Although the election of a new President for this great country is just over a year away, the pushing, shoving, and promoting of candidates is well under way. This fall we will see a number of political debates from candidates in both parties. While few of us find pleasure in the give and take of politics, it is a time of testing to find the ones who will become the candidates from which we select our leader.
My real concern in writing this article is that the Christian community does not get confused nor used in the process. Christians must be careful not to presume that somehow the deep problems of our land will go away if we support the right party and elect the right person. What’s wrong with America is bigger than any one person can fix. Some years ago President Dwight Eisenhower spoke to this concern. “Never let yourself be persuaded that any one great man or leader is necessary to the salvation of America…It is the most dangerous kind of corporate self-delusion to think that a President, regardless of how much he heeds God, can reverse the bent of the national will, once it is set in a certain direction.”
Quickly let me reassure you that the intent of quoting the former President is not to minimize the importance of electing the most qualified, dedicated leader possible. Neither is it intended to minimize our responsibility to be good citizens, to vote our convictions or to become involved in the political and governing process.
However, the responsibility for the future of this great land is not in elected officials first. Rather, it lies more directly upon each of us through a personal relationship with our Savior and Lord. This is not a covert way to force religion into politics. Let’s just pay attention to what the Bible says. Note again the well quoted verse from II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” The hope for the United States of America lies not first and foremost in elections of Presidents or members of Congress or appointments to the Supreme Court. As much as these are important and that they do have the ability to make decisions which affect all of us and our destiny, they are not the answer.
It’s time we took an honest look at the situation we are in. Some of us can remember when the name America stood for a unique nation of strength and virtue. “Whether it was because of our national pride, gratitude or hope, the response of the majority of people on earth was deeply positive toward this land. America’s moral and fiscal currency was the soundest on earth. We were supremely confident that we were indeed making the world a better place to live in. We believed that technologically and diplomatically, it was only a matter of time before this assignment would be satisfactorily completed.” Perhaps these ideals were beyond our reach, but the important matter to note is that we believed in what our country stood for. We were dedicated to a task greater than ourselves.
And then, it seems with both suddenness and subtlety, that precious balance of pride and progress was compromised by selfishness and separation from the things which have made this country so revered among the nations. The climb to greatness turned into a downhill roller coaster without brakes. Sadly, those who will reach their mid-life in the next few years haven’t known anything different than what they see. Unfortunately they do not learn our true history in most public school and university settings.
Consider just a few of the radical changes which seem to be accepted fare. Our military ventures are not filled with clear purpose or resolve. The loss of respect for authority is rampant. Who would have ever thought the very forces which put their lives on the line every day would become the object of ridicule in many of our cities? Emerging nations for whom we have given so much in aid make fun of us. “Our foreign policy has become more one of reaction rather than action.”
On the home front, our economy has become more frequently erratic. “Our children’s mathematics and English aptitudes are plummeting.” Home schools and other forms of education are flourishing because of the decline in the quality of much of public education. There is the loss of moral soundness pervasive in music and on all the various screens which grab our attention from computers to movie theatres. America has become tolerant of abortion and pornography. Parents have abdicated their traditional and essential roles as models for their children as well as protectors of their future. The general indifference by the great majority of our nation is the greatest indicator that we are in trouble. We elect leaders but few even acknowledge the problems or do anything to correct them.
It is for that reason I suggest to you that our greatest concern is not who will be elected the next President or to any office. We have to look closer to home. We have to look to our communities, to our Christian friends and to our churches. Most of all, we have to look inside ourselves. Are we willing to pay the price to have a different nation? Have we taken to heart the words of II Chronicles 7:14? Have we read the first phrase? It begins with the words, “If my people….” The Lord does not promise healing until something happens within His people.
It is time we quit looking for someone to blame. What’s wrong with America is not the fault of Democrats or Republicans. It really isn’t the fault of a drug culture, movie producers, bad laws or rebellious inner cities impoverished and stymied in their conditions by politics. As bad as these are for us to deal with, the fault, in my opinion, is with those of us who should have known and heeded. We have passed the buck and then looked for someone to blame.
The dream of America and for America which many of us have inherited was not about wealth and pleasure. It was about a land which was like no other in this millennium. Our forefathers who shaped the direction of this land saw something bigger and better than their own welfare and needs. The various people who came together to bring about this great nation, from Christopher Columbus, to the Pilgrims, to the Puritans, and to our Founding Fathers, did so because they believed God had a special calling for this nation and her people. “They believed they were led here to found a nation where men, women and children were to live in obedience to God.” It was this firm belief that led to the phrase we still repeat in our pledge to the flag of the United States of America, “One nation under God.” You might note that the phrase has no comma in it. Our founders believed this nation could become a light to the world, a shining city set on a hill, not to dominate, but to elevate, not to burden but to bless. Even the famous slogan of the Marine Corps, “We are looking for a few good men,” came from the experience of Gideon in the Bible.
Frankly, I believe the reason America is in trouble today on almost every front is that we have forgotten this and are not teaching it to those who come after us. We are throwing away our Christian heritage. Before going further, please be aware that my purpose is not to discriminate or to imply that we should force Christianity on anyone. The freedoms we so enjoy grew out of Christian principles. There is no other country on earth which began with such lofty goals for its people. We cannot read our history and fail to see that the intent for America was to be a Christian nation. That fact does not demean nor denigrate those who choose not to believe in God or not to accept Christianity. Freedom of worship and freedom to worship or not are basic Christian principles. In trying to be so politically correct and to reject religion from the public forum, we have lost our way as our nation. Without that underpinning, the nation will continue to crumble.
Is there any hope? A ship is hopelessly lost at sea without a compass and so is a nation. The compass for America was to provide a place where people could freely practice their faith. Our hope is in Jesus Christ. Out of the national dilemma there are movements of God full of promise and encouragement. But let us not kid ourselves. Following Christ has never been a matter of ease or slight changes. The Christian community needs repentance for the neglect of our faith. Christians can’t live with feet in both worlds and fulfill the calling of Christ. Christ said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” When we get the vertical relationship right, we can begin to work on getting the horizontal relationship right. When national interests are ahead of personal selfishness and Christians begin to be connected with other Christians instead of competing in divisive ways, God can begin to heal our land. The answer is not more well financed political parties or slicker candidates. We have tried all that. “But the cost of turning from our independent ways, of being willing to hear God speak, of coming into the light by exposing the sins of attitude or thought, of humbling ourselves by admitting where we were wrong is all too often more of a cost than many of us are willing to pay.” It’s time for Christians to get on their knees and follow the leadership of God if there is hope for future generations to know and experience the America our founders intended.