THE STATE OF A NATION’S SOUL
Each year in mid-winter the President of the the United States makes a speech to Congress called the State of the Union address.This season, as Christian ministers, we’d like to make the state of the nation’s soul address.
To do so let us look at our country through the lens of a parable Jesus told in Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son.
Note, if you will, three successive attitudes the boy had in the different parts of his journey through life.
- I want what I want when I want it. This farm boy was tired of boundaries, family life, work, and his father. Usually a Jewish lad inherited at his father’s death. This kid couldn’t wait. So he insulted his father by asking for the money now. Then he took the money to the city and lived an immoral life of wine, women, song, and sleeping late.
- I want. This knuckleheaded boy spent it all. Then came a famine. And no one gave him anything. So he ended up feeding pigs on a farm, unbathed, crazed with starvation. That’s when he remembered home, Daddy, and good food. “He came to himself,” the story goes, and decided to go home. And every step of the way he rehearsed his penitent speech.
- I am wanted. Jesus said the boy left saying, “Give me.” But he came home saying, “Make me as a servant.” Like a clock pendulum that swings, this boy swung from anarchy to slavery to restored sonship. Being on his own had not worked. He was shattered, having lost all confidence. “Just tell me what to do. Enslave me.” But the Dad would have nothing to do with it. He gave him a bath, a ring, a robe, a feast. “You’re a son. Act like it,” he said.
Now, as goes the individual, so goes the nation. And where are we in the swinging of the pendulum? We gave thrown off God our Father’s yoke. Our attitude is “me first, me second, and, if there is anything left, I’ll take that too!” And we’ve gone to live in a far country to indulge ourselves in every immorality.
Today our nation is thirty trillion dollars in debt. That’s nearly $100,000 each citizen. Ravaged by venereal disease, ignorance, dishonesty, and hedonism, we are nearing the famine and pig sty stage that is followed by slavery.
The godless French Revolution led to a national collapse and anarchy. Then came the dictator Napoleon.
Germany after World War I fell into an angry godless hedonism, then anarchy, followed by the rise of Hitler.
And we shall fare no better unless we repent and return to the Father and the values that built our nation.
Flannery O’Conner called this parable the greatest short story ever written. And from it comes a dire warning and yet a great hope for our nation.