It doesn’t take a degree in political science to see America is deeply divided at the most fundamental levels. We don’t even have agreement on our foundational ideas. Is it foolish to hope for things to get better?
That depends on where you look for those changes to come from.
If you are looking for a return to unity rooted in merely *political* common ground, it’s a long, hard road for a nation to travel. Especially when the things that once united us — things like a shared history, a shared religion, a positive view of Americans as distinct from their international neighbors — have become points of tension and not commonality.
Throw in complicating factors like the lock the Left has on education, culture, and much of the bureaucratic establishment, together with the intentional pitting of one demographic group of Americans against another, and the shameless purchase of votes with the promise of government largesse and a political fix seems a tough sell indeed.
Is there anywhere we can look for an encouraging word? There is.
Our problem is not, at root, a political one. It’s a conflict of values. And conflicts like that one can be bridged… it just requires a different sort of solution.
We can look to an often-overlooked portion of scripture for the answer, in the book of Ezekiel.
A quick recap of Israel’s history before we get there, though.
Israel, a nation made of the descendants of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, spent 4 centuries under Egyptian rule before Moses led them out in the Exodus as a nation. They received laws, and were given the land that had been promised to Abraham. Once established there, they grew prosperous but also compromised their faithfulness to God by adopting the idolatrous religious practices of their neighbors.
They prospered under Saul, David, and Solomon, but Israel’s idolatry during Solomon’s day was punished during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. (Reasons explained in 1Kings11) This happened by God splitting the one Kingdom of Israel into two rival nations. This division was attributed to a judgment handed down by the hand of God himself. (The prophecy is fulfilled in the following chapter.)
To secure his own reign, and to keep Israel from being reunited in the worship that had been commanded, the rebel king established a new form of worship that was NOT centered in Jerusalem. It was explicitly made as a rival to the worship that had been decreed by The LORD.
The following centures of Jewish history in scripture showcases the conflict between these two rival nations that had at one time stood united in the worship of a Holy God, but because of a dramatic change in ideas of both nationhood and values, there no longer remained any common ground between them. They had become bitter rivals.
Sounding familiar yet?
And then along comes Ezekiel with a quirky little prophesy whose significance might otherwise have been lost on modern ears.
It gets lost in the shadow of a far more famous passage that comes immediately before it. The Valley of Dry Bones prophesies about God restoring Israel into a nation. At the time Ezekiel makes that prophesy, both of Israel’s rival kingdoms have been driven out of their homeland by successive empires, and survivors have been scattered and resettled throughout the empire of the conquering nation.
In the verse IMMEDIATELY following that valley of dry bones image, God takes that glorious vision of hope and restoration and he makes it — if it can be believed — even BETTER:
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” — Source: Biblegateway, Ezekiel 37:15-28
As we all know, the petty differences — deep though they were — that had once divided the nation of Israel have since fallen away. They once again view themselves as one unified people.
What followed their exile was a national turning back to God.
The curative remedy for America is much the same. Reagan has warned us that we are never more than a generation away from losing our freedoms.
Key figures of our past have warned of the important role faith plays in breathing life into the system they handed down to us.
We could cite the ‘whale through a net’ passage, Washington’s Farwell address, or a host of other primary sources to confirm this.
Even some non-religious historians have noted how the social changes that come from a national embrace of Christian virtue have created the social change needed to avert otherwise disastrous social uprisings against injustice. (John Wesley’s impact on England, for example.)
Our ultimate solution, won’t be found in political uprisings and activism. (As important as such activities must surely be.) The ultimate solution is the change of heart we are seeing in response to a clear gospel message.
What Kanye has been doing lately (and others like him in their less visible roles) could have a far greater impact for the unity and stability of the nation than ‘just’ getting the right guy into a primary race.
Because politics is downstream of culture.
And culture is downstream of the ideas they flow from. If you change hearts, you change a nation.
“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles
And as Jesus said:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” — See Matthew 9:35-38
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