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America Bless God

Once upon a time a great nation was founded by people seeking to worship God in the way of their own choosing. These God-fearing people dreamt of a land of peace and prosperity. The great nation was founded by people who wanted their children and grandchildren to grow up in a country that unashamedly taught religious morality.

For a very long time the nation prospered and did become great, greater perhaps than the dreams of those first settlers. The land produced abundantly and the nation grew rich off the fat of the land.

God smiled on the country and blessed the people who lived there. In fact, the country was so blessed by God that the people came to see the nation as God’s gift to the world. Somehow God’s eternal purposes were carried out by the country in a way they had never been carried out before.

Over time, the initial religious purposes of founders of the great nation came to be overshadowed by other concerns. Old patterns of living were broken down. The family farms fell into new patterns of ownership. The cities flourished and grew. The rich became richer and they liked it. The poor became poorer, but for the most part, the people tried not to notice. If they worked harder, they would not be poor anyway. Look how God was rewarding the hard work and ingenuity of the rich.

The great nation passed an important junction, a crossroads, or maybe a fork in the road. It is hard to say exactly, because no one was paying any attention at all at the time. The country became disconnected from its strong religious and moral roots. Economic status came to matter in places where it never mattered before, such as in the court system.

In some ways, the society was going two directions at once. Prosperity gave the country outward signs of vigorous health. But that economic growth would have a price tag, a larger price tag than anyone appreciated at the time. Underneath the surface of this vigorous economy, the once great nation was in social, moral, and religious decay.

Just when the nation reached what everyone would agree was its peak of prosperity, some voices on the edge of the crowd cried out that the nation must turn back to God. Few, if any, people listened. Look at all the prosperity. The great nation would never fall. God would not let that happen. Hardly anyone noticed the irony that the once religious nation claimed God’s eternal protection long after having turned its back on God.

OK. You get the idea. The land that once seemed like God’s gift to the world disconnected itself from God and then, irony of ironies, still relied on God to save her.

The nation I have been describing is the Northern Kingdom of Israel from its founding until the eighth century B.C. At that time, Jeroboam II was king and had been king for three prosperous decades. Yet, the Bible uses some of its harshest language for this king who reigned during a time of prosperity. The prophets scathingly attacked the king and people for the unjustness of the society. The poor were getting poorer, while the wealth of the few increased.

The prophet Amos called to the people again and again to “Come back to God and live! (Amos 6:6). The words of the prophet fell on deaf ears. Nevertheless, Amos had spoken the truth. By the end of the eighth century, the ten tribes that made up the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in battle to the Assyrian Empire.

I have told the story of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in a way that emphasizes the many parallels between their history and that of our United States. We too live in a nation founded on godly principles, where the unchecked greed has the wealth concentrating with the few at the expense of the many.

We are now a consumer culture. To consume something is to use it up. First, we consume the lives of the third world workers who increasingly are the only ones who will create the goods we consume at the low prices we demand. Of course, the market economy avoids consuming us consumers entirely, as that is self-defeating. Instead, the desire of the consumer culture is to enslave us each to working off an endless mountain of debt.

America uses vastly more than our share of the world’s resources. We use more resources than we have coming to us if simple justice is the measuring line.

How can we continue with a culture that consumes others while enslaving ourselves and expect it all to last? We can’t. The answer for our times is the unheeded answer Amos held out in his own day, “Come back to God and live!”

It would seem that the many signs and bumper stickers proclaiming “God Bless America” are in synch with Amos’ message. However, I fear that the signs written in all capitals often refer to god with a little “G” and America with a capital “A.” Something like, “God of our own devising, bless the America of our choosing,” when the one true God has already said that there are no blessings for unjust nations. I suggest we turn the phrase around and proclaim “America Bless God.”

            “America Bless God” may sound funny at first, but the saying emphasizes our actions. We call on each other to return to our nation’s godly ideals. God has already declared what is expected of any great nation.

God said, if you want to be blessed as a nation, then “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). So, before we ask God to bless America, we should first ask America to bless God.

(The Rev. Frank Logue is Pastor of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland.)            

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