Although some people believe America will surely last forever as blessed of all nations, this is not the stuff of sober thought. Many people are concerned for this nation, as well they should be. I have been one of those people and I had eighty percent of this writing done before the infamous September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. I delayed the completion of it until I was certain I was in the right frame of mind and spirit to finish it.
The magnitude of the terrorist attacks had everyone thinking about the survival of our nation and our way of life. Indeed, the length of time the American civilization has endured has already defied most odds. The average age of the world's civilizations has been 200 years. On July 4, 2001, America was 225 years old.
Historians have noted that societies and empires tend to progress through the following sequence as they rise into prominence and success and then fade into obscurity or sudden demise:
from bondage to spiritual faith
from spiritual faith to great courage
from courage to liberty
from liberty to abundance
from abundance to selfishness
from selfishness to complacency
from complacency to apathy
from apathy to dependence
from dependence back again to bondage
Just about anyone can tell you that we as a nation have been in the selfishness stage, have been grappling with apathy and complacency, and have been teetering on dependence. As an example of selfishness combined with expected dependence, many Americans have engaged in frivolous lawsuits of little or no merit. What is the underlying belief behind such lawsuits, except the insane proposition that no tragedy or event is beyond finding someone else to blame for it, and that these unfortunates must then be forced to pay for the event in question? Today, even jailed criminals engage in litigation, in hopes of being compensated for the effects of their own actions! As Americans taking less and less personal responsibility for their lives, they have lost the courage to own up to anything or suffer anything.
As for complacency, most Americans don’t even bother to vote, and when they are rallied to the polls, it is too often over whether they will get some perceived, deserved help from the Federal Government with their personal lives or finances. For the last good many elections, if the economy is good then no one cares, and anything goes. If the economy is bad, then the President is blamed and voted out. Certainly a President or Congress makes decisions that affect our state of the union, but these decisions usually have more long-term effect than short term. Unfortunately, a people who are interested in instant gratification, are too often fooled into judging an official only by those decisions that create instant effects, rather than considering the decisions that have will be most felt years from now. Is it any wonder then that we have "pork barrel" politics? Is it any wonder then, that so many of today's elected officials do not make a move without the latest poll results in their hands?
These excessively polled masses may not always know what is in the best interest of a country. In fact, although this may insult our own sense of an 'evolved' civilization, any government that runs by democracy alone ends up being run by the lowest common denominator of the peoples. The corrupt rich can buy votes, and the weak-minded can be rallied around the empty slogans and promises of the charismatic leader. Since our founding fathers wanted to hold these possibilities in check, they conceived of a government that was both part Republic and part Democracy. Anyone can be voted out by free election, by a consensus of the people. This guards the people from being ruled by the elite and powerful few. Yet, elected officials have reasonable autonomous powers of their own, so that they may make the hard decisions without excessive fear of the ignorant or uninformed masses.
A Democracy that demands "bread and circuses" is what Rome had during its time of debauchery, and a society of personal irresponsibility and instant gratification has brought us to that place. Our people are too easily convinced that the Almighty Government should rescue them from their personal woes into the security of "cradle to grave" dependency, without considering the fact that such a wish easily leads into a bondage we might not be so happy for later. And why shouldn’t they expect services on the dollar, anyhow? Higher and higher taxes make us feel entitled to them. This is exactly what the very popular book "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," by British historian Edward Gibbon also predicted for a declining civilization.
Mirroring the secular situation, we have our paid professional staff of church leaders whom we expect to "bread and circus" us in our churches. We refuse personal spiritual responsibility ourselves inasmuch as we expect one man or woman to be our Pastor or Prophet in the stead of Jesus, who is the one who is mystically called "my servant David" (Ezek. 34:23). These supplanters fall into pride because they are there as the selective elite, refuse responsibility for their grievous sins, and then likewise look the other way when it comes to their buddies and supporters.
No wonder we have had such national moral and spiritual declines! When our secular decays so closely match the decays inside church fellowships, then there is not the spiritual fervor necessary for reviving and redirecting the lives of people in a very real way (I am not speaking of empty religious activity, which we have plenty of, but spiritual fervor).
CRISES AND APATHY
I have noticed that people who are in unhealthy relationships with substances (drugs and alcohol), objects (pornography or other activities, or even victims whom they think of as objects) or people (users and abusers), use these various props to 'medicate,' rescue, or insulate themselves from real life in some way. This includes the religious, who find themselves substituting empty religious activities or traditions for the Real Life of Christ and Christianity, or who find themselves turning over their decisions to an abusive false shepherd or prophet, rather than discovering their own personal walk in Christ's discipleship alone. Most of these people have been tricked into these unhealthy and tragic life circumstances, and some of them have been forced. Regardless, a person can become apathetic about their situation in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. These would include trying to place blame in a process of unproductive condemnation, excusing themselves from all personal responsibility, and inwardly preferring their personal medication or insulation over the risk of dealing with what they have been avoiding, or to the risk of just plain feeling.
Earlier, I said that God can sometimes be found reaching into a cesspool. He could reach His hand deep down in there and touch us with a powerful supernatural grace, releasing us immediately from the choking grip, and even lifting us out. Then of course, it is up to us whether we rejoice for His grace or whether we foolishly despise it by jumping back into our trap. He could simply touch His finger into the top of the cesspool, stirring up the stench and chunks so much that we are disgusted and take our own action to get away. He might call us out from a further distance, more impersonally expecting us to pray and call out to Him before He will reach down at all. He could be even more "distant" than that, waiting for us to take some greater effort or sacrifice on our own to seek Him and His wisdom. He could even hide Himself from us, judging us and consigning us for a time, or for forever, to whatever we have chosen! All of these stances of God can be found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament -- through Jesus as example in the New Testament.
God is not controlled by us and we must, like it or not, accept how He conducts Himself toward each one of us, personally or corporately. Sometimes He acts spontaneously by no merit or action of our own, and sometimes He will be, or at least appear to be, very passive. Often times, people get mad at Him because they wish an explanation they are not going to get this side of heaven, or sometimes because they react because they are in too much pain and fear to bear. They sit and fume like Jonah after the city of Nineveh repented, or they find a cave like Elijah after Jezebel's threats. This is between they and God, but as for us, the important thing is how we respond to crises no matter who it comes upon. All of us are on a "need to know" basis when it comes to God's hidden will or purposes, and we do not have to know everything before we know what our appropriate response is. Knowing everything is not possible for us anyhow, since our comprehension abilities are not exactly God-sized.
In our nation's history, crisis events have served to jar us out of our complacency. As far as I am concerned (and I believe it can be supported by how God treated Israel as a person, though she was corporal), this is not much different than how such events can be viewed by the individual. Indeed, interrupting a natural slide of wealth and security into apathy, sin, and destruction, was one of the reasons Elihu, the only wise friend of Job, gave to Job for God's purpose in his suffering (Job 36:15-20). Similarly, it could be the grace of tribulation that has kept our nation from its end. It may be painful, but we are still here after 225 years, and this did not have to be.
For instance, in World War I, many American sons, husbands, and fathers had either been maimed, killed, or psychologically impaired by the terror of high losses in the trenches. This had not been a romantic war by any means, and the American people took a corporate vow of sorts to avoid such pain again. From all walks of life and from all political persuasions, they put enormous pressure on President Franklin D. Roosevelt to keep out of any war in Europe. Knowing he could not get elected without the consent of the people, FDR did not exactly disagree with his voters. Privately though, he was secretly vexed as he watched Hitler rise upon the scene with military success after military success.
As Europe was being overrun, pillaged, starved to death, and marched off into concentration camps, and as Britain was being bombed, the American public still persisted in this political mindset known as isolationism. Winston Churchill begged FDR to intervene before Britain went down in flames, and FDR was perceptive enough regarding Hitler's lust for power that he did not anticipate he would stop with the destruction of Britain (in fact, Hitler had long ago devised his strategy for defeating America). Finally, they had a secret meeting in the Atlantic Ocean on the British battleship, "The Prince Of Wales". There, he met and talked with Winston Churchill for 4 days. In the end FDR conspired with Churchill to secretly support the British cause in the Atlantic, and if that provoked a war with Germany, then all the better.
After one skirmish involving a Nazi U-Boat in the Atlantic, Roosevelt made a cagey announcement and then told a friend, "I am perfectly willing to mislead and tell untruths if it will help win the war." But although Roosevelt expected the war with Germany to start in the Atlantic, the Pearl Harbor incident of Dec. 7, 1941 changed all of that. Some theorize that he knew of this incident before it was coming and purposely allowed it to happen, but White House servants and others who were beside Roosevelt as he heard the news, observed him to be very shocked, appalled, and even physically shaking for days afterwards. In any case, four days after Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on America and that settled the matter, once and for all. America was in a war despite herself.
I am convinced that America did not know how close her peril was at the hands of Hitler. Indeed, early on, America nearly lost the war on the Atlantic side along our own coastline, due to the stunning and well-documented complacency of a certain Admiral King-- a man who had complete and undisputed reign over Naval Operations, and who had barely redeemed himself and the war effort after being called in for a rebuke by President Roosevelt. It is not an exaggeration to say that if the Pearl Harbor attack had been a little more successful, all factors could have had us in concentration camps ourselves by the end of 1942. Hitler was a brilliant strategist and opportunistic, and we had left ourselves wide-open for far too long. Such is the danger of complacency and the strange grace a crisis might bring to us, saving us from that final deathblow apathy would lead us into. Our reeling individual pain aside, all things might add up to a design we may never fathom.
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