As a child I dutifully stood with my classmates and, hand over my heart, recited the Pledge of Allegiance with patriotic fervor. In fact, watching the fifth graders paint a mural based on "America the Beautiful" earned me the ire of my third-grade teacher who grew weary of me constantly ignoring her at the front of the classroom so I could look over my shoulder and watch in wonder as purple mountains and amber waves of grain appeared from the mixed tempura paints reserved for the upper-classmen. Eventually, she simply came to my desk - the type with the desk top and chair attached - picked it up, with me in it, and turned me around so that I had a full panoramic view of my country, "land that I love." I had to spend the rest of the day looking over my shoulder as she wrote lessons on the chalkboard.
Although I left school books and class schedules behind me long ago, in favor of marriage and motherhood, I never lost my love of learning. Unfortunately, that love of learning, that thirst for knowledge and understanding, has had a decided impact on that once young girl, once so proudly pledging allegiance, once so proudly singing of America's virtue, righteousness and bravery.
Life, outside of the classroom anyway, teaches us different lessons. And as I watch this nation slide deeper into debt, as the politicians continue to bicker, as scandals break almost every day, I have to face the sad, sad truth that America, "land that I love," is made up of people. Broken, wounded, greedy, selfish, self-serving, narcissistic people. In other words, people just like me. And in this, we're no different, and certainly no better, than any nation that preceded us. And as we continue to decline; in power, prestige, finances and morality, it becomes increasingly clear; this nation's time will end. Just as it ended for the countless nations that came before it and just as it will end for all that may follow.
This is a bitter pill to swallow. I much prefer the old days, when I believed that America was somehow different, somehow better, somehow permanent.
For years we have been taught that America was different because God was for us. He had blessed us. Some even believe that he brought us here, "out of many - one," to show the world that if a nation was built by the Lord, that nation would become a beacon of light that no man, or foreign nation, could extinguish.
Balderdash. We need fear no enemy without for we are filled with enemies within. The path is predictable. After all, it is well-trod.
Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, mapped the route in the late 1700s, just as this nation was forming, saying, "A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. He believed that "A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship."
Tyler, who was addressing the fall of the Athenian empire 2,000 years earlier, noted that "The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years.
"During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:
1. from bondage to spiritual faith; 2. from spiritual faith to great courage; 3. from courage to liberty; 4. from liberty to abundance; 5. from abundance to complacency; 6. from complacency to apathy; 7. from apathy to dependence; 8. from dependence back into bondage."
Tyler, now long dead, had it pegged.
As another primary season ramps up into high gear, I've discovered that my rose colored glasses are simply not up to the challenge. Little has changed from the previous primary seasons. Even some of the faces are the same, to say nothing of the rhetoric, the mud-slinging and the absolutely stellar ability of most politicians to speak at length without saying anything of import or coming anywhere close to answering whatever question is put before them.
Step one in my reeducation process: destroy my rose colored glasses.
Step two is to recognize that, as a believer and follower of Jesus, this is not my country. This country, or kingdom if you will, is destined to follow the same path worn smooth by the many nations that preceded it. It will end, a footnote in history describing a grand dream, a grand plan, purchased with the blood of many, torn asunder by its own arrogance and greed.
For too long, people of faith have placed their faith in this nation, "under God," and have fought long and hard to keep God in the forefront of the people, with petitions, revivals, and at the ballot box. It is an exercise in futility. God sets in place both kings and kingdoms for his good purpose. And ultimately, each is allowed to fall; and some merit absolute destruction.
Except for the kingdom purchased by the blood of his only begotten Son.
That present and coming kingdom is open to all.
"'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'" Revelation 1:8 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him together.