Is the U.S.A. being “punished” by God?
(Written in 2013, during the Government “furlough” of Federal employees)
I don’t think so.
But, He may be using its corruption and dysfunctions to “get the attention” of it’s believing citizens and lead them to awaking, revival, and a renewed effort to spread the word that there’s a better way to conduct our personal and political affairs.
One of my Devotional readings (“Pathways To His Presence, A Daily Devotional” by Charles E. Stanley) this morning included a quote from President Lincoln:
“We have forgotten the gracious hand which has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”
Dr. Stanley pointed out that we, as individuals, are saved by grace, not by our works:
“If believers imagine they have earned salvation through virtue, then when virtue is lacking, they believe they have lost the blessing.”
I completed my morning meditations with edifying thoughts relating to the nature of grace and unearned redemption – however wicked I have been, and no matter my current shortcomings and failures (any they are many), my salvation was already accomplished by Christ’s work – not mine. (Praise God!)
When I turned to my tablet to check the news (maybe they’re going to let me go back to work?) and my social media pages, I came across a Facebook posting saying, in essence, that my nation’s present political crisis was a punishment for our collective failure to follow God’s laws.
It’s true that the Old Testament is full of accounts of God’s chosen people being punished with conquest, exile, famine and disaster for failure to remember Him and His laws in their councils and conduct. It’s a testament (pun intended) to the disastrous inability of human beings to live within the rule of law, even when that law is divinely given and enforced. In fact, I believe that to be its point.
After fully demonstrating that no person was capable of adequately suppressing his own selfishness and self-centeredness to become truly righteous in God’s eyes or to righteously rule others (see King David’s story in the Old Testament and the book of “Romans” in the New), Christ came, and paid the penalty for all our failures, inadequacies and sin and conditioned our redemption on one thing only: our acceptance of Him.
If we as individuals are not longer “saved” by our works or our compliance with God’s laws or damned by our failures and misdeeds, but are redeemed by His freely given Grace, why should we assume that our societies and governments are still subjected to “immanent justice” or “karma”? How could “evil empires” that murdered millions of their own subjects arise and prevail for decades or centuries? Did the Romans destroy the temple and overcome the Jewish zealots because they were more righteous in God’s eyes than the Jewish people He had named His own and who birthed Christ? Was He punishing the Jews, collectively, even though Christ had come to make possible personal salvation for all people of every lineage?
Surely there must be another explanation that fits both the facts of history, ancient and modern, and conforms to what Christian people have had demonstrated in their own lives about the nature and character of the Lord.
Our founders believed that certain truths were self-evident in an examination of the world and its human governments and in “the laws of nature and of nature’s God”. One of those truths was that good government must be strictly limited and empowered by a people acting with moral principles in mind, because power corrupts. Individual governors with too much power would be too much corrupted by it, and an electorate with too much power in the collective would be too much corrupted by it, thus: a Federal Republic.
The first American Revolution drew much of it’s vigor from the preaching and exhortation of Christian Ministers and the service of at least nominally Christian soldiers, sailors, Marines and militia men who believed that the “rights” of the individual were God-given and the “liberties” granted to individuals by those individual’s secular King or other governors should be in accordance with those same “laws of nature and of nature’s God”.
So, after their God-blessed struggle was successful, they attempted to create a new kind of Governance that stuck a practical balance between anarchy (absolute free-will and radical individuality) and totalitarianism (subordination of the individual to the collective or to a ruler claiming to rule on the behalf of the collective and for its benefit).
Since they were attempting to initiate this unprecedented form of government (a Federal Republic) in a society that already had several seriously corrupt elements in it (institutionalized racism and denial of full citizenship to women, among them) their attempt was compromised from the beginning.
If their compromises, as a nascent government, with slavery, sexism and (deliberate or unintentionally) genocidal policies toward Native Americans were viewed collectively by an omnipotent God, why didn’t that result in their immediate failure in a revolutionary fight against tyranny and against all reasonably odds; what are we to conclude? That God was punishing (collectively) England by taking away part of its “new world colony”? If that’s the case why did he let that nation go on to become a (collectively) global power with even more colonies? Colonies, by the way, that didn’t appear to be governed by principles of mercy and grace as taught by Christ.
I believe that the successes of the U.S.A. in material prosperity, in existential conflicts with other nations and powers, in becoming a model (albeit a flawed model) for peoples seeking libertarian governance for their own societies, and in becoming the destination of choice (at least for a time) for people seeking better opportunities to prosper and advance their own disparate agendas ARE, in many cases, due to the blessings and protections of God, but not in the collective.
Again, I do not believe that we collectively “earned” those blessings and protections, or that we as a people are being punished by being deprived of those blessing and protections because the majority of the people no longer adhere to Judeo-Christian standards of morality and conduct; to do so would put me within waving distance of the misguided and demonic cultists of the “Westboro Baptist Church”.
I believe that those blessing and protections are the result of individual citizens doing their jobs in governance and service to their communities (including the job of electing their representatives and governors) with humility and respect and adherence to the “laws of nature and of natures God”, and are also the results of the intercessory prayers of the faithful. Fewer blessings and fewer collective successes are simply the result of fewer people living and working with the Kingdom of God as their first priority (see the sixth chapter of Matthew).
You see, the difference between the old covenant and the new is this:
God no longer says “You shall be my People, and I shall be your God” and permits only the High Priest to enter the presence of God (the Holy of Holies), nor is He satisfied to let the collective sins of the people be laid upon a sacrificial scapegoat to be slaughtered outside the camp (the collective dwelling of the people);
Now, He says “I am become the ultimate scapegoat, and have paid the price for all your individual failures, inadequacies and sin; I have rent the veil of the Holy of Holies and came forth into this world to offer a personal relationship with you as my friend.” (John 15:15) “and will send my spirit to abide in you and with you; only believe and accept, and confess my Name and Gospel before men.”
There is no longer a collective salvation or collective punishment – we stand or fail as individuals, and our society and nation will be successful or a failure in all the important aspects of life in accordance with the sum of our individual efforts and the degree of our individual devotion to right principles (the laws of nature and of nature’s God) in our relationships with the people around us.
Let us then resolve to “get our house in order” by developing our personal relationship with God, and then using that relationship with Him to guide us in all or affairs -- in changing our homes, our communities and our nation for the better. There really is no other way.