Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

American Experiment

There is a human experiment going on. It's been under way for little more than 225 years now. Most of us know it as the United States of America. It's been called the greatest nation on earth. In fact, it's been, in the last century or so, a nation that is usually described in superlatives. The most powerful nation on earth. The richest nation on earth. The most generous nation on earth. The most blessed nation on earth. The stories - and the facts - go on and on about it.

Those of us who live in this experiment are also aware of some other superlatives that could be used to describe the U.S.A. Most of them aren't very popular, so we don't hear them much. But nevertheless, they're true. The most violent nation on earth. That most obese nation on earth. The greatest debtor nation on earth. The most materialistic nation on earth. The most entertained nation on earth. The stories - and the facts to support them - are clearly there. Isn't it odd that they are largely ignored?

I have come to think of it as a human experiment because, frankly, I'm not sure yet if it works. There's mounting evidence that what we have here in the form of a government (democracy) is not a sustainable model. In other words, we cannot indefinitely keep living the way we live as a country. We talk in business of a "sustainable business model." That means a model that can be sustained because it works and doesn't rely on something that it shouldn't. The same could be said of forms of government. (A dictatorship, for example, is only as sustainable as the dictator.)

There is great irony between the stories of the Americans and the stories of the Israelites of Biblical times. As I read the Old Testament especially, I see stories of the nation of Israel. They're stories of both victory and failure. Quite often as I read them, I find myself seeing very strong parallels with the U.S. To say it differently, that nature and character of the Israelite people - as described in the Old Testament - looks very much like the nature and character of the American people as I know it today.

Consider that we were "one nation, under God, indivisible ..." when our founding fathers laid it on the line. This is pretty much where Israel started when it was freed from Egypt and wandered in the desert for 40 years. Going into the promised land, it was certainly God's intent for Israel. But look what happened. Over the years (and centuries), Israel continually lost that position. It usually started with their departure from God. They stopped serving the one true God. They stopped worshipping Him. They ceased to be "under God." And that's where things went awry.

When Israel consciously or subconsciously decided to set God aside, they effectively forgot about Him. At least in their day to day thinking and decision-making. When this happened, they lost their purpose. Soon, everyone did as they saw fit. Everyone had a right to pursue things his or her own way. And they did. Political correctness was more valued than godliness. So everyone did what they individually thought was best. There was no (Biblical) standard by which anyone really lived.

When the Israelites stopped letting God lead them, they began to look suspiciously like the evil people around them (whom God had told them to get rid of and not associate with). And when they started passing laws for their own benefit, they started reacting instead of pro acting. Sadly, they passed laws that set standards for living which were far below God's standards for living.

Of course, if you follow the stories of the Israelites over the centuries, you ultimately see that Israel failed. Despite the fact that it has sovereignty today, it is not "one nation, under God, indivisible ..." In fact, it is a nation that is sharply divided and ineffective for the Lord. At war with itself most of the time, most people realize that there is a very real possibility that Israel will again cease to exist ... perhaps even in our lifetime. Said differently, Israel could fall.

A recent survey indicated that more than half of Americans think it's possible that our entire economy could collapse. I have to confess that I'm not even sure what that means. But I can also confess that I may share their sentiment. Despite the fact that America has the largest economy in the world, I see that it is not a sustainable economy. It isn't based on natural cycles of life. It isn't based on the creation of real value in many cases. Now if our economy collapsed, I would argue that our government is so wrapped up in the economy that it would almost certainly collapse too. How could it not?

I'm not predicting doom and gloom here. Honestly, I love my country. I hope it survives. But I'm watching this human experiment - of which I'm very much a part of myself - and I'm wondering. Can we really pay our debts, create jobs, take care of our people, and help the rest of the world live peaceful, productive lives? I keep looking for evidence that we can. But I'm not finding it.

Instead, my memory of the Israelites haunts me. I remember, for instance, that God gave them victory in great wars. I think He's done that for the U.S. as well. But then I see that, in modern times, America has not won wars - and those wars have been longer and more costly than every. And I remember that the exact same thing happened to Israel in the Old Testament.

So here's the question. Are Americans the modern-day equivalent of the Israelites? And if so, can we really expect to finish any better than the Israelites finished? Only time will tell.

No comments:

Post a Comment