In this era of terrorism, poverty, oppression and a few less-distinct enemies, waves of patriotism occasionally revive the slogan “God Bless America.” Sadly, though, the sentiment long ago became a cliché to which people rarely give serious thought. The phrase is even seen, ironically, on bumper stickers adjacent to other bumper stickers expressing humanistic and atheistic sentiments. One assumes that even those who don’t believe in God want His blessing on our nation.
Anti-God philosophies and worldviews now clearly dominate most of Western society. God has been removed from public discourse; prayer has been virtually banned from the public arena; agnosticism and humanism dominate public policy. So it is remarkable that the slogan “God Bless America” is still in vogue. We have to wonder what most people have in mind when they repeat it.
Originally, “God bless America” was a prayer for divine blessing. In its current form, it sometimes seems nothing more than a patriotic battle cry — usually intoned without much serious reflection. Perhaps it is sometimes recited with the superstitious belief that merely invoking God’s name can garner His blessing. One thing is clear: while Americans universally want God’s favor, as a whole, they do not want God.
Some apparently believe that America enjoys God’s blessing by divine right. After all, God has blessed America throughout history to a remarkable degree. But His blessings are not measured — as most people believe — by material affluence, power, and world dominance. The greatest blessings God has graciously given America have been spiritual blessings — freedom for the gospel to be propagated, sweeping revivals like those of the Great Awakenings, and growth and spiritual prosperity for the church in our nation. The sad truth is that all those blessings were in serious jeopardy long before the terrorist strikes reminded us that our freedom and material prosperity hang by a fragile thread.
Does our nation really desire God’s blessing? Do Americans truly long for the spiritual awakening that would be the necessary condition for true blessing, or would the policy-makers and media moguls in our society be as hostile to such a revival as they are to the threat of terrorism?
And what are the means by which the people of God should seek to have God’s blessing on our nation? Can we help position modern society to receive God’s blessing merely by influencing public policy through politics and protest, or is something more needed to fulfill the conditions under which God will bless our nation? Can external moral reform alone make America fit for God’s blessing, or is something even deeper needed in the lives of most Americans?
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