Walking Our Faith: Are we still one nation under God? (column)
June 22, 2018
"'I'm going to take your child to get bathed.' That's one we see again and again. … The child goes off, and in a half an hour, 20 minutes, the parent inquires, 'Where is my 5-year-old?' … And they say, 'You won't be seeing your child again.'" — Anne Chandler, Tahirih Justice Center, in Texas Monthly last week.
We are an imperfect nation, with a history that is far from blameless. Yet, we are unique in that we were founded by men and women of every race and ethnicity who sacrificed to build a nation. It was these immigrants, yes, even our founding fathers, and everyone who came afterward, whether as free or slaves, from around the world, that built this country into the greatest in the history of the world.
As Americans we take great pride in being a world leader and a moral authority. We proclaim we are "one nation under God," but do we understand that claim is not a right, but a responsibility?
God commands us: "Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalm 82:3-4)
How strikingly similar are the words on the Statue of Liberty which greet countless immigrants: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
We do not honor God's command when we separate children from their parents, causing emotional scars that will last a lifetime.
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Noble leaders are aware that with the mantle of greatness comes the responsibility for compassion, to protect the weakest, the poor, those who have nothing but the desperate will to live in a free and safe country. Yet, to hear our current leaders, one might believe that the authoritarian "strong man" is to be admired and the weak despised.
Jesus had a much different view of who should be honored, when he gave the Sermon on the Mount:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, / for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. / Blessed are those who mourn, / for they will be comforted. / Blessed are the meek, / for they will inherit the earth. / Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, / for they will be filled. / Blessed are the merciful, / for they will be shown mercy. / Blessed are the pure in heart, / for they will see God. / Blessed are the peacemakers, / for they will be called children of God. / Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, / for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3-10)
When we look at America today, who are we emulating?
Ronald Reagan sited John Winthrop's description of America as a city on a hill, to explain the responsibility we shoulder as a great nation: "We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, 'The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America, God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.' We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth."
Reagan's city on a hill, has very holy origins: "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)
Do we still share Reagan's vision for our country, and the compassion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He said this: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before me … You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." (Exodus 20:2,7)
Do we take the name of the Lord, Our God, in vain, when we claim to be a nation under God, yet ignore his command to "defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed? Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked?"
Do we diminish the foundation of our greatness, the pursuit of freedom, when we deny that same Declaration of Independence to others? Jesus warned, "to whom much is given, much is expected."
Can we be a nation under God, yet live lives that mock God's commands? If we bend the law of the land to enrich ourselves, but manipulate the law to deny the poor and oppressed the freedom we claim, that now only belongs to a privileged few, are we not sinning against God?
And if so, do we believe that God will ignore our arrogant disregard?
"They sow the win / and reap the whirlwind. / The stalk has no head; / it will produce no flour. / Were it to yield grain, / foreigners would swallow it up." (Hosea 8:7)
Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge.
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