Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Can a Nation Repent?

"The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance."- Psalm 33:10-12

The psalmist was clearly referring to Israel as the "nation whose God is the Lord", and those "nations" and "peoples" who are brought to "nothing" and "of no effect" as those who stood in opposition to Israel. The prayer and sentiment expressed in the psalm, however, has been brought forward and used in reference to the "beacon of hope" that is the United States. It is the evangelical Christian's raised banner in expressions of hope for this nation and all she stands for - or once stood for. Yet this nation's "Christian heritage" is questionable as a matter of history not because of the many Christians who did come to the "new world" in search of religious liberty and mission opportunities nor the many Christians who were major players in this nation's founding and heritage; but because this nation's founding document is unspecific toward a particular deity beyond "nature's God" or humanity's "Creator", and this nation's legal foundation and document is completely bereft of a specific religion, faith, or deity. None of this is to suggest there is no foundation for "Christian heritage". Rather, it is to suggest that the Jeffersonian concept of the separation of Church and state either went too far or not far enough.

Patrick Henry is quoted as having said: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."

The people of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka KS continue to insist that "for this very reason" (diversity, I mean) the nation that is America is doomed unless we repent. Speaking strictly for myself, there is hardly a day which passes that I am not reminded of my desperate need to continue the work of "sanctification", that spiritual process by which I am enabled to grow a little more faithful each day and strengthened to put aside the things that separate me from the Lord much in the way we raise our own children a little at a time. It is utterly unfair to ignore our children during their formative years and then suddenly expect them to know or understanding anything. When it comes to genuine wisdom there is no such thing as "common sense", much as we would like to believe our individual beliefs should be shared by all.

The question is asked, then: can a nation repent? And how would one define the nation? Is it the people that make a nation? Is it the government "of the people" that constitutes a nation? In comparing Israel and the psalmist's prayer to today's practical applicability, can such a diversified United States be fairly compared to Israel; or would a more appropriate application be made toward the Church, especially in defining "the people He has chosen"?

Given the current state of this nation, its government (and the Church, for that matter), and the direction in which we seem to be headed, the need for repentance (that is, a change of direction and heart) is absolute. Christians would not disagree with this general premise, but Christians will obviously disagree (as we do already) on what new direction will serve humanity best. Clearly there are the liberal Christians who seem to suggest that if it feels good, go ahead and do it. Just be sure to "love" someone along the way (tongue firmly in cheek). Those of a more conservative bent would just as generally require a return to the Lord and the Bible; just be sure to "hate a sin" along the way (forked tongue firmly in both cheeks). The one thing I believe conservative and liberal Christians can agree upon, however, is that the folks of Westboro are just plain wrong to picket funerals. We might also agree there is no more effective means to get the most attention than this even as the means is highly questionable, and especially if it is the Gospel of the Lord one claims to profess! There was a time when the Gospel meant "Good News".

So to repent as in changing direction, would we call the nation to run toward the Gospel or away from the Judgment? What is the determining factor, and how does a "nation" go about it? How do we all get on the same bus and go in the same direction with a common sense of purpose? The greater question, however, is toward deciding whether the Bible in any form or fashion is speaking to the extremely diversified nation of America or the Church to which Americans are called. One thing is clear; the human race itself cannot survive the current course.

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