replied, “Do no more, my boy? There’s a lot more we can do. Now is the time to fight—to speak!”
In the words of Churchill, “now is the time” to trust that God is on His throne, and pray to Him. Pray, pray, and pray some more. Pray for our leaders. Pray for our country. In the face of human flaws and failures, pray that God preserves our system of checks and balances! In the Bible, the Apostle Paul counsels: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! …The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7)... PRAY!
“Now is the time” to remember the unchanging principles we hold dear as both citizens and Christians. Now is also the time to remind others about these principles. Proverbs 9:10 describes our foundational first principle: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Our first four presidents pleaded for us to always have this deep reverence for God (these quotes can be found from reliable sources online):
George Washington, our first president, proclaimed, “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”
John Adams, our second president, said, “It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.” (Note Adams uses the eternally true word “virtue,” not the changeable, changing word “values.”)
Thomas Jefferson, our third president, commented, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
James Madison, our fourth president and the architect of much of our Constitution, adds his voice: “Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign.”
If the words of our first four presidents are not convincing enough, remember that our Constitution also supports their words. For instance, the Constitution enshrines the oath of office, which in turn protects the Constitution…and our country! The Oath has always been legally interpreted to mean a religious oath sworn to the personal overseeing Judge of the Universe who holds the oath taker accountable. Here I cite thelegaldictionary.org:
“Black’s Law Dictionary is the most widely used law dictionary in the United States. It was founded by Henry Campbell Black (1860–1927). It is the reference of choice for definitions in legal briefs and court opinions and has been cited as a secondary legal authority in many U.S. Supreme Court cases.”
Black’s Law Dictionary defines the oath:
“A declaration made according to law before a competent tribunal or officer… It is a religious act by which the party invokes God not only to witness the truth and sincerity of his promise but also to avenge his imposture or violated faith (my emphasis).”
The Declaration of Independence also reminds us of our obedience to (and therefore our accountability before) the “Governor of the Universe”:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God (my emphasis) entitle them…” REMEMBER!
As a practical matter, how do we decide who to vote for if we have a problem with each candidate—if the candidates have glaring personal shortcomings? First, we don’t stay home. We go to the polls and vote or we will someday lose this precious right and live in a dictatorship. Next, if the personal qualifications of the candidates fall short, we examine their public principles and policy positions. We ask which candidate will best preserve our most important rights and freedoms. Who is more likely to “uphold the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained”? Which candidate will more likely protect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? Which candidate will more likely guard our rights as citizens...and as Christians?
Do what I plan to do: Hold my nose, hold my breath, pray, remember, and... VOTE!