Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

11/14/2008 (2:04 pm)

What Happened To America

6 Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

19 If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.

Moses, Deuteronomy 8:6-20, New International Version.

Peter Hitchens a few days ago pegged the US as beginning “… like Britain before it … the long slow descent into the Third World.” Ironically, the British Empire saw its own fortunes decline for similar reasons, which were captured accurately by Rudyard Kipling on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Kipling, himself not an orthodox Christian, nonetheless captured the sense of the British that their power and fortune rested on the grace of God, and that if they became arrogant and forgot, they would lose it all. History records that they did, in fact, lose it all. I suspect our own decline may be somewhat faster than theirs.

by Rudyard Kipling

God of our fathers, known of old–
Lord of our far-flung battle line–
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine–
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget–lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies–
The Captains and the Kings depart–
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget–lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away–
On dune and headland sinks the fire–
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget–lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe–
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law–
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget–lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard–
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

There’s an odd irony to this understanding. We heard in the recent election some noise about an ebullient black preacher named Wright, who was famously captured on video chanting “God Damn America.” The context of that rant was his notion that America had committed acts sufficiently evil to earn God’s judgement, and that Hurricane Katrina was an instance of that judgement, “America’s chickens coming home to roost.” Theologically, what he was saying was identical to something Rev. Jerry Falwell said about Hurricane Katrina, only Rev. Falwell had different sins in mind when he made the claim — and Falwell took an enormous public scolding for daring to suggest that God judges nations at all.

Falwell said it was due to abortion and homosexuality. Wright said it was because of racial injustice, militarism, and the US government concocting the AIDS virus to eliminate the black race. I say it’s simply because we forgot Who gave us the ability to get wealth and grow strong.

Theologically, I’m in their camp; God is, in fact, capable of such judgements, and all nations stand or fall with His permission. Clearly, there are unjust nations on earth that God permits to exist, for whatever reason; and yet, those who claim the name of Christ, who rules the nations, have both a special blessing and a special responsibility attached to the use of His name. If we prosper because of His favor, then forget and imagine we prospered because of our own strength, we will inevitably perish. This is the righteous and just end of the proud.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget… lest we forget.

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November 14, 2008 @ 3:44 pm #

The essence of your post appears to be that nations that are christian in nature or ruled by professed Christians succeed more than other nations, using the US as an example. Well, even a cursory examination of the globe will reveal that there is no connection whatsoever. The US is indeed predominantly christian and one of the most successful countries. But to assert that the two are connect is a tenuous link indeed. China, officially an atheist nation, has risen to become the only serious economic rival to the US. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, strictly muslim states rank amongst the richest. And many nations christian in nature and demographics, particularly in Africa, like Nigeria, suffer from chronic instability and poverty despite their religion.

Did the UK’s godlessness cause it to ‘lose it all’? Please find a nation that still has an Empire. There are none, because Imperialism is not compatible with a world of sovereign nation-states, and we are now forced to recognize that occupying another country against the wishes of it’s people because a power desires so is, in moral terms, highly dubious.

As for Britain being on ‘the long slow descent to the Third World’, as Hitchens asserts, I would say that if a G8 nation with an advanced economy and one of the highest standards of living in the world is ‘Third World’, then global poverty has apparently disappeared.

November 14, 2008 @ 4:48 pm #


You make at least two, serious logical errors that I can see:

1) My argument does not, in fact, rest on an assertion that all nations that are “Christian in nature” (whatever that means) succeed more than other nations. I simply assert that God’s favor was behind the rise of the United States, and also of Great Britain. I make no claim for any other nation, nor does my article need for me to do so.

2) The fact that a nation rises to wealth or power by means other than overt Christianity in no way rebuts my assertion. It doesn’t even rebut YOUR VERSION of my assertion, that Christian nations succeed more than other nations. Even if I believed your version, I would be saying that Christianity is a sufficient characteristic to gain wealth, not a necessary one.

Beyond that, your quibble with Britain’s losing its empire posits 21st-century morals over an early 20th century decline. There was no such moral objection to empire while Britain was losing its hold on its empire. Furthermore, I feel confident suggesting that your moral objection to empire generally would not apply if the empire were held by a Marxist/socialist regime, like, say, the Soviet Union. For some reason, the morals of leftists only apply to their political adversaries, not to themselves. Case in point, your moral and social objections to empire somehow don’t apply to China’s domination over Tibet, or to Russia’s over portions of Georgia; I’m curious to know why not.

Hitchens may have exaggerated the UK’s decline, but they’ve lost just about all their influence, which is all I need for my argument.

November 14, 2008 @ 7:05 pm #

Nevertheless, there is no reason to suppose that God was behind the superiority of Britain and the US any more than their economic model or military strength was.

The end of the British Empire, from 1940s-1960s, coincided with the end of the other European powers’ Empires, such as the Spanish surrender of Morocco and Equatorial Guinea, and the French loss of Vietnam, Cameroon, and Algiers in 1962, following the Algerian war. Indeed it was partly a reluctance by the French public to hold on to an Empire that clearly despised occupation that led to the freedom of Algeria. So the end of the British Empire was not particularly different than the general dissolution of Empires following the second world war.

You have no cause to feel ‘confident suggesting that [my] moral objection to empire generally would not apply if the empire were held by a Marxist/socialist regime’. That may be your own opinion, but the Democrats in America and Socialists in Europe alike held no love for the USSR. What attraction can a regime who so brutally suppressed it’s citizens, denied basic human rights and stifled free speech, hold for an ideology concerned with the wellbeing of ordinary people and the promotion of those ‘inalienable rights’? And as for ‘the morals of leftists only apply to their political adversaries’, again a statement of your beliefs, no evidence supplied or explanation. You imply that all parties espousing a social – driven agenda are morally bankrupt. I have mentioned China’s abuses in other posts, but why do you assume I would condone their occupation of Tibet, or Russia’s aggression to it’s neighbors? Those two states are of particular interest because they demonstrate that a powerful, modern, free market economy by no means results it free peoples.

The UK has indeed ‘lost influence’, as have the other Imperial powers, Russia, and arguably America in recent years. But there is no evidence to link their lost power to lost faith.

November 14, 2008 @ 7:52 pm #

Just curious, Tom: do you believe in God? really? I’m serious, I want to know.

The end of the British Empire, from 1940s-1960s,

Began much, much earlier than the 1940s.

the Democrats in America and Socialists in Europe alike held no love for the USSR.

The socialists in Europe, perhaps, but the Democrats in America? Sell it to somebody who’s buying. From FDR to Harry Truman to Walter Duranty to all the Democrats in Congress, the Democrats flacked for the USSR constantly, without a break. You guys loved the USSR. And you still do; when was the first movie made that drew attention to the gulag? Has one ever been made? Enemy at the Gates drew attention to the brutality of the Stalinistas briefly, but then made heroes out of the downtrodden, beleaguered Soviets. When was the first book written by a Democrat that drew attention to the 10s of millions of murders by the Soviets? Has one ever been written? Certainly none were before the fall of the Soviet Union. The few Democrats who actually made a public show of standing up to the Soviets, did it as a sop to the public they despised, the same way the Democrats today throw a sop to the public to pretend they’re actually interested in fighting Wahabist terrorists.

You’re just wrong, Tom.

Those two states are of particular interest because they demonstrate that a powerful, modern, free market economy by no means results it free peoples.

In yet another logical error, you assert that because there exist states with limited political liberty but some economic liberty, that economic liberty is not liberty. It’s sheer nonsense, Tom. Economic liberty is not exactly the same as political liberty — and nobody ever said it was — but economic liberty is still liberty. The removal of either economic or political liberty is, by simple definition that a 7th grader could grasp, a removal of liberty. To say otherwise is to deny that the sky is blue, or that 2 + 2 = 4.

But that’s nothing unusual for Progressives, in my experience. Y’all seem capable of looking at a house and saying “It’s obviously a car, anybody could see that.” There’s no logic with you folks, nor even plain fact.

November 15, 2008 @ 4:57 am #

Wow, that was an unbelievable act of rhetorical terrorism. Tom showed himself very capable, and quite educated, giving a reasonable basis from which to offer an opinion on the topic of the reason for the decline of nations.

You wrapped the explosives around your chest, walked right in to the guest room into which you invited him, and pushed the button by attributing terrible positions to him, trying to establish guilt by association (without establishing the associations), and removing any possibility for reasonable debate.

I suppose you win in a way, but Rest In Peace, rational inquiry, we barely knew ye.

Your application of the Mosaic Law, including punishments reserved for Israel, to a completely separate nation were the first misstep, I think.

November 15, 2008 @ 11:42 am #


You apparently missed the other three comments Tom posted within about a half-hour period yesterday afternoon, each increasingly snotty.

I also don’t see why you’re calling me a “terrorist” (speaking of strapping explosives to a comment,) when in fact I responded to Tom correctly, pointing out his logical errors with regard to my article. In fact, all he’s done is post factual errors and logical errors, and all I’ve done is show them to be errors. If that’s “terrorism,” then buddy, I’m a terrorist, and will be proudly until the day I die.

And if pointing out the logical errors in other’s comments does not constitute reasonable debate, I’m not sure what you consider reasonable debate. Are you suggesting I should permit those errors, not calling them errors, and go along with his errors???

I don’t see anything else in your comment, so I guess we’re done.

Oh, I missed this:

Your application of the Mosaic Law, including punishments reserved for Israel, to a completely separate nation were the first misstep, I think.

I was in no way applying Mosaic Law. I Corinthians 10:1-14 gives us the apostle Paul’s understanding of the applicability of the Old Testament stories to the New Testament age: they’re for our instruction. The character and conduct of God continue unchanged from Old to New, even though the laws do not. If you’re familiar with Isaiah’s prophecy (not to mention minor prophets like Nahum and Obadiah), you know that God’s judging of nations is not limited to His covenant with Israel. What I’m doing here is a straightforward application of the character of God revealed in the Old Testament to a modern situation, making the assumption that God still deals with nations as He always has.

The calling of America as a nation responsive to God is a major theme of writers of the Revolutionary and post-revolutionary period. I take it you think they were mistaken about this. I don’t.

November 16, 2008 @ 12:16 pm #

Well Phil, I apologize if I was ‘snotty’ for claiming not to be an ardent supporter of the USSR, but your own responses have been not exactly measured –
“And frankly, I’m already damned tired of your demented hysteria, shoddy logic, and arrogant tone. Why don’t you go back to Huffington Post, where you’ll find lots of people who project the same faux intellectual front you do (while making the same elementary logical errors and reciting the same lies,) and who will accept your self-posited superiority as the normal posture of a Progressive?” Why indeed.

Perhaps you could enlighten us as to why the end of the British Empire was a special case among European empires. Perhaps you are thinking that the declaration of independence was the beginning of the end. But that Empire was actually at it’s largest following WW1, and from the early 19th to early 20th centuries, know as the ‘Imperial Century, there was never a serious contender for superpower status.I invite you to produce evidence that the end of the British Empire was caused by anything other than the decolonization movement common amongst the other Powers and the increasing momentum of nationalism in occupied states.

As for pro-soviet democrats, chances are on the fringes of the party such creatures may well have existed, just as on the fringes of the republican party there are devotees to establishing a theocracy and racist nuts. But that one of the most liberal presidents ever waged a disastrous war with the aim of containing the soviet union, and that one of the most celebrated liberal progressives risked his reputation, and arguably the fate of the world, on preventing soviet power encroaching on america, suggest that not all liberals were ‘red in tooth and claw’.

Economic liberty is not a type of freedom. Living in a free market oppressive state does not make you any more free than living in a communist, oppressive state. You are merely living with a different economic system. Furthermore, that brings us to the negative freedoms- positive freedoms question. How can a person utilise their rights if the live in poverty, subject the whims of the market?

Do I believe in God? Does it have anything to do with you?

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