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6.27.2005    |    "God Bless America!"
This morning on my walkabout, I noticed what has become a fairly common adornment to cars and trucks -- a front license plate or rear sticker that proudly proclaims, "God Bless America!" Sometimes with no less than three exclamation marks. Those who display such, I am certain, mean no harm nor disrespect to God -- though such a declaration could interpreted as us commanding God as to how He should dispense with His blessings.

I was taught, by some fairly humble people, that it was never wise to issue commands to He Who Is. You never could tell; sometimes He's not really open to being told what to do by one of His creations. Best to be subtle, engage the Lord in conversation, and let slip, very softly, what it is you'd like for Him to do.

Word is, at least in the Word, the He is mighty patient with us. Lord knows He's told us enough through His prophets what He expects. And, more importantly, what it takes to withhold His blessings. Consider but one example, from the prophet Ezekiel (chapter 14):
6"Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. 7For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the LORD will answer him myself. 8And I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the LORD.
Getting back now to that "God Bless America!" business. I presume, in charity, that what is meant by some who display this is "May America be deserving of God's blessings." To which I say, Amen. I suspect, however, that most who display the sentiment "God Bless America!" are convinced that America, qua America, must be blessed by God; is in fact so blessed, and nothing more need be said. Or done.

It is hard not to believe that America has been blessed, especially if you've seen something of how the rest of the world lives. Blessed, at the least, with material abundance the likes of which have been unknown throughout recorded history. As those who study the history of religion in America must know, many Puritans considered America to be the new Israel, and thus was born, in the 17th century, the notion of Americans as the new chosen people of God. It is not much of a stretch, and in fact is eerily consistent with the exemplary passage from Ezekiel cited above to think how far we have strayed from what is required of a people chosen by God. Chosen, not to receive rewards in this life, but to carry the torch of the One True God to the rest of mankind. If we are rewarded for being faithful, that is hardly a bad thing. But it is neither the only thing, nor even the principal thing. It is the result of bearing true witness to God; not the other way around.

Right after the heinous attacks on 9-11, Jerry Falwell (in)famously partly blamed Americans themselves, saying that God might have allowed the attacks because of our moral decay; that we should repent before God and seek His protection. Pat Robertson agreed; both were roundly condemned by virtually everybody.

Yet, is it not possible that Americans, having been blessed with so much, have lost sight of the fact that we all need to renew our blessings with God, day in, day out. That if we are, truly, a people chosen by God, we weren't chosen to enjoy triple lattes and watch American Idol. And it follows, as surely as night follows day, that if we continue to wallow in the debased, foul stew that is our "culture", sooner or later we will cease to be a people chosen by God. Should you have any doubts as to what happens when a people who had been chosen stray, I refer you to my brother Ezekiel, and my brother Amos, and my brother Isaiah, and I think you get the point.

God bless America, if and only if America glorifies God.

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.