America is probably one of the most religious countries on earth. Regardless of whether Enlightenment deism or Christian theism lies at its root, religion has undoubtedly played a huge part in the founding of it; it’s vocabulary is strewn across the pages of subsequent American history. But maybe more than ever in recent history, Sept. 11th put God-talk off the charts. Everyone was asking God to bless America, questioning how God could let this happen to America, or promising God's wrath to those who would dare tangle with America. A glance around my small town in those months following the attacks yielded “God Bless America” products slapped on just about everything – houses, cars, store windows and book-bags.
And at that a Christian might at first take heart – but consider: what do all those bumper stickers really mean? One author put it this way: “The American people’s yearning for God’s blessing is prompted by a desire for His immediate protection. For many, “Bless America” means simply, “Preserve our nation”. For many others it means something as down-to-earth as, “God don’t let me die. Don’t let my children die. Don’t let my spouse die.” For still others, it might mean something more mundane: “Don’t let the stock market drop any further”; or “Stop the rise in unemployment”. In many mouths it is a prayer for the preservation of our nations freedom and prosperity. “Blessing”, then, is associated with protection, safety, freedom and prosperity.” It seems that what Americans want is health, not holiness; safety, not salvation; wealth, not worship. In short, Americans wants God’s blessing, but they don’t want God.
9/11 showed that America’s faith is very different than Christian faith. The god whose slogan is on all of our currency, the god whose name is invoked by politicians and news media, and the god whose blessing can come on America without repentance and without faith seems to be someone other than the God of the Bible! This god is a lower-case “g” – he has no name. He’s not YHWH, the covenant keeping God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who has revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ – he’s the god of Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, Mormon Americans, pagan Americans, and every American – but he’s not the God Christians worship. He’s a god who can’t deliver, and whose promises to bless and keep America aren’t necessarily endorsed by the Living God.
Americans have always believed that God is with them, and that her heritage somehow underwrites God’s promised blessing to keep them as His people. But God only has one people – the blood bought bride of Christ made up of those who have turned from their sin, been forgiven, and have been incorporated into the Church where Jesus has become their new Lord. That’s not to say, of course, that America can’t come to know the true God and be incorporated into His One people, the Church. Peter said in Acts 10:34-35, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”
The Gospel is freely available to every nation on earth. But in order to believe, first Americans must forsake their false gods, and the way of life these gods commend. In a word, she must REPENT. The American people have to be willing to do more than make a benign private decision to adopt a new religion; the call to repent is a call to tear down the curtain which seperates private faith from public life. Repentance means that Americans must risk their financial prosperity, military might, and what little they have left of any international respectability to follow Jesus. They have to forsake the alternative path of carnal vengeance, consumeristic selfishness, capitalistic gluttony, colonizing arrogance and cultural decadence in order to embrace the Kingdom Way. Jesus said in Mark 8:34, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Until she does that America can’t even define blessing, much less receive it.