God Bless America

An article I saw recently asked the question “What if God doesn’t want America to be great again?”

It’s a thought-provoking question. The point is not that God might want America’s destruction (I don’t for one second believe that He does), but that our ideas of what “greatness” looks like might be different to His.

Are secure borders, a strong military and a powerful economy what make a nation great in His sight? As the article pointed out, Jesus was born into a nation so weak it was actively under military occupation by a pagan foreign nation, to a poor family who could only afford the very smallest celebratory sacrifice prescribed in the Law for a firstborn. The early Church were a persecuted minority even in that nation. Why should we believe that God necessarily wants an America that is militarily and economically powerful even at the expense of righteousness?

Is this greatness?

The world would say so, but I do not believe that this is God’s view of the matter. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”. “When I am weak, then I am strong”. “Do not consider his height or his outward appearance, for I have rejected him. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart”.

God is omniscient. This is fast becoming my favourite attribute of the Divine nature to talk about, but I think it’s timely. He sees everything as it truly is. No masks, no hiding. His Eye penetrates every smokescreen and half-truth. When we do not conform to His view of a matter, we are disputing the only One who really knows what is true Reality. We’re building on the shifting sand of illusion rather than the solid ground of the Real. We have to conform our ideas of greatness to God’s, otherwise we are being caught up in an illusory snare.

What might an America that is truly great in God’s sight look like?

A place where there truly is “liberty and justice for all”. A place of real equality of opportunity, no-one denied their opportunities for advancement or basic dignity as a human being made in the image of God on the basis of the shape of their reproductive organs, the colour of their skin or any other external factors. Honest pay for honest work. Employers being required to give just wages to their employees. No-one being required to shoulder the burden of selfish parasites who game the system, whether they bear the label of employee or employer.

Truth in our media, why not? No more misleading claims or outright falsehoods from our politicians, our advertisers or anyone else. A news industry that is more interested in publishing the truth than prolonging a problem or selling a story. A nation of forthright integrity, where a man’s word is their bond and where no-one takes credit for the good done by another or blames their own fault on someone else.

A nation whose abundance of resources are a source of blessing not just to a rich and powerful few, but to every citizen and overflowing into the world. Where we steward the good land that He has entrusted to us, tempering the real need for economic development and employment with our responsibility to preserve our vast natural wonders for the next seven generations and more.

A nation that recognises its role as a world leader as a role of service in the world; a nation that is a leader in compassion and justice, that engages in this fallen world in a way that promotes Godly freedom and opposes Satanic tyranny where it finds it. A promoter of true and lasting peace, not the “peace at any price” compromise with darkness or the harsh “peace” of the gun, but a peace built on justice and equity.

A nation whose entertainment industry is no longer a byword in the world for brazen lasciviousness and immorality, but for honest, clean fun and real thought-provoking stories.

An America we can all be proud of.

I offer this as a shining image we can all aspire to. Even this Brit. I’d be honoured to be a part of that America; who wouldn’t? Who cares if it comes about under someone calling themselves a Republican or someone calling themselves a Democrat; they aren’t going to be the ones responsible for it anyway. “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes”.

Feel free to disagree with some of my details, too. I’m not claiming prophetic insight here; I’m using my imagination. God gave you one also; if you don’t like my interpretation of an America that’s great in God’s sight, use it to prayerfully build your own.

This isn’t intended to be a case of the prophet pointing to the actual while holding up the ideal and saying “I have this against you, says the Lord, that you are not that“, either. It’s intended as a goal. Something we can pray towards.

Note my deliberate choice of verbs. This is not something we can achieve at the ballot box; it’s something we can only see if the Lord is gracious enough to send us a true revival. It begins not with the enforced changing of behaviours or the persuasive changing of minds, but with the Holy Spirit-instigated changing of hearts.

Maybe it’s time we took all of that energy and time we spend posting and arguing with political posts on social media, and instead spent them on our knees (metaphorically or literally) in prayer for our God to intervene and, by whatever means He should choose, to bring people to Himself heart and soul and mind and behaviour.

I put it out there as a challenge, and I’m challenging myself as well, because I’m at least as guilty as you are.

And I have a few suggestions for how to sustain it without it becoming rote repetition of a meaningless phrase:

  • Pick an attribute of God’s character – for example, mercy. Think about what it might look like for God’s mercy to be truly reflected in our national institutions. Ask God to make that a reality; that His will truly will be done on Earth, here in America, as it is in heaven. Tomorrow, pick a different one.

  • Pick a national institution or industry, for example the media, or the justice system, or the world of business. Ask God to show you what it might look like if His will was truly being done as it is in heaven. Listen, then ask Him to do it.

  • Live as a citizen of heaven. Praying “Thy will be done” in the nation is all very well, but what if one of the impediments is that His will is not being fully done in your own life? We’re all there to a greater or lesser extent; ask God to help you live out of your new identity in Christ. He’s given you His Holy Spirit; you have the power of the omnipotent God who dwells in His people. You can live a holy life, and do so without being an unpleasant person, too!

  • Get together with others. Following Jesus was never meant to be an individualistic thing divorced from any real fellowship or relationship with other people. We are a people belonging to God; a communion of saints. A real fellowship that begins with being real with one another is a vital part of this following-Jesus thing. And nowhere more so than in prayer! We are coming before our God, the ultimate Reality. We cannot afford to let offences and divisions build until they obscure His image in our fellows.

  • Keep at it! Persistence pays off. Even in Jesus’ parable of the widow faced with an unjust judge who was determined to rob her of her right to justice, the judge relented in the face of her persistence. God is not like that unjust judge, determined to keep us in misery and rob us of His justice. We are asking Him to do something He wants to do! We know that when we do that, we are praying according to His will; let us not give up before we see the fruit. When Elijah prayed for the drought to end, he had to send his servant back to look three times, and at the end the only sign was a cloud as small as a man’s hand. Look for it. Expect it. Live as though the Divine breakthrough is on its way. Be a living avatar of what it will be like then.

I finish with a song. One of only a very few patriotic American songs that I can stand tall as a Brit and sing with a whole heart, in fact:

God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her, and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam:
God bless America, my home sweet home.
God bless America, my home sweet home.


Never Beam Down to the Revolutionary War Wearing a Red Shirt

I keep chickening out of wearing one of my Union Jack t-shirts on the Fourth of July itself. Probably no-one would care or even notice, but it would feel like blowing a raspberry at the whole American Independence thing. Loudly. And there’s always the chance of meeting someone with a little more alcohol-fueled revolutionary fervour than is good for them, and I don’t want to get beaten up or attacked by some drunk redneck over my choice of apparel. If I’m going to get beaten up, I’d like it to be for something important.

But this year I may have found a way to express my own patriotism in a subtler way.

Since my red hair started to darken to its present browner shade, I’ve actually started to look pretty good in bright red.

Red’s a good patriotic American colour, the first of the trio of colours that we both share. No-one’s going to object. Least of all in Texas where it’s also the colour of the dominant Republican party. Look, I’m wearing a quintessentially American colour!

But red was also the uniform colour of the British soldiers during the period of the Revolution. It survives today in the British Army’s dress uniforms, including the Queen’s celebrated Grenadier Guards who are famed for not moving no matter what you do around them to try and distract them. Texas is too hot for a full coat or jacket around the Fourth, even quite late at night, so perhaps a red T-shirt…

I rather like the subtlety. I don’t want to be symbolically making rude gestures at the whole thing, just finding a way to touch base with my own national identity without getting perceived as cocking a snook.

This seems in itself fairly British. An understated but very real pride in our nation that doesn’t have to tell everyone how great we are. Maybe we do just expect everyone to know already, but this is America, and it’s the Fourth of July, and we were the Enemy during the War of Independence. And Americans are more in touch with their history than we are, because they have less of it to remember, and I’m doing my usual Fourth of July thing of worrying myself into a frenzy over the popular perception of my country as it was a mere couple of centuries ago.

Still, who can object to a red shirt? It’s subtle enough. Even a red shirt echoing the red coats of the Crown loyalists. No-one need know except you and me.