We’re in the midst of societal disintegration. The America we’ve known up to now is passing away. It won’t be restored. Not that it deserves to be. Much of what made up that old America has been passing away for decades or generations. The foundations of our republic were hauled away long ago. The contractors assured us that the walls and roof could stand on their own. But they can not.
Our institutional integrity is gone. That outward appearance of respectability will soon be quite gone. And why? Because our institutions have been corrupted and re-corrupted for so long that we don’t know what any of them are supposed to be doing anymore. Many of the people who are hands on with the latest outrages don’t even have a clear idea of what trust they’re violating. Something, maybe, but its gotten awfully fuzzy by this point.
Case in point would be the impeachment of Trump. I’m sure many congressmen who voted for impeachment convinced themselves it was the right thing to do. And why not? Trump used the office of the presidency to harm the electoral prospects of the man who would eventually challenge him for the presidency. Fair enough. The only problem is that man, Joe Biden, left himself open to that by being super-corrupt.
Well, maybe I shouldn’t say super-corrupt. Maybe he was just normal-corrupt. The kind of corrupt that is expected in D.C. these days. He was just starting to really rake in the cash by virtue of approaching the pinnacle of a rather successful career in everyday political corruption. The kind of corruption that Trump once bragged about knowing how to manipulate to his own benefit.
Did you forget about that? On live TV Trump explained that Hillary Clinton attended his wedding because he paid her to attend. He explained that he knows how to navigate in the sort of corruption that gets things done in modern America. Trump versus Biden. These are not the sort of men who keep their hands clean.
So, impeach Trump? Sure. Impeach him for attacking Syria without a declaration of war. Or impeach him for abusing an emergency declaration to redirect funds to build a border wall. Now we can impeach him for inciting a riot, even though he likely got more riot than he was aiming for.
When we’re done we can impeach every governor in the country for their shameful abuse of emergency powers in the face of a non-emergency pandemic. Then we can recall every congressmen and senator who voted for the National Defense Authorization Act and the omnibus spending bill. Then we can remove the Supreme Court Justices who perverted their office to give us Obamacare.
There is plenty of disgrace to go around. And this only scratches the surface. American government is as lawless as the Roe v Wade decision, by which America became the safeguard of murder. And the American people are pretty good with all that.
When we look at any slice of American life, it’s easy to get up on our high horse about how outrageous it is. And it’s true, it’s outrageous- or it would be, if America deserved any better.
America is about a pornographic pop culture. America is about despising your kids. America is about dishonoring your father and mother. America is about capitalism, and crapitalism and government handouts. America is about never looking too closely at the contradictions and incoherence that passes for law, just as we don’t look too closely at the contradictions in our family life, or our churches.
We’re at war with tradition, decency and biology. Our virtues are treating our daughters as if they are sons, and telling our sons to be more like our daughters. Our greatest virtue is oppressing everyone equally. Our guiding principle is pretending not to know the difference. We call these equality and viewpoint neutrality.
Heaven’s hot displeasure
So here we are in the middle of a country that’s coming down around our ears and the main thing you need to know is that there aren’t any good guys. America is suffering under God’s displeasure and the only thing we should expect is that it will get worse. God is punishing us for our sins and not for someone else’s.
Donald Trump is America, minus her grotesque veneer of respectability. He is less gross than the very soul of this nation. All of his sins are our sins. He’s just somewhat less talented as a hypocrite.
It’s embarrassing to think that I found Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” anything but farcical. Trump could never make America great again. He doesn’t have what it takes to make anything great. He doesn’t have the virtue.
To be fair to myself, I never thought he would personally make it great again. I thought he might possibly make room for us to make it great again, eventually. “Us” referring to the American Christian right. But even that is nonsense. We don’t have what it takes because what it chiefly requires is submission to God.
If America is ever to be restored, it will only come by way of God humiliating us and breaking us of our stubborn rebellion against him. If we don’t drop on our faces in groveling awe at the grace and mercy and longsuffering patience he has shown to such miserable sinners as we are, we shall go the way of all flesh.
Wednesday’s riot at the captial was pretty damned embarrassing. So that, at least, is hopeful. God is doing his part by embarrassing us. The next thing is to see whether we are duly shamed or whether we have too little sense left to turn red in the face. If we all continue to focus on the little slice of outrage that we love to hate instead of looking at ourselves and asking what in the world we think we’re doing, we’re going to harden our hearts.
Pray to your gods
In the face of an embarrassing national failure, as we have just seen, we reach down towards what we believe is most fundamental. Something went wrong and we have to reassess. We failed because something we believed is wrong. Something we trusted is not trustworthy. And so we go down to bedrock. What has always held up? What always works?
Assuming we feel the shame, after that comes the question of who will deliver us. The American left, including progressive so-called Christians are ready to supply us with answers that aren’t “the power of God in the person of Jesus Christ.” Perhaps respectable authority will save us. Or science. Or diversity and inclusion. Perhaps democracy. Perhaps the unfailing upward progress of human morality in the absence of God.
But seriously, our respectable men are anything but respectable. Our institutions will save nothing. Don’t take that bait.
Then again, the American right, including patriotic evangelicals, are just as bad. America will save herself, by being true to herself. Freedom! Morality! Free markets and family values and apple pie. After all, America has been so good to God for all these years, I just know he’ll save her after we get rid of the Democrats.
I hope you see that there isn’t a “real America” which is good. Any goodness he have or ever had is a gift of God’s grace, not any virtue of our own. We are not good people. We’re not good, people!
Every form of trusting ourselves, our virtues, our institutions is madness. Those who insist on doubling down on democracy or freedom or whatever are merely demonstrating their irrational pseudo religious commitments. These commitments are offensive to God. He is the only ultimate hope. Anything which he does not stand behind will fall.
Two ends of punishment
When God punishes a nation, as he is punishing us, it effects people in two different ways. One group of people are disciplined and improved by it, the other group is merely destroyed. Either way there is an object lesson to be learned, but some people never learn, they only get to demonstrate the lesson.
The difference between the two groups is not so much what punishment they receive, but how they respond. The difference is that between goats and sheep, or tares and wheat. The groups are superficially similar, but with distinctly different natures.
Those who love God and are called according to his purpose are disciplined by God. It can be very painful. But when such people suffer under God’s displeasure they can take comfort that God has not intended their destruction. When they receive this chastening, they respond eventually with contrition. They take the lesson, acknowledge their failing, and come to a fuller loyalty to and reliance upon God.
Others harden themselves, doubling down on sin and folly, withdrawing into resentment and bitterness. In various ways, they insist that the universe is ruled unjustly. God has wronged them, and they will take matters into their own hands.
Christians must suffer patiently, as 1st Peter tells us. When we suffer for some fault we must take it patiently, of course. But even when we suffer through some injustice, we must take it patiently. Let’s talk about that patience.
Our patience is born out of faith. We trust that God is superintending everything. When we reach the gates of glory we will look back and see that God has worked everything out for our good. Now, this is impossible, because life does not spring from death, nor good from evil, but God raises the dead and through resurrection restores all things, raising them to greater glory than nature ever could. So with the knowledge of God’s immediate presence and active oversight, with the confidence that he can and will bring good from all things, we are patient.
Our faith is undisturbed by calamity, violence or deprivation. We rest. His hands hold the universe. His pen writes the stories of redemption. The darkest hour sets up the most glorious reversal. And all that glory is Christ’s. We share in his story. It is his redeeming greatness that makes sense of our darkest chapters.
Christian patience in the face of injustice is this: a contented, faith-filled refusal to do evil. There are times when we can act to prevent or correct injustice, but there are times when we can not. Patience doesn’t always require passivity. But sometimes we are left with no righteous recourse. It is in those times that our patience, our faith, is most tested. If God is true, we can endure.
On getting away with it
There are times when we have no righteous recourse. Some murders go unsolved. Some crimes go unpunished. Even when the evidence is highly suggestive, we, as human beings can not act unless a thing is proven. In our legal tradition the phrase is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That principle is the recognition that in some cases, based on available evidence it is reasonable to think the accused is guilty and yet conclude there is insufficient evidence to convict.
This is where we are with regard to the possibility of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election. It is reasonable to think it happened. In fact, we know beyond a doubt that there was fraud. The only thing disputed is the extent of it. We also know that states around the country conducted their elections contrary to their own laws, and therefore contrary to the US Constitution. And the courts shrugged. Welcome to America in the 21st century.
This is exactly the kind of situation where you and I have to accept that it is not in our power to provide satisfaction for these wrongs. In the American system private citizens do not wield power directly. Consider that an element of the separation of powers. The only place that executive, legislative and judicial authority come together is in the people themselves, and they are held at a distance from that power, forced to operate through representatives. Direct action is not permitted. This is intended to prevent the mob from acting as a tyrant. Chew on that for awhile.
Furthermore, I am forced to admit that it is reasonable to doubt whether Trump would have won if everything was above board. It’s entirely possible that even the guilty don’t know what the true result would have been. In the absence of conclusive evidence presented and scrutinized with the diligence such a thing demands, (a scrutiny which I am in no position to provide,) I must accept the apparent result of the election. I don’t trust it, but I have to live with it, just as I might be forced to release a man I believe to be a murderer if I can’t prove it.
What does this leave for us? The elements of the Christian life are beyond the reach of political corruption, for ye serve the lord Christ. What we have left is confession of sin, submission to a holy God, faith in his providence, hope for his vengeance.
We must abandon hope in what God has shown to be untrustworthy, namely, America, her institutions, political movements and leaders. We must acknowledge also that God has embarrassed evangelical Christians. We have prophesied falsely. We have trusted in vain. Let us no longer say “peace, peace.” Judgment begins at the household of God.
God is not pleased to deliver this nation through the Trump presidency, or the conservative movement. He is not speedily answering our prayers. Let us humble ourselves before him and acknowledge we got too big for our britches.
As for the nation, we mourn. She is troubled, confounded. God has removed his hand of blessing. Our shame is evident to the world. It is high time we mourned, not as a strategy, but because it’s the only right response to the sinful disaster that our common life has become.
We must busy ourselves with the work God has assigned each of us, first in our personal lives, next in our families, businesses and churches. Seek radical obedience. Fill everything with thanksgiving. Cast down the idols near at hand.