America the Beautiful? Part 2


The egregious abuse of Iraqi prisoners by their U.S. captors at the Abu Ghraib prison -- and the accompanying photographs -- have been the big news around the world the last couple of weeks. By using demagogic and sensationalist reporting, the world's mainstream media has thrown these events wildly out of proportion. As with war crimes in the past, it may take months, even years, to sort out all the facts. However, in this case, believers must look beyond socio-political concerns to observe the spiritual forces at work.

U.S. President George W. Bush declared that the abuse in Abu Ghraib "does not represent the America I know." Unfortunately, this statement reflects either a bit of wishful thinking or political spin control. On one hand, the prisoner abuses do involve just a tiny fraction of the American occupants in Iraq. (The cultural elite would like to believe the abuses are simply representative of the ever-widening class gulf in the U.S.) But on the other hand, America's moral decay is on exhibit for all the world to see. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

Psalm 90:

8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
We cannot always expect to understand Divine Judgment, but we can expect Its imminency. The revelation of Iraqi prisoner abuse, especially in light of its attendant worldwide coverage (no matter the human motive), is God's way of holding up a mirror to America's pervasive sexual sin. Pornography clearly casts its long, dark shadow over these abuses, and it affects both the secular and Christian worlds. A recent Barna Group study reveals a moral apathy among Americans -- most alarmingly among those who claim to be born again Christians -- regarding certain key issues as pornography and sexual immorality.

As was noted in the earlier post "America the Beautiful?," the existence of sin is denied or, at the very least, its relevance is diminished in America today. This worldwide scandal of abuse is just one example of God's warnings to America that its shame can and will not stay hidden forever if it does not change its ways.

America has become a bit like the titular character of Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray -- still vibrantly alive and beautiful on the outside while decaying and hideously grotesque on the inside. The comparison most apropos to today's United States is, of course, ancient Rome. Like her classical counterpart, America is a nonpareil superpower whose greatest enemy is herself.

A part of America wants to pretend that "family values" are still preeminent, in spite of a popular culture so completely corrosive to those values. The Christianity in America has become cultural, just as religions in other countries are cultural. People are born into it. True followers of Christ will find that their idealized America no longer exists and they are strangers in a strange land: "I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother's sons." (Psalm 69:8)

America must humbly return to God as the nation of Judah did centuries ago, when King Jehoshaphat led his people in prayer and fasting before the Lord (2 Chronicles Chapter 20). God (and the world) know that America is not what it says it is; when will its citizens wake up and change?