From the time of its founding, this unique nation sought to base its future success on the efforts of free individuals, not on class distinctions and hereditary status. America became undisputed world leader because it was set apart not only by the Declaration of Independence, but by its destiny set forth in the Bible. Why, then, is America gradually forfeiting world leadership?
Thomas Jefferson articulated a vital spiritual principle when he penned America's Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal." This statement not only assumed a Creator God, but it promoted the opportunity of all people to pursue eventual happiness and success free of the restraints of race, class, economic status and ultimately even gender.
Such concepts arose from the Bible. Indeed, America's founding documents (including the U.S. Constitution) were clothed with concepts of liberty, choice, freedom and economic self-reliance—all taught in the Bible in line with the spirit of the Ten Commandments.
With its meteoric rise, the United States has of course had an impact on other nations. Some Americans have seen this as a bad thing. As the former editor-in-chief of Commentary magazine, Norman Podheretz, reflected: "[America's] liberal community seems to think that the rest of the world would be better off without the United States, or at least with it following the policy of 'leading from behind'" ("Is America Exceptional?" Imprimis, October 2012).
However, as Podheretz also pointed out, "Most conservatives do not believe that a radical diminution of American power and influence would be good for us or the world."
What is happening to America's standing at home and abroad—and what is ultimately behind it?
An alarming erosion of respect
During the early autumn of 2012 a Wall Street Journal article stated: "The Obama Presidency has been an era of slowly building tension and disorder that seems likely to flare into larger troubles and perhaps even military conflict . . . This is the bigger picture . . ." ("The New World Disorder," Sept. 13, 2012).
This insightful article focused on the increasing helplessness of America to guide and influence global events. It discussed "a pattern of declining respect for U.S. power and influence." For nearly four years the Obama administration has emphasized that the United States should rely more on the United Nations and other countries to deal with world problems. And those other countries have been listening!
The Journal article continued: "Across the Arab Spring, the U.S. has done little to shape events and is increasingly irrelevant." As a result of this passive approach to events, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a decades-long U.S. ally and source of stability in that volatile region, was ousted from power and replaced by leaders picked by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that's overtly hostile to the United States and Western interests.
Now Islamists have set their sights on other U.S. allies like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and there's no way any of this bodes well for America or the West—especially since much of the lifeblood of the world economy, oil, comes from or passes through this region.
Notice two other notable examples where American passivity has created a power vacuum dangerous to key regions: "The Chinese have brazenly occupied disputed territories in the South China Sea, hinting at war if the U.S. intercedes on behalf of its Asian allies . . . Most of all, Iran continues its march toward a nuclear weapon," with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declaring that America is "not setting deadlines" for intervention (ibid.).
The erroneous notion that a more deferential United States would gain more global respect looks increasingly hollow. Indeed, as the same article's drophead points out, "as the U.S. retreats, bad actors begin to fill the vacuum" (ibid.).
The Good News has been warning about this troubling trend for a number of years. With American leadership fading, the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place.
To use an analogy many of us could readily understand, imagine what would happen if your local police chief and county sheriff announced that they were ceasing patrols, laying off their officers and would no longer respond to emergency calls. That's essentially the direction the world's policeman—the United States—is taking. And very bad characters, feeling empowered, are emerging from the shadows. The results won't be pretty.
Lamenting "the decline of a great nation"
The cover of a recent issue of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel showed a very sick Uncle Sam on a hospital bed above the headline "The American Patient—The Decline of a Great Nation" (Nov. 5, 2012). The lengthy feature article inside, written by staff members and translated into English on the magazine's website, was titled "Divided States of America: Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation." It began with this general assessment: "The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair."
Rather than focus on too much detail, let's highlight the analysis and a few overall facts. The article continues: "At the beginning of the 21st century, this American dream, which consisted mainly of confidence and optimism envied the world over, is failing.
"It began to fail around the turn of the millennium, with the crash landing of the New Economy, and it imploded altogether in 2008, when Wall Street became the epicentre of a global financial meltdown, and when millions of Americans lost their homes and jobs. In some polls, almost half of Americans today say that the country's best days are gone."
The authors put matters into perspective by acknowledging the continuing presence of America as a world power: "Nevertheless, 'decline' is a big word, especially for a nation that is still the world's number one economic and military power, and will remain so for the next decade.
"It's also a country whose innovative energy seems unbroken in many fields, and one that, unlike Europe, has balanced population growth and enormous mineral resources. In fact, when it comes to the demise of former world powers, Europe's decline is much more evident than that of the United States."
British author Edward Luce, in his 2012 book Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent, observed that "the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults" (p. 3).
The nation has faced many crises in the past, yet emerged—sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker. But the sheer number of crises facing the nation, as well as their unprecedented scope, are profound enough to make one wonder whether America now faces insurmountable obstacles—and whether it still has the will to survive.
America desperately needs a genuine restoration of basic biblical principles and ideals. No truly patriotic American wants to see this tragic decline continue. Instead they want to see real national renewal. In biblical terms, true Christians plead for a nationwide repentance, a wholesale turnaround of the country's wayward direction.
Some—and hopefully you as a reader of The Good News —recognize that America's basic problem is essentially spiritual and moral. These dangerous trends, coupled with great national tragedies, have come upon the country because its people have turned away from God's way of life. Turning their backs on Him, they no longer keep His spiritual law centered on the Ten Commandments.
Does God's Word tell us what the inevitable consequences will be?
Crucial blessings-and-curses chapters
Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 are both part of the Torah or the five books of Moses. They were originally intended for ancient Israel and their descendants—which includes America and the major English-speaking nations (see our Bible study aid booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy ).
Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 describe God's blessings for obedience and His punishment for disobedience. The theme of both chapters is very simple—fantastic national blessings for obedience to God's laws or multiple curses for casting those laws aside. The blessings included rain in due season, bountiful crops, peace and safety in their homelands, healthy children, an abundance of natural resources and, most important of all, continual contact with the Creator God.
The curses entailed the opposites—chronic ill health, serious and prolonged sicknesses, mental illness, fatal diseases, poor crop yields, drought and eventually starvation and defeat at the hand of enemies —followed by national captivity.
Do these two chapters apply to our modern age? Do they apply in principle to all nations, even in today's world? Often specific prophecies in the Bible are dual. That is, they have more than one fulfillment in history.
How has the American nation fared in the past? Clearly the United States has been blessed materially as no other nation ever has, primarily due to the sure prophetic legacy of the patriarch Abraham. Although America has never been fully obedient to God, up until recent decades the country was, for the most part, law-abiding and generally sought to obey and please God. But a significant moral downturn began in the 1960s.
How's America faring now?
The United States has increasingly been troubled by many and varied kinds of evil, especially since that infamous decade began. Serial killers, once almost unheard of, regularly make the news as they roam the country seeking their next victim. Pornography has vastly increased through the Internet and has gained widespread acceptance. Abortion—the murder of the most helpless of human beings—pollutes the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Television programming focuses on themes highlighting raw ambition, financial scandals and illicit sex of all types. Too many Americans worship celebrities and rank materialism, two forms of blatant idolatry. The apostle Paul pointed out that covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), and James 2:10-11 tells us that he or she who breaks one commandment breaks all 10 in principle.
The curse of the national division we now see across America is caused by sin, biblically defined as the transgression of God's spiritual law (1 John 3:4). After King Solomon's reign, God Himself orchestrated ancient Israel's national division because of the sins of Solomon (see 1 Kings 11:30-40).
Division stalks America
As the results of the Nov. 6, 2012, national election brought out, Americans are a divided people in so many ways. Daniel Henninger, writing in The Wall Street Journal two days afterward, stated the obvious—that "the nation is more divided than at any time in 50 years" ("Obama's Divided Nation," Nov. 8, 2012). He further pointed out that "with every election, the South and Central States drift further from the coastal sophisticates and the heavy unionized industrial states around the Great Lakes."
One famous radio commentator even suggested, not entirely in jest, that the nation formally divide in half, with one political party ruling one half and the other party the other half, so each party's adherents could see where their preferred policies eventually lead.
Gerald Seib, Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, wrote in the Nov. 7 issue: "This year's [election] campaign has shown that the two parties are, at this point, deeply divided ideologically, yet nearly evenly balanced in power. That explains why the presidential race has been so close and, at many points, so harsh."
Sadly, this national division extends to the sensitive issue of race. As the Daily Mail 's Tom Leonard expressed it in an article titled "The Slow Death of White America": "Mitt Romney won the biggest share of the white vote that any Republican White House contender ever has—and he still lost. In an election battle that was defined as much as anything by race, Mitt Romney won the support of 59 per cent of the whites, but just 27 per cent of Latinos, 26 per cent of Asian Americans and 6 per cent of African-Americans" (Nov. 9, 2012).
Change in the country's demographics is producing a seismic social shift. As Leonard explained: "The evidence of this demographic timebomb, which is likely to alter the face and character of the U.S. far more fundamentally than any number of elections, was made plain in the summer in a new report by the U.S. Census Bureau. It revealed that for the first time in American history, ethnic minorities now account for more than half the babies born in the U.S.
"Of the four million children born in the year to July 2011, 50.4 per cent were ethnic minorities—black, Asian, mixed-race and, above all, Hispanic. It was a long-expected milestone on the road to an America in which, according to experts, within 30 years whites will no longer be the majority."
One of his conclusions was: "For a country founded by British colonists on British traditions and, for half its history inhabited almost entirely by white Europeans (if you discount the slaves, as the nation's leaders did), it signals a seismic cultural transformation for the world's sole superpower."
The United States has long been considered a melting pot of races and cultures. While that's never been quite accurate, it is true that immigrants from different parts of the world were able to live and work together to promote a more unified society. But now society is increasingly fragmenting. People of different religions, values, races and cultures are growing steadily apart rather than together.
The fiscal cliff threatens
Will the nation be able to adapt and retain its greatness—hopefully arresting and reversing national decline?
By now its politicians, if not many of its citizens, are well aware of the enormous and troubling debt problem presently afflicting the United States. Yet another Wall Street Journal writer, assisted by other reporters, summarized the seriousness of the nation's debt crisis:
"The federal debt has grown rapidly in recent years through a combination of economic downturns, tax cuts and spending choices made by lawmakers and presidents from both parties. The U.S. government's deficit has exceeded $1 trillion for four straight years, and the debt now exceeds $16.1 trillion. Moody's Investors Service Inc. has threatened to join Standard & Poor's Rating Services and downgrade U.S. debt if the problem isn't tackled" (Damian Palleta, "Tough Calls on Deficit Await the Winner," Nov. 7, 2012).
As of this writing, the country faces yet another "fiscal cliff" at the onset of the New Year. The Economist stated, "The election failed to resolve the biggest question hanging over the economy: how to deal with the deficit" ("The Budget Deficit: To the Cliff, and Beyond," Nov. 10, 2012). Each year the growing crisis causes government to move the cliff. But as The Economist pointed out, "moving the cliff leaves the underlying problem intact."
Gillian Tett, a Washington, D.C.–based writer and correspondent for Britain's Financial Times, actually predicted the economic debacle of 2008. Her "Insight" column following the election focused on the fiscal cliff. Her title: "Be Prepared for a Lengthy Era of US Political Cliff-Dancing" ( FT, Nov. 9, 2012).
Summarizing what she wrote, an era of "Great Moderation" represented by reasonable inflation was followed by an economic crisis called "The Age of Turbulence." She continued: "But now we have entered a third phase, an area of political brinkmanship. In the aftermath of President Obama's victory on Tuesday [Election Day], there is intense speculation among investors about whether America will fall off a fiscal cliff at the end of the year , as it hits the trifecta [triple threat] of a debt ceiling, the expiry of Bush-era tax cuts and pre-planned spending cuts, which could reduce gross domestic product by 4 per cent."
On a spiritual level at least, Jesus Christ equated debt with sin in what's called the Lord's Prayer: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). The version in Luke is slightly different: "And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us" (Luke 11:4). Proverbs 22:7 adds: "The borrower is servant to the lender." Ultimately being deeply in debt compares to a form of slavery.
The nation desperately needs God
Not only has America lost a lot of respect abroad, but the country also finds itself in deep trouble with God. There is a way out, however, if we would but seek it while there is still time. God, speaking in 2 Chronicles 7:14, stated, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." That's an incredible promise direct from God's Word. But will we do this?
Late in the history of the kingdom of Judah, our Creator instructed the prophet Jeremiah not to pray for the nation's people because their many sins had taken them past the point of no return (Jeremiah 7:16, Jeremiah 11:14). Only a devastating invasion and national captivity would wake them up to see their sins.
We who warn the nation cannot know when time will run out and God actively decides to punish a nation and its people for their sins. As it stands now, America is seeing the inevitable consequences of disobedience: "Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you" (Jeremiah 2:19).
May we all pray for a resounding national repentance!