What we seek to build is something akin to a cultural identity, but actually resting entirely on our covenant. History shows that a nation can stand about as good as any nation could if they are held together by some sort of shared identity. We are building a nation, a tribal identity. The tricky part is making the thing realistic. That’s a difficult task because there is virtually nothing telling us how to proceed. Fortunately, we have revelation on our side, and the promise God will make it work. This leaves us only the task of discerning what a culture dedicated to His divine will looks like.
This is more than enough work as it is.
Let’s keep in mind how things in His revelation didn’t work out so well. The obvious example is the nation of Israel. They do retain a strong sense of identity based on something they simply will not surrender. They infiltrate, but they never assimilate. In God’s eyes, their identity was bound up in the Covenant, but they allowed that idea to drift a long way so that it is now an ethno-religious identity. But then, something similar works for Muslims, too, just not quite as well. Muslims are as likely to kill each other as they would outsiders, but they are rabid about refusing to assimilate.
Israel rejected the grounds for God’s favor and claimed it as their right. Israel had a mission to demonstrate God’s truth. The people couldn’t make themselves stay faithful because of how they envied other nations and their urbane civilized trappings. Israel was supposed to avoid that kind of thing, keeping to the simple culture of nomadic shepherds. She kept trying to get other nations to take her more seriously, so she scooped up some of the trash from these nations, polluting her own identity. Eventually this experiment ground to a halt. The Messiah came and took it all away from them.
What the Messiah built stood only for a short time, sadly, because the Judaizers came sneaking around and corrupted the churches. Shortly after the last Apostle died, the leadership in the churches drifted into seeking the approval of those outside the shared faith. They kept trying to gain some kind of approval from the society around them, and in particular, were vulnerable to the lust for being taken seriously by scholars in the age of Hellenism.
One thing led to another and the church leadership didn’t handle persecution at all well. They had lost that otherworldly focus. And as soon as someone thought they saw a political opportunity, the church leadership was offered a break. Constantine saw the genius of even a degraded Christian religion as the means for uniting a nation around his rule. It quickly went downhill from there, as Christian leaders were seduced step by step away from genuine faith in Christ over the following centuries, until they became a primarily political organization.
We are no better than they were, and perhaps less able in many ways. But we have one serious advantage: we have seen their mistakes and how it turned out bad. We can trace how they left behind the very obvious core demands of First Century Christian religion. And if you can read it from the right viewpoint, you’ll see how Apostle John predicted in his Revelation that this would all come apart.
The same risen Christ and the same power of the Holy Spirit is ours today. There’s no reason we can’t pull out of the rubble the same truths that worked for the New Testament apostles, but with the added advantage of hindsight. We can do this, and I’m utterly convinced God wants us to try. I will try even if no one else is interested.
This in the very midst of a time when the US has lost its identity and is crumbling quickly. Even the rather bad American Churchianity was better than nothing at holding the nation together. But it’s weaknesses are now bearing fruit, and we should learn from the mainstream’s mistakes, too. Let’s ensure we know better than to aim for any kind of national identity that would support a political unity. That’s a distraction we cannot afford. But we can and should aim for at least some kind of cultural identity that is unique and separate from anything else in this world, primarily because it seeks to stand in God’s favor.
Maybe we can build something strong enough that our people don’t forget the essential mission this time.