When you write a published title to anything and call it “Why America Is No Longer Great,” you must establish a baseline for greatness in a nation. Most Americans today have in their minds a vague concept of what greatness looks like. As someone nearly a half century old, the image I envision mirrors that of the old Ronald Reagan “Morning in America” ad, considered by many to be the finest political ad ever created—though I admit that recalling ads is perhaps a sign of the greater problem.
Fact is, there are no inherently great nations. A nation is nothing more than a collection of people and their work and ideas. So it’s the people who must be of some Olympian caliber if we are to test the definitions and say that a nation is great.
But then, defining a nation as great by claiming its people must be is something of a bait and switch. People, in and of themselves, are not great. No inherent greatness exists in fallen men and women.
Fact #2: Only God is great. To the extent that people reflect God’s greatness, will they be great, and subsequently their nation.
All greatness comes from God. Period.
This past week, we watched a major political party suffer a seizure over the omission and re-addition of a lone reference to God in the party platform. In addition, many in that party could not see fit to acknowledge the spiritual home of two major religions. That party’s whitewashed faith statement reads like something espousing liberal use of a rabbit’s foot, four-leaf-clover, and upright horseshoe.
The opposing party, on the other hand, refers to God often. That said, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the party does so in the same manner that a pimply-faced teen guy drops mention that he and the high school’s much-admired football QB are chums, the trolling for chicks barely contained and obvious. One thinks that for all the talk of faith by that other party, a quick drain of the trust fund would reduce that faith to zero.
Changed in 1956 from E Pluribus Unum, the official motto of the United States of America is In God We Trust. You wouldn’t know it from the character of Americans today though. Sure, we talk a great deal about God, but the nature of Americans as practicing God-fearers that so impressed visiting Europeans in the early 19th century is largely vapor today. Instead, we seem to be obsessed with a thousand petty ideals that have as much to do with God as ichthyology has to do with cyclery. I would suspect that a contemporary visit from de Tocqueville would elicit an astonished “What the hell happened?”—though in the French equivalent, of course.
Maybe hell IS what happened.
The truth is simple: Because we Americans are no longer a God-fearing people, we don’t reflect God’s greatness as we should. Therefore, we, as a people, are no longer great. And neither is our nation.
Do any great nations exist? By the definition I offer, probably not. I say probably because the concentration of truly God-fearing people on this planet seems to be shifting to the East. One could make a case for South Korea. Oddly, at least to most Americans, China is emerging as a land of great faith, with its revival-fueled churches.
And yet, even in the nations of the East, one can see the rot that infected the heart of America taking root. Materialism and self-centeredness are growing at a frightening rate, as America foists its fallen ideals on other parts of the world.
Because we once understood that God alone is great, Americans once reflected greatness. And because the people mirrored greatness, so did America the Nation.
I wish I could say that America was still great. Perhaps our nation can be again. But that will happen only if We The People turn, with all humility, back to God.
8 thoughts on “Why America Is No Longer Great”
The problem with your premise, Dan, is that even when we supposedly recognized the greatness of God as a nation, we still weren’t very good as a nation. In the nineteenth century we were suffering from rampant racism and sexism. White men were inherently seen as superior and there was an upsurge in what we would likely call cults. I don’t think any democratic nation can (or likely should) recognize any particular god. We as a nation can and will be great in comparison to many other nations no matter our differences in theology or philosophy, if for no other reason that we still have freedoms that other countries are jealous of and seek to emulate. Greatness also lies in humility.
On the surface, I think that what you write appears true.
However, I believe you’re missing a fundamental distinction: A God-fearing nation can improve, while a God-ignoring one can only rot.
America as a nation addressed many of its lacks, and most of those changes were driven by God-fearing people. I would argue, though, that the rot began in the 1950s and has reached epidemic proportions. Most “progress” today is oftentimes a step backward. Unless we Americans return to being God-fearing people, the decay will continue. And yes, humility is at the core of that:
“And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
—Luke 12:16-21 ESV
Dire Dan: “…the decay will continue.”
How can the U.S. be a “great country” when there are many parts of it where I dare not walk the streets or else I’ll be murdered?
I don’t believe “we” collectively were ever a God fearing nation. A religious people for sure, a moral people of course. But God fearing? Not from a nation born in violent rebellion and founded upon the altar of individualism. The state blessing on our pseudo-Christian heritage had more to do with making the people easier to manage than any sort of fidelity to Christ.
Are we a less moral nation now? Perhaps or perhaps the perversions of unregenerate people are simply out in the open today, talked about and even celebrated rather than hidden away. It is easy to lament the fall of America starting in the 60’s but the stark reality is that unregenerate moral, church going people in the 50’s are bound for the same eternal damnation as the homosexual couple kissing in a gay rights parade.
Part of the problem is that we now put “In God We Trust” on the god we trust.
I’m sympathetic, Dan, because we Americans have a hard time admitting that we’re not great. It’s been ingrained in us since kindergarten.
At the same time, I marvel that Christians expect greatness when Christ told us multiple times that things will only get worse. We somehow think we’re the exception to what the Bible tells us about the end times. For instance:
“It was also given to him [the beast] to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” (Rev 13:7)
It doesn’t say he was given authority over every nation except America.
I think we’d be better off preparing ourselves on how to live as Christians in a post-Christian world.
“At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Mat 24:10-13)
I agree with you about the end times. While I want to be realistic, I also want to offer the hope that we are not quite done yet and that we can do better before everything goes south.
The tendencies in Christian circles, depending on your theology and denomination:
* Believe in a glorious end times revival
* Believe it’s all going to burn anyway, so do what you want
* Believe we’re going to get stuck in the mess and better to prepare now
* Go on obliviously
Dire Dan: “Materialism and self-centeredness are growing at a frightening rate, as America foists its fallen ideals on other parts of the world.”
Dan, are you refering to the Neo-con agenda? I can’t think of anyone else who’s done the most active amount of foisting lately than the Republicans in this regard. It seems like they want to turn the entire world into a bigger version of America.