It’s been a season of improbable quarterback stories in the NFL. Drew Lock led the Seahawks to a last-minute game-winning drive over the Eagles Monday night after losing the starting job last year and playing sparingly this season. Tommy DeVito, undrafted out of college, has become the starter for the Giants and generated headlines after he “classily handled” a free appearance at a New Jersey restaurant Tuesday.
But the story of stories has to be Brock Purdy, the last pick in the 2022 NFL draft (for which he was dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant”). He is playing so well for the 49ers that, according to the Wall Street Journal, many consider him the frontrunner to win league MVP this year.
However, I’m leading today’s Daily Article with him because of who he is, not what he’s doing. Before the season began, he told a reporter, “God has me where he needs me.” He testifies clearly, “The bottom line, my identity is in Jesus.”
If more Americans had the same “bottom line,” our democracy would be secured and empowered in paradoxical ways we urgently need to embrace today.
A republic “if you can keep it”
The Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that bars former President Trump from the state’s 2024 primary ballot continues to reverberate this morning. In my Daily Article Special Edition response yesterday, I noted that divisive partisan reactions to this issue spotlight the deep level of distrust many have for our democracy, our institutions, and our leaders.
For cultural context, let’s note with Joseph Nye, former Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, that American exceptionalism has stemmed from three factors: our geopolitical size, location, and resources; our commitment to humanity’s quest for freedom; and our moral virtues.
Today, however, the world is smaller than ever, as Houthi rebels in Yemen demonstrated yesterday by threatening to strike US warships if the Iranian-backed militia is targeted by Washington. Humanity’s quest for freedom seems less global or attractive in a world increasingly dominated by autocratic regimes in China, Russia, and elsewhere. And postmodern relativism has redefined morality as personal and subjective while castigating those who defend biblical morality as intolerant and dangerous.
Unsurprisingly, when the Wall Street Journal asked Americans, “Do you think the American Dream—that if you work hard you’ll get ahead—still holds true,” just 36 percent said it does. Eighteen percent said it never did; 45 percent said it “once held true but not anymore.”
According to James McHenry, a Maryland delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, “A lady asked Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy. A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.”
How do we “keep it”?
“We must live through all time, or die by suicide”
On January 27, 1838, Abraham Lincoln offered an address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, on “the perpetuation of our political institutions.” He was twenty-eight years old at the time.
He began by referencing the same three advantages Dr. Nye catalogued: “the fairest portion of the earth,” a government conducted “to the ends of civil and religious liberty,” and “hardy, brave, and patriotic” virtues received from our forefathers.
Lincoln then asked, “At what point should we expect the approach of danger?” After discounting enemies from abroad, he answered: “If it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
Accordingly, he summoned Americans to “general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws.” Lincoln then concluded his remarks: “Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’”
“The joy of the Lᴏʀᴅ is your strength”
The best way for America to rebuild such moral and spiritual foundations is for Americans to build our lives on the lordship of Christ and the authority of his word.
Jesus promised that when we hear and obey his teachings, we are “like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). When the storms came, his house did not fall “because it had been founded on the rock” (v. 25). If, however, we refuse to think and live biblically, we are like foolish men who built their house on the sand (v. 26): when the inevitable storms of life came, “it fell, and great was the fall of it” (v. 27).
In light of Jesus’ wisdom, we can judge the foundation we cannot see by the effects of storms on the structure we can. Is America’s “house” standing or falling today?
When ancient Israel repented in obedient response to God’s word, Nehemiah assured them, “The joy of the Lᴏʀᴅ is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). During this Advent week of joy, if we will do the former, we will experience the latter.
To this end, let’s remember Brock Purdy’s testimony: “The bottom line, my identity is in Jesus.”
What is your “bottom line” today?