Looting has been a part of war at least since 333 B.C., when Alexander the Great strolled into the tent of King Darius III, and helped himself to the vanquished Persian's best tapestries and commandeered the royal bathtub for a soothing victory soak. In the years since, victors have taken the spoils, and in their wake, ordinary citizens and opportunistic thieves have grabbed anything of value in that confused pause between war and peace. Such was the case when U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. The National Museum of Iraq recorded a history of civilizations that began to flourish in the plains of Mesopotamia more than 7,000 years ago. But, once American troops entered Baghdad, the looters stormed the National Museum and ransacked the greatest trove of historical and archaeological artifacts in the Middle East. Many looters came out carrying choice antiquities in boxes, on hand carts, bicycles, and wheelbarrows. Others stuffed their pockets with smaller items. Within 48 hours, the entire museum was destroyed and over 15,000 items of Iraq's cultural heritage were gone. Nothing of real value was left, and the pillagers had stripped Iraq of its national treasures.
My mind can still see the vivid scenes from my childhood of American athletes in the Olympic Games with their finger raised in the air and proclaiming, "We're number one!" My, how times have changed. America is still number one, but in all the wrong things. We are number one in divorce, teen suicide, pornography, homosexuality, and abortion. Sadly, the American dream is quickly becoming the national nightmare. It seems that freedom has become license, and all of the values and virtues that made our country great are simply being carried away. A similar picture is painted during the reign of Rehoboam. Once he became strong, he forsook the Lord
along with the entire nation. God then raised up an enemy out of an Egyptian king named Shishak. 2 Chronicles 12:9 records the outcome, "So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house; he took all..." Everything of value became his for the taking without much of a struggle. My heart breaks as I watch our nation dismantled of its national treasures with such ease by the subtle forces working from within. I like what author Kelly McGinley wrote, "Our freedom is not being destroyed by terrorists, but by ignorance, apathy and complacency...Our dumbing down is not accidental but a very well organized plan." I have wondered how we ever arrived at such a place. But, when you think about it, when the planning is strategic, the performance is rather simple. How do you dismantle a nation of its valuables?
You must change their identity. The psalmist writes in Psalms 11:3, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" The quick answer is that when the foundations are destroyed, the righteous are vulnerable and made prey of the wicked. It should stand without much of a debate that our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values and principles. That is our foundation. However, with the rising tide of humanism, secularism, atheism, and false gods, we are now a diverse and divided nation living in a post-Christian culture. When America was truly a God-fearing nation, we were seen for our faith, freedom, and opportunity. Today, we are known for the same fear, violence, and distrust seen in any domain of tyranny around the world. Once called "the melting pot" of the world for our ability to assimilate immigrants into a harmonious flow of culture, we now permit others to come tell us how we have been doing it wrong all of these years. There was a time when we looked exclusively to God, but in the politically correct inclusion, God has once again been placed on the shelf alongside other gods in the house of Dagon. Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?" There is a great danger in wanting to look like other nations. You may just get what you wished for.
You must corrupt their integrity. In Proverbs 14:34, Solomon writes, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." The word "reproach" speaks of shame and disgrace. The reproach openly, arrogantly, and militantly being displayed in America today is indicative of the fact we have lost our moral compass. Never before has purity, decency, and godliness ever been so rejected in America. The filth and perversion that was once hidden in dark alleys is not only openly permitted now, it is encouraged. Our new motto is found recorded often in the book of Judges, "And every man did that which was right in his own eyes." The more ungodly we become, the weaker we have become in every aspect. Immorality will beget broken homes.
Broken homes will beget economic woes. Economic woes will beget violence. And violence will beget unbridled lawlessness. A perverse society loses all sense of boundaries because it has already silenced the restraint of conscience. General Douglas MacArthur said, "History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster." God may reserve judgment for individuals till the end of time, but for nations, judgment always comes in time. As we teeter perilously on the edge of a moral precipice, who knows if the next strong wind will send us into revival or profound obscurity.
You must conform their infants. The psalmist writes in Psalm 127:3, "Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is His reward." More than money, land, and life insurance, our children are the greatest inheritance we leave to those that will follow us. But, it is how they are taught and trained that determines their blessing or burden upon the next generation. The values of hard work, fair play, self- respect, and responsible living are no longer considered necessary traits to succeed in life. Children are born with their mouths open and their hands empty. In our eagerness to fill them, we have enabled them with a sense of entitlement. Our children no longer dream for their future because they have the idea that someone else will provide for them for free. They cannot rationalize that what appears free to them came at the expense of someone else. They cannot analyze that the best way to capture a wild hog is one free meal at a time. They cannot process that the person who is able to give you everything you want is also able to take everything you have got. Russian Premier Vladimir Lenin said, "Give me just one generation of youth, and I'll transform the whole world." Our future is desperately at stake. Whoever wants the next generation the most will be the one to get them. At the current pace, we are destined to see a "generation after them, which knew not the Lord."
The old adage is true: you have what you tolerate. Initially, most were outraged and cried foul when we saw pieces of our heritage carried away. Others may have went so far as to weep. As time has gone on, we have become so desensitized that we now merely stand and shake our heads. Nineteenth century American statesman Carl Schurz said, "Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right." When such counsel is not followed, we will come to discover that the ones who have been stolen from the most is ourselves.
Your most proud pastor,