What is striking in both MacArthur's statements and those that others are making is that the greatest fear seems to be not so much persecution, though that may be looming, but a certain loss of status, a loss of full citizenship and privilege.
MacArthur laments the loss of tax-exempt status and accreditation for schools and universities. I've written about this elsewhere and to some degree rejoice that Christians may be forced to re-think these issues. I think the American Church has been quite mistaken on these points. Hiding behind false notions of stewardship, corrupt bureaucracies, denominational politics, and the cult of professionalism, the Church has wed itself to the almighty dollar and MacArthur is no exception. The Evangelical movement has always craved respect and status, and accreditation is a means to achieve that, a way in which society seems to legitimate their existence and declare them relevant. The Fundamentalist schools and for that matter Bible-based Churches and schools in Europe learned this lesson several generations ago... these tokens of status don't matter and in fact are corrupting.
Tax exemption is wedded to big budgets, buildings, properties, staffs, salaries, pension funds and a lot of other extra-biblical and superfluous rubbish and waste.
What MacArthur and others seem to be most upset about is the fact that in the new American Sodom, Christians won't be able to be bourgeois anymore. Well, that's a real tragedy isn't it? I will continue to argue that middle class values and aspirations (security and respectability) are in fact antithetical to Biblical Christianity and say this realising that for many Protestants the very notion of the Bourgeoisie, Burgher or Middle Class is something that flows directly out of the new social order born of the Reformation. For them it is a core Christian value and aspiration. On the contrary, I would argue it is a hallmark of false Christianity.
I think this is but one aspect of the Reformation that needs to be reconsidered and rejected. The Protestant social order helped to bring down the Medieval Catholic social polity but in the end was just as corrupt, heretical and did nothing to bring the Church back to the ethics and calling of Scripture. In fact it could be argued the Protestant elimination of even the Roman Catholic understanding of nature and grace is perhaps even further removed from Scripture. There are a few well known verses that are appealed to, but they are ripped from context and in some cases made to express the opposite of what the Apostles are actually teaching. The Protestant concept of Vocation was something new and transformed both Christianity and society and has brought the West to where it is today... a culture in a state of collapse and a Church almost fully apostate. This is what happens when you de-covenantalise ethics and equate the world with the Kingdom.
I would agree with MacArthur that the United States has crossed a line, turned a page, that the United States has embraced social decadence that surpasses what we could have even dreamed of twenty or thirty years ago.
But I would ask... was the United States okay before?
I'm sure he would say 'no' but at the same time he seems to be suggesting that the United States reflected Christian values... at the very least in a general sense. He seems to suggest that Christianity provided a general framework for thinking, categories and certainly social ethics and that now this has been utterly rejected.
When was this? The 1950's?
Many like MacArthur fail to miss the decadent nature of that era, evidenced by the rotten fruit it bore. I don't see how a consumerist, militarist and racist society reflect the New Testament, its ethics or its doctrine of the pilgrim Church.
How do we explain the 1920's? It's distant enough at this point that many people are unfamiliar with what was happening in society. It was in all actuality a very wicked time. Maybe it didn't seem so bad in Kansas or Alabama.... white Alabama that is.
There was plenty of sin and debauchery afoot. Even the pop culture, the songs and literature reflect the social angst and moral breakdown. While it may seem somewhat tame compared to today... it was pretty shocking. The trend was arrested not by social reform but the poverty of the Depression and the ethics of frugality and economy which it generated.
What about the 1890s... another time of wickedness and social upheaval? It was still part of the Gilded Age but already society was astir and there was an undercurrent of social liberalisation. In fact I would argue it was the very Gilded Age that produced the decadence.
Again by today's standards it may seem tame.
But at what point was American society really godly? At what point was the United States a holy nation?
Maybe he wouldn't go that far. I would ask, utilising his phrasing, at what point were the laws of the United States not contrary to God's Law?... assuming we can agree on a definition of that and assuming that a nation can somehow reflect God's covenantal stipulations, positions I am not willing to grant. I would argue the nation was born in the sin of witchcraft-rebellion and the entirety of its history is one of avarice, idolatry and blood.
Amazingly, when Evangelicals are allowed to be rich and certain categories of sin are suppressed... then all is well.
Never mind the fact that riches corrupt and that in many cases the acquisition of them is itself sinful from the stage of resource extraction to the retail shelf. All down the line, people are exploited and manipulated but that's okay because apparently the Bible teaches the Free Market and Finance Capitalism.
But what if it doesn't? I'm not going to argue it here because I've done so elsewhere but to put it simply... it doesn't. What of good old America then? Were the good old days so good?
What about if the government is involved in slavery, conquest (which is theft and murder) and an endless cycle of wars, invasions, coups and manipulations in order to steal the resources of other peoples and countries? This is the history of the United States. Is this God's law applied?
Sexual deviance is a terrible thing to have to deal with on a societal level. The Sodomites surround us and it's vexing to be sure. All manner of deviant behaviour and distortions of the created order permeate our social milieu. We can have compassion on the lost but we are never to accept their choices, behaviours or the bondage in which they are enslaved.
But why are war, theft and murder okay? Why don't these things grieve Evangelicals in the same way?
I'll even grant the perversity of our day is on some level worse... a real sign of reprobation and judgment. I'll grant that.
But where does it come from?
Ezekiel 16 refers to Sodom's sins in the realm of riches and the oppression of the poor, their lack of mercy and their selfishness. Does the sin of Sodom involve more than homosexuality? Does such deviance result from a people given over to self-absorption? Do the two go together? If so, we might see our own culture (and 'Church') in a new light.
Isn't that what our society has been all about? This was true long before Jimmy Carter tried to point it out. We have worshipped the self, status and possessions. We have pursued a culture that all but says you can make yourself into a god. And then we're surprised when this turns to decadence and ultimately to deviance? The latter are the fruit of the former... as it was in Sodom.
You don't like the decadence of the 1960s and 1970s? Look to the 1940s and 50s where they learned their values, even if they were not the values their parents wished to communicate. And we can play this game going back many generations.
The American Church has celebrated decadence... baptised it even, and now they are reaping the rotten fruit.
The United States is under judgment for its sanctioning and endorsement of wickedness, for its lies, hypocrisy, idolatry and let's be blunt... its evil.
The chickens have come home to roost. Decadent desires and frankly evil parenting (in many cases embraced by Evangelicals) have produced children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that are little better than beasts. Worshipping themselves they obsess about their feelings and desires and fall into sin-traps, no longer able to relate to others they can only relate to what resonates within themselves... they fall into self-worship, self-attraction, frustrated and insatiable desire and confusion.
MacArthur should have been lamenting the state of society during the Reagan era. Militarism and greed were no more Christian than drugs and feminism. There was nothing to celebrate.
Yes, the Church is headed for difficult times. I lament the fact that two trends are beginning to appear...and they're both wrong.
One is capitulation. Increasingly Evangelicals seem to be embracing homosexuality and all the nonsense concerning gender etc... Forty years of embracing psychology have helped pave the road and many espouse the strange Idealist-Materialist mind-nexus that seems to be taking over. While many critics of this will simply blame Post-modernism such an assessment is shortsighted. For these so-called Christians the problem runs much deeper. It can be traced back to Authority and a basic problem of worldliness, a rejection of Biblical doctrine and ethics.
The other error can be described as political.... the end result being violence. While MacArthur isn't preaching violence, his framework for so-called Christian government all but demands it and his followers and those of teachers far more radical are likely to turn to it before long.
Both options are unacceptable.