A Believer's Cry for America
But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ Jeremiah 7:23 (ESV)
I sometimes hear believers proclaim that America has a special place in God's heart, that we are different and more favored than other nations. I wonder how that makes them feel, and I wonder where the notion comes from.
I don’t find anything in the Bible that requires connecting our government to a specific relationship with God. Somewhat the opposite, actually. I find the Lord saying give unto Caesar what is Caesars (Rom 13:7). That indicates a separation between earthly government and heavenly government, a principle that is confirmed by Peter (1 Pet 2:13-17). Ideally, man’s government and Heaven’s government will be closely aligned, but that is our responsibility as citizens. As citizens of a democracy, we have the government we choose. I think God often says, “They have the government they deserve,” because it is the government of our own choice.
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As I look at history, I see religious movements at various times in various nations, but I seldom see structural alignment between those and God’s will for a nation. There are moments in time where there is a parallelism, but a true connection between God’s will and way and the way of man's government is beyond rare. Add to that my admittedly small bit of knowledge of our own American history, and I don’t see or agree that we are a nation founded by God with special favor regardless of our beliefs and actions. I believe that we are a nation founded by people, many of whom, but not all, were searching for religious freedom. Further, those who were searching for religious freedom often did not agree with others who came here for the very same purpose. We see in early America a near war like state between what we call denominations, and we see some colonies where there was very little of a religious nature. (Note: For an excellent scholarly history of colonial America and its faith, see John G. Turner's They Knew They Were Pilgrims).
I refer those who believe that America was founded primarily on the basis of God's special favor to this excellent review of the Founders, who they were, and what they believed. These giants, whom we rightly honor and celebrate, were men but not perfect men. They included rationalists heavily influenced by the Enlightenment, Freemasons, and Deists, among other elements. Like many today, their Christianity was a conflation of traditional Christian belief and the intellectual and cultural energies of their time. One of them, Thomas Paine, denied “that the Almighty ever did communicate anything to man, by…speech,…language, or…vision.”
If America is a chosen nation or a "new Israel" as some project, then we must accept the witness of Israel's history as being informative to our own.
Israel was indeed founded by God for the purpose of being his chosen people, those he would love and favor above all others. Yet, his favor was dependent upon their obedience and the condition of their hearts. When they obeyed, honored, and worshipped God, he favored them beyond measure. When they turned to worship other gods and idols, rejected his law, and engaged in shameful immoralities, he responded. It wasn't with favor. I see nothing to suggest that any nation should be any different, including America.
Our future is on our shoulders. What our shoulders carry is in our hearts.
Today, what is in our hearts is largely apostate. God will allow that, it is called Freedom of Will, but he won’t like it and we will suffer the consequences. I come back to the fact that we have the government we deserve as a nation, even as much as many of us abhor what its current version stands for and does.
I was raised in a conservative Christian home that loved America and taught its many failures alongside its many successes. The next generations were expected to continue the good work of bringing America closer to God's heart and way. Many have and still do, but our nation as a whole is so far removed from that time as to not be recognizable. My love and heart belong to God first and foremost. I hope America wakes up and turns back into his heart, but if it doesn’t, I fear I can predict the outcome. It will not be God’s fault.
God sacrificed his only son, Jesus, to provide a way for each of us to be secure in his love and provision despite our own sin. I believe that this favor aggregates up to a national level when a people unite to follow God's heart. Yet, as a people and a nation, we reject the person and purpose of the sacrifice. So, I must ask: Just how much favor do we think we deserve?
Yahweh is a gracious God. He does not force anything on us. He lets us have exactly what we deserve but is unlimited in His mercy, grace, forgiveness, and provision when we confess and repent with broken and contrite hearts. When we don’t, he is a God of judgment and justice.
So, there you have it, my pragmatic thoughts on the matter. It is not in God's nature to shower us with favor when we reject, despise, and mock him at every turn. It is up to us to honor him, love him, and order our lives as He desires.
Only one thing will change our course direction and that is for the hearts of men to turn back into God. There is no other way. The decision is ours.