"America, America, God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea." Americans thrill to the singing of this great "unofficial" nation anthem. But why? The reality that is America today reflects the substance of those words less and less with each passing year.
Fewer Americans believe in God than in previous generations, and fewer still think that grace has anything to do with getting what you want in life, as our increasing lack of civility demonstrates. As for brotherhood, the nation seems more divided racially, politically, and culturally that at any time in her history. Many Americans, rather than celebrate the "good" of the country, vilify what they regard as her imperialistic, holier-than-thou attitude. And the shining seas are in danger of being permanently polluted by American greed and vice, as any environmentalist can tell you.
On Christmas Eve Vice-President Joe Biden explained to ABC News that his attitude toward gay marriage, like that of the President, is "evolving." The VP allowed as how acceptance of gay marriage - legally and personally - is probably inevitable in America. His own feelings on the subject are "in a state of transition" and he seemed to think that reflects the situation nationwide.
This idea of transition - nothing permanent, nothing to describe the idea of "America" that can't be set aside or revised whenever we choose - is coming to define the state of the nation more and more. Politics and government are transitioning away from the federal model outlined in the Constitution to an increasingly bureaucratic nanny state. Culture is expanding away from the core ideals of the generally Christian consensus that obtained in the years prior to the Founding (cf. The Declaration of Independence). The nation is becoming less of a "melting-pot" and more of a pot-pourri of competing ethnic and political values. Education has transitioned away from character-building to fitting-for-the-economy as its mission. Even Christianity, even the most fundamental expressions of Christianity, is transitioning into a managed and marketed form of religious accommodation to all things subjective and contemporary.
Americans appear to be united only by the fact that we all seem to be transitioning into new places across the board in our lives and interests. It's hardly accurate to speak of a United States of America any longer. Something more akin to The United States of Transition would seem a more accurate description of the status quo across the land.
Is it too late to reclaim a common vision of America? It may well be. But this makes it all the more important that Christians make certain that seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness be the defining motif of their lives and churches. For a nation that continues to transition away from its defining concepts into competing directions and camps will have a hard time sustaining anything like a national sense of purpose or importance. America is becoming a free-for-all of getting, spending, indulging, sefl-empowering, all of which are attitudes inimical to vital Christian life.
What does it mean for you and your church to seek first the Kingdom God and His righteousness? In The United States of Transition, knowing and embracing this vision will be increasingly important. For unless we do, the Church will become little more than a smarmy and self-righteous reflection of a fragmenting culture and society, lacking any power for revival, renewal, or awakening.
And that, as the lesson of ancient Israel should make clear, is not a safe place to be under the watching eye of an unchanging God.
Additional related texts: Proverbs 14.12; Romans 7.12; Philippians 3.17-21
A conversation starter: "Does it seem to you that America is tearing apart at the seams? Do you think anything can be done to recover a shared sense of national mission and purpose?"
T. M. Moore