Bless the Nation

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

 

Genesis 15:1-6
Psalm 33:12-22
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

Last week we looked at consumerism; today, we look at politicisms. When many Christians read Psalm 33, verse 12 jumps out. How blessed the nation whose God is Yahweh, the people he has chosen as his heritageNJB

The idea that the promised New Israel is America goes back a long way. Independently, many Puritans took up and applied the older idea that England enjoyed a covenant with God—a ‘covenant of grace,’ they called it—even if they hesitated at first about whether the Promised Land was to be found in the new England or the oldFrom The Chosen People

The idea was preached around the colonies and into the Federal government. It was one of the themes of the several Great Awakenings, the First around 1740. Americans today like the notion. Here is part of a speech by Vice-President Mike Pence given to the Israeli Knesset. My country’s very first settlers also saw themselves as pilgrims, sent by Providence, to build a new Promised Land. The songs and stories of the people of Israel were their anthems, and they faithfully taught them to their children, and do to this day. And our founders, as others have said, turned to the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible for direction, guidance and inspiration.

Is America promised by God to be the New Israel?

One of the most important prooftexts is 2 Samuel 7:10; And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbedNIV I have a hard time seeing America in the text.

Over the past few centuries, several countries have claimed to be the New Israel, beginning with the Roman Empire, then the Byzantine Empire, with a long list after that.

I’m sorry, but the US is not special. In January 1949, we believed we were the saviors of the world. We accounted for about half of the world’s wealth. We were helping war-torn countries rebuild. We were the sole possessors of the A-bomb (at least until August of that year). And we defeated both Germany and Japan because we are God’s Chosen Ones. OK, Russia and Britain might have helped some.

With that mentality, we became convinced we could do no wrong. We were sure we could take care of Korea, Viet Nam, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, etc., etc.

What went wrong?

We miss-read and miss-understood the Bible, the Word of God. We focused on verse 12 of the Psalm instead of verse 16; The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strengthESV We forgot verse 5; The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing loveNIV We thought verse 8 referred to the US; Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere himNIV He must have meant the Soviet Union or Afghanistan when He said, Adonai brings to nothing the plans of nations, he foils the plans of the peoplesCJB

We have trouble understanding God when He says he loves everyone, that He wants everyone to believe in Him and live with Him forever. We prefer the warnings He gives to us about what will happen if we do not say yes.

In this world, armies are necessary for defense, but we have become confused about what defense means. Invading countries we’re not happy with is not defensive. I believe George Bush did a good job when Iraq invaded Kuwait. He rounded up an international team and gave Iraq every opportunity to move out. We can debate the nuances of, and reasons for the war, but he conducted it properly.

War is always wrong, but it is sometimes the only option left to us. May God forgive us for all the times we have misused our defensive forces.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

A Consumer Society

Image by peridotmaize from Pixabay

 

Ecclesiastes 1:2-14; 2:18-23
Psalm 49:1-11
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

Jesus is not a very good capitalist. He makes many Christians anxious. With passages like the one in Luke today, he seems to be endorsing socialism. Let’s look at the economic side first.

Adam Smith wrote An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. He was Scottish and had nothing to do with the rebels south of Canada. He wrote things like this; It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. In other words, the butcher, brewer, and baker will try to create products that we will want to buy so they can make money. They have selfish motives.

We buyers are also selfish and want the meat, beer, and bread for as little money as possible. The result is that producers and consumers negotiate the price until both agree (Law of Supply and Demand). Today, the process is so ingrained in our culture that we do not think of it as negotiating. P&G introduced the first disposable diaper in 1961, but not before testing the market to see if people would buy the product. It took about five years, but they found that 10¢ was acceptable to enough people to make it worth building a factory, and the rest is history. The price dropped to 6¢ in 1964. They are 20¢ and up today.

Why disposable diapers? Before 1961, all diapers were cloth and were washed, daily. In 1946, the ‘boater’ was introduced—a waterproof panty to cover the cloth. As you can imagine, with babies spoiling as many as 15 diapers a day, that’s a lot of nasty work.

Proctor and Gamble’s advertised Pampers as a way to avoid much of that work.

This is classic consumerism. There is no real need to give up cloth diapers. They worked very well, and the total cost—detergent, water, etc.—was under 6¢. But by the 1960s, Americans were used to looking for better and easier ways to do everything, so why not?

My mother sowed a patch over the holes in my jeans, so I didn’t have to be embarrassed to wear holy jeans to school. Then the iron-on patch was introduced, and life was good.

In Luke, we read; Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessionsNIV Is it greed to use disposable diapers? Is Jesus cautioning us about such a practical thing? Maybe, and yes.

It is greedy to buy a product just because it is easier. That is not a one-size-fits-all statement though. There are times and situations where disposables are the better choice. Stress the word, Greed. Ask yourself, why am I doing this?

We must also think about the bigger picture. Disposable diapers today add 3.5 billion tons of waste to landfills; waste that takes an average of 500 years to decompose. A ratty old cloth diaper can be used to clean the car—or a thousand and one other tasks—before going to the landfill where it will decompose in a year.

Many die-hard capitalists like to quote Adam Smith, but rarely this, No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. Or, As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. And most especially not, With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches.

We live in a consumer society, but our Master warns us against the seduction of wealth. We live in a wealthy country, but Jesus encourages us to share that wealth. Instead of building bigger grain bins, give the bumper crop grain to the poor.

Americans officially give around 2% of our wealth to charities, but when we look closely, most of that money goes to a variety of institutions—universities, private lower schools, scouts, etc. Looking only at churches, less than 10% goes to the poor and needy, with the Catholic Church leading by a wide margin.

Understand that Jesus was a consumer. He ate food. He wore clothes. We don’t know what else he may have purchased, but he was involved in at least a basic way. What he did not do was buy in excess. He maintained a modest lifestyle. He concentrated on helping those in need. He encouraged all of us to do the same.

We each need to take a serious look at our own lifestyle and see our selfishness and greed. We need to work on accepting the real lack of need for all the latest gadgets and fads. At least 60% of Americans can cut back. That could put a kink in the Chinese markets.

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence