Personal Note: It is not my intent to be political, here. I want to humbly offer the rumblings of my troubled heart. I am deeply concerned about where we are as a nation. Perhaps, this is an element you have not considered. I hope you will hear my heart. As someone has said, “Words are the tools we use to carry the cargo of our hearts,” and sometimes, we use the wrong words. If I do, if the concept is not clear, forgive me. Wesley’s first rule was, “Do no harm!” Augustine counseled, “You owe your conscience to God; and to one another you owe nothing but mutual love.” Balancing conscience, and speaking love, is delicate and difficult.
Saul, the first king of Israel, was a contradiction. In his first great moment, hearing of the siege of the Ammonites at Jabesh-Gilead, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, thrusting him onto Israel’s national stage as a military leader and eventually as their first king. In the same passage, the Bible notes that he was aroused with anger (1 Samuel 11:6). Saul had a storm boiling inside that he never conquered, and so, that storm conquered him. In the office of the king, his angry episodes continued, but at a certain point, the Spirit of the Lord departed (1 Samuel 16:14). And the civil war inside of Saul spilled out onto the nation. Priests were slaughtered. David and his band were hunted from one end of the country to another like dogs. Saul had lost his soul while on the throne, and the whole nation was impacted by his inner turmoil.
David too would later compromise the nation by his own scandals and prideful acts – at one point, provoking judgement that would have destroyed the city of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 21). In both cases, Israel’s kings failed to contain the sin in their own hearts – sin is never private, never. It is a public toxin that is like a poison that spreads to others. This is the principle of Adam’s sin – by one, all. And of the righteousness of Jesus – by one, many, by faith (Romans 5:15-17).
Israel’s kings set the spiritual thermostat of the nation, as do the leaders of every nation. Israel, the northern federation, never had a godly king. The kingdom lasted for two centuries and melted into oblivion. The southern kingdom, toggled back and forth from revival to idolatry – and the direction of the nation was determined by its leader.
James, the brother of Jesus, observed, that wars and fights in the culture, conflicts between people, come from inner wars (James 4:1-4). Intrapersonal conflict feeds interpersonal conflict. Saul’s unruly, insincere and angry spirit was visited on the nation, and what resulted was a bloody civil war. From the heart of one man, a nation was divided and ravaged by warfare. That was because, that one man was the king.
Our constitution provides not for a king, but a President, a servant of God and the people. The office is always bigger than the person in it. It is, by God’s design, a spiritual portal. Established by God, authority to rule is granted by heaven (Romans 13:1). And godly Christian leaders who pray, open their nation to encounters with the holy God of scripture. Ungodly or indifferent leaders, close the door on heaven’s intervention; or, worse, open a door to some dark and malevolent spirit. The ‘spirit’ of the king affects the nation.
When Ike Eisenhower assumed the Presidency, he doubled down on his personal faith. His inauguration featured a ‘float’ honoring God. He was the first President to write and pray his own inaugural prayer, in which he asked God for the power to “clearly discern right from wrong.” He would become the first President baptized while in office. Early, he instituted prayer at the beginning of every cabinet meeting. He felt the nation was “getting too secular”. He confided in Billy Graham that he felt the nation needed “spiritual renewal” and that one of the reasons he was elected was to be the leader of a “Christian revival.” The national motto became “In God We Trust,” and the phrase, “under God” was added to the pledge of allegiance. His moral and religious ‘spirit’ was felt in the nation, despite his own imperfections. “It is by me that kings reign and rulers enact just law” (Proverbs 8:15).
We are told constantly that the inner, private, spiritual life, the personal beliefs of leaders don’t matter. It is simply not true. “Spirit”, like air and wind, is impossible to contain – it is dynamic, refusing to observe the boundaries of our skin. We partake of one another’s spirit; we’re encouraged or discouraged by being with another person; seduced or motivated to greater nobility – spirit is imparted. We commonly acknowledge a collective spirit – a school or company spirit, a town with a lot of spirit. By that, we mean the atmosphere and mood, themes that dominate in a particular place or group, charisma and intangible influence, but arguably – there is more. Every person has about them a spiritual profile, a spiritual persona, a right or wrong, good or evil, orientation toward or away from God and Biblical values, toward humanism and self-definition, and/or, an openness to the darkness. We catch fear, and we borrow faith from another. We sense love and hate – and it is a part of the collective spiritual culture. We’re influenced toward noble action or we succumb to a mob mentality. In each case, the leader, and his or her ‘spirit’ matters.
The idea today that one’s private life, private beliefs, one’s faith can be isolated from the public, and indeed, that it should be, is like attempting to keep wind in a bag! It’s impossible. Values are what we do; faith is what we believe, and it defines how we think. Both are pervasive. They define us. They are reference points for our decision making, our trajectory.
If one compartmentalizes Christian faith values, they are simply announcing that those are not their values – faith values cannot be set aside. That’s like trying to operate a computer without an operating system. Faith and values are not add-ons. Everyone draws from inner values that are defined by faith or defiant to faith and from those propositional values, they construct a world view that informs their decisions.
When a politician declares to us that they can compartmentalize their faith values, they have just confessed how little they value their so-called values. And, if Christianity is not the source of their thinking and acting – what is? Humanistic values? Self? Marxism? Socialism? If not Jesus, then is it Darwin on the origin of man? Is it Freud on the soul? Maslow on social policy? Masters and Johnson on sexuality? What ‘spirit’ and spiritual temperament, what spiritual and moral disposition, will emerge from the next President, the next Congress, the next Supreme Court?
At this point, we need God’s intervention or the nation will not be safe – we have to have a profound spiritual awakening.
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.