Just as individuals might get a second chance at life, so too nations. Sometimes a nation may seem to be on the edge of a precipice, just about to head over, but a reprieve of sorts will come along. To change metaphors, a lifeline will be thrown out – at least temporarily.
The thoughts offered here have as their basis a get-together I was involved in last night with a group of Christians and conservatives. The state of the world was being discussed – as often happens in such gatherings – and several times I was asked for my thoughts on the state of America with its newish president.
I offered a few brief thoughts, and decided it would be worthwhile putting them into article form, with a bit more meat on the bones. Thus this piece. It should be noted that I write this as a Christian and as someone interested in the big picture.
As I mentioned last night, sadly not all Christians look at the big picture. Often they have the very short term in view, or run with a rather limited perspective of things. But I said that we must keep the bigger picture in mind. And by that I of course mean the bigger God picture.
Politics is important, but it is not everything. I reminded my listeners that at the end of the day politics cannot save. That is something God alone can do. If we put our full and ultimate trust in God as we seek to work for godly political and social outcomes, that is one thing.
But unfortunately too many believers sort of forget about the bigger picture, and tend to think that if we get the right guy in the White House, or get a few more good justices on the Supreme Court, we can almost bring in the millennium.
While paying lip service to God and spiritual realities, they can often put most of their energy and hopes in changing things politically. Now make no mistake: I certainly do seek political and social renewal, and delight to see it happening. I have been involved in the culture wars in Australia for three decades now.
So I am not minimising for a moment the need for godly governance, for righteousness exalting a nation, and for how vital decent policies (eg., pro-family, pro-life policies, etc.) are. I have been fighting for such things for many years now. But I am also under no illusion as to how far all that can take us.
Yes, it is good if we can get terrible laws overturned, such as those that result in the deaths of countless unborn babies. Yes, I have fought tooth and nail to defend marriage and family, and I will continue to do that. Yes, I will not stop resisting things like creeping sharia, or the ugly agenda of the radical secular left.
But I realise that these things alone will not save the West, just as getting Trump in the top job will not ultimately save America. Now, am I glad he is in instead of Clinton? Absolutely. Am I glad he has been doing some good things for the nation? I sure am. Am I thankful he is helping get the Supreme Court back on track? You bet. Am I glad some much-needed swamp draining is occurring? Yes indeed.
But as I said two years ago and will keep saying, that in itself is not enough. At the end of the day we need more than mere political and legislative changes, as vital as they are. The simple truth is this: politics flows downstream from the culture.
So if we really want to change things politically, we must work on changing the culture. But there is another truth here that we must not overlook: the culture flows downstream from faith. We will not really change the culture without first dealing with a nation’s spiritual condition.
This is what I mean by saying we must always keep the bigger picture in view. This is the same thing I have been saying for years now. And it has gotten me into a lot of trouble with many Christians. When I said two years ago that Trump is NOT the messiah, and he is not the final answer for what ails America, I got plenty of criticism and lost plenty of friends.
But I still feel the same. As I have said, it is great to see some much-needed change taking place in America. It is great to see a real turnaround in various areas. But Trump of course will not always be around, and we know that soon enough Democrats will again occupy the White House. These things come and go, as any cursory awareness of history demonstrates.
So the real issue that must be addressed is ultimately spiritual in nature. Until America’s Christians repent and turn back to God, all I can do is see the Trump years – and other things like it – as a reprieve. It is slowing down the rot. It is a temporary pulling back from the brink.
But politics alone cannot save. Politics is very important, but there are even more important things than that. Because I am again reading through the Old Testament prophets, all this is once again being impressed upon me. Back then we had the same situation: a nation on the brink, in a perilous condition; Band-Aid solutions being offered; and prophetic words of coming divine judgment.
The people did not want to hear what the prophets had to say. They flocked to the false prophets. They told the people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear. But the real prophets of God said that judgment must come, unless repentance and a massive turn-around took place.
But the people preferred the easy “solutions” as offered by the false prophets. They were the solutions that did not cost them anything, and that were entirely superficial in nature. It is just as Jeremiah bewailed: “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14 and 8:11).
Their real sin is like an incurable cancer, but they are dismissing it, claiming it is just a flesh wound. Their superficial remedies will not at all suffice. And Ezekiel had said similar things. In Ez. 13:8-16 we find these incredible words:
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord GOD. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord GOD. Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’ Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the LORD. Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it, the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when there was no peace, declares the Lord GOD.
Wow, what a passage. It is so very pertinent to far too many Western believers today who put their trust in whitewash. The metaphor is so apt: a rotten foundation will not last, and the poorly constructed walls, plastered over to conceal the defects, simply will not stand up against a major storm.
As Iain Duguid comments: “Such false comfort has had catastrophic results. In speaking according to their own hopes rather than the word of the Lord, they have seduced God’s people into a false security that will be devastatingly exposed on the coming day of judgment.”
The application for us today is – or should be – obvious. Too many American and Western Christians are looking to plaster and whitewash as a solution to their woes. But that can never work. The problems are far too deep, and without God’s intervention, far too intractable. Yes, it is good to get rid of some of the bad politicians and bad laws. That we must work toward. But that alone will never suffice.
So how do I look at the things happening in the US and elsewhere at the moment? I see them as welcome changes, but as only a reprieve. The West is still headed for a mighty fall, and these small changes will just temporarily stall the inevitable.
And the problem with a reprieve is it can once again lull people – especially God’s people – back into another sense of security – although a false security. Judgment deferred is still judgment. While we can be grateful for all this, the real work of real repentance remains untried.
Again, I rejoice in some of these changes that the new administration is bringing about, but I know that at the end of the day they can never be enough. God always looks for real solutions to real problems, and he always wants us to go much deeper than our superficial tinkering at the edges, or our whitewashing of the defective walls.
The final line of a brand-new piece by Rod Dreher may be fitting here: “Again: this is not a Catholic crisis, or a Protestant crisis, or an Orthodox crisis. This is a Christian crisis, and a civilizational crisis. Be ready. Time is short.”
The only answer to a Christian and civilisational crisis is a divine one. How can it be otherwise? And the passage we most need here has sadly become far too familiar and thus stripped of so much of its power. But it must be repeated nonetheless:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).