The God of the Here and Now
My wife and I were watching a sermon by Charles Stanley the Sunday before the election. In it, the pastor of the large, Atlanta-based church pulled no punches. He explained that America has slowly been going downhill ever since we took God out of the classrooms. I turned to my wife and said, "Not only that, it's when we took God out of the churches."
The vote on November 6th woke up a lot of hardworking patriots who, the night before, had thought the battle was won. How could the voting public look at the two starkly different candidates, one for free stuff, the other for freedom, and choose the free stuff guy?
The freedom candidate was saying he would put people back to work. The free stuff guy was saying, in effect, relax, I'll take care of you.
It's interesting that in the final days of campaigning, Obama added the phrase, "You know you can trust me," to his stump speech. For those of us with eyes wide open, we're thinking, "You said you'd cut the deficit in half, that unemployment wouldn't go above six percent, that you'd end the divisiveness, that you'd have the most transparent administration ever, and on and on" -- and we can trust you?
But people who wanted to be taken care of wanted the reassurance that, yes, someone was there that they could trust to take care of them.
We used to aspire to a better and better life. Parents looked to give their children the opportunity to do better than they did, as they had done better than their parents did. Now you get the sense that maintaining the status quo is the most, and even best, one can hope for.
In the 1976 film, Network, news anchor Howard Beale, in one of his many oddly-insightful rants, bemoans, "Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone." People now want to be assured that they'll have what they've come to survive upon: a TV, air-conditioning, subsidized government housing, food stamps -- all the basics taken care of. Why rock the boat trying to achieve something greater if it means you might work hard and end up losing it all in the end anyway? Hey, it ain't much, but it's mine. We've become a scrap-happy America.
It used to be, "In God We Trust." But who is this God and what are we trusting Him for? Has He really provided "our daily bread" -- or was that FEMA? Why wait for some "coming Kingdom" when an all-compassionate government can provide those basics now?
When Jesus said, "the poor you will always have with you," most of us think of the destitute poor folks scraping by in parts of Africa and India and the like. We don't think about what constitutes much of the poor in this country: the managed poor. Give enough folks plenty to distract and entertain them -- TV, video games, SNAP credit cards for junk food -- and, every two years, they'll keep voting the hand that feeds them back into power.
The day after the election, Dennis Miller was advising folks making less than $45,000 to consider quitting their jobs and to start living off government largess. He himself was planning an early exit from his radio gig, not reupping when his contract came up for renewal. Why kill yourself with work -- or overwork -- so that some lazy schmuck can suckle upon some of your rewards?
Years and years back my brother-in-law said that the future of the Republican party lay in the hard-working Hispanic community. He pointed out that Hispanics are overwhelmingly Catholic and conservative on the social issues. They would certainly not go along with gay marriage and abortion-on-demand.
But, after this election, I pointed out to my brother-in-law that if any god-fearing man comes to this country for a better life for himself, his wife, and his children, would he not take all the free things someone was willing to give him? And if those were the Democrats, who he knows support unfettered abortions and gay marriage, wouldn't he take the money and rationalize it this way: "No woman I know will have an abortion, and no man I know is going to marry another man -- so what's that to me?" He can take the money and remain morally pure.
So, just what is the solution to all this? It really does come down to "Who Do You Trust?" The government wants you to trust in them, because they can fulfill your basic needs here and now. But we should take our cue from plenty of verses in the Bible, such as Psalm 126. The final verse of this psalm (verse 6) was the inspiration to the hymn, Bringing in the Sheaves:
He who goes out weeping carrying seed to sew, will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with him.
Yes, there is a lot of hard work ahead, but there's a payoff down the line. God's Word is "a light to our path and a lamp to our feet." He really is our God in the here and now, as well as in "the sweet by and by."
If we as members of our various churches will work inside them to return to Biblical principles, those of us looking for this country to return to its foundational principles, based in large part on that very same Bible, would see a restored America sooner rather than later.