In his blog the other day, farmerD, a respected former co-worker of mine, asked the question:
Does God Still Love America?
and his short answer to the question was:
“My gut tells me that God loves Americans [because He loves all His children] but He might not be very happy with America lately.”
As I regular reader of his blog, ordinarily I wouldn’t have felt inclined to respond to this sentiment, because I have a great deal of respect and admiration for farmerD and sadly I do disagree with much of what he wrote. However, in a subsequent post he indicated that he was hoping for some commentary on his views, even disagreeing ones. Since I decided he deserved what he desired, and he’s said he would be happy to hear what I had to say, here’s my take.
The regular readers of I Was About to Say will need to read farmerD’s blog post to be fully apprised about what I’m responding to. Since I think there’s only one such reader, known to her own readers as MorningStar, this may not increase your blog readership much, D!
Sorry it took me so long! Here I go.
Certain of your points bear repeating here, starting with the overall sentiment:
The harder question to answer is, “Does God love what America has come to represent?”. My gut tells me, no, God doesn’t like what America has come to represent lately.
But just what is it about “lately” in America that God wouldn’t like, presuming (as I believe) that He liked it earlier?
Taking today’s conditions and moving backwards in time to, say, 150 years ago, we find that in that time there were a number of things that were markedly different from today. Two of these that come to mind are:
- Slavery still existed in a large number of US states.
- The Indian Nations were being brushed aside and their members decimated in the rush for settlement
Fast-forwarding to today we find:
- Not only has slavery been long abolished, but a black man stands at the head of the country as President
- There is still much to be done to improve the situation of the remnant Indians in the land, but many of the tribes which survived the Indian Wars have grown prosperous, and many now scalp willing participants in the many casinos on Reservation land — not that I approve of gambling, per se, but in the spirit of “turn about is fair play”, there we are.
I would say that in these two areas alone there has been a great improvement over the past, and a reasonable argument for God’s favor now in contrast to the past.
You go on to make some interesting assertions, which I should like to comment upon:
God favors mercy over might.
Yes, I am sure He does, but might and mercy are not mutually exclusive. In fact, without might to counterbalance it, mercy is pretty much meaningless. How can you be merciful when you’re not capable of not being merciful? In other words, a lion who has no teeth is not being merciful when he declines to bite you — he is being merciful when he has teeth, but purrs instead.
But why would be this be something to bring up in the context of God not favoring the country? Perhaps you mean that we have a powerful military, and are not as merciful as we used to be? Seems to me that this is not the case. I believe we have been quite merciful, and are in fact much more merciful than ever before. In the wake of World War II, for example, we spent untold billions of dollars to help our former enemies rebuild their countries, even though those countries were the initial aggressors, and in fact those countries were perpetrators of the most absolutely unconscionable acts of mass murder in the history of the world. We recognized that it was the leaders of those countries who were respondible, and by and large not the people themselves, and made great efforts to help those people to rebuild and overcome the aftermath of that war.
This trend has continued, starting with Vietnam, when at the end of that conflict we welcomed large contingents of Vietnamese as immigrants when they fled their country in the face of murderout political persecution.
It even continued with Afghanistan, when in response to that country’s harboring and support of those who carried out the cowardly attacks on September 11, 2001, we invaded and overturned that government, but followed up with spending much blood and treasure doing our best to install and maintain a democratically-elected government, hoping to build a pluralistic society giving equal rights to all.
And again, whether one believes we should have invaded Iraq to change its regime or not (and I do not necessarily accept that we were justified over that), having broke the country we set out to spend much blood and treasure to try to do the same there as Afghanistan. Whether this will prove effective in either case is yet to be seen, nevertheless we could have simply left both places in pieces (turning them into parking lots in a certain turn of phrase), and gone home to let them recover or not. That would have been merciless, but it is not the path that was taken, because we chose the better path.
God favors charity over greed.
Yes, I am sure that he does, but a most interesting thing has been happening over the past couple of years in the United States. Despite the alarming economic slump, charitable giving by individuals and corporations has declined only the slightest bit. The Giving USA Foundation reported that in 2008 U.S. charitable giving was estimated to be $307.65 billion, a mere 2% drop over 2007.
“With the United States mired in a recession throughout 2008, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that charitable giving would be down,” said (Ms.) Del Martin, CFRE, chair of Giving USA Foundation. “However, what we find remarkable is that individuals, corporations and foundations still provided more than $307 billion to causes they support, despite the economic conditions.” — Giving USA Foundation
Americans remain among the most charitable people on the planet. I do believe that God’s favor is not at risk, in this respect at least.
God favors prayer over false witness.
I am not sure of the purport of this statement. “Prayer” and “false witness”, to quote Joe Black, is kind of an odd pairing, having little relationship with each other, and you didn’t provide any example to illustrate where you were going with this, so all I can do is say, Yes, I believe that God likes to hear from His children, and Yes, he prefers them to be truthful.
God favors entitlements over tax cuts.
With this assertion, we step firmly out of the realm of religious conviction and straight into politics. I’d want to see a scriptural citation on this one — but I am pretty sure not even a single verse from the Bible would support the notion that God has a particular favorite tax rate, nor one that would set a particular level of entitlement. So, in my view this is most certainly unsupportable.
But from a purely social/political/economic point of view, we run here into a serious conundrum. When it comes to entitlements, first of all there is a moral issue at stake. An “entitlement” is something that is owed to someone unconditionally. It is an old word, and it goes back to the days of Feudalism. If I were a Lord of a particular domain, I would have a number of vassals under me, and because of my noble title I would be entitled to certain things from each of them. It was my right to demand a certain amount of their labor, and in time of conflict it was also my right to demand a certain number of them show up at my castle, under arms, and be prepared to fight to the death at my orders. In some parts of Feudal Europe, such as France, my vassals were very nearly my slaves during some periods. In England not so much.
As used today, the usage of the word is not exactly the same, but it does resemble it quite a bit. In US public policy, an entitlement is something that when it is demanded, it must be delivered. If I am entitled to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, if 1/2 of the country shows up and applies for it, then it must be given them. There is only the one outcome. The government can’t say, well, we ran completely out of money last week, so sorry! They have to pony it up. And there’s only two ways to do it: one is to raise taxes; the other is to print money. The first takes money directly from those who are earning a living; the second does so, as well, but via the mechanism known as inflation, something which reduces the value of all money currently in circulation, making the money in your pocket worth less, thus increasing prices. This affects everyone, but it especially and very negatively affects those who have the least money, who are — you guessed it — the ones who were to be helped with the entitlement in the first place.
I have heard many politicians, whose notion of Christian charity appears more likely to have been extracted from Karl Marx rather than the Bible, assert that Christian charity consists of the government taking large sums of money from people who earned it, distributing it to people who had not earned it, while keeping a share of the loot for themselves in the form of employee (and politician) salaries and overhead. The problem with this theory is that when Jesus admonished people to help the poor, He was speaking to individuals, admonishing them to give from their own means, of their own free will and choice. If this life is a test, which I am sure is at least part of the purpose, then part of the test consists of the answer to the question: “What will you do with the blessings God has given you?” I don’t believe that the correct answer to the question is: “I voted for the government to forcibly take money from some and give it to others.”
There’s more that could be said about this, but suffice it to say that if Congress were to enact a 100% tax on every earned dollar over $1,000,000, the sum that would be collected would not make a dent in the current federal deficit, despite Nancy Pelosi’s strong belief to the contrary.
God favors tithing over self indulgence.
No argument there. But my question might be, once I’ve paid my 10%, may I use the rest of my money as I desire? If I buy me a brand new boat, the money hasn’t disappeared, it has gone into the pockets of the boat company, and then out again through the pockets of all that company’s workers, who may now buy something they want. Even self-indulgence can cause economic benefit.
For those of you that will read this and feel offended that I can even suggest that America is not the greatest nation in the world and therefore we must not be blessed by God, my simple response is, Rome.
That’s right, great empires fail. They fail hard and they fail fast. America is failing and the pace of failure is picking up speed. The Bible doesn’t mention America in the beginning or the end. Some folks really twist passages around to make a connection to America but I don’t agree with most of their vague connections.
It’s true that some great empires have fallen; some have fallen to invading armies, some have fallen to insurrection from within, while still others have fallen due to their own corruption. But Rome isn’t the best example of this, D. Its decline was a long and gradual process rather than a single event. Rome survived almost 1500 years after the birth of Jesus — the last vestige of the Roman Empire, Constantinople, fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Even the Western Roman Empire survived until nearly 500 years after Christ’s birth. That isn’t exactly failing hard and fast. Rome is definitely mentioned in the New Testament, but no prediction of its failure can be found there.
I’m not sure that omitting mention of America in the Bible is a sign that America is going to fail hard and fast. The British Empire is not mentioned there either, but it has been around since about 1583, and though most of the former possessions of that Empire have a substantially different relationship with Britain in these days, 16 members of those nominally independent countries still consider Elizabeth II to be their Queen.
The problems which are growing in the United States are largely (though not entirely) due to bad economic policies, one of the most important of which is the dramatic rise in the national debt. It’s not merely increasing, even its increase has been accelerating, and if the tide of its increase is not stemmed, we may indeed face a huge economic collapse. The key to stemming this tide is to drastically reduce spending until we return to a state of surplus in the budget. If we don’t do this, then the degree of oppression and suffering in this country (and through us in the rest of the world) will become unimaginable.
God finds favor with us when we stop the oppression and suffering of His children. I doubt He is impressed with stock options and million dollar bonuses. God finds favor with us when we respond to natural disasters and lend a helping hand. I doubt He is impressed when we layoff workers in America for shareholder profits.
Important economic questions are being ignored here.
Question 1: “What is profit?” Answer: “It is an excess of income over expense.”
Question 2: “What is the opposite of profit?” Answer: “It is loss, or in other words, an excess of expense over income.”
A company which is making a profit does not generally lay off workers; if profits are increasing, then it will probably even expand its operations and hire more workers. On the other hand, a company which is losing money must somehow reduce expenses in order to avoid losing money. If that company does not do so, then eventually it will no longer be able to remain in business, and not only will the shareholders lose their investment, not just a portion, but all of the workers will lose their jobs. So, when asking the question What Would Jesus Do? in the matter of a company that is losing money, would Jesus feel it is better to lay off some workers in order to preserve the jobs of the rest, or would it be better to stand pat until they all get laid off? Most companies prefer first to reduce expenses in other ways before they resort to layoffs, because layoffs are destructive not only to workers, but also to the companies that must carry them out. This is because layoffs represent important knowledge and skills being lost, frequently permanently since many workers will never come back even after times improve, and because laid off workers represent lost production and inability to be flexible to supply and demand.
I don’t know that there is anything sinful in stock options and million-dollar bonuses, in and of themselves. Stock options are available so as to allow companies to attract needed workers, indeed, to compete for valuable workers against other companies. Businesses make decisions concerning their operations all the time which lead either to profit or loss. And what if a man who saves a billion dollar company from bankruptcy is paid a million-dollar bonus for doing so? Does this violate a law of God? Even if saving the company (and 10,000 jobs) meant laying off 2,000? It is seldom so simple as laying off workers in any event.
You see, I think if God was a CEO (or even present in corporate America) He would make sure His workers are cared for. He would make sure their families are cared for. He would make sure the communities are cared for. God wouldn’t take enormous profits to build a huge modern day high-tech ark. He might settle for a small bass boat that He can could share with a few buddies.
I think that if God were a CEO in corporate America, being an omniscient and omnipotent being He would clearly be able to run His company in such a way that it would always make a profit every single year, without fail, because, well, He’s God for goodness sake! But not even God would be able to continue to operate His company if He spent more money than his operations brought in, and if He did so, well even God would go out of business and His workers would all get laid off just in time for Christmas.
You just can’t inject God into these kinds of scenarios. Because God is in His Heaven, and sadly enough it is fallible and imperfect humans who must run companies. And by their very nature companies MUST make a profit, or they will not survive. Lots of companies care for their workers, because without their workers they cannot make a profit. If they treat their workers badly, well guess what, their workers will quit and work for their competitors, if their competitors are known for treating their workers well.
What do you think?
farmerD, you have a good heart, and I am sure that if you ran a business you would be a good boss to work for. Heck, I’d be happy to work for you any day! But good heart or not, if you violate the laws of economics, your company will go out of business, and your workers will be thrown out on the street. That is just the way it is.