Monday, August 08, 2005

What really worries me about the War on Terror

In 2 Chronicles 12:1, one is in danger of skipping over this: "When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him."

What a sad, alarming X-ray into the human condition this provides. Theorizing in a vacuum-sealed, sanitary laboratory with no HBO, one might speculate that prosperity would cause humans to be all the more grateful to God, all the more lovingly devoted to Him. One would think that people, so richly blessed, would turn their (our!) prosperous times of smooth sailing into opportunities all the more to press forward in our walk with God. New assets would be turned to new levels of service to His glory.

But no. Perhaps we know it too well in our own lives. It is the harrowing and difficult times that more often send us back to first principles. Then we make sure of our standing with God, make sure of His word, hold tight to Him, look to him, hew closely to His Word in our walk. But when the storm cloud passes and the sun shines again, we blissfully go our way. Our way. It was so with Rehoboam, Solomon's vastly inferior successor/son. It was so with Israel. It is so with us.

What possible connection does this have with the War on Terror?

Read the next three verses: "In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. And the people were without number who came with him from Egypt - Libyans, Sukkiim, and Ethiopians. And he took the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 12:2-4.)

Now, I hasten to say, America is not Israel. We do not have the covenant with Yahweh they had, of conditional blessings and curses. You will not see me quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14 as if "my people who are called by my name" are Americans.

However, I think that in some ways our status is more perilous than Israel's. The pan-Biblical principle is: more privilege = more responsibility (see Amos 3:2; Luke 12:48). Where is America on that continuum? Well into the red zone, I'd say. No nation in the history of the world -- including Israel! -- has had greater access to the entire word of God. No nation has had richer resources for studying it. No nation has had more liberty for putting it into practice.

And what have we done with this liberty? Abortion, materialism, cults, enabling and defending perversions of all sorts -- these are our legacies. And in professing Christendom, not only do we see ignorance of the Word of God, nor only indifference to it, but we see positive and thoroughly rationalized opposition to its study as the ruling spirit in the churches. The dominant and most successful fads in church growth play down the declaration of the whole counsel of God, the preaching of an edgy, threatening Jesus. The so-called "evangelical" movement embraces those denying fundamental doctrines of the faith.

This is our way of saying "Thank you" to God for His goodness to our nation.

So the President tells us we're at war with terror, with terrorism, with people who have hijacked Islam. They're the bad guys, we're the good guys, and we'll win. That's what he says. And what I read among conservatives is that we'll surely win, because we've got the best-trained, best-equipped army in the world. They revel in videos of American hardware taking out buildings and people with amazing precision, and devastating effectiveness. It may take time, but we'll win. We're in the right, and we have the best army and the most withering firepower.

Do you see anything worrisome in that?

Of course they are the bad guys. Despicable monsters who deliberately target non-combatants, who sneak in and use our very humaneness against us, who slaughter women and children with fervent glee -- that isn't a hard call. They need to be opposed, sought out, exterminated.

Are we the good guys? Here's where it gets stickier. How many millions of children have been slaughtered now, on the altar of immorality without consequences? How many practices and attitudes that God declares repulsive have we embraced, lionized, and fostered -- even in our professedly Christian churches?

"Better" guys, maybe. But "good"? In God's eyes? That worries me.

But haven't we the best army? Yes, I think so. Today. But tomorrow? Or even later today, if God withdraws his sheer grace and mercy from us, and gives us what we so richly deserve?

If that isn't enough to worry about, throw these in as well:

2 Chronicles 12:5-6 Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and to the princes of Judah, who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, "Thus says the LORD, 'You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak.'" 6 Then the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, "The LORD is righteous."

Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.

Psalm 146:3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.

Jeremiah 17:5 Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength,1 whose heart turns away from the LORD.

Psalm 33:16-17 The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. 17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Isaiah 31:1-2 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! 2 And yet he is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers and against the helpers of those who work iniquity.
What is it we really need, then? In a word, repentance. National, wide-reaching, root-to-branches repentance. Nothing more, less, nor other. We haven't the ghost of an echo of an excuse for our moral and spiritual condition before God, not one, and we should stop fabricating them.

But we're not even close to that point yet. Do you remember, after 9/11, when a preacher or two even dared to suggest that it might in any sense be a judgment from God? What happened? Did this spark a national, soul-searching discussion, humbling, mourning over our sins? No. They upstarts were buried alive under howls of derision. It wasn't that they were judged and proven wrong; it was that the very suggestion was obscene, impermissible, unspeakable. Worse still, it was in bad taste! Grammar school kids can be taught about homosexuality, but adults cannot be asked to consider whether their actions merit God's judgment.

So, as of that date, America was not prepared even to frame the discussion, let alone humble itself appropriately.

To be plain, I wouldn't leap to a one-for-one conclusion that this horrid tragedy happened because of this or that sin. But I would say, without hesitation or fear of contradiction, that America deserves God's further judgment. If He were to wipe us from the face of the earth today, none could gainsay His justice. That's how bad it is.

So that is what worries me about the Global War on Terror. Not that it isn't a just cause, and not that President Bush isn't a good man with at least some of the right ideas on what is needed. It's the widespread notion that we'll win because we're good, or strong. It's the thought that an ideology can be defeated and replaced with nothing. We're ready to tell the Islamofascists that they're wrong, and yet in America we can't even publicly suggest the relatively colorless notion of Intelligent Design without sparking a chorus of insults and abuse. Being a practicing Christian disqualifies one from holding public office. Obscenity can be presented in public, but the Ten Commandments cannot. We aren't even permitted the categories that would allow the discussion to move in the right direction. We can't even ask the questions.

If you're not worrying with me yet, let me add one last, chilling thought.

If what has happened to us thus far hasn't even provoked the first beginnings of real soul-searching (and it hasn't)...

...what will it take?

AFTERTHOUGHT: as I wrote this, I had a verse in mind, but couldn't think of a "hook" by which to look it up. I think I've stumbled on it.

This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, "I am, and there is no one else." What a desolation she has become, a lair for wild beasts! Everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes his fist.
(Zephaniah 2:15)

This was a prophecy about Assyria. "Assyria?" you say. "Where's that?" Exactly.

Now here's my point. Assyria was wiped out for its crimes against God and man, even though it had minimal exposure to special revelation.

Who can explain to me how God can be just, and not bring the same judgment against America? Barring widespread, genuine repentance?

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