A New (Old) Call
Here is an assessment and call for repentance I recently read about America that I found super accurate:
“We have been recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God—we have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined in deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace—too proud to pray to God that made us!”
How utterly insightful and true is this statement? America has been blessed in ways most other nations covetously want. The amount of wealth in America is staggering. The level of excess in which so many are able to live is incomprehensible. The standard of living of our lower class is opulent by standards to many around the world.
America has experienced peace on its shores like no other country. Outside of recent terrorist attacks few mass enemy forces have been able to invade our borders. We have been blessed like no other nation in terms of homeland peace and security.
America has and does wield great power. Few nations have ever had worldwide influence like America. For years we have been the benchmark of liberty, freedom, security, and wealth the rest of the world strives to be like.
But we, as a nation, have indeed forgotten God. The author best captures the conditions of America with the terms “vainly” and “deceitfulness”.
America is truly a nation of vanity (the song You’re So Vain by Carley Simon comes to mind). Vanity in this context means “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements”. Synonyms include conceit, narcissism, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-regard, and egotism. As a result of vanity, most Americans perceive our success as coming from the “American Way”, “American know-how”, “American ingenuity”, “American Dream”, etc. For many success is a result of our own hands and our own labor. If we do give acknowledge God it often comes out in effect as “Thank you God for making me so good and smart, thank you for letting me make myself successful”. In our vanity, we believe that we as a people are behind the greatness of America.
Did you know another definition of vanity is “the quality of being worthless or futile”? Solomon hits upon this in his self-analyzing words in the Book of Ecclesiastes “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Let me paraphrase “Worthless and futile is excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own achievements, oh how worthless is pride in self, all self-centeredness is worthless.”
If we never come to this truism–that success is never from ourselves but is from God–we then live in the “deceitfulness of our hearts.” How quickly vain imagination leads to a deceitful state of mind. The two conditions contribute to what in effect is a death spiral that is extremely difficult to recover from. Indeed, the two conditions lead to the state of “intoxication”.
We have indeed become intoxicated—in so many ways. Americans are intoxicated, literally with power, with sex, with materialism, with drugs, with alcohol, with self. We have been so successful, we are now “drunk” with success and delusional as to Who blessed us.
We have become not only too proud to pray to God, we have become too proud to even acknowledge that God even exists. As a nation, there is an ongoing attempt to rid itself of anything that acknowledges God in our schools, in our business, and in our government. Why? Because of vain imagination leading to deceitful hearts that has intoxicated us.
“…let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine (meaning Judeo-Christian) teachings that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins and restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”
The author then goes on to call us to action starting with “rest humbly”. The remedy to vanity is humility. The world’s definition says it is a “low view” of oneself; this is inaccurate. Humility in the correct, Biblical sense is the accurate assessment of oneself in light of God and Jesus Christ. Humility causes us to understand that our success comes not from ourselves, but from God’s blessing in our life.
The author understands this proper assessment of oneself must be a “united cry of the Nation” not just a few people here and there. True salvation happens on an individual scale; however National healing happens on a greater scale. National healing, getting back into God’s grace, is a unified corporate movement.
If we want to be restored and our divisions healed there must be one common rallying point. This rallying point IS NOT a man or woman, it is not a document, it is not a party, it is not a lifestyle, it is not a denomination. The rallying point IS the One True God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The author understands that only through unity under God can our nation overcome its sinful actions. Only through God can we be restored. Only through God can divisions close. Only through God can suffering relent. Only though God does real, lasting happiness, unity, and peace come.
Herein is the issue: will society reject vanity (worship of self)? Will Americans come back to the reality that there is a God, that He provides absolute truth, that He is full for grace and mercy and has provided all we need through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Will America turn away from the American Dream and turn toward the Ultimate Dream (eternal life in peace with God)?
Will America answer this call today? Who was the author of these words? President Abraham Lincoln.
During the Civil War President Lincoln issued three calls for a “Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer”. No, he was not taken to court for attempting to establish a religion. No, he did not cross some arbitrary line between church and state (a fictional phrase that was not made up until some 80 years later). He did what many Presidents (both before and after him) have done. He acknowledged the fact that America has been blessed by God and needs to turn back to God so as to continue to receive God favor.
The parallels between America of 1863 and 2017 are eerie. Today we, as a nation, are divided as a nation as we were during the Civil War. The lines are not clearly drawn as this war exists in every state, in every city, and in nearly every household. This cultural civil war will not end until one of two things happen 1) we, as a Nation, turn back to God, or 2) our nation dissolves as a union. So, will we answer Abraham Lincoln’s call to action today?