God Bless America?

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, and in the midst of ongoing anthrax scares, God has suddenly become popular again. His name is invoked on billboards and bumper stickers these days. And a prayer, of all things, has become our national theme song. This prayer, sung now at every baseball game in lieu of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, invokes God’s blessing on America, imploring Him to “stand beside her and guide her”. Interesting, isn’t it, how a time of tragedy gives us pause to consider things deeper than Gary Condit’s affairs, Letterman’s monologues or Kordell Stewart’s shortcomings as a quarterback!

But familiarity, they say, breeds contempt, and it strikes me that we are again engaged in what is for Americans a common failing: we are becoming guilty, I’m afraid, of voicing patriotic platitudes without considering their deeper import. And I believe that the song “God Bless America” is an excellent case in point. To be sure, it is a deeply moving song, one which causes those patriotic impulses to stir within my breast. But I wonder if we as Americans sing that song without thinking through the ramifications of what we are calling upon the Almighty to do! And is it possible that we sing it more out of sheer love for country than out of any desire to really seek the blessing of God on our country, at least when we understand at what price that blessing might come?

We are right to be outraged at the gutless tactics taken by terrorists. While they might believe in their warped hearts that they are justified in slaughtering innocents in their war against the American infidels, they certainly are not. Theirs is, as well, a twisted understanding of what this country is all about. While we certainly have our many faults, war-mongering is generally not one of them; all over the globe our nation has been engaged in pursuing peace between warring factions, in liberating the oppressed, in feeding the starving and clothing the naked. As you’ve likely heard, we lead the world in dollars sent to relief work in Afghanistan; this was true prior to September 11, and even now, as we engage in military action against the illegitimate Taliban government, we send relief help to displaced people.

At the same time, is there nothing in their message of which we ought to take note? They view us as infidels in part because most of us do not embrace their Muslim faith, but also because we lead the world in exporting filth to other countries. Hollywood is, by any reasonable standard, a modern cesspool. As many as one in two marriages, depending on how the statistics are understood, end in divorce. Marriage itself is viewed as unnecessary by millions today. I was watching a news program recently wherein the newscaster announced the birth of Jaden Gil Agassi to tennis stars Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, who had been married four days prior to the blessed event. In her voice was, of course, no sense that this was not the normal sequence of events; this is to be taken in stride in enlightened America—why have any shame anymore over something as trivial as illegitimacy? And yet the rate of illegitimacy is a national disgrace.

We still take the lives of over a million unborn children each year. We pursue materialistic excess as the normal, unquestioned ideal. We entertain ourselves to death in a myriad of ways while our relationships weaken. We have grown progressively more coarse in our speech, more vile in our imaginations, and more brazenly unconcerned about our sorry lifestyles. We have become terminally tolerant of every imaginable vice, it seems, and while we profess belief in God in overwhelming numbers, we take Him much less seriously than ever before, it would seem. The litany of our national sins could go on and on.

And so it comes back to us. We pray that God would bless America, but given the fact that the Scripture which reveals that God to whom we pray suggests that there are conditions to be met if indeed we truly desire that blessing, the real question is, “do we want bad enough for God to bless America that we would repent of these our many sins?” Yes, I pray that God would bless America, but in honest I ask, “why should He?”

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