The conversation was simple enough. We were talking about Revelation and speculating on end-times events. We were discussing the role (or possible lack thereof) of America in the apocalyptic narrative and generally bantering to pass the time.
That was when I asked the question. It was a question mainly steeped in flippant curiosity, but the answer brought me to a level of unintended gravity.
“So if you had to guess, how long will America be around? Five hundred years? Two-hundred fifty years?” I asked.
His answer came quickly: “I’d say less than fifty.”
Now, I am not an alarmist (title of this blog aside) or a doomsday prepper. But the thought of such a massive shift occurring in my lifetime gave me a bit of a jump. What would have to happen for this to occur? What would be the impetus and the result?
The snowball of events daily scrolling across “Breaking News” feeds give me a taste of what a shift might look like. While I don’t believe the red, white and blue is unraveling, one would be hard pressed to deny that the colors are taking on altered hues.
One of our nation’s greatest strengths – touted by scholars for generations – is that our founding fathers drafted a document in the Constitution that upheld the goodness and faith in people to rise up, given opportunity and freedom. At the same time, they recognized these same people are bent toward power, greed, and left unchecked could tip the scales away from an open and balanced society. They included checks, balances, necessary processes, and delegated power across a broad spectrum so that many hands held the structure up.
Today, we see this diluted mainly into a two-party system where ideologies and values are assumed based on a strict line of separation between red and blue states. Whereas many pairs of hands propped the nation up, they have now largely consolidated into two large pairs – Republican and Democrat. Even these hands seem to be spending more time swiping at each other than actively holding the nation’s weight. Place this alongside an executive branch of government that instead of choosing to work within the constructs of the Constitution seeks ways to side-step the checks, disrupt the balances, and consolidate power under “orders” and “decrees,” and we see the very fleshing out of our founding fathers’ fears.
Many are asking – is this the unraveling of America? Is this the end?
I believe it is okay to acknowledge what we all see happening: it’s the end of the world as we know it, but this doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Much is changing, yet really nothing has changed.
The Gospel tells me what is broken is not a system of government, but a relationship with God. It is not our bathroom policies that are out of whack; it’s the heart of each man and woman seeking a path apart from the righteousness of God. In this way, it is not the system that is breaking but we who are already broken.
No policy can fix this. Every government is impotent to change the heart.
In many ways, yes, America has changed. But in many foundational ways, it has not. Our founding fathers knew we were a people bent towards greed and a lust for power. They knew even they were not perfect men. Whether they believed in God or not, they saw the disease of sin working in themselves. Therefore, they put their hope in a way the sickness could be managed, while still allowing a mutually beneficial coexistence. But even that was not our true hope.
The Constitution was never meant to save. Our founding fathers were not prophets. America is not covenant Israel. Political parties are not churches.
The change of what defines America has been rapid and tumultuous. There is no reason to assume it will slow down any time soon. The America our kids grow up in will be different in many ways than the America I grew up in – as was the case for my parents, their parents before them, and theirs before them. What we see in each generation is simply sin personified in different ways and a cry for a Savior shouted in a different tongue.
The change is undeniable. The America that once upheld the sanctity of the church is quickly turning to persecute her. But may the church always remember this is not our home. We are exiles in a land looking increasingly like Babylon or Rome. But God’s people have survived in both.
What every generation has needed and will need is the Gospel. While I feel powerless as a citizen in a nation rapidly shifting, I have been given the charge as an actively equipped minister of a new covenant based on a rock that is un-shifting and never changing (2 Cor. 3:6).
Whatever America holds in our future, we know that it does not hold the future. God does.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. O LORD, save the king! May he answer us when we call.” – Psalm 20:7-9