|OT SINCE JOE Wright's prayer in 1996 before the Kansas House in Topeka, where the faithful pastor confessed America had "inverted values" and listed them by name, has there been a more powerful prayer offered before lawmakers. Last week, Vincent Fields, minister of Greater Works Ministries in New Jersey, delivered the invocation before the New Jersey Senate, praying: "We curse the spirit that would come to bring about same-sex marriage. We ask You to just look over this place today, cause them to be shaken in their very heart in uprightness, Lord, to do what is right before You." |
Fields delivered his invocation on a day when the New Jersey Senate was considering a bill that would grant civil unions to same-sex couples. He said he didn't intend to say anything about gay marriage, but "[t]he Holy Spirit took over." Fields was unapologetic about his prayer, arguing: "We're living in a time now where we've got to take a stand spiritually. We're literally setting ourselves up for God to turn His back on us, and if we do, we'll have the chaos of other countries, in this country." 
Would that all of America's pastors were like Vincent Fields -- spiritual leaders who provide a moral compass for the nation; clergy who are bold enough to say with the prophets of old, "Thus saith the Lord." Yet a recent study conducted by Ellison Research determined "only 6 percent of clergy and only 11 percent of lay church members said they feel their own church is 'very involved in local politics or political issues.'" 
One needs to only make a cursory examination of Scripture to discover God's great representatives have always made a cultural and political impact. In the Old Testament, during the period of the monarchs in Judah, God raised up a number of godly preachers who provided spiritual and moral guidance for the nation. In the New Testament, John the Baptist is described as boldly speaking out against the corrupt political and ecclesiastical structures of his day, publicly rebuking King Herod for his immorality.
One could even legitimately argue Christ was political. He took the political leaders of His day to task, calling Herod Antipas a "fox" and the Pharisees a "brood of snakes."  Moreover, the followers of Jesus fully comprehended the dual application of his teaching: "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesars; and unto God the things that are God's."  Refusing to pay homage to Caesar with the status of a god, Christians often paid the price in martyrdom. Still the pressures they wielded on Roman culture did much to improve the plight of women and slaves, protect defenseless children, abolish the gladiatorial games, and provide humane treatment for prisoners and the poor.
American history is replete with examples of godly ministers who stood for righteousness when the nation was in crisis.
When the Declaration of Independence was penned, it was a Presbyterian minister, Rev. John Witherspoon, who convinced members of the Continental Congress to sign it. At first they hesitated. According to one historian, "The destiny of a nation was suspended upon one hour of agonizing suspense."  Then Witherspoon rose to speak and uttered with great emotion:
"To hesitate at this moment is to consent to our own slavery. That notable instrument upon your table ... should be subscribed this very morning by every pen in this house. He that will not respond to its accent and strain every nerve to carry into effect its provisions is unworthy of the name of freeman. Whatever I have of property, of reputation, is staked on the issue of this contest; and although these gray hairs must soon descend into the sepulcher, I would infinitely rather that they descend hither by the hand of an executioner than desert at this crisis the sacred cause of my country." 
One evening while Reverend Jonas Clark of Lexington was dining with John Hancock and Samuel Adams, Paul Revere warned the British were about to attack. Asked whether the men of Lexington would fight, Clark didn't waffle or hesitate with cowardly excuses about mixing politics with religion. Instead he replied he had personally trained them for that very hour and if need be, he said they would die "under the shadow of the house of God." The very next day it was Clark's parishioners who gave the first blood of the revolution. 
Other great men of God who had a profound effect on Western culture, in general, could be mentioned also. Ministers like John Wesley, who preached concerning the most controversial issues of his day: "indentured servitude, slavery, rampant drunkenness, the poor health of the peasant class, prison abuse and lack of education for the exploited poor."  William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army preached to raise the age of sexual consent for women in England to 16 and succeeded in getting it done.  In America, clergy like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield and Charles Finney had an unprecedented influence on the nation's social and political landscape.
Although New Jersey's Senate President Richard Cody has banned Fields from ever offering another invocation before that body again, one can be sure the good Reverend has found favor with God and will be named among His hall of famers. It's the other preachers -- that vast host of them in this nation -- who are sitting Lot-like in the gates of Sodom and will not raise their voices for righteousness in America's hour of crisis who should be ashamed. Deserters and hirelings they are!
The hope of the nation depends on clergy like Rev. Vincent Fields. And may God show us mercy and send us a multitude like him.
 Luke 13:32; Matthew 12:34
 Matthew 22:21
 Christianity and the American Commonwealth, Bishop Charles B. Galloway, D.D., LL.D., Lecture delivered in the Chapel at Emory College, Oxford, Ga., March 1898, American Vision 2005, pg. 100
 Why You Can't Stay Silent: A Biblical Mandate to Shape our Culture, Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family 2001, pg. 29
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
More columns by Rev. Mark Creech