There are others who have made America into an idol and created a myth-narrative to go with it. Essentially the United States has become the present manifestation of the Kingdom of God or at the very least the leading vehicle for the Kingdom of God to work on this earth. It's not that far of a leap if you incorporate culture (and thus politics) into the definition of the Kingdom. Following Verduin, we have labeled this extra-Biblical and very pervasive error...Sacralism.
If America or the West abandons its supposed Christian heritage, then it's as if the Gates of Hell have triumphed.
Whether one wishes to view the present pagan surge as being an anti-Christian offensive or an anti-Sacralist/Constantinian backlash... regardless, the old order, the political and social consensus that dominated America and all the West is being rapidly dismantled.
Their idol is being smashed right before their eyes and they're in a panic. In that case they're not just thinking wrongly about the Kingdom.... they've deified this Tower of Babel they've created.
Perhaps the reader is already seeing the dilemma of the anti-Sacralist. On the one hand we do not wish to support the pagans, the secularists, nor endorse their worldview... but at the same time, we rejoice in the destruction of the Sacralist order.[i]
Turning to politics, they've embraced the game of power...power enforced by law...which is violence. Remember law is about force and compulsion, and when people don't obey they will ultimately face a consequence. Even if that consequence is a fine, it carries the threat of violence if the authority of the state is ignored.
If you think that's a stretch, then consider the following. If you're fined for something and you refuse to pay as an issue of conscience, eventually the police will show up at your door. It may take a long time and it may only come after progressing through several bureaucratic stages. But ultimately it means a threat of violence. When you refuse to comply, it can all end with the police taking you by force at gunpoint. That's what law and government are all about. It's basically about who wields the legitimate violence. Something to consider when we as Christians are commanded to eschew violence. Can we lay aside the ethic in order to fulfill an office? That's another discussion.
Aside from that point, can this tool....politics...law...law enforcement...violence, be garnered by those who would build the Kingdom? Culture can't function without law and authority, or to put it differently law and authority flow from a cultural paradigm.
If the Kingdom of God includes culture and thus law and politics...then the Kingdom and more pertinently Kingdom 'building' must also include the police and military. That causes some to pause, but it's consistent and many thinking Dominionists will admit that the Kingdom of God can (at times) indeed be built with an M-16, by launching cruise missiles, or by dropping bombs from a B-52.[ii]
Even if they were correct regarding the Kingdom including the culture...is this how we would honour God? Is this how we would build the Kingdom? Are the gates of Zion protected and advanced by legislation and force? Apparently so if we accept their argument. I'm afraid this is always the endgame to this type of apostasy...and instead of the Kingdom of God....you will at best get a pseudo-version, a pseudo-Zion...a counterfeit.
And this is far more dangerous to the Church than something like homosexual marriage endorsed by a secular state.
There are others who haven't thought very deeply about it and yet they believe this country is in some sense Christian. When pressed they can't tell me how the Bible ever uses the word Christian in the way they are...but they want to live in a society they believe to be Christian...that way they can support it and feel secure.
They want to be able to cheer on the armed forces, feel good about America's special role (which they fail to rightly see as dominance) of the world etc... If America isn't good anymore, then they sure can't feel good about America being so powerful. It's really a case of idolatry once again...or perhaps even just plain worldliness. Lust of the flesh (which isn't just about physical gratification), lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. To turn away from these enticements is to necessarily reject patriotism which roots itself in pride and strength.
Sacralism won't allow any distinction between the Church's theology of the Kingdom and the question of politics.[iii] They all go together. If they had any integrity they would drop their tax exempt status.
They shouldn't incorporate in the first place, but if the Church has basically become a political machine, if being a Christian is equal to being a political activist, (I think the modern Evangelical Church is really about little more than politics and therapy)....then as a political partisan organization...they shouldn't be tax exempt. And when they're called out on this, they wrongly cry persecution. When you're being called deceptive and a thief, a breaker of the law, it takes no little amount of cheek or chutzpah to cry 'persecution'.
If the Kingdom includes the culture, then the Church must define the basic foundational elements of the culture. The state lacks the ability to this. Anything that seeks to escape the Church's dominion and definition is viewed as not just a political threat but a spiritual one. This was certainly true in the Middle Ages when the Roman Catholic Papacy controlled the social consensus and agenda. And frankly little changed with the Reformation. This aspect, this foundation-stone of the Western Middle Ages was not in any way abandoned by the Reformers or their heirs.[iv]
Dominionists who acknowledge some form of Two Kingdoms would say, the Church and State are separate spheres of the same Kingdom. The Church explains the doctrines of the Kingdom and is to inform the state and hold it accountable. Of course under their construct, you would have a religious test and all the magistrates would be members of the Church and accountable to its leadership.
Let's say the magistrate refuses to bow to the Church and the Church excommunicates him. Under this model of Church and State, the excommunicated ruler has just been delegitimized and has lost his authority. Being put out of the Church, or under Church censure, he would become ineligible for office.
This is nothing new. One only need to read a good history of the Middle Ages and some of the issues surrounding The Investiture Controversy, the Salian Emperors, or even the Plantagenet's. The controversies which embroiled them dealt with this very issue. Dominionism's lip service to the Two Kingdoms doctrine is a semantic fiction...a sham.
The Church would define institutions like marriage. Sacralist Protestants are most pleased at the prospect...as long as they're in control. They wouldn't be as happy if they had lived in Franco's Spain or at any other time before the Reformation. Of course, Reformation era Anabaptists and proto-Protestant dissenters did not like the 'Church' defining marriage, because the Sacralist Church was always against them.
Actually some of the Waldensian marriages were reckoned as 'fornication' by the authorities. Some of them weren't 'formally' married, at least as the Church informed Magistrate reckoned it. They refused to marry under the auspices of the Roman Catholic system....and so they weren't 'legally' married.[v]
Regardless of what the state did and how it defined marriage they went about their business, wedded (in their own way)...raised their families etc..
The same is true of the early Church. Rome was a pretty wicked place with perverse views of relationships and sexuality. The Christian families, Christian Marriage, were not 'overthrown' as some seem to threaten today. Society went on and functioned, the Church simply had a different understanding of these things. The Church doesn't back down and compromise, but the Church is hardly affected by what the lost or apostate society is doing. It is only affected when the proper Biblical antithesis is lost and the world invades the Church....which is exactly what happens when you redefine the Church to include the larger society.
While ancient Greece and Rome did not have an exact equivalent of our modern homosexual cultural manifestation, they did have rampant homosexual activity, gender redefinition and pederasty. While socially and perhaps psychologically pederasty is not the same as pedophilia, in terms of conduct it's the same practice. These things were widespread and socially tolerated. The Church of course completely rejected these things but the historical reality somewhat defeats the Sacralist argument that civilization will fall if homosexuals marry. Pagan civilization continued, had its successes and failures and later transitioned into the model known as Medieval Christendom.
In fact a study of post-Roman history will indicate that not only did this perversity never really go away, it revived in Europe around the time of the Renaissance. As I've indicated elsewhere a lot of our modern ideas about 'olden times' concerning modesty and morality really hearken back to the Victorian period which itself was something of a reaction to the rather libertine period stretching from the 15th to 18th century. There were interludes and variations depending on where you look...the Puritan era for instance. I'm not suggesting for a moment that we need to have a 'loose' attitude about these things, but historical examination does help gain a broader perspective in terms of how we should react.
Not only was Protestant hero and joint Head of the Church of England, Queen Mary II (1689-94) frequently bare-breasted in public, many other functional civilizations have promoted order and manners, security and civil order and yet at the same time tolerated and approved of sin.
We can be happy that our present day royals are covered and yet that doesn't make our society somehow more 'Christian'...remember the reign of William and topless Mary is looked to as a 'glorious' period in the history of Protestant Britain.
Again this doesn't suggest that the current cultural surge of homosexuality is something we should ignore, downplay, or be apathetic about. It's affecting all of us, yet... our reaction should not be on par with the Sacralist.
[i] This is nothing new. Non-Sacralists have faced this with the Turkish conquest of Eastern Europe, the fall of the Stewarts, Bourbons, Habsburgs, the collapse of the Papacy during the Dark Ages, the rise of the Nation-State and consequent degradation of the Papacy with the Renaissance.
[ii] I strongly argue this doctrine is fulfilled in the imagery of the Beast-Whore relationship in the Apocalypse. This is the spirit of Antichrist at work in the Church.
[iii] This is all the more bizarre when you consider the majority of Evangelical Churches hold to Dispensationalism which is a form of Pre-millennialism. For this camp, which originated in the 19th century, the Kingdom is wholly 'future' and this world is under the Dominion of Satan.
Traditionally, this school tracked the cultural apostasy and viewed it in terms of the Second Coming, or more properly in their unique two-stage Second Coming....the Rapture, the Tribulation, and then the actual Second Coming.
This began to shift in the 1970's and employing a misguided literalistic hermeneutic (to be distinguished from literal) they made a distinction between Matthew's 'Kingdom of Heaven' versus the other Gospel's use of the term Kingdom of God.
However a closer reading reveals that Matthew uses the term in several parallel passages with the other Gospels. They're reporting the same thing and yet using the different terms. The terms Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven refer to the same thing.
Why did Matthew use Heaven? Usually this is explained by appealing to the fact that Matthew's gospel seems to be more specifically directed to a Jewish audience, and 1st century Judaism was overly sensitive to and frankly superstitious about naming the name of God. Sadly our English translations have continued this practice by using 'LORD' and 'Lord' in the Old Testament. Rather than titles, these are two expressions of God's name...YHWH and Adonai. If you're unfamiliar with this, look at Psalm 110. It casts the Psalm in a whole new light.
Regardless it makes little sense for Dispensationalists to embrace Dominionism and yet it has become almost universal in those circles. Progressively they have abandoned many key planks to their doctrinal system. At this point, they still retain the unbiblical distinction between the Jews and Gentiles and insist God has separate plans for Israel and the Church. Without this the entire Pre-tribulational eschatological system would collapse.
Why have they embraced Dominionism when it contradicts their theology? I think largely due to a wholesale embrace of Americanism. They cannot bear to just let 'their country' go. They want it to dominate the earth. For them, it's America and Israel singing 'You and me against the world,'.... and though they believe we're not in the Kingdom and that the Kingdom won't be manifest until Christ physically reigns in Jerusalem...they continue to labour to transform the culture.
[iv] The first political attempt to abandon it was with the formation of the United States of America. For this reason, I can rejoice in the secular foundations of this nation. While that won't allow me to engage in hero-worship or mythology concerning those men and events, I can rejoice that the United States was the first non-Sacralist political entity formed in the West since the time of Constantine.
It was a complete rejection of a tradition which spanned from the time of the Caesars through Charlemagne and continued with both the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Contrary to the dreams of some myth-makers, the North American state founded in the late 18th century was a rejection of the political doctrines espoused by John Calvin and John Knox.
[v] Perhaps the Church needs to wrestle with the whole question of marriage and its relationship to the Civil Authority. Some Christians have done this, but it has resulted in divergent views.