With regard to my previous discussion of American Puritanism, Tim Enloe raised some good points, with many of with which I agree with, or whatever the grammar johnnies say that clause should be. At the same time, I can see that I need to unpack this a bit more.
I have used the image of Americans having a Puritan DNA, which is an image that is both fortuitous and misleading at the same time. It is misleading because many moderns are bedazzled by a simplistic myth of genetics, thinking that DNA is something that unfolds robotically over time, like one of those transformer thingies. Many assume some sort of genetic determinism. But even with actual DNA, the meaning of our DNA develops over time, coming about as the result of a conversation between the genetics and the environment.
It is fortuitous because it is the same with our Puritan ancestry. A large part of this story has to do with how the story of the Puritans has been told over the generations — how that Puritanism interacted with the environment. When I said that we are to drill down into our corporate memory, this is not in order to find the archetypical right-minded uber-Puritan, and then start over again with him. Rather, we have to take into account all the layers of all the stories that have been told, and we have to accept or reject them. We need to do the same with every sedimentary layer, which means that in order to make sense of each layer, we have to relate it to Jesus. He is the one in whom all things cohere, and this includes the story of our people. Without Jesus, the story of the United States is incoherent.
Historians must quit it with the modernist folly of trying to operate with a scientific “view from nowhere.” The postmodernists get this part right. What they get wrong is the inane cop-out of pretending that this necessitates their suicidal relativism. Accurate historical understanding is like real estate — it all depends on location, location, location. But this only does you some good if you remember that over all those various locations there is only one sovereign God, and He is triune. There is only one real alternative to the hubris of modernism, on the one hand, and the goo-thought of postmodernism, on the other, and that alternative is some form of Calvinism. But I digress.
For example, what is it that made the New England Puritans our ancestral DNA? Well, among other things, it was the outcome of the War Between the States. Up to that point our national identity had been far more Virginian than otherwise. Had the war gone differently, so would the founding myths have gone. In the aftermath of the war, a different story prevailed and the New Englandization of America proceeded apace.
Founding myths are not established by modern historians getting in a time machine and going back to 1700 in order to count noses and take a vote. The Puritans are our ancestors because we have been telling stories about them, and reechoing their themes, for 350 years. We have fought wars over whether or not to tell that story, and the wars have had their effect. That subsequent history is not just patina. It is part of what makes this whole point impossible to get away from.
And I hope that everyone realizes that by “founding myths” I do not mean “founding untruths.” Myths are not necessarily false.
So Christians preachers and evangelists must talk about Jesus. There is no other name given under Heaven by which we may be saved. But we don’t just speak the name Jesus into the air. A wise evangelist relates his proclamation of Jesus to the life of the person he is talking to. In speaking to a nation, an evangelist to America must talk about America’s story. Embers that must be blown into flame must be blown back into flame. Treacheries must be repented of as treacheries, as betrayals of God’s kindness to us. Lapses into the pursuit of happiness apart from the God of all happiness must be repented.
Relating everything to Jesus does not mean whitewashing the whole story with pious platitudes. It means reading the story of America against the template of the biblical narrative, and in the context of that reading calling Americans back to faith in the Lord Jesus. What do we read? What do we see?
Apart from the blood of Jesus, we see Lincoln trapped by the grinding karma of the Civil War. We see the bloodlust of every state that would be god, and when we consider the abortion mills we realise our aspiring god must be a Molech wannabe.
But we also see an American GI giving a Hershey bar to a scared German boy. Where did that come from?
We will make no sense of our story until we return to Jesus Christ. We will just continue to muddle along, not knowing where we are going, but making good time. One of the saddest (and funniest) of the standard polling questions is this one. “Do you think America is headed in the right direction or the wrong direction?”
Direction? Somebody has a map? Well, yes and no. Most Americans have no map at all, but still answer the question for some reason. The radical Muslims have a counterfeit map, which they demand we use, or they will blow us up. The Christians have a real map, but they make sure to keep it hidden. You see, they believe the map is from God, and if they showed this sample of divine cartography to someone, they will be accused of being a theocart.