Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Various assertions of God's judgment on the United States

Apparently a group in Australia believes that the bush fires in the state of Victoria are God's judgment on the Australian state for legalizing abortion.

But since I live in the United States, I'm going to be an ugly American and concentrate on allegations of God's judgment against my own country.

let's start with one that was talked about in great detail several months ago - Reverend Jeremiah Wright's "God damn America" sermon.

The Chicago Tribune provides a transcript of what Wright said. This is an excerpt of what Wright said in his July 2003 sermon, leading up to his "God damn America" remark:

"Prior to Abraham Lincoln, the government in this country said it was legal to hold Africans in slavery in perpetuity. Perpetuity is one of them University of Chicago words that means forever. From now on.

"When Lincoln got into office the government changed. Prior to the passing of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, the government defined Africans as slaves, as property. Property. People with no rights to be respected by any whites anywhere. The Supreme Court of the government, same court, granddaddy court of the one that stole the 2000 election. The Supreme Court said in its Dred Scott decision, in the 1850s, no African anywhere in this country has any rights that any white person has to respect at any place any time.

"That was the government's official position backed up by the Supreme Court—that's the judiciary, backed up by the executive branch, [and] that's the president, backed up by the legislative branch and enforced by the military of the government. But I stopped by to tell you tonight that governments change.

"Prior to Harry Truman's government, the military in this country was segregated. But governments change. Prior to the civil rights and equal accommodations laws of the government in this country there was backed segregation by the country, legal discrimination by the government, prohibiting blacks from voting by the government. You had to eat in separate places by the government. You had to sit in different places from white folk 'cause the government says so. And, you had to be buried in a separate cemetery. It was apartheid American-style from the cradle to the grave all because the government backed it up. But guess what! Governments change.

"Under Bill Clinton, we got a messed up welfare-to-work bill. But under Clinton, blacks had an intelligent friend in the Oval Office. Ooh, but governments change. The election was stolen. We went from an intelligent friend to a dumb Dixiecrat, a rich Republican who has never held a job in his life, is against affirmative action, against education—I guess he is, ha!—against health care, against benefits for his own military, and gives tax breaks to the wealthiest contributors to his campaign. Governments change—sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.

"But I'm fixing to help you again. Turn back and say: 'He's fixing to help us again.' When governments change, write this down: Malachi 3:6, Malachi 3:6: 'Thus said the Lord,' repeat it after me, 'For I am the Lord, and I change not.' That's the King James Version. The New Revised says: 'For I the Lord do not change.' In other words, where governments change, God does not change. God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore. That's what his name 'I am' means. You know, he does not change. There is no shadow of turning in God. One songwriter puts it this way: 'As thou has been, thou forever will be. Thou changest not. Thy compassions, they fail not. Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me.' God does not change.

"God was against slavery on yesterday and God who does not change is still against slavery today. God was a God of love yesterday, and God who does not change is still a God of love today. God was a God of justice on yesterday, and God who does not change is still a God of justice today. Turn to your neighbor and say: 'God does not change.'

"Where governments lie, God does not lie. Where governments change, God does not change. And I'm through now. But let me leave you with one more thing.

"Governments fail. The government in this text, comprised of Caesar . . . [and] Pontius Pilate, the Roman government failed. The British government used to rule from East to West. The British government had a Union Jack. She colonized Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Hong Kong. Her navies ruled the Seven Seas all the way down to the tip of Argentina in the Falklands. But the British government failed. The Russian government failed. The Japanese government failed. The German government failed.

"And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on the reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating the citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of the racist bastions of higher education and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America'?

"No, no, no, not 'God Bless America,' 'God Damn America.' That's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human, God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is supreme. The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent."

You may recall that Wright's comments created a furor in 2008. But Wright isn't the only one who says that God is damning America. On Monday, the Crime Examiner quoted from a Westboro "Baptist" Church press release that explains why the church is protesting at the memorial service for murdered child Caylee Anthony:

This picket will be educational in nature, in respectful and lawful distance, in religious protest and warning; to wit: ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked.’ Gal. 6:7. This poor child has been murderously abused by America and her American parents and grandparents. We live in a nation that is cursed and abandoned by God, whose hands drip with the blood of millions of aborted babies, whose citizens are wallowing in sodomic morals – Whose new Pres. Obama has promised more sins! GOD HATES AMERICA.

And while just about everyone agrees that Westboro is a bunch of kooks, there are people on the political right of the spectrum who argue, just as fervently as Rev. Jeremiah Wright on the political left of the spectrum, that God has judged this country. Christianity Today:

Was 9/11 God's judgment against America? Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell said so. They blamed God's wrath on abortion and promiscuity, and they were promptly skewered by the media—as much for raising the uncomfortable topic of divine judgment as for using the occasion to deplore America's sexual excesses.

But that same Christianity Today article also speaks of a 2007 book that looks at God's judgment a little more carefully.

In God's Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith (IVP Academic), Steven J. Keillor argues [Falwell and Robertson] had the right idea but the wrong reasons. His new book is a sophisticated defense of their theological instincts....

He first sifts through the tragedy of 9/11, looking for evidence of what the United States had done to anger radical Islamists. He then asks if any of these items might also have angered God: economic greed, immoral cultural exports, and "use of terrorist guerilla units against the Soviets" in Afghanistan.

Keillor's conclusion—that God used terrorists to punish us for national sins—is a theological spin on "blowback," a word the political Left popularized during the aftermath of 9/11. Blowback suggests that America, by abusing its power abroad, got what it deserved.

For Keillor, however, blowback does not happen of its own accord. God, not Osama bin Laden, ultimately was blowing back at America when the terrorists released their whirlwind that tragic day....

He also deepens his case by retrieving judgments of the Old Testament prophets that scholars call "oracles against the nations." The words of are especially poignant: "When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?" These oracles, however, generally target nations that have mistreated Israel, something that can hardly be said of America.

However, one cannot explain all calamities as God's judgment, as a reading of John 9:1-3 or Job demonstrates. And, more importantly (and I am speaking to Christians here), I do not believe that any claim that a calamity resulted from God's judgment negates what we as Christians are to do for the people. I know that "WWJD" is a trite trademark, but there's a kernel of truth in it.

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