In The Old Testament stories of God’s direct intervention into history, stories like the Fllod, the plagues in Egypt prior to the Exodus, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the various punishments God meted out to ancient Israel for its moral transgressions as a nation, would you say that God blessed those trangressors or that he damned them? Even Lot’s wife, whose only transgression was looking back, perhaps with some regret, at the destruction of her mone, was quite literally damned when God turned her into a pillar of salt.
When God intervened in a positive manner, like his intervention in the infertility of Saraj, Abraham’s wife, or in staying the sacrifice of Isaac, or in redeeming humanity from original sin by offering “his only begotten Son” for our redemption, we say God blessed each of those recipients.
“Bless” and “Damn” are the opposite sides of the same coin.
So, then the question becomes, if someone, either an individual or a corporate entity – in the sociological sense – commits acts we consider morally reprehensible, or God would consider them as such based on his commandments, do we ask God to bless them or damn them? I suspect most of you said “Damn them.”
Now, would you consider the killing and/or maiming of millions of innocent people, non-combatants, in a war as morally reprehensible? I certainly would.
Would you consider enslacing a race of people for hundreds of years, solely because of their skin color as reprehensible? I would.
Would you consider the genocide of a people soley to get possesion of their land as reprehensible? I would.
Would you consider the country that committed all these acts as worthy of God’s blessings? I would not.
Yet, that is exactly what we ask for every time we sing “God Bless America.” We ask God’s blessing on a country, that by the standards set by God himself in the Bible, is guilty of acts that are morally reprehensible. Rather than asking for God’s blessing we should be asking for God’s forgiveness. And the forgiveness of the people of Japan, the African-Americans descendants of slaves, the native Americans. Yet, America has never asked for that forgiveness. Ratherm we act as if we were the supreme arbiter or international morality time and time again.
Reverend Jeremiah wright was taken to task for a sermon where he made the same moral argument I kust did. The only difference is that he used more fire and brimstone in his sermon in his speech than I did. His repeated use of the phrse “God dman America” – raken out of the context of his sermon by the media, which is nothing new – forced Barack Obama to have to act like a politician for the first time in his bid for the Cemocratic nomination, which is too bad. I wish Obama had taken a stronger stand defending his friend and pastor, because I believe that Obama agrees with the spirit of Revered Wright’s sermon, just as I obviously do.
Reverend Wright was juxtaposing two sides of the same coin in his sermon, the point of which was the same as this article: that asking God to bless America, a country whose moral integrity leaves much to be desired, and who is guilty of some morally reprehensible acts that, if this were Old Testament times and we were Israel, as the findamentalists seem to think we are, we would be the target of God’s damnation and not his blessings. To ask God’s blessing is, in fact, on those acts, is the height of moral presumption and moral hypocrisy.
Selah and Amen!
Soruces and readings:
For Reverend Wright’s explanation of his sermons: Rev. Wright, in PBS Interview, Defends Sermons and Calls Coverage ‘Unfair’
For America’s latest act of moral hpyocrisy: White House Calls N. Korea Nuke Aid ‘Dangerous,’ Says Syria ‘Must Come Clean’ = Let he who is without sinc castthefirst stone.
For some insightful analysis of the role of race and religion in the Democratic nominating race: E.J. Dionne: Resistance to Obama seems driven by race and religion