Can a commonwealth be a common curse?

Monday Musings for September 14, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

I used to work for a large company. In retrospect, that choice was a trade-off: employment was somewhat secure because of its bigness, but the weight of the corporation often impeded the progress of the individual... to the point where some days it felt as if I were marching through mud. So I thought the (pre-internet) meme that said “None of us is stupider than all of us!” was simply perfect because it described so pithily the problem of bigness.

Fortunately, the thirty years I spent marching through the mud was not wasted... because I’ve adapted that saying for use in Christian apologetics. The only thing bigger than large corporations are the states that contain them, so when speaking of national sin I say, “None of us is more sinful than all of us.”

Collective sin can be trickier to deal with than individual sin — and by “collective” I mean, all of us together as a political, economic and geographical entity — as a commonwealth... which is what four of the fifty states still call themselves here in the USA... my home state of Massachusetts being one of them.

But I’m pushing the term commonwealth to mean the nation today — ours and ancient Israel’s. You see, the USA and Israel have had some of the same types of sins in our histories — and these have come back to haunt us. What Hosea observed 2800 years ago applies to us today: We have sown the wind... and we have reaped the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).

Several cities in the USA have experienced riots recently. Although slavery officially ended with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 01, 1863 — and we have enacted many laws designed to help former slaves and their progeny since then — systemic racism persists... and the death of George Floyd is an acute example — one that recently lit the fuse of unrest.

So here’s the issue. It would be hard to deny that slavery helped grow America into the financial and political giant it is today... and I’m guessing that some Ph.D. has calculated the dollar amount slavery added to us. But figuring out what slavery cost us is not so easy; here’s why.

If non-whites were systemically kept from the same opportunities enjoyed by whites (and that is demonstrably so), what did their exclusion from the main economy cost our GNP over the years? Did it cost us more than we gained through slavery end-to-end? I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

The problem is, the “what ifs” are hard to calculate. When it comes to history, we have some data, so the task of setting value is pretty straight forward. But that figure only includes things that happened in history... not what could have happened. The combinations of those “could haves” are infinitely complex, so only God can figure out what America might have become without slavery. Maybe the Great Commission would be further along. We just can’t know.

What we do know is America is exploding... and there’s nothing like an explosion to uncover things! And do you know what? That’s all God wants from a nation... the truth. But to get there we must admit to our nation’s sins — “own” them (if you will) — then we must repent of them. If we continue to refuse to do this, our nation will move further and further away from what could have been the best scenario under God... which is still attainable.

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