Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate,
But the soul is still oracular; amid the market’s din,
List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,—
“They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.”
James Russell Lowell, “The Present Crisis”
America sometimes self-describes as a “Christian nation.” I think, to be blunt, that this is mostly nonsense. America is like every other empire throughout history – murderous, duplicitous, ruthless, and an enemy of the poor and powerless.
If America were truly a christian nation, our hearts would be broken, and we would repent. We would immerse ourselves in something resembling 10 years of lent.
If America were truly a christian nation, the conversation would be not “how do we defeat our enemies,” but “how best can we do away with enmity.”If America were truly a christian nation, we would become less powerful through time, because we would never sacrifice justice for advantage. We would become a people that, rather than glorifying war, would instead burn for martyrdom.
If America were truly a christian nation, the situation in our ghettos would be treated as the emergency – as the scandal – that it is. A neighborhood advertising itself as “exclusive” would be considered shocking.
If America were truly a christian nation, we would recognize the intrinsic treasure that is every human person – whatever their location or circumstance, whether in our ghettos, in our soup kitchens, our wombs, or our prisons. We would deeply know that “sacred be all of life, filled with light divine.”
If America were truly a christian nation, we would transform our homes and workplaces – our nation – into altars where we offer love.
Then Jesus called the crowd to himself along with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me.