Nebuchadnezzar, William Blake (1795)
Hey, readers—I'm on vacation so I haven't blogged for a while. God willing, the frequency will increase again in September.
I read Daniel 4 today, in which Nebuchadnezzar is driven insane by God because he was so proud of his glory and because he failed to acknowledge God. God did this so that Nebuchadnezzar would learn that only God's dominion is eternal and that he sets whomever he wants over the kingdoms of the earth by his own whim and not due to the merit of the kings themselves.
Sadly, as I look at much of the United States today, I wonder if we are under God's curse on Nebuchadnezzar, because much of what I see in our self-governance can be so well defined as insanity.
Yesterday my high school political science teacher told me two stories. First, he said he was watching CNN and saw someone who confidently asserted that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is unconstitutional (which happens to be, as I vaguely understand it, the same sort of argument used by the judge that struck down Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution). How a law can be called unconstitutional that by definition alters a constitution is very puzzling to me. (Lawyers who can instruct me on this, please leave a comment.) Second, my teacher said that he was recently approached by a woman with a petition to put someone's name on the ballot for governor in order to oust the incumbent—except that the incumbent isn't even running for reelection.
I could go on and on about the gaffes of ordinary citizens or our public servants. But the worst and most prominent part of our insanity is the overall level of anxiety in this country. People are just plain freaked out, and it takes almost nothing to send people into hysterics. If you think about it, when you're highly anxious, it becomes really hard to think, right? That's why people who are panicking either freeze up or do something entirely irrational. There's nothing inherently immoral about that; it's just what happens. But what is the result if an entire society does that at once? Mass insanity.
I wouldn't mention this here except that my own personal anxiety is how Christians so often participate in the mass insanity. In everything from offhand comments to Facebook posts to statements from Christian celebrities I see a mass of freaked out believers. In terms of policy substance, I largely agree with them. I believe that a number of policies either recently enacted, potentially enacted, or established by judicial fiat will be disastrous for our country long-term. But here's the thing, beloved: Even if everything the United States did was perfectly God-honoring (which because of human depravity has never and will never occur), our nation and government are still going to be burnt to a crisp when Jesus comes back. Remember Nebuchadnezzar's earlier vision in Daniel 2 in which he saw a "stone cut out without hands" that represents an eternal kingdom that crushes all (that is, all) others.
Should we care about the health of our nation? Of course! God tells us to seek the peace of the city in which we are in exile. That's loving our neighbor as ourselves. But if any of us believers have more gut-level passion for this country than for our heavenly one then we are way off-base. I would like to see believers in this country exhibit more holy zeal for evangelizing Muslims than for determining the location of a mosque in Manhattan, a church that has more passion for whether we are giving to God what is God's than for how much Caesar demands of us. And though I believe that the consequences of the state indulging the fiction of same-sex marriage will begin devastating our society after many of us are dead and it's too late to do anything about it, I still wish that Christians were even more intolerant of our own stubbornness toward our own spouses that feeds our outrageous divorce rate sanctified by easy remarriage.
Even if our policies were perfect, a failure to put our passion in the right place prioritizes the wrong kingdom, which is a subtle version of the pride in his kingdom that Nebuchadnezzar exhibited. God's response is to strike us with insanity, an obsessive freaking-out that cements our missing the point. If that really is what is happening now, I pray that God is merciful and only allows it to last for seven years and then restores us, as he did to Nebuchadnezzar. If we are now only seeing the warning signs, we would be wise to "break away from [our] sins by doing right, and from [our] iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps [our] prosperity will be prolonged" (Dan. 4:27).
(For more on being a citizen of our heavenly kingdom and our earthly kingdom, watch here.)