Frank Schaeffer sat for an interview with PBS in 2009, entitled, “God In America”. His comments are helpful for understanding the interaction between his father, Francis Schaeffer, and the Moral Majority leadership. The organization lasted from ’79-’89. It was a period in which many in the U.S. Church breathed deeply of the intoxicating power of federal D.C. But the U.S. Church generally feels that the separation of Church and State is important for the wellbeing of both entities. This, among other reasons, lead to the demise of the Moral Majority.  

A more lasting, similar phenomenon is the American civic religion, a perspective frequently found in conservative church-goers that that conflates American patriotism with conservative Christianity. America has always been deeply influenced by Christianity but the civic religion aspect probably reached its high point during and immediately after World War II with America’s “greatest generation”.

A local church where I once served as an Elder retains elements of this is idea. As an example, members installed a 20’ flag pole in front of their church building. The American flag was raised, and under it, the  “Christian” flag. This should have raised a red flag. The “Christian” flag was designed in America and, with its colors and layout, it clearly evokes the American flag. A flag that evokes America fails to recognize that the Church is international. As such, it contradicts a central message of the Gospel, which is that God’s Church is made up of every tribe and nation. Another problem with their action is that by flying the Christian flag under the American flag, there is an implication that America is more important to the church than citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Both of these ideas are heresies. Heretical ideas have ways of bearing rotten fruit, such as the rioter who recently stormed the Senate chambers bearing a Christian flag. 

On the other hand, when I hear people proclaiming that faith has no place in American politics or government I feel like screaming. Every person is guided by a meta-narrative. While most people’s beliefs are muddled and frequently self-contradictory, those muddled presuppositions still provide the reasons for their political perspectives. A good humanist, for example, sees life on earth as the be-all and end-all. For such a person, life is about obtaining all the gusto and comfort possible for life’s short duration. Publicly this manifests as efforts to make everyone’s life better, because cooperative pursuit of gusto is much safer than than a dog-eat-dog pursuit. However, humanism, while it may call for honesty, it contains no ideological explanation or reason for it. Therefore, in practice, humanists publicly stand for societal benevolence, even as they privately siphon off greater privileges for their own tribes and/or self. 

Look at what Donald Trump or Mike Pence or Kamala Harris or Joe Biden actually believe about the meaning of life. Then look at their actions and policy aims, and you will see there is always connection. We all do what we believe…all the time. We struggle with integrity and contradictory convictions, certainly, so we often take actions or say things we later regret. But we always justify even those regrettable actions when we are in the process of doing them. Presuppositions precede actions. 

The point is, it’s impossible to divorce action from faith. Not only is it impossible, it’s stupid. “I have this belief that it’s wrong to kill, but I recognize I can’t come up with a “self-evident” justification for my belief so, as a legislator I won’t consider passing laws that forbid killing.” All legislation is based on faith assumptions about right and wrong. I’ve heard it said, “You can’t legislate morality,” but that is precisely what legislation does. All legislation demands conformity to faith-based ideas.

For the Christian (and for everyone else), the problem of how to govern in a pluralistic society is, on the one hand, to affirm pluralism and recognize the rights of all to live according to their beliefs while, on the other hand, maintaining that there are good ideas and foolish ideas, and that society is healthier and happier when governed by good ideas rather than bad.

Schaeffer overestimates the impact Francis Schaeffer had on American politics. Of all the issues he brought up, it seems to me every one of them would have featured in the national debates with or without Francis Schaeffer. 

Was abortion really only a Roman Catholic issue? The Moral Majority took hold in 1979. I recall becoming opposed to abortion when studying human reproduction in biology class at West High in 1971. Frank seems dismissive of abortion as an issue because of scant scriptural references, but his perspective on this is rather silly. Scriptural prohibitions against murder are foundational and frequent. Meanwhile, it is science that has made the strong case against abortion, and the Christian community has accepted the science. Christians (with the official exception of Roman Catholics) wouldn’t care about abortion if they were not convinced by science that conception is the beginning of human life.  

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood, in a recent interview, stated, “We need to…go beyond Roe to fulfill the promise of safe, legal abortion for all.” The idea that abortion is not safe for the aborted child does not seem to occur to her. But of course it has. She simply suppresses the science and manipulates the narrative away from facts she doesn’t like, as if her concerns are the only ones (however real and valid they may be). This differing view about life itself is an irreconcilable difference between the Left and the Right because the Left is skirting the discussion about the humanity of the unborn, while the Right is skirting the discussion about the rights of women over their own bodies. 

Abortion is only one issue that divides Left and Right in America today. I would say the Left is largely motivated by a vague notion of personal freedom, underwritten by a contract of social entitlement. The Right’s reactions to this are somewhat based on racism, somewhat based on anger at Leftist irresponsibility, and somewhat based on a feeling that the primary goal of the Left is to pick the pockets of those on the Right. Below are some other issues the Right and Left are struggling over.

Guns. The Right feels threatened by leftist extremism.…and vice versa. Big business is fanning the flames because there’s a lot of money to be made in gun sales. There are 400 million guns in America. Approximately 5 million gun owners were added to the rolls in 2020. (Riots are great for gun sales.) There were over 19,000 gun-related killings in 2020 and, based on data from recent years, that would work out to about 28,000 gun suicides. (Note to self: If I buy a gun I am more likely to kill myself than anyone else.) I don’t know why owning a rifle or a shotgun wouldn’t sufficiently allay people’s fears of being attacked. Somehow it has become constitutionally crucial to own pistols and assault rifles…and bazookas.

Ironically, while it’s white supremacists who like to walk around shopping malls in camo gear, tattooed in swastikas, and carrying assault rifles, the serious murdering in this country happens among blacks and hispanics in the inner cities. All of this seems like failure to me. America can affirm the right of its citizens to bear arms, while drastically limiting the types of weapons, the quantity of weapons, and the sorts of people who carry them. (I’m thinking about mental stability and violent crime history as an ownership limiters.)  

Economics. The losses of factory work and farming jobs have been very hard on men, in particular. I think most men think of themselves as providers and, in spite of changing role expectations, women still think of men as providers, too. Large numbers of men are undergoing identity crises because they can’t find work. (Part of the problem is that America has falsely demeaned many kinds of work. The public needs to be much more affirming of all work, as long it provides needed service. “You stock shelves at the ACME? Good for you!”) This is true across all races, though it manifests differently. There should be guaranteed work in America. Overwhelmingly, people are happier working than receiving hand-outs. A lot of pressure would be lifted if people knew that, even if they lost their jobs, work would be available, along with sufficient money for them to make ends meet. 

Police Condemnation. Police have taken a lot of abuse in recent years, brought on by ubiquitous camera phones and selective media. Supposedly the George Floyd video was shared 1.4 billion times. It was a horrendous crime, but it was still only one murder. Serious data research (the science) has contradicted the oft-repeated narrative that police target blacks. A black man is 29 times more likely to be killed by a black civilian than by a police officer. When police are pulled out of black neighborhoods, violence increases dramatically in those neighborhoods. The false narrative about police has done a great deal to make black Americans angry, while it has taken attention away from serious discussions about what can actually be done to help support the black community. 

“You can’t tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said in Wilmington, before beginning to hammer his fist against the lectern. “We all know that is true. And it is totally unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. The American people saw it in plain view.” Liberals howled at how rough police were towards Black Lives Matter protestors but then howled again that the police were not brutal enough in D.C. Don’t we want our police to show disciplined restraint, to the extent possible, all the time?

The phrase, “You can’t tell me,” is a self-revealing claim of knowing all the facts and it carries with it implied justification for no longer listening. Honesty means not claiming to know more than you know and to not equate hearsay with knowledge. Maturity means listening to words you don’t like…a character trait sorely lacking in America today. Anyone who is sure the Right has few legitimate concerns is an idiot. The same is true for anyone who is sure the Left has few legitimate concerns. Biden has to do a lot better if he really hopes to calm America’s polarization. Reports that followed up on the Capitol riot revealed that the police fought the vandal-insurrectionists bravely and persistently. Nearly 140 officers were injured, and one was killed.

According to left-leaning sources 93% of BLM protests were peaceful. That’s good, I guess, though you wouldn’t get in your car if you thought it had a 93% chance of getting to its destination. There were roughly 550 BLM protests. This means that 38 of them turned violent. Nineteen people were killed in total. That’s 19 more than should have been killed but one death for every other violent demonstration hardly supports the narrative of police brutality. Neither can we expect the police that we pay to protect us to not react with violence against violent mobs.

“Amid 2020’s turbulence, I still think one of the most troublesome political events was that no speaker at the Democratic National Convention mentioned, much less criticized, the violence and looting in numerous U.S. cities. The highbrow explanation for staying quiet about the crimes committed this summer is that the greater moral need is elevating public consciousness about systemic racism, which requires defending at all costs, including looking away from the flames.” – Daniel Henninger, WSJ

The Right sees the prevailing narrative about police as leftist propaganda. They think that blacks were coddled and encouraged to act out in vandalism and looting. I also think they saw the light treatment of the BLM protests as a kind of permission to throw their own statement-riot. In a deeply ironic way, the BLM protests spawned the Capitol riot. (This, thankfully, turned out to be a major miscalculation on the part of right wing extremists.)

Racism. Everyone is racist. If this ever comes to be understood, we might manage to get past all the finger-pointing. 

Trump certainly fanned the flames of white racism. 

There is an uneasiness among many whites about the loss of white hegemony in America. When you look at the nations of the world, by and large, the best run, most democratic countries are predominantly white. The uneasiness is not without some merit. Ironically, these countries are also the most Liberal countries in the world. Personally, I attribute the favorable status of “white” countries to their Christian roots rather than their whiteness. Christianity percolated for centuries, flavoring the ideological assumptions of Europeans. The result was never perfect people or nations, but there was enough good seasoning to give a flavorful result. Christianity is growing rapidly in South America, in Africa, and in China today. A couple of centuries from now, if current trends hold, and if the Lord tarries, the U.S. will be a “shit-hole country”, while the leading countries of the world will come from these other areas.

Racism in America is mostly about power. Whites on the right are nervous that leadership and work opportunities will be granted on the basis of demographics rather than merit. If you look at Biden’s cabinet appointments, this appears to be the Democratic template. Of course, his appointments could be highly qualified. I certainly hope and pray that is so. In any case, I can’t imagine Biden doing worse than Trump, as far as leadership appointments go. When Trump encountered a competent, high ranking official, he invariably fired that person. 

Racism from liberal whites is worse than the racism of conservative whites. Liberal whites really think it’s a good idea to encourage abortion. Since Roe, there have been 44 million abortions in the U.S., 19 million of which have been of black children. Black women abort their children at a rate three times as high as white women. Liberals stand in the way of the voucher system (because of teacher unions), leaving probably half of all black kids in holding centers that pretend to be schools. Liberals (see Black Lives Matter official dogma) proclaim the irrelevancy of the nuclear family, which is clearly harmful to children. And liberals push for every sort of paternalism, somehow imagining that hand-outs will out-perform discipline and perseverance. Liberals gather for public events to sing Kum Ba Yah and, at the end of the day, drive home in their SUVs to the outer suburbs where money commands its own sort of apartheid. 

I won’t go into minority racism, which seems to be a taboo subject to the news media. I will simply say that if you imagine minorities are less racist than whites, you are profoundly naïve.

There will never be an end to racism, particularly if our society persists in its love of the victimhood narrative. I saw an article recently about victimhood and assumed it was a right-wing screed against the left. Turns out it was a left-wing screed against the right. Apparently right-wing extremists have figured out the propaganda value of victimhood. 

The only narrative I know that meaningfully ameliorates racism is what it says in the Bible: God made man and woman in his image. This means all people were made like him. This means there is something supernatural and sacred in every person. But being made in God’s image also implies the requirement to represent him. It’s not a request. All people are required to represent God in their actions. In brief, “God so loved the world…” that we must, too. 

Culture. The New York Times made this observation about the Biden inauguration: “Lady Gaga, who wore a large brooch of a dove carrying an olive branch as she sang the national anthem, evoked the dystopian book series ‘The Hunger Games.’ Its heroine, Katniss Everdeen, sports a pin of a fictional bird.” This was a trivial observation, of course, but it had a fingernails-on-chalkboard effect on me. First of all, why anyone would retain memories of that exploitative B-film is beyond me. No, a female heroine of a bad movie does not make the movie a cultural monument. More to the point, the fact that a dove with an olive branch did not evoke Noah’s joy at the discovery of plant life on the earth is what I would call a shocking failure. Even Wall-E understood this. Is the New York Times genuinely ignorant of the most important book of western civilization, or is it intentionally practicing “cancel culture”. Either way, the trend toward idiocy is worrisome.

As a counter-example, a Kentucky man used a flamethrower to clear snow from his driveway. Dressed in a white bathrobe, black socks and sandals, he calmly sprayed long lashes of fire that instantly melted the snow. With his other hand he managed to smoke a cigar and take swigs from a can of beer. Once finished with his task, he threw his empty can onto the snow and exclaimed, “God bless American rednecks!” It’s clear that some culture deserves to be cancelled. 

Teleology. It’s unlikely you have seen this word in the news. For the aims of this essay, it has to do with purpose in human design. The right, and I include Christians here, see sexuality as part of God’s design that guides relationships between men and women, and establishes the nuclear family as the primary unit of society. Leftist dogma defines sexuality as an individual choice, not only in practice but in matters of identity. The left sees this as freedom; the right sees it as anarchy that leads to individual and societal degeneration. I’m not sure that most people can verbalize this difference but most people sense it at some level. The differing views over the meaning of personhood are deeply unsettling for most people, I suspect. 

“There is a culture war in the U.S., and conservatives aren’t the aggressors. While the moniker “culture warrior” seems to be applied only to those on the right, we aren’t the ones who imposed abortion on demand up to and even during birth, forced Catholic nuns to pay for abortifacients, redefined marriage, harassed evangelical bakers, or declared it “unlawful discrimination” to refuse to put a confused child on puberty-blocking drugs. These salvos came from the left.” – Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center 

Clinton / Trump. While I know Hillary Clinton has made significant political contributions, the only thing I can remember about her is her use of the word “Deplorable.” “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.” At that moment Hillary became the poster child for the blue collar right’s anger at the intellectual, monied elitists from the coasts. They have a point. Liberals are paternalistic towards people of color, assuming they need rescue; and paternalistic towards blue collar whites, assuming they are tattoo-covered, beer guzzling, assault rifle-toting, high school drop-outs. This does not help. Hillary kicked a sleeping dog…and it begat Trump. 

Trump has never heard a lie he didn’t think he could use to his own advantage. And he loves the outrage he inspires, both in his supporters and his enemies. And he doesn’t worry about fact-checking because his strategy is to always have a new lie at the ready, in order to recapture the news cycle before there’s time to fact-check the lie before.

The “Deplorables” thought of Trump as their cudgel to strike back at the Ivy League elitists. They didn’t seem to notice that he was a filthy rich New Yorker who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He didn’t seem like one. He was belligerent, foul, and entertaining. What’s not to like? Of course, Trump has never had an interest in his followers. Narcissists are not interested in others. He proved time and again that loyalty was a one-way street, as far as he was concerned.

Leaders like these have a lot to do with why so many followers are also morons.

News Media. And speaking of liars, the news media has largely let America down, especially over the last decade. The media does not lie directly but it is selective in the news it presents. Presenting one side of every story is lying. In this sense, Trump’s constant accusation of “fake news” is accurate. It’s just that some of the news is leftest fake news and some is rightist fake news. There aren’t many news sources working to provide differing perspectives. We like to think of the media as the protector of free speech and as a check against political excess, but that view is naïve. Newspapers are private enterprises, which means they are heavily influenced by business (advertising) and sensationalism. “Extremism, outrage, and conflict are catnip for journalists.”  – Jonathan Rauch. 

Here’s a fun story from “The Importance of Being Little,” a book by Erika Christakis. “In one recent case, nervous parents in Orange County, California, called the police to investigate a possible ‘serious stalking incident,’ when they found porcelain dolls resembling their children on their doorsteps one morning. The police issued an alarming bulletin and media outlets pounced on the ‘creepy’ dolls. TIME magazine helpfully clarified that there were ‘few things spookier’ than receipt of such a doll—which would suggest a rather limited familiarity with the horror genre. In any case, it quickly became clear that the alleged stalker was just a kindhearted elderly woman and fellow parishioner at the girls’ church, who was giving away her doll collection to show the girls a ‘delightful surprise’.”

Internet. I think the internet is the primary reason the news media is drifting left and right. With the internet it is easy for people to find news sources that please their biases. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. 2 Timothy 4.3. But it’s worse than that. Internet algorithms analyze consumer preferences in order to expose readers to products similar to what they have looked at. The same algorithms work for news feeds, with the result that people’s biases are reinforced without them realizing it. So while the internet is driving small news outlets out of business and reducing source options, the bigger outlets are following the internet’s design of audience targeting. So, ironically, while information is much more easily accessed in the age of internet, the information collected has built-in selection bias. We have entered a new distortion age because of internet dependency.

“Facebook now has 2.7 billion monthly users. Hillary Clinton told me earlier this year that talking to Zuckerberg feels like negotiating with the authoritarian head of a foreign state. ‘This is a global company that has huge influence in ways that we’re only beginning to understand,’ she said.

“The cycle of harm perpetuated by Facebook’s scale-at-any-cost business model is plain to see. Scale and engagement are valuable to Facebook because they’re valuable to advertisers. These incentives lead to design choices such as reaction buttons that encourage users to engage easily and often, which in turn encourage users to share ideas that will provoke a strong response. Every time you click a reaction button on Facebook, an algorithm records it, and sharpens its portrait of who you are. The hyper-targeting of users, made possible by reams of their personal data, creates the perfect environment for manipulation—by advertisers, by political campaigns, by emissaries of disinformation, and of course by Facebook itself, which ultimately controls what you see and what you don’t see on the site. Even as Facebook has insisted that it is a value-neutral vessel for the material its users choose to publish, moderation is a lever the company has tried to pull again and again. But there aren’t enough moderators speaking enough languages, working enough hours, to stop the biblical flood of shit that Facebook unleashes on the world, because 10 times out of 10, the algorithm is faster and more powerful than a person. At megascale, this algorithmically warped personalized informational environment is extraordinarily difficult to moderate in a meaningful way, and extraordinarily dangerous as a result.”- Adrienne LaFrance, Executive Editor, Atlantic.


Telling the truth in America today is always a swim against the current. We’re not even honest about our own discontent. Who is leaving America? Almost no one. We’re fighting over immigration but not over whether we should have it—we’re fighting over the who and how many. People all over the world, especially blacks and hispanics are doing all they can to move to America. The reality is that America is still a privileged place to live for all who live here. 

The Wall Street Journal made a couple observations that I think add to this essay. The first is a reflection on Biden’s call for unity. “‘Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire,’he said. ‘Disagreement should not lead to disunion.’ Yet in this call to unify there was also too much of a suggestion that we are obliged to unite around one point of view. ‘I know that the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new,’ Mr. Biden said. ‘Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart.’ So our political differences are between those who believe in American ideals and those who are racists and nativists? This sounds too much like Barack Obama’s habit of casting differences of ideology or policy as divisions between enlightenment and bigotry. This is divisive in its cultural and moral condescension, as the Obama years proved in creating the political opening for Mr. Trump.”

Of course, the Journal’s observation is pretty one-sided, too. Political speech is a never-ending display of flattering photos of one’s friends, alongside wrinkled sleep-deprived, deer-in-the-headlights photos of one’s enemies. And it’s all just another way of demonstrating a greater love for power than for truth. 

On the other side of the ledger, the Journal did make a kindly observation. “It was especially moving, at least to us, to see new Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband walk down the Capitol steps escorting Mike Pence and his wife to their waiting car. Mr. Pence in particular deserved this traditional show of respect after his role on Jan. 6 when he refused to reject the state electoral votes as President Trump demanded. He should be getting more praise than he is for that display of constitutional principle.”

Yes, Mr. Pence should be receiving praise. First he should be praised for standing up to Trump’s demand that he overturn the votes of the Electoral College. He also should be praised for refusing the official request from the House to remove Trump from office, using the 25th Amendment. In both cases Pence argued that the requests were unconstitutional, and in both cases I believe he was correct. Vice President Pence has repeatedly defended Trump over the course of Trump’s presidency, giving the impression of an individual more loyal to Trump than to the nation. These last courageous acts in which Pence defied both the President and the House, in favor of the Constitution, suggest that he is a person of greater integrity than we imagined. In any case, in our recent time of crisis, Mike Pence stood firmly for the Constitution and the United States, while the earth was heaving and shaking under his feet.

And I want to recognize Kamala Harris and her husband, as well. Perhaps their escorting the Pences was pure theater, but it is the kind of theater that models what needs to be happening on a larger scale in this country. What we saw was a display of respect and courtesy and kindness between people of ideologically opposed camps. The kindness was extended from the ones taking power to the ones peacefully stepping away from power. The act was a reminder that, though people have differing views about what it means to run the country well, they can agree that running the country well is the objective. Patriotism means having a sensibility that looks to the wellbeing of all the people of the nation. When we get to the place where the rednecks, the anarchists, the soccer moms, the socialists, the traditionalists, the capitalists, and the various “castes” are able to say to one another, “I see a grain of truth in what you’re saying; and I see something wonderful in your humanity,” then it becomes possible to form a land of peace and justice. 

In the days of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon had a dream that disturbed him greatly. Daniel interpreted that dream:  “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” America will surely die, while the Church of Christ will continue to grow. There are many good reasons why Christians should work to preserve America, but that preservation should be carried out with a mindfulness that God has preordained the destruction of America. Christians should hold on to America, like all possessions, with a loose hand. If there is to be passion, or the spilling of blood, let it be for Christ and the Everlasting Kingdom.

Christians ought to have a sense of being strangers in a strange land. The earth is not really our home…it is only a dim shadow of our real home. The book of Hebrews talks about the Old Testament Faithful: These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. – Hebrews. 11.13. In contrast, the book of Ephesians identifies Christians as being citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. – Ephesians 2.19,20

The earth will shake, but when it does, the Christian should not react in terror or in violence. America cannot save us. American culture will end. The Constitution will be shredded and scattered in the winds. Only Jesus will save. And because Jesus will save, Christians, more than all people, should be calm and confident…and compassionate.

The Babylonian captivity is instructive to Christians in America and in the world today. This word came to Jeremiah:  Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:4-7.