This article originally appeared in Christianity Today on June 22, 1973.
We have been living through days that try the soul of the nation and test the resiliency of our republic. All of us who hold positions of leadership, whether in the political, the economic, or the religious sphere of life, must think through the meaning of the tragic affairs that have afflicted the highest leadership of our nation.
However, we would always rather hide our wounds than heal them. It is always more comfortable to believe in the symbols of righteousness than to acknowledge the reality of evil. This is especially true in our national political life. And we have become adroit at manipulating religious impulses in our land to sanctify this political life. That is the temptation of our "civil religion." We run the risk of misplaced allegiance, if not idolatry, by failing to distinguish between the god of an American civil religion and the God who reveals himself in the Scriptures and in Jesus Christ.
We want to believe that our nation and its leaders are right, just, and pure. We want to put our country beyond the reach of God's judgment. Why? Because everything is so much simpler then. We want to believe, in the words printed on the back of our Great Seal, that "God hath ordained our undertakings," and not believe that God also judges them.
This impulse is born out of our own lives. We want to believe we merit God's blessing. How hard it is to admit that we stand in need of God's forgiveness. We would rather celebrate Easter than Good Friday. But without Good Friday, there can be no Easter.
We must look to biblical religion—not civil religion for the wisdom to guide our lives, and the life of the nation. Then ...1