The Middle English alliterative poem ‘Cleanness’ was written in the late 14th century. The author (anonymous) sought to illuminate the dangers of personal defilement and the joy of a life dominated by virtue. The author is likely the same person that wrote the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” another deep dive into the powers of deception, delusion, deceit and the wiles of the devil contrasted with the precious and eternal pillars of a life well-lived, governed by good character, impeccable integrity, honesty, humility, compassion, self-denial and delayed gratification.
The history of the Jews began with the history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Bible threads the broken lives of men and women living in a fallen world where good and evil exist side-by-side. The exhilaration of living in the land of Goshen in Egypt was followed by slavery. After 400 years the Jews were led out of Egypt and into Canaan. The trials and testing throughout this history is remarkable. At times when the people turned with all their hearts and strength to their God they prospered and were secure, their lives had meaning, purpose, peace and contentment. At other times as they drifted away from God, generally when they had been blessed with good times, their experience went from spiritual vexation all the way to horrific destruction, much as the Canaanites they displaced had experienced as a result of their insistence upon embracing false gods that led them even to sacrifice their newborn babies by burning them alive.
The Israelites had good kings and bad kings, Godly men and women lived out their lives alongside evil people as both spiritual realms of good and evil fought a battle for the souls of mankind. This history of the Jews is a story of extremes. From the experiences of the miracles of God and the wonders and fulfillment that came from yielding to Him, all the way to the destruction of their temple (twice) and displacement out of their homeland, and even to the present day Holocaust and the existential threat of their nation today surrounded by 99% of a region that desires their complete annihilation.
Today in America we have the very same corollary. Blessed of the Lord most of the nation embraced and worshiped, the United States became strong and was feared by the evil powers around the world. We sent missionaries to preach the good news of Christ and the Cross, while providing food and medicines to those nations in need. Our universities were the training grounds for the missionaries and hospitals and philanthropy flourished as we followed our God-given inclination to love our neighbor and do good.
But just as Israel we began to see our greatness as a result of our own achievements. Our science even began to replace the miracles and the truth of the Creator who had endowed us with our increasing knowledge. We began to ‘explain’ the miracles of creation and somehow managed to conclude that meant these complex and amazing designs were ordinary and could be characterized, measured and modeled in great detail. God was ejected from His place as the author of all that He had created.
After God gave us a moral and complete victory over evil in World War II our pride and national hubris had grown to the point where it was increasingly crowding out any place for God in our lives. We relied on our wealth, our military, our technology, and our education and no longer needed anything from God. We had become self-sufficient and had determined mankind could, should and would determine our own destiny. That was the point when God began to leave us to our own devices and to allow us to pursue our own path toward what we thought would certainly be successful prosecution of ending wars, ending hunger, ending crime, and indeed virtually eliminating pain and suffering.
But just as history teaches, the opposite occurred. Each successive war following WWII increased our national humiliation. Korea was fought to a stalemate. Vietnam ended with us scrambling to make our exit while our partners in the south were rounded up, imprisoned and executed. The reasons given for Iraq were the inventions and imaginations of a group of government men still drunk with the hubris of world dominance, hegemony and sole superpower status. Iraq upset the regional balance of power, enabling ISIS and emboldening Iran. Finally, in spite of a failed decade Russia experienced before leaving Afghanistan precisely as they found it, we took twice as long to get to that same point. Today Afghanistan is an entire nation filled with terrorists, from Taliban and Al Qaeda to ISIS and warlords. Afghanistan is today a safe harbor for any terrorist or terrorist group that desires the freedom to train and to plan their evil intentions. Their exports are terrorism and opium.
From widespread STI’s to HIV and today a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, health has taken a turn for the worse and life expectancy is decreasing in spite of the greatest medical technology and resources on the planet. Obesity is embraced as fat shaming is verboten. Heroin, Fentanyl and drugs are cutting short many lives as our role models themselves succumb to the temptations. Media posts new pictures of actresses nude or even in porn videos. Hundreds of genders have replaced a man and a woman, and marriages have become risky long-term contracts with mostly deleterious consequences. Sexuality dominates education and has even permeated grade school. Websites offer the means for a sexual rendezvous with a stranger in your zip code. Pornography is now free and the admixture with violence in movies has numbed the conscience and senses of everyone exposed to it.
Religion has taken on the bifurcation that accounts for the majority involved in it. Either one is ridiculed and despised for the idiocy of their religious faith, or they cobble together their own ethos according to their desired lifestyle. Politics, health and wealth, mysticism and many other extra-Biblical alternatives and counterfeits are available, and each of us can find the groups to join online in a matter of minutes.
We struggle and strive to ‘explain’ the demise and downward trajectory of our nation. History provides the best explanation. We embrace science and seek to turn back the impact of climate change. We vaccinate people so the virus cannot harm them. We continue to finance our lavish lifestyles through an enormous accumulation of debt. We pursue get-rich-quick schemes and dismiss hard work as unnecessary. Our educational system is focused on our post-truth subjectivity and fads of the time. From sexual and gender peculiarities to the desire to cancel our egregious and shameful history, even our President spent a lot of time worrying about how restrooms should be labeled and how the rest of the world can embrace our version of sexual transparency and complete acceptance of all the combinations and permutations imaginable.
Just as the Lord poured out His spirit for revival following the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll vexation of the sixties, He did so again following 9-11. But each revival lives a shorter period of time than the last. Our hearts are hard today. We are filled with rage and violence. Will the Lord send another revival? Or have we crossed the line where there is no longer any possibility of turning back to Him and being healed? The rites, rituals and rules of manmade religions never saved a single soul. Only the Cross of Christ can do that.
For America the writing is on the wall: “Mene , Mene , Tekel , Parsin” … We have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.