As I look back over American history, and the radical cultural upheaval we have seen, I am reminded of the old saying in the discipline of military history, which goes something to the effect that ‘generals are always fighting the last war.’ What it means is that it’s hard to predict how things are going to be in the future, and trying to learn from the past all too easily takes the form of preparing to meet the next challenge as though it were going to be like the last one. The result is wrong preparation, and a shock when the new challenge turns out to be truly new.
The classic example of this is the Maginot Line. After the trench warfare of WWI, the French built a massive line of fortifications against German invasion. It would have been great, if the next war had simply been a replay. As it was, WWII began with a display of unprecedented mobility, as the Germans invaded through the Low Countries and the Ardennes Forest and swiftly overcame the French. The mighty Maginot Line was obsolete, because it was built to fight the last war.
What is the relevance of this to America? It seems to me that our founders did not take adequate steps against the threats of secularism and paganism, because those threats were hardly on the horizon at the time. The threat from which our founders sought freedom was sectarian Christian persecution, the battles between Catholics and Protestants and the oppression of an official state church. So they saw the need for a separation of church and state. Very good. And, indeed, it may be fair to say that they were not fighting the last war, but the current war; all the same, they did not anticipate the next war, and the protections they laid down may prove to be something of a Maginot Line in the defense of freedom.
For a simple glance over our nation’s history makes it quite clear that they did not see the separation of church and state as incompatible with having–and pursuing–a Christian nation. They taught the Bible in Christian schools for most of our nation’s history; for example, Bible reading was still mandatory in Pennsylvania schools until a supreme court decision in 1963. Freedom of religion and the separation of church and state were designed to prevent the rise of a repressive state church, not to make room for militant secularism to suppress religion in the public square. It was assumed that the nation would be explicitly Christian in its worldview and morals.
It was assumed that the next war would look like the last war.
But what do you do when you realize you’ve been outflanked? How do you address it, when you find that your protections against oppressive religious sectarianism have proved weak against militant secularism?
I think the first step is for Christians to see clearly through the secularist charade. There is a pretended neutrality about secularism that many Christians have uncritically accepted for far too long. Secularism may oppose all religions evenly, but it does not create a space that is worldview-neutral. On the contrary, it creates a space that is either functionally atheistic or functionally pagan–perhaps an odd and contradictory admixture of both.
Don’t fall for it. The flag of neutrality is waved hard for long enough to get the Bible out of schools. Then, suddenly, the flag of neutrality disappears, and the rainbow flag of paganism is being hoisted instead. And, in their audacity, the secularist still claims this is the flag of neutrality. But we know it’s not. We should have realized that the flag of neutrality was always a false color. But better late than never.
It is clear now that the steps taken at America’s founding were insufficient to properly ground freedom against its enemies. For, make no mistake, the secular revolution, advancing primarily as a sexual revolution, is an enemy of freedom. The lawsuits against Christians trying to conduct their business as Christians continue, and will continue; but these are just early rumblings. The direction to which secularism heads is more appropriately forecast by looking at nations such as China. There are environments in which freedom may flourish, and others in which it will not. Christianity and freedom properly go hand-in-hand.