A Defining Year

I believe any nation built on the backs of slaves on land stolen from its native people is perpetually in crisis. While many white Americans look back to ‘better days’ when the nation was happy and peaceful, the fact is no such time ever existed. The United States has always been in the midst of turmoil and those who are and have been exploited and disenfranchised have always rebelled against their condition.

Slave patrols—the very reason for the Second Amendment—tried to prevent enslaved humans from finding freedom for many years. After the Civil War, slave patrols were replaced by the KKK. The US Army enabled white settlers moving west by forcing native peoples off their lands and killing them when necessary. Violence and turmoil and turbulence have constantly marked the history of this nation.

Those unpleasant facts are not faced by a great many people in our nation. They were only obliquely referred to in the education I experienced from grade school through graduate school. 

But now feels like a new chapter in our national crisis. The president threatens to declare an emergency in order to build his wall on the southern border to keep out those who seek a better life as they attempt to escape violence, poverty, and desperation. Much of the federal government has been shut down. Divided government is the order of the day. Polarization is profound and it appears a constitutional crisis related to other presidential misdeeds looms.

2019 is likely to be the year that defines the Trump presidency as 1974 did for Richard Nixon and 1998 was for Bill Clinton. I wonder if the church is spiritually prepared for such a time as this? 

Mass shootings abound. An opioid crisis claims 70,000 lives a year and suicides take another 40,000. Looming over this is rapidly unfolding climate change, leading the naturalist Sir David Attenborough to remark at last month’s UN climate change summit that “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” 

As always, the question arises, ‘What does the church have to say?’ Behind that question is this one, ‘Where is the hope of the world?’ Certainly, I believe it resides in God and I believe every act of love and of justice paves the way toward a better future. 

In Deuteronomy, Moses says, “So now, O Israel, what does the Lord require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being.” (Deut. 10:12-13, NRSV)

There’s no more time to waste. We have what we need to set everyone free, to care for the sojourner, and to heal the earth. This is what God wants. The crisis is deepening, the storm is approaching. Be prepared.

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