Christians have become exiles in a country that they played an indispensable role in building, and the Madisonian secular state has proven unable or unwilling to respond to the moral challenges facing the nation. If Madison is correct, and if classical liberalism is ultimately poisonous to the concept of Christian nationalism, then conservatives should seek to ground their vision of liberty in a teaching that is more distinctly Christian than that offered by the fourth President of the United States.
Churches that are hyper-focused on diversity efforts (especially when such “diversity” is pitifully narrow) often unwittingly send a biblically false message to those already inside their doors: your demographics make you a little less important to us; and until this church family includes enough people with different demographics (enough persons of a specific nationality or race, etc.) you're not a faithful church. They also send another message to the people they are ostensibly trying to attract: you are a thing we want; once we’ve merely arrived at certain demographic numbers then we can see we are a faithful church. This is objectification by a woke name.
America’s class divide presents a great challenge. Fashion points our churches and seminaries away from “our people,” but America’s working class is a huge mission field. Members of the working class object to our corrupt and corrupting current ruling elite. But they lash out with what are often vague notions of American patriotism or simple cussedness against the elite.
Abraham Kuyper offers one non-liberal route for the state to organize itself in a way that is supportive of the basic truths of the divinely ordained natural law within a system that is more tolerant of diversity than the Constantinian settlement. Kuyper is certainly not infallible, but I would argue that such an approach is more likely to gain traction in America today than a call for a return to older forms of religious establishmentarianism.
Charles Hughes was right: religious liberty is indeed the “glory of the Baptist heritage.” But how that heritage was applied and how it has changed over time is the topic of important debate. And, given the state of our American public square, it’s a discussion that will only continue to intensify in its significance.
Christian political engagement must return to a sometimes adversarial posture with society at large. The key is that for the first time in nearly a century conservative Protestant political thought is not hemmed in by the cartoonish biblicism inherited from the Fundamentalists, but has a robust intellectual ecosystem based in Protestant ressourcement and the reclamation of Protestant natural law theory.
The Protestant tradition possesses the resources to hold together the epistemological poles of creation and revelation. And it is those resources that Christians must draw upon to build a lasting, theologically compelling rejoinder to what’s commonly called wokeness.
Leaders and messengers of the SBC need to start having reasoned discussions about these matters now. The SBC will need leaders who have discernment, moral clarity and a backbone. Those running for leadership in the SBC must use their platforms in the coming two weeks to lead the way on deliberations about proposing constructive paths forward.
The Church of the New Awakening begins with the desire to make moral stain an “identity group” problem, in the mistaken belief that the world can be purified through group purgation. Absent the One-Sufficient-Mediator, the Divine scapegoat who takes away the sins of the world for all time, new groups will need to be offered up after the first one fades from view.
Protestants can and should use natural law arguments to help society pursue and protect the common good of all people. By pursuing and protecting the common good of society, peace in the earthly realm is promoted and protected. This allows for the freedom peacefully and publicly to present the Gospel to all men, which all Christians should desire. As such, natural law can be used not only to promote civil goods, but also eternal good.