by Dr. Mark Creech
Speech for National Day of Prayer (Greene County)
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, was asked to return to his hometown, Snow Hill, to deliver the keynote address for Greene County’s National Day of Prayer observances on May 5th. The following is the speech he gave at the National Guard Armory. The script of his speech below will serve in place of his regular column for this week, “The Right Frame of Mind.”
Recently, I read a disturbing column by Dennis Prager in National Review. Prager wrote:
“Other than the first years of the Civil War, when the survival of the United States as one country was in jeopardy – there has never been a darker time in American history.
“The various major wars – the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars – were worse in terms of American lives lost.
“The Great Depression was worse in economic terms.
“There were more riots during the Vietnam era.
“But at no other time was there as much pessimism – valid pessimism, moreover – about America’s future as there is today.”
Prager then goes on to list many of the reasons for that pessimism, stating that every distinctive value on which our nation was founded is in serious jeopardy.”
“According to a Pew Research Center study, more and more young Americans do not believe in freedom of speech for what they deem hate speech. Forty percent of respondents ages 18 to 34 agreed that offensive statements should be outlawed.
“More than half of 18- to 29-year-old Americans do not support capitalism, the source of the prosperity they enjoy, and the only economic system that has ever lifted mass numbers of people out of poverty.
“When young Americans see pictures of the Founding Fathers, they do not see the great men that most Americans have seen throughout American history; they see white males who were affluent (now derisively labeled “privileged”) and owned slaves.
“The belief that certain fundamental rights are God-based — a view held by every American founder and nearly all Americans throughout its history — is reviled outside of conservative religious circles, and held by fewer and fewer Americans today.
“The view that male and female are distinctive identities — one of the few unquestioned foundational views of every society in history — is being obliterated. Simply saying that one believes (all things being equal) a child does best starting out life with a married father and mother will ensure they’ll be considered a ‘hater.’
“In addition, virtually every major institution is in decay or disarray.
“Religious institutions, which, for most of American history, have been the most important institutions in everyday American life, are being rendered irrelevant. And a larger number of Americans, much more than ever before, do not identify with any religion.”
Prager also notes the demise of the traditional family, which has become nothing more than one of many options open to Americans. National, state and local governments have racked up a debt that will crush our economy sooner or later. Arts and academia have largely become fraudulent in their teachings or expressions. And the size of the federal government and its far-reaching control and meddling in our lives, is the very thing America was founded to avoid.
As negative as it may sound, I must concur with Prager’s assessment. Our nation is at serious risk. No nation that takes the current trajectory of the United States can expect to sustain the blessings of liberty and prosperity.
So how did we get to where we are?
Civil Liberty and Spiritual Liberty Interlocked
Unfortunately, many have forgotten or were completely unaware that the moral ethic of civil liberty and the Christian reality of spiritual liberty are interlocked. Wherever Christianity has become a vital force in the world, freedom and liberty have expanded. The principles that shaped stable democratic republics in the West grew out of the hearts of those who embraced the internal liberty that they had come to know through the Christian faith.
This was the spark – the flame – the beacon light of the American idea. The driving force behind the American Revolution was if Christ would die on the Cross to set men free to live for him – where did the King get off forcing men to live and die for him? Thus the cry of many in the American colonies: “No King, No King, but King Jesus!”
In 1851, when Daniel Webster was reviewing the history of our nation, he affirmed this connection between the spiritual and the civil. “Let the religious element in man’s nature be neglected,” he wrote, “let him be influenced by no higher motives than low self-interest, and subjected to no stronger restraint than the limits of civil authority, and he becomes the creature of selfish passions or blind fanaticism…On the other hand, the cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licentiousness…inspires respect for law and order, and gives strength to the whole social fabric, at the same time that it conducts the human soul upward to the Author of its being.”
More than a hundred years following Webster, Charles Malik, one time Ambassador to the United Nations from Lebanon, said: “The good (in the United States) would never had come into being without the blessing and the power of Jesus Christ…I know how embarrassing this matter is to politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, and cynics: but, whatever these honored men think, the irrefutable truth is that the soul of America is at its best and highest Christian.”
Ah, but today there are those who vigorously deny that our spiritual and civil liberties are inextricably bound together. Some of these voices even come from within the church.
They erroneously argue for a perverted meaning of the “separation of church and state,” saying the Constitution demands that the state scrub all references to God or religious influence.
R.J. Rushdoony one of the greatest scholars of our time has countered that point of view, writing: “The concept of a secular state was virtually non-existent in 1776 as well as in 1787 when the Constitution was written, and no less so than when the Bill of Rights was adopted. To read the Constitution as the charter for a secular state is to misread history, and to misread it radically. The Constitution was designed to perpetuate a Christian order.”
Now I know that some will gnash their teeth at what I’m saying, but if you don’t believe me, then listen to something Patrick Henry, the firebrand of the American Revolution – the same man who said, “Give me liberty or give me death,” said. Henry declared, “This nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The freedom of the First Amendment from governmental interference was meant to be a one-way street – there was to be no federal interference with the freedom of religion, but not freedom from religious influence on the State. Otherwise, the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark case of Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States in 1892 would have never ruled: “Our laws and our institutions must be necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind.”
Yet some would erroneously contend that morality is something that can’t be legislated.
Some time ago a lawmaker in the General Assembly of North Carolina pulled me aside and said, “Reverend, when will people like you realize that you can’t legislate morality?” I responded: “Senator, let me challenge your thinking in that regard. I suggest that you can’t legislate anything but morality. All public policy and all legislation is the codification of some moral premise. It is the means by which society says that this is right and this is wrong and we‘ve drawn parameters into law. What is more, we’ve gone so far as to say if you violate these parameters, we’re going to penalize you, fine you, or even throw you in jail. So I think the real question, is: Whose morality are we legislating?”
You see, when public policy or legislation is enacted somebody’s standard, somebody’s value system is always imposed on everyone.
We have laws against stealing because it’s immoral to steal. We have laws against rape because it’s immoral to rape.
Still others outrageously argue that we can have morality without religion. Just as spiritual liberty cannot be separated from civil liberty, morality cannot be separated from religion, more specifically the Judeo-Christian ethic.
Atheists and agnostics alike have raised their voices loud in our time. They speak of morality as though it operates in some kind of vacuum.
When atheists Bill Maher and Christopher Hitchins speak of human dignity, freedom or peace, they may not realize it, but they are assuming a theistic worldview. They are piggy-backing on the ethics of Christianity.
Carl F.H. Henry has masterfully written: “Just as in the creation narratives it is through the Word of the Lord that the primal desolation and waste becomes an orderly cosmos, just as the slaved Hebrews in Egypt were lifted from bondage and became the most powerful moral force in ancient history through obedience to that Divine Word, so today the alternative to the spiritual suicide of mankind and to ethical stagnation of our nations and cities lies in a renewed hearing of the command and will of God.”
Indeed, our nation is in peril today because there is a disconnect between the principles of Christianity and the principles of civil government, which made us the freest and most enlightened people on the earth.
On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has said she wants America to be “whole again.” Donald Trump has said he wants America to be “great again.” But America will never be “whole” or “great” again until Christian principles are pervasive again.
We’ve Come Together to Pray
That brings us to the purpose of this hour. We’ve come together here today to pray.
We must pray humbly, acknowledging how far we’ve fallen away – how far we drifted from our religious moorings – acknowledging the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of our land.
In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, the prophet speaks for God, saying, “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned” (Jer. 18:7,8).
Most of the troubles that we are seeing in America today are indicative of the fact that judgment is already here. We may not have experienced a final judgment, where all is lost, but too much has already been squandered with the prospect of God taking everything in his righteous anger.
We need to pray fervently for our nation, imploring God’s forgiveness and mercy, asking Him to stay His hand of judgment.
Some here today may need to pray a prayer for personal salvation. Now I know this is not supposed to be a revival meeting, but I would be derelict in my duty if I didn’t tell you that only those who have experienced the internal liberty that Christ grants from the power of sin – from a broken spiritual condition – can effectively call upon God to bless our nation.
The Scriptures say, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66:18).
Perhaps you need to pray a prayer admitting to God your personal transgressions and receive Christ as your personal Savior.
One passage of Scripture specifically recorded for God’s people, instructing them in how to pray for their nation, is II Chronicles 7:14. It reads, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Note the passage I just read requires the people of God to seek God’s face. You know, I meet many Christians today that believe America needs to get back to her roots. They want God to move and act in some way. They seek His hand, but they don’t seek His face. To seek God’s face is to seek God’s purifying and transforming grace in our own hearts.
The great Bible scholar and commentator Matthew Henry said, “Pardoning mercy makes way for healing mercy.” As one writer put it, “When we seek God’s face, we also get His hand.”
Lastly, the Scriptures tell us we should pray for those in authority. The apostle Paul exhorted that we should pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:2). In other words, when we live right and pray for our rulers, then we are more apt to have the freedom not only to have quiet and peaceable lives but also for the blessings of Christianity to spread.
Our nation stands on the brink of disaster. Our freedoms are at stake. Our children and our grandchildren’s futures hang in the balance. As never before, we are in desperate need.
May we join together on this National Day of Prayer, earnestly seeking God, beseeching Him to sweep across our sick nation with a great movement of personal and corporate conviction that leads us back to Him.
May God make us, everyone, to have a willing heart. The hope of our nation depends upon it.