I have listed seventeen disasters in U.S. history. Now it is time to try to come up with several morals to all this. I will offer six that I can see.
1/Despite all the disasters, we are still here. We’re alive. Most of us have decent health. We can work, provide for our families. We have a large measure of freedom. The disasters were real, but they have not ended life in the U.S. They ended lots of individual lives at home and abroad, yes, but life itself has not been ended. We can think and act in the present and in the future. What I am not saying is, “See, we can overcome disasters and still be a great country. We’re still the greatest country in the world, and will continue to be so.” No, the United States is finished. Stick a fork in it. There will be no reuniting of the country. I think the republic died in 1861. Then the country died in 1973, when it was decided that it was okay to kill unborn children. The empire . . . well, the empire has not died yet. But that death is coming. No, I am not saying that we can shrug off these disasters and still be a great country. But we as individuals, families, and churches are still here, still alive, and still capable of functioning. God is still real, and still good. We can have hope, and can have a giggle or three as we go along.
2/What is chiefly striking about the seventeen disasters is that they were all avoidable. We could have made different choices in how we thought and acted, and had we made those different choices we could have avoided the disasters. We could have not had a “Civil War.” We could have stayed out of World War I, to the benefit not only of ourselves but also to the benefit of world history. We could have refused to permit 61,000,000 unborn children be murdered. And on and on, through all seventeen disasters.
Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. That, at least, is what we are constantly told. That implies, “Yeah, sure, you can see that it was a disaster now. Big deal. Where were you when we had to make a decision?” Well, I want to speak up in defense of hindsight. I think hindsight gets a bad press, and very much undeservedly so. A key fact about hindsight which we don’t seem to appreciate is that hindsight allows us to look back in quietness and calmness and see where we went wrong. That is, we can see if we are willing to open our eyes and look. We should have been able to see that dumping the Articles of Confederation for the Constitution had been a serious error. But most of us don’t see it. We are not taking advantage of hindsight’s offering to us. “No thanks. You’re too late to do us any good.” No, we could have and should have learned from hindsight. Our intervention in World War I was one of the most foolish acts any country has committed, and it has had devastating effects on world history. If we could have seen that and admitted it, we could have avoided making the same mistake in World War II and in subsequent foolish wars. Anywhere along the line, hindsight offered to be our friend. Nope. We refused to listen. But we don’t have to keep on living like that. Hindsight, thank you for trying to help us. It’s not your fault we have ignored you.
3/Another thing we have learned from all this is that our capacity for self-deception is almost infinite. We call disasters triumphs. Abraham Lincoln is a hero to many of us. He “saved the union.” No, he ended the republic. He is the most disastrous person in U.S. history. But somehow even most conservatives and Christians still manage to consider Abraham Lincoln a great and good man, and we consider the idiotic war by which he ended the republic to be a great historic triumph of goodness. Look at all seventeen of the disasters. They are celebrated as wonderful by huge numbers of people. Our self-deception is so immense that the only reasonable explanation is that mankind as a whole (not just U.S. citizens) bathes in self-deception, luxuriates in self-deception, has its being in self-deception. Fyodor Dostoyevsky said man is “the ungrateful biped” (Notes from Underground), and he was correct. But we might also call man “the biped which lies to itself.” And is ungrateful, of course. But our self-deception seems equally prominent in our character.
4/Secession is part of the answer. We don’t have to go on like this. It is impossible that people so opposed in their definition of good/evil can get along over the long haul. Let the baby-killers have most of the country. We can have our small Neanderthal enclaves of Christian idiocracy, and if we can’t make it on our own we will come crying to momma and beg you to take us back on whatever terms you decide.
But secession is only 3% to 5% of the answer. It is a start only. Anyone walking the Appalachian Trail does not celebrate unduly because he walked the first mile successfully. The first mile is an excellent start! But the goal is to go 2,190 miles, over many days. Secession is a start. But the goal is to build a country which honors God and allows people to live in freedom and responsibility over centuries and even over millennia. Secession is the first day on the Appalachian Trail. If we make it the first day, that does not mean we will make it all the way.
5/One thing we learn from viewing all these disasters is that thoughtful, honorable people of high integrity are very rare. People that spoke up against the looming disasters were always few, and correspondingly precious. And that is going to be our problem in the present and in the future. Again, this is like the problem with self-deception–it is a universal fact of reality that truly thoughtful, principled, brave people are very rare. A Ron Paul is rare. An Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is rare. The rest of us are not likely to attain to the heights of those men. But we need to climb as high as we can. We need not be fools. We can improve our ability to think God’s thoughts after Him. We need to be very intentional in seeking to become more of what God would have us to be. We may have little influence in our churches, but perhaps we can have influence among our family and friends. The warfare for Christian civilization is ongoing, and every soldier, even the lowest private, is needed and important. Informed, thoughtful, brave, honest, principled privates are not to be shrugged off as unimportant, because they are not unimportant. They are important. We need every one.
6/One sad moral which forces itself upon us from looking at the seventeen disasters in U.S. history, is that our brand of Christianity is the root cause of our problems. Our Christianity is not very Christian. “There’s no there there,” as Gertrude Stein said about Oakland. As dark as this truth is, there is a flip side which should encourage us hugely. That is, a wise applied Christianity would have permitted us to avoid these seventeen disasters. We weren’t ready with wisdom, but that was not the fault of God the Father, of His Christ, or of the Holy Spirit. If we had read God’s word the Bible, and had been ready to apply it, we could have thought His thoughts after Him. And our actions would have permitted us to avoid the disasters, to the benefit of countless millions of people at home and abroad.
There is other good news. Our brand of Christianity stinks, but nevertheless for many people our Christianity is real. Perhaps 70% of professing Christians have never been converted, but still that would leave 30% of us who are believers, and we have tremendous potential for good. Most of the Christians I know have barely begun to scratch the surface of their potential ability to think and act with biblical wisdom.
So by all means we have to give up the continuing self-deception that American Christians currently frolic in from dusk to dawn, that our Christianity is powerful and wonderful. No, our Christianity stinks, and it is the reason our country has done so much evil. But as we honestly face our lazy wickedness, we should take heart that our potential for good is very high if only we decide to obey God from the heart.
That concludes our discussion of seventeen U.S. disasters, and of the morals we can draw from pondering those disasters.
I will conclude by predicting that we will have one more disaster. We may have more than one, of course. The country may stay around long enough to have several more disasters before the end comes. But one final disaster, somewhere along the line, seems to me to be almost certain. That will be the disaster which leads to the break-up of the United States.
That disaster will have to be big. Almost nobody is going to be ready psychologically to leave the U.S. until the warfare/welfare state fails in some extremely visible fashion. The failure is going to have to be very big. As long as the welfare checks keep coming (public education and Social Security are included in the category of welfare) and we keep eating without too much trouble, no one (except a nutcase or two like me) is going to be willing to see the country break up. So it is going to have to be something big. Perhaps a bomb which kills tens or hundreds of thousands of people. Perhaps a losing war in which we lose many thousands quickly. Perhaps hyperinflation which wipes out everything we own. Perhaps something else. But it will have to be big. People in this country are still not in a hurry to see the U.S. end. Which shows practical wisdom, because the devil we know may be better than the devil we don’t know. While I want the U.S. to cease to be one huge powerful irresponsible country, I know that the way the U.S. ends could be very painful for me. It could mean the loss of my savings, or it might mean starvation, or death by violence.
Reality exists, however. The U.S. has been acting in such a way as to call down God’s further judgment. That means something big is coming, whether we like it or not. I hope I’m still living on the other side, and that I can be among those who help rebuild Christian civilization. But if I am too dead to help with that, the Bible seems to teach that God will find a way to build His kingdom on earth somewhere. Why not on a part of the North American continent?