America’s Only Hope?

My latest article for the Orange County Record

As the election season is about kick into high gear, the number of political attack ads will increase exponentially the closer we draw to November.  The claims will begin small by showing voting records and then will grow into personal attacks.  There is 141 days until the general election and it is only going to get worse.

One of the claims that political figures like to postulate is that they are the only hope for the future of America, their ideals and the country.  Each side of the isle will believe that they are the sure fire answer for America.  The other day I saw a bumper sticker and a yard sign that caught my attention.  It wasn’t for a certain political candidate or party, rather it read “Prayer: America’s Only Hope- 2 Chronicles 7:14.”

I looked up the scripture and it reads, “if my people who belong to me will humbly pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land,” (CEB 2011). This scripture is taken from a declaration from God to King Solomon.

There are some problems, however, with using this scripture for the sole advancement of the United States.  First, this scripture is taken out of context; this verse is taken from the middle of a sentence that God spoke of Solomon.  The complete sentence is “When I close the sky so that there is no rain or I order the locusts to consume the land or I send a plague against my people, if my people who belong to me will humbly pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” (CEB 2011).  The author of 2 Chronicles is showing us that to the Israelite people there is a connection between what God is doing and what God can do.  The hinging factor in all of this is the willingness of the Israelite people.

Secondly, what “wicked ways” is this scripture calling humanity to turn away from?  Is there a list somewhere that I am not aware of?  Some would argue that it should be the scriptural laws contained within the Bible, but then which ones do we follow?  Does this mean that every God fearing Christian should be held to the 600+ laws contained in the Old Testament?  Or are these “wicked things” just a smattering of what certain religious communities and leaders believe is the true will of God?  Given the sheer number of Christian denominations and expressions how could one list ever be completely agreed upon?

With this said, this scripture cannot be applied to today and the current American economic or political landscape.  If we are to take the theology of this segment of scripture then we are stating that God is a vengeful, bully God.  We are staying that God is a God who will only do things for humanity if humanity acts a certain way.  Proponents of this theology believe that the problems faced in society and the world can all be solved if the world would just repent and turn back to God, then and only then would God be nice enough to grant the world peace and harmony.  Is God really that mad about so called “wicked things” that the one recourse God has is to send plagues and do nothing?  Is God punishing America for Harry Potter or Magic Mike?   I have a hard time believing this is the case. This is not the God that I know, love and serve.  Where’s the unconditional love that is espoused in churches and what about that amazing grace we proclaim?  Is that out the window because of the “decline of American values?”

God is not a God who sits on a throne and waits for people to mess up so that God may send a lightning bolt to the evil doer.  I am not saying that prayer is not a useful tool to connect with the Divine and to enter into a relationship with God, but thinking that just because you lied or stole a piece of gum when you were a child means that the suffering you are going through is your fault is far off the mark.

In a world where we like facts, to know why something is the way it is, we have a hard time understanding the movement of God in the world.  Why is there so much poverty in such a prosperous land?  Why are there so many cases of disease?  Why are children going to be hungry at night?  All of these questions and many more can keep us up at night but the fact of the matter is, the answer is not that they forgot to repent for some “wicked thing.”  As followers of Christ we called to bring wholeness to the broken, completeness to the incomplete.  This is not done by placing a bumper sticker on our cars or a putting a sign in our yard.  It is done by serving faithfully and boldly in a world that is desperate need of a ray of hope, care and love.

I am not saying that prayer is not needed in the world today, but claiming that God will restore the world when all of humanity thinks one particular way about God is a bit much.  It puts a lot of pressure on the followers of Christ and on God.  Let’s just work for the betterment of the world and stop blaming one another.