Editor’s Note: Local Pastor Herb Newell requested a reprint of the following analysis, published in The Washington Times on Jan. 29, as he readies for the National Day of Prayer.
On Tuesday, Jan. 30, President Donald Trump will take the podium before a joint session of Congress and deliver his second State of the Union address. He’ll do so in accordance with Article Two, Section 3, of the U.S. Constitution, which says the president ”shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.”
”Union” is a strange word in present-day America – for our country seems anything but united. In fact, I cannot remember a time when our divisions have been more pronounced to the naked eye. The battle lines have been drawn between races, political parties and ideologies, religions and even genders, and everyone is picking sides as if there were only two sides of these complex issues.
If 2017 taught us anything, it’s that the centrifugal forces we thought our Founding Fathers had overcome 240 years ago when establishing our union are still alive and well today. In fact, they’re the same forces Abraham Lincoln had to confront four score and seven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. A century after Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. would have to march against them again.
The battle for America has always been a battle for unity. And anyone who’s acquainted with our history as a people knows the greatest threats have always come from within, not without.
Forget North Korea and Iran; we’re far more likely to meet our match by our own hands than from an intercontinental ballistic missile coming from thousands of miles away.
As a pastor, I look at America through the prism of faith. Our Constitution, whether intentionally or not, was crafted by a group of men who were profoundly influenced by the Judeo-Christian faith and values. And while they didn’t envision a theocracy, they certainly didn’t intend for an irreligious state either.
”Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” said John Adams.
Because of this, I believe that the spiritual health of the American people is an accurate barometer for the health of our nation as a whole. As the church goes, so goes America. And seeing the ailing state of our country, it’s not surprising to find that we are also broken spiritually.
For the better part of the past century, Americans have steadily inched away from their historic Judeo-Christian faith and heritage. Every generation since the ”silent generation” (born between 1928 and 1945) has embraced secularism more and more. Today, 1 in 5 Americans – the majority millennials – who grew up in a religious home have abandoned their childhood faith. As of 2016, 25 percent of Americans, an all-time high, say they have no religious identity.
Of course, there are a myriad of reasons for this trend. Generational replacement, a general aversion toward organized religion, disbelief and even interreligious marriage feature among the causes driving America’s religious exodus. But in my 40-year experience as a pastor, I’ve learned that the root cause of people leaving the church is Christian disunity. It’s the primary reason why people stop believing in the power of the Christian teachings.
The past 12 months have been characterized by finger-pointing, accusations and mischaracterizations, resulting in tribalism and division (we are all equally responsible).
We, who are the ones called to point our nation to God, have forgotten Jesus’ words: ”By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). At the end of the day, we will be known by our love, not by our politics.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the American Revolution is considered one of the most important geopolitical events in modern history. Yet, one of the things we tend to forget is that it was preluded by another great event: The Great Awakening. It was this spiritual movement, which called people to repentance and to turn back God, that unified the American people and prepared them for the national miracle that was to come.
Today, we need a spiritual awakening that will once again bring us together and remind us of who we are: one nation under God. Whatever the State of our Union, the spirit of our state needs refreshing, even a spiritual awakening.
As president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, I have the responsibility to rally Americans to a day of unified prayer for our nation. This coming National Day of Prayer, on Thursday, May 3, we are expecting millions of Americans to see the need for unity in our nation and cry out to God together in humility and repentance.
In Christianity, we call this a ”revival,” a great movement of God. We need the next great move of God in America.
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Ronnie Floyd is the senior pastor of Cross Church and president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.