This time, as a people, is America’s soul required of us?
What is the first thing the Bible tells us about God? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” According to the Scripture, our primordial perception of God is as the Creator of all that we survey.
What is the primordial principle of justice, according to the America’s Declaration of Independence? It is the self-evident truth “that all men are created…”. We habitually move right along to the next word (equal), so that we can pretend that equality is the first principle of justice articulated in the Declaration. But in fact, as I’ve often said in my speeches, to get to equality you must first go through the Creator.
As a matter of empirical fact, all human beings are provably unequal. Some are stronger, some weaker; some are more, some less intelligent; some are swifter, more coordinated, more or less prone to physical courage, and so on. Based on our experience of the material facts of our humanity, almost nothing seems further from the truth than the notion that we are all, in any important respect, equal.
But just as disparity in the relative size of objects dwindles when they are seen from a great height, so the inequalities among men dwindle to insignificance when considered from the boundless perspective of God. We often cast this in terms of our mortality, of course. After a time all the material advantages one person appears to have over another end up quite literally as dust in the wind. But in the meantime the better endowed can comfort themselves with the thought (not really true, course) that their material advantages give them better prospects of postponing the dusty end of life’s journey for as long as possible.
If human perception were simply a matter of time, that thought would be comfort enough. But there is a subjective quality to our perception of ourselves that leads us to value the moments of our lives in terms of the happiness they bring, and in this sense a longer time is not necessarily a better one. The rich and powerful person’s limousine pauses for a traffic light. In the park nearby, a father pushes his child on a swing. In that moment the limousine’s passenger feels the loss of simple joy occasioned by the incessant demands involved in preserving his wealth and power.
In the parable (Luke 12:16-21) Jesus recounts the satisfaction of the rich man as he tolls off the outward provisions that secure his wealth and power. But with one thought- the thought of what his soul requires- our positive perception of his satisfaction is stripped away. Man hungers for power after power because no matter how much he attains the boundless contentment of the universe stands before him, mocking his little moment of satisfaction in anything he has achieved.
Just as a father or mother, may feel in that moment of mockery the price they have paid in terms of the joys of what should have been their loving relationships, so anyone may in a moment be brought to feel the cost of their ambition, in terms of what should have been their relationships with other human beings. They encounter a sense within themselves that defies the boundaries and conditions that define the perishable vessels which contain the material remains of their ambition. Reaching beyond those little boundaries, it brings home to them the real importance of the subjective joys they have dismissed by their neglect, and the subjective pain their obsession with material objects has inflicted upon others. The emptiness of the time thus wasted floods their consciousness, filling them with apprehension as they realize that there is no time to make up for all that they have lost.
“Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21)
I received an email this week exhorting me to vote for Mitt Romney because “we’re electing a President not a pastor.” But what if, as a people, our night has come? What if, in the crisis of our time it is not our worldly power and wealth that is being weighed in the balance, but what God requires of our soul? We claimed our liberty from the authority of God. We claimed our power, prosperity and strength as the blessings of liberty. But in recent times we have utterly surrendered those blessings to be governed by people who are “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
People blinded by partisanship may wish to pretend that these words only apply to “the other side”. But the telling fact is that if we consider the major Parties as wings of a single faction, that faction, taken as a whole, displays every trait mentioned in the Scripture. Is it any wonder that in the past ten years we have witnessed the precipitous decline of America’s material strength in every respect. We can debate which generation in the course of our nation’s history deserves to be called the greatest. But honesty demands that at the least we plead “nolo contendere” to the charge that the leaders that have wantonly squandered our nation’s moral and material treasure over the past decade represent, by far, the worst generation in our history.
And this is the first generation in which the power of the Creator God has been formally disparaged, rejected and treated as of no account in our laws and public policies. In light of this, the real choice we face in the 2012 election is not the insulting, obsessively materialistic sham (It’s the economy, stupid!) insisted upon by the two wings of the elitist faction. The real choice is the one God offers to each of us, about the way we live and the way we use the voice and vote we have claimed from his authority. Tragically, Barack Obama and the Democrats represent the all but formal abandonment of our God-acknowledging principles, and Mitt Romney represents nothing but formal respect for them. Together they offer a choice “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”
How then can we vote in a way that acknowledges and relies upon the power of God and his judgment, as America’s founders did in the Declaration of Independence? We can do so by casting a vote that represents our determination to reject the false choice we are offered; a vote by which we commit ourselves to the movement that insists upon a return to God’s authority as the premise of our constitution, our laws and our politics; and a vote that courageously displays our faithful determination to demand that this premise it be respected, in public spirit, word and action.