by Robert W. Peck, State Chairman, Constitution Party of Washington
I recently read the story of the “An Appeal to Heaven” flag, its history and the important philosophical concept behind it. Most of us don’t even know there was such a flag and even fewer understand its significance. You really cannot correctly understand our nation’s history, or our Declaration of Independence, without understanding the concept behind “An Appeal to Heaven.”
The concept comes from English philosopher, John Locke. In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke explains that once all human avenues for seeking justice (judges, legislatures, executives, etc), or relief from tyranny, have been exhausted, only an appeal to Heaven remains. At that point, men become justified to seek relief by their own actions, appealing to the God of Heaven to sustain their endeavor, as no earthly mediator is left to them.
“…where the body of the people, or any single man, is deprived of their right, or is under the exercise of a power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven, whenever they judge the cause of sufficient moment.” (John Locke)
This was Locke’s justification for the deposing of King James II, and as students of Locke, this principle was at the heart of the American founders Declaration of Independence.
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States… And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
There is of course much more to the story of the Appeal to Heaven flag including the Iroquois Confederation, why a pine tree was used on the flag and George Washington’s private navy. Please do yourself a big favor and read the whole story here.
Like our nation’s founders, many in the Christian-conservative-right are feeling like they too are suffering a long train of abuses at the hands of their government. In the wake of the recent Supreme Court opinion on marriage that tramples religious liberty and violates freedom of conscience, many may feel America has returned to the place of its founding with only an appeal to Heaven left to us.
While appealing to Heaven through prayer is always a right thing to do, the appeal to Heaven taught by John Locke, and acted upon by the American founders by declaring independence from Great Britain, is a matter of political action that looks to the God of Heaven for favor upon that action. To be justified, and to qualify for divine favor, that action must be predicated upon two things.
1. No appeal on earth remaining to the aggrieved within the established political systems.
2. Rectitude of intentions on the part of those taking action to obtain relief.
No Appeal on Earth
Before declaring their independence, the American Founders had exhausted every means available to right the wrongs being done to them by King George III. One of the great complaints leading up to the break with Britain was taxation without representation in Parliament.
Today, we have a vote and an active voice in choosing our representatives for everything from city council, to county sheriff, state representative, state supreme court justices, congress, president and many more offices. We may not like the representatives that “we the people” have picked and often deplore what they do, but we elect them. Therefore, we cannot say that we have “no appeal on earth” as we have an appeal every 2, 4 or 6 years, depending on the office. Therefore, it cannot be justified at this time to go outside of, or seek the overthrow of, “the forms of government to which we are accustomed.”
However, like our nation’s founders, it is incumbent upon us to vigorously pursue every avenue available for the righting of wrongs as we appeal to Heaven for favor upon our endeavors. But remember, the founders taught us that our appeal to Heaven needs to predicated upon the rectitude of our intentions.
Rectitude of Intentions
The word “rectitude” isn’t something you hear in daily conversation. It’s one of those old English words that we kind of gloss over and act like we get it.
According to Webster’s Dictionary of 1828, the first truly American dictionary and the one understood to most accurately convey the meanings intended by the American founders, rectitude is:
REC’TITUDE, noun [Latin rectus, right, straight.]
In morality, rightness of principle or practice; uprightness of mind; exact conformity to truth, or to the rules prescribed for moral conduct, either by divine or human laws. rectitude of mind is the disposition to act in conformity to any known standard of right, truth or justice; rectitude of conduct is the actual conformity to such standard. Perfect rectitude belongs only to the Supreme Being. The more nearly therectitude of men approaches to the standard of the divine law, the more exalted and dignified is their character. Want of rectitude is not only sinful, but debasing.
There is a sublimity in conscious rectitude – in comparison with which the treasures of earth are not worth naming.
We can see from this definition that true rectitude “belongs only to the Supreme Being,” with its ultimate standard determined by “divine law.” Only the Creator of man gets to determine the standard of what is right for man. Therefore, we cannot appeal to Heaven for favor on our endeavors except to the degree our endeavors conform to God’s standards of truth, justice, uprightness and sound principles.
In politics, as in all matters, our natural reaction is to assume that our side is right, if only because the guy on the radio is telling us the other side is wrong. That’s a trap ancient Israel fell into regularly. They would call on God to deliver them from their enemies on the grounds that “we’re God’s people and the other guys are evil Philistines, so we must be right.” Yet in nearly every case, God had to begin by showing His people where they had departed from His law (His standard) and had unwittingly adopted the practices, and even the false gods, of the heathen nations around them.
Christians and conservatives of today are inclined to view democrats as the “new Philistines” that we need God to deliver us from. However, as measured by the party that Christians most commonly support, and whose candidates would never win a single office without their support, the Christian-conservative-right and the Republican Party wield far more influence in America than do democrats. A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court are republican appointees. The U.S. House, which holds the nation’s purse strings and determines what federal activities will or will not take place, has been under republican control 16 of the last 20 years. More than three times as many states are under complete republican control (24) than democrat (7). If America and its union states are going in the wrong direction, the Republican Party bears more blame than the democratic, as it holds more positions of power.
It’s tempting to blame the republican office holders saying, “they’re kowtowing to the party bosses and power brokers, they’re putting political expediency ahead of principle, they’re compromising.” The truth is that we, the Christian-conservative-right, placed them into power and they are a reflection of us. We bowed to the influence of pundits and talking heads who told us who can and cannot win, we placed political expediency and a win at the ballot box ahead of principle, and we compromised when we voted for those candidates.
It would appear that God’s people in America today have fallen into the same trap as Israel of old. We are calling on God to deliver us with the assumption that our side is in the right. However, our political priests have lead us into compromise, taught us to worship at the alters of political expediency and to give the virtue of our vote to candidates who cast off constitutional restraint and serve the gods of statism.
An Appeal to Heaven
It is indeed time for an appeal to Heaven, but not the appeal of casting off, or going outside of, the established systems of government to take matters into our own hands, seeing that we yet have the ballot box left to us. Neither is it the appeal of prayer alone that takes no action, or that merely asks God to bless a continuation of compromise or corrupted political associations.
It is time for an appeal to Heaven that begins by asking the just Judge of the universe to search us to see if there be any wicked ways of compromise in us, and to lead us back to His divine standards of truth, justice, uprightness and sound principles.
It is time for an appeal to Heaven which, with firm resolve, places sound principle ahead of political expediency, partisan politics and the councils of pundits, and which pledges its support to every candidate and cause that soundly upholds biblical values, constitutional limits on government, and the principles of liberty without regard for partisan affiliation or whether anyone says they can win.
It is time for an appeal to Heaven which, with equally firm resolve, pledges to withhold support from every candidate, cause, party or other political entity that shrinks back from the biblical and constitutional standards.
It is time for an appeal to Heaven which, like our nation’s founders did, steps out where human might alone cannot sustain and divine providence becomes our only hope as we “Appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”
I was born and raised in a Christian home. I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of five. I surrendered to the Gospel ministry at the age of eighteen. I attended or have diplomas and degrees from four Bible colleges. I started pastoring when I was twenty-three years of age. And I just observed my fortieth year of continuous pastoral ministry. As Paul said to his son in the faith, Timothy, so I can say, “And that from a child [I have] known the holy scriptures.” (II Tim. 3:15)
Obviously, I am no stranger to the work of God. I have been in church all of my life. Though my dad was not a full-time minister (even though he was ordained), his best friends were pastors. As a result, I have been around pastors and Christian workers all of my life. So, I am not speaking as an outsider. I know church work from the inside out. I’ve seen it; I’ve been taught it; and I’ve experienced it. The good, the bad, and the ugly: I’ve seen it all.
We pastors and Christians are never going to agree on every nuance of scriptural interpretation or method of ministry. But the vast majority of us will agree that Christ alone is our Sovereign and the Bible is the rule for our faith and practice.
SO, WHAT WILL WE DO NOW?
Caesar has demanded that we recognize the legal “right” of homosexuals and lesbians to “marry.” It will not be long before each and every one of us pastors and ministers will, first, be ASKED to “marry” same-sex couples, and, then, be REQUIRED to “marry” same-sex couples.
WHAT WILL WE DO?
Some pastors are waiting to hear from their denominational superiors for instructions. Some are, no doubt, trying to keep quiet about the subject and hope they can somehow avoid dealing with it. Some are now counseling with attorneys for guidance. But, in truth, our guidance and instruction do not come from denominational officers or lawyers; and it is a cold, hard fact that there is NO avoiding the issue. Sooner or later (probably sooner), each of us will have to make a conscientious decision that is based solely on our moral and scriptural convictions.
AGAIN, WHAT WILL WE DO?
For the most part, our pulpits were silent when the freedom of religion and conscience became a matter of state licensure in 1954 when churches were included in the Internal Revenue Code, section 501c3, as mere non-profit organizations. For the most part, our pulpits were silent when the freedom to pray and read the Bible was removed from our public schools in 1962 and ’63. For the most part, our pulpits were silent when the freedom of God-ordained self-defense became a state-sanctioned license and privilege in 1968. For the most part, our pulpits were silent when the God-ordained right to life of unborn babies was expunged in 1973. For the most part, our pulpits have been silent as our Natural rights of privacy and local autonomy began being stripped from us in 2001. And, now, the most important institution in human history, Holy Matrimony, has been “redefined” by Caesar’s court.
Will we pastors remain silent? Will we sheepishly submit to this egregious and tyrannical assault against the most fundamental institution created by God? Will we become willing accomplices to the formalization of egregiously unnatural perversion?
WHAT WILL WE DO?
Can we not see that what is at stake is the preservation of religious liberty and Christian conscience in our land? Radical secularists (and even some anti-Christian religionists) desire to expunge every semblance of Christian thought and ideology from our nation. The purge has already begun.
All over America, lawsuits against pastors who refuse to marry same-sex couples have already been filed. The same is true for Christians in various service industries that refuse to cater to homosexual “marriages.” Militant homosexuals have brought a $70 million lawsuit against the two largest publishers of the Bible (Zondervan and Tyndale), demanding that the Scriptures condemning sodomy be eviscerated.
It will not be long and cultural Marxists will see to it that the homosexual lifestyle will be promoted in every conceivable public venue. Movies, television (even children’s programs), books, music, magazines, etc., will openly promote the sodomite lifestyle. Common Core curriculum will certainly advocate for homosexual conduct in America’s public schools. Homosexuals will demand the right to flaunt their romantic proclivities in public. Restaurants, concert houses, theaters, meeting places, even churches, will be sued if they do not allow homosexuals to openly display their perversity. Again, this is already beginning.
And for pastors and churches specifically, the big intimidation factor is the IRS tax-exempt status. Already, some of the largest and most notable newspapers, periodicals, and newscasts are calling for the removal of tax-exempt churches that refuse to “marry” same-sex couples. Some are even calling for the removal of tax-exempt status of ALL churches.
If the “great recession” of 2008 and ’09 was the natural “correction” of a manipulated economic “bubble,” I submit that the Hodges decision is the natural (or maybe divine) correction of a manipulated spiritual bubble. For over a half-century, churches have been intoxicated with “success.” The Joel Osteen-brand of Christianity has obfuscated the true purpose of the church. Pleasing Caesar and maintaining tax-exempt status (at all costs) have supplanted pleasing God and maintaining Biblical status. The result is a church that is “increased with goods” but that is spiritually “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:17)
In reality, the Hodges Supreme Court decision was inevitable. It was the result of the spiritually polygamous marriage between the church and state in 1954. It was the result of a church that, like the Jewish Pharisees of old, said, “We have no king but Caesar,” while pretending to be married to Christ.
Well, now God has forced his pastors and churches to take a stand. There is no beating around the bush anymore. There is no avoiding the issue. Pastors and churches will either submit to Christ or they will submit to Caesar. There is no middle ground. There is no more fence-straddling.
Again, the root cause of all of this is the church’s acceptance of state licensure, and, therefore, state authority. Churches committed spiritual adultery when they allowed themselves to take the 501c3 wedding band. By doing so, they became “creatures of the state” and ceased to be the “bride” of Christ. And, remember, our God is a jealous God. “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14)
Since the state has decided to repudiate the Natural authority of marriage as given by our Creator, it behooves us, as Christian ministers, to repudiate state authority over marriage. That means we should immediately cease and desist from officiating over any marriage, heterosexual or homosexual, that includes a license from the state. That is exactly what I will do.
In terms of the history of the Church, as well as Western Civilization, state-licensure of marriages is very recent. For over 1,800 years, almost no marriages (if any) required state-licensure. A certificate of marriage or declaration of marriage or church approbation–or other such recognition–was all that was needed. I don’t know about all of the 50 states, of course, but in my home State of Montana, marriages do NOT require a State license. And that’s exactly the way it should be.
WHAT ABOUT IT, PREACHER? WHAT WILL YOU DO?
Is a state-created tax-exempt license more important than fidelity to Christ and the Scriptures? Let me speak plainly: so what if we lose our tax-exempt status?
I hear my brethren exclaim, “But, Brother Chuck, we will lose tithing members. If they cannot claim their contributions on their tax forms, they will stop giving to the church.” My response is: SO BE IT.
Our churches are filled with careless, insincere, half-hearted Christians. God promised to separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the chaff; I believe He is doing just that in the United States right now. America’s churches have been living in a manipulated spiritual “bubble.” The bubble is bursting. It’s long overdue.
Churches in oppressed countries around the world are not worrying about some kind of tax-exempt status. They are not creatures of the state. Many of them are not even recognized as being legal in their states. Many of them are “unofficial,” “unregistered,” “unlawful,” etc. But they are true to Christ and His Word–and their numbers are flourishing.
In just a few years, there will be more Christians in Communist China than in so-called “Christian” America–a first since America came into existence. And there is no tax-exempt status afforded them. At the same time here in America, Christianity is in steep decline. What’s the difference? In China, churches do not seek, nor will they accept, state recognition and endorsement, while here in America churches enthusiastically embrace state recognition and endorsement (licensure). It’s time we find out who is real and who isn’t.
And a question for those church members out there: What are you going to do if your pastor agrees to marry same-sex couples? If your pastor will not take a stand on this, he won’t take a stand on ANYTHING. And, if he hasn’t said anything from the pulpit already, why are you still there?
Are you not willing to give your tithes and offerings to a church even if those financial gifts are NOT tax deductible? If not, what is your real motivation for giving to begin with? Are you not willing to sit under the preaching of a courageous man of God who is the servant of God and not the servant of men–even men in government? If not, why are you even attending church?
Christians have been flocking to these “feel-good” churches for decades. They continued to support spineless pastors, who refused to take a stand for the God-ordained duty of self-defense; who refused to take a stand against the killing of unborn babies; who refused to speak out for religious liberty; and who are currently refusing to take a stand against an Orwellian Police State being created in front of our very eyes. Will they now continue to stay inside those churches whose pastors refuse to take a stand for God-ordained marriage?
I submit that either the Church in America repents and does the “first works” or it will quickly lose its “candlestick.” Truly, “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” (I Peter 4:17)
AGAIN, WHAT WILL WE DO NOW?
© Chuck Baldwin