Oftentimes, I will see on social media posts from people of faith lamenting the ways of our nation. They will say they want a government that honors God anew. They feel we are off course and are not being the people we are supposed to be. I want to see “God back in school” or “God back in the White House” or “God back in the public square” is a frequent declaration. This was on my mind as I opened my devotions where I am working to read through the Bible.
My readings today were from 2nd Chronicles 28, 1st Kings 16, and 1st Kings 17. In these three chapters you read first about how evil one of Israel’s kings was (King Ahaz) and then how his son turned it all around when he got on the throne (King Hezekiah). Ahaz worshiped Baal, setup altars to Baal all over the land, even sacrificed some of his own children to this god. He also stole material from the Temple and tried to use it to bribe the superpowers of the day, closed the Temple so no one could pray there or offer sacrifices to God, and angered God all day long. By contrast, when Ahaz died and his son got on the throne, Hezekiah called the Levites back into town, re-opened and re-purified the Temple, and called the people back to God. Hezekiah did not hesitate to call his father and those that followed him evil. But he didn’t simply lay the blame there and move on. He knew the people were complicit in his father’s sins. He called on them all to repent (and they did).
This is what I find so lacking in church dialogue internally and in common analysis on what is wrong with our society today. There rarely is a mea culpa that is part of the complaint. There is no confession. We play the blame game. Sin is portrayed as simply wrong personal moral decisions by one particular leader or group of leaders. Problems, whatever they are, are because we elected the wrong person or people. Repentance can certainly start by identifying a person or people who led us off course but that is never the focus. The focus is on how we all become complicit when our society is off course.
I believe if we do want to be a society more focused on God, we need to reflect more on what we have all done wrong and endorsed together than on pointing fingers at others. I also do not believe one politician or one political party is either our salvation or damnation. We have gotten co-opted far too often by politics in recent years and we should remember as God’s people, while we are to be concerned with the here and now, we are also focused on what is eternal. We are far too focused on ourselves if we distill what God is doing among all creation down to the platforms of one political party or politician (or thinking our primary calling is to be in opposition to one political party or politician).
For a people who has tended to consume more of the earth’s resources than our neighbors, for a society that has gotten involved in more conflicts than any of our peers in our lifetimes, for a society that has consistently cut services to the poor ever since the 1980s, for a society that embraces violence through the entertainment we watch and the games we play, for a society not investing for the future for our children and grandchildren (schools, infrastructure, etc.), for a society that shows a remarkable lack of curiosity about the rest of the world, for a culture that has embraced building more and more prisons as a solution to the challenges we face, for a nation that truly lives by the credo “do as I say, not as I do” to all of our neighbors, and a society who seems unfocused responding to plants, animals and insects going extinct, or maintaining a very sporadic level of concern on the ways our lifestyles are effecting almost all other forms of life around us, we have plenty to confess. We are a nation that also often shows nothing but a cursory respect for those sacrificing for others and working for a pittance of an income (law enforcement, fire fighting, teaching, etc.) None of this can be blamed on a person or even one party. It’s all of us, and we are all complicit.
May Hezekiah inspire us to be a better people. We don’t need to wait for a king (or president, governor, or local leader) to get us on a better course. We can start it ourselves by confessing where we have been wrong.
What do you think? What else should we confess?