Like every great nation, the United States has committed great sins from time to time. Our first great sin was chattel slavery. Beginning in part with the Quaker Benjamin Lay in a suburb of 18th Century Philadelphia, an army of Christian reformers in the English-speaking world, then outside it, set their faces against this sin, sacrificing time, money, and reputation to bring about the liberation of Africans, and slaves of all races in every part of the world. America suffered its worst rending in the course of repentance, our bloodiest and most horrible war.
Our second great sin, no doubt, was mistreatment of Native Americans. (Or first, the dates are fuzzy, but clearly we continued robbing Indian land decades after the War Between the States.) Michael Medved argues, in Ten Big Lies About America, that the extent of that crime is often exagerrated. No doubt he is right, and certainly far more Native Americans died of Old World diseases than were killed intentionally. And it would be a gross mistake to portray the indigenous tribes themselves as peaceful noble savages: a rough rule of thumb seems to be, the higher the American civilization, the more beating hearts its gods required to renew the universe. But that's no excuse. Americans often murdered Indians and stole their land, even relatively peaceful, settled tribes like the Cherokee and Nez Perce. This was undoubtedly a terrible crime.
Mostly, America has repented of those sins, and the races have made peace.
But could we now be committing a sin every bit as great? Might the repentance required to recover from our third great sin be as deep and as heartfelt? Could it be that, while the church seems to have been marginalized in modern American society, with few prominent public spokesmen (no Augustine, Anselm, Wilberforce, Jonathan Edwards, or even Billy Graham to focus the attention of the public on behalf of the full claims of Christ), the Gospel remains precisely what is needed to keep America from collapsing in on itself, and devouring its children? Let me propose that such a role still lays claim on the Church, as it did in the days of Bartholome De Las Casas, Benjamin Lay, William Wilberforce, and Charles Finney. Our calling now, as then, remains to preach and model repentance, and lead America, however painfully and expensively, out of abiding sins of oppression. But let me also suggest that just as in the days of Wilberforce, because we have deep-seated interests in continuing to sin and oppress, repentance will not come quickly or easily. We will be despised, called names, perhaps even treated with violence. But it is the duty of the Church to call our nation to repentance, whether in a short or long period of time. (As it is the duty of Christians in other nations where the same sins are being committed.)
Our greatest social sin is no longer racial, but generational.
We are gravely sinning against our children.
The issue that comes to mind for many Christians, when I say that, will be abortion. But let me propose that abortion, including partial-birth abortion, is not the only or maybe even greatest manifestation of that sin. In fact, it is part of a coherent pattern, that makes the full extent of the crime even clearer.
I propose that three crimes against the next generation are complementary manifestations of selfishness and oppression:
(1) The abortion of unborn children.
Let us admit that modern Americans have become tone-deaf to the cries even of full-term babies allowed to die after they have been unsuccessfully aborted, as Barack Obama voted to allow in the Illinois legislature. We do not hear them, anymore. We think those who call out for them are affecting concern, maybe out of a desire to oppress poor women.
In ancient Rome, Christians stood against abortion and infanticide. One has to assume the Gospel is still doing some good, because at least for now, society generally frowns on the latter.
(2) The national debt. If a child survives the abortion mills, we present her on birth with a present: a bill for all the spending we're doing on ourselves before she was born, that she will carry like a millstone around her neck for the rest of her life: $100,000, perhaps, or $500,000 for a family of four, some even say $1,000,000. It is like
Massive deficit spending is like selling our children into slavery to satisfy our own "needs." What moral right do we have to spend so much, and ask our descendents to foot the bill? The will also, of course, undermine the nation, along with the demographic implosion. But we must face this, and recognize it as not merely bad policy, but morally wrong. John McCain called it "generational theft," but I think the long, strange adjective diluted the heinous character of the crime. We have become a nation of thieves. Our victims are our own children.
(3) Single parenthood. Not only do we present surviving newborns with a bill they may never be able to pay, we also ensure that fewer and fewer will know what the word "Daddy," "Mommy," or in some cases either, means. This ensures that lacking one or more parents, many grow up without the blend of love, structure, imagination, and discipline children need to thrive in our increasingly challenging world. Thus, we create a disfunctional, often addicted underworld that loses the dignity of self-support.
But the bigger crime, in my view, is to steal parents from our children.
I've sometimes felt nonplussed, substitute teaching in schools, at the difference between how Established (liberal) ideology seeks to protect children from some obvious, and some fanciful, dangers, while doing little to warn them of even graver dangers. I'm glad Health teachers warn children against the dangers of smoking and drug use, and that this message is seconded in assemblies and by means of public notices. What about sex, though? Don't STDs also maim and kill? Don't girls with babies wind up poor and dependent? Don't children without Dads go into life with a distinct disadvantage? Aren't they being ripped off in the most fundamental way? Yet far too little is said to students about the dangers of careless sex lives, which one can observe already in high schools, even middle schools, to some extent. ("This is not a movie theatre," I've been constrained to tell some students in class -- I would gladly say more, if I could.)
Even Barack Obama can be understood as a lonely man, his faults perhaps traceable to "dreams of a father" who was absent in real life. One can admire him for overcoming that dissability and for being faithful to his own children, even while abhoring many of his policies, as I do, which I believe undermine families. But it was a crime for his father to walk out on his kids, a dastardly crime -- worse, maybe, than having your slave master sell you down the river to Louissiana, because he was his own master, and betrayed his own children. And it is a sin more and more common in America today.
We may be too close to these sins to recognize their full evil, the full toll in broken lives, spiritual wreckage, and ended dreams. But is it likely that even chattle slavery, or the Indian Wars, damaged as many lives, as the toll of our present "War on Children?"
We have all met some of the victims of that warfare. We are, indeed, all being victimized by the National Debt, and will probably soon see the whole world impacted, as select parts of it have already been impacted -- here a Greece in flames, there a Spain or Ireland in despair. Yet the debt continues to grow, and no one now in power seems inclined to try seriously to reverse course.
So if you have ever daydreamed about living in some heroic era, when you could stand and fight against some great evil -- the Titans, the Nazis, chattel slavery, the Inquisition, Attila the Hun, or Roman legions -- take heart! Your hour of heroism may be at hand.
This is part of the calling of the Christian church in our age: to stand up for our children.
We will be despised and hated for doing so, as Christians who followed their Lord have often been hated.
We must show that we stand for love, not because we hate those we stand against, or think ourselves better than them. We must remind our opponents that by the calling of God, Christians have thus stood for two thousand years, from the time Jesus told the lynch mob, "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone," liberating a girl condemned to death, to the rescue by Christians of North Koreans who escape that evil regime into China at this very moment. (About which I plan to write soon.)
Despise Christians who stand up for the little ones, Western World, and you despise the source of your moral life, and which remains (not America, though America has often been an instrument through which God has worked) the genuine hope of mankind.
More about that, here.
Postscript: Several websites have linked to this post, and some interesting comments have appeared, below. Here's a bit of backdraft from one of the comments.