I was reading in Zechariah last night in my single-column Books of the Bible, and I was struck by this statement from God about Jerusalem:
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Now hear these words, ‘Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.’ This is also what the prophets said who were present when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty. Before that time there were no wages for people or animals. People could not go about their business safely because of conflicts, since I had turned them all against each other. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,” declares the Lord Almighty.
It seems to me that the long-standing deadlock in Congress, more obvious now only because the financial crisis has made it so economically dangerous, is a result of God’s turning our hearts against one another as Americans. Let me clarify that I think Zechariah is talking about something a bit different. The conflicts he mentions are probably more physically violent. I cite this text only to show that God can and does turn people against each other as a method of judgment. That seems to be what he has done in this country.
As I wrote in the latest What in the World!, citing Joseph Bottum in First Things, the basically Protestant consensus that used to hold America together has withered away. In 1965, The mainline Protestant denominations counted more than half of all Americans among their members. But now those denominations (according to Bottum—and I agree) have completely capitulated to the world around them, guilty of “routine genuflections toward the latest political causes, the feminizing of the clergy, . . . the substitution of leftist social action for Christian evangelizing, and the disappearance of biblical theology.”
In fact, says Bottum, “All the Mainline churches have become essentially the same church: their histories, their theologies, and even much of their practice lost to a uniform vision of social progress.”
Let’s not imagine that the Republicans are the righteous stalwarts standing against the mainline liberal antichrists. By God’s common grace, the Republican platform is, I think, closer to biblical views than the Democratic. But the party is still far from God. And the Democratic party is closer to God than the Republican in some of its emphases. My point in quoting Bottum is simply that whatever moral—and therefore political—consensus we had as a nation is now disintegrating. We’re turned against one another, and I have to see that as the providence of God.