"Doing what is right makes a nation great, but sin will bring disgrace to any people" (Proverbs 14:34, NCV).
Since this is July 4 weekend, I thought it appropriate that my thoughts center on patriotic themes. Often I hear our political leaders ending their speeches with a perfunctory "God bless America." Let me state right at the beginning of this article that such sentiments are useless as long as we as a nation persist in pursing courses in our private and public lives that God cannot bless.
In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, Israel thought it was safe because of their heritage, because they were the chosen people of God, because the temple of God was located in Jerusalem. "The Lord told me to stand by the gate of the temple and to tell the people who were going in that the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, had said: Pay attention, people of Judah! Change your ways and start living right, then I will let you keep on living in your own country. Don’t fool yourselves! My temple is here in Jerusalem, but that doesn’t mean I will protect you. I will keep you safe only if you change your ways. Be fair and honest with each other" (Jeremiah 7:3-5, CEV). I fear there are many in America who are making the same mistake Israel of old made. We may not be declaring, "This is where God lives." Our deception comes in the mistaken belief that "God bless America" is a magic mantra that will somehow keep us safe.
Thomas Jefferson warned, "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God? That they cannot be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep forever."
George Washington said, "Of all the habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would men claim the tributes of patriotism who would work to destroy these great pillars of human happiness . . . Do not let anyone claim to be a true American if they ever attempt to remove religion from politics."
John Adams warned, "There is no Government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion." He went on to say, "Our constitution was only made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Newsweek Magazine, August 1976, reminded us, "America was in fact born in the cradle of a powerful spiritual revival." And it was. We need to stop this silliness today that we call the separation of church and state. The founding fathers never intended to keep religion out of public life. Indeed, James Madison, one of the framers of our Constitution said, "We have staked the whole future of American Civilization not on the power of the Government, far from it. We have staked the future of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
We’ve lost that today. We want God’s blessing on everything we happen to like doing. We cannot understand why we are in the condition we are in today as a nation. We are following history and we are on the sunset of our greatness. We cannot continue to defy God, espousing unions that are sinful, murdering innocent unborn children, proclaiming immorality to be moral, promoting corrupt policies and the list can go on and on. If we want to recapture America’s greatness, we must return whole-heartedly to the God of the Bible. We need to declare this July 4, not our independence from God but our utter dependence upon him. Then, the words "God bless America" will truly mean something.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.