America’s “Sudden Catastrophe”
Scanning the social landscape of America, one is struck by a number of cultural factors that characterize the present condition of society. Consider the following four. First, Americans have shifted dramatically away from instruction in the Christian religion and respect for the authority of the Bible. The public school system and the scientific community are thoroughly ensconced in an anti-religion, evolutionist posture. Statistics show that fewer Americans attend church, read their Bibles, or retain commitment to the precepts of Jesus Christ. Even among those who maintain an affiliation with the “formal” aspects of religion, churches have become “seeker sensitive” in their thrust, providing centers of entertainment and strictly positive, “feel good,” anecdotal talks in place of Bible-based, soul-strengthening sermons. Sermons that stir the soul and convict the conscience are decried as “too negative” and “hell-fire and brimstone preaching.” Yes, Americans are rejecting religious instruction and authority.
Second, Americans have distorted the notion of justice. In many ways, the criminal justice system has become a laughing stock, earning the distrust and dismay of large segments of the population. Since the 1960s shift from the rights of the victim to the rights of the criminal, America’s laws and sense of justice have been gradually restructured and redefined. Prisons are full to overflowing, resulting in unjust early release programs. Having committed crimes “deserving of death” (Acts 25:11; Romans 1:32), inmates continue to live on death row for years and years. “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). On one hand, criminals commit multiple heinous crimes, inflicting injury and death on law-abiding citizens, only to be released on technicalities to continue their vile rampage on the security and well-being of the innocent. On the other hand, Christian parents can apply proper discipline to their children and be brought before authorities for child abuse and imprisoned. Yes, Americans are violating the rules of eternal justice.
Third, for over 150 years, Americans shared a common and virtually universal moral framework. As political sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville observed of America in the 1830s: “Christianity, therefore, reigns without obstacle, by universal consent; the consequence is, as I have before observed, that every principle of the moral world is fixed and determinate” (1835, 1:304-305, emp. added). Since World War II, Americans have steadily relaxed the moral sensibilities that once governed society, providing citizens with certainty and stability in their daily behavioral choices. The rigid parameters that once gave society cohesion, defining what is right or wrong, moral or immoral, have all but evaporated. From abortion and embryonic stem-cell research to same-sex relations, clear cut moral distinctions have become blurred in the minds of many people. Yes, Americans are trifling with the injunctions of morality.
Fourth, liberal politicians and activist judges are running amok throughout the country. Foolish, ungodly decisions have been perpetrated on the public—from the removal of Ten Commandment monuments from public places and the banning of prayers in city council and school board meetings, to the redefinition of marriage and accommodation of easy divorce. Even Supreme Court justices are looking to foreign courts to guide their judicial decisions and thwart the intentions of the Framers. Their reinterpretation of the Constitution that results in the expulsion of God from the public square constitutes an illicit tampering with the foundations of the nation. Yes, Americans are recklessly destroying the political constitution that holds us together.
In view of these most unfortunate circumstances, consider the words from a speech delivered on February 23, 1852 by second generation American, Daniel Webster, who offered the following chilling prophecy:
[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity (1903, 13:492-493, emp. added).
This uncanny, prophetic anticipation of America’s current condition is being fulfilled before our very eyes. All that remains to happen is the judgment that is inevitable—since God remains consistent with His actions throughout world history (Genesis 19:13; Psalm 9:17; cf. “calamity” in 2 Chronicles 7:22).
Tocqueville, Alexis de (1835), Democracy in America (New York, NY: Alfred Knopf, 1994 reprint).
Webster, Daniel (1903), The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, & Company).