Last week, I suggested that the American state must not be confused with the kingdom of God. About the same time I was writing that, a prominent Southern Baptist leader seemed to get a little confused. On a radio show March 27th, the host asked Fred Luter, the current president of the SBC, whether he believed that North Korea’s sabre rattling had anything to do with God judging America for debating same-sex marriage. Luter seemed to agree, responding:
It could be a possibility. I’m not that strong in prophecy, but I would not be surprised that there’s not a connection there simply because of the fact we’ve seen it happen in Scripture before. I would not be surprised that at the time when we are debating same-sex marriage, at a time when we are debating whether or not we should have gays leading the Boy Scout movement, I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that we have a mad man in Asia who is saying some of the things that he’s saying.
These statements naturally scandalized media outlets and leftist bloggers. I’ll leave you to read their condemnations if you so choose.
Many Christians probably agreed with Luter’s idea. His thoughts make sense if you take the promises of Old Testament Israel and apply them to geopolitical entities, such as the American state. However, Luter’s statements scandalized many Christians, and I’ll include myself in this group. If you read the entire Bible as testifying to the life and work of Christ, then Luter’s ideas don’t make sense. The promises and warnings to ancient Israel apply not to America, but to the church.
Thankfully, Luter has retracted these comments. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Luter admitted that he misspoke and that he didn’t really mean what he said. When pressed by Cooper, who is himself gay, Luter said he believes America’s problems stem from all its social ills: homosexuality, racism, abortion, and violent crime.
Luter’s right; God will judge America because of these ills. However, everyone will be judged on the Last Day, and it doesn’t matter how much America cleans up its act — it will still be found worthy of condemnation. The judgment is coming. Christ did not redeem a nation-state. He redeems his church. I pray that more and more Americans will escape the coming judgment through having a dual citizenship in heaven.
[A different version of this post also appears at First Thoughts.]