America the Beautiful

Monday Musings for April 29, 2019

Good morning, Musers

In the first verse of the song America the Beautiful, Katharine Lee Bates wrote, “America! America! God shed his grace on thee.” But it’s the less well-known stanzas that I find the most interesting: in verse two she prays, “God mend thine every flaw,” and in verse three, “May God thy gold refine.”

The grace God shed describes the physical gifts given to our great land, but mending and refining refer to the process needed to tame — not the land — but its people. So, how are we doing, America? Are we working on correcting our flaws? Are we getting more godly? Are we daring to go through the furnace again?

Israel was the apple of God’s eye back in its salad days (… or perhaps its falafel days) (Deuteronomy 32:10). Yet only a few generations passed between Israel’s having God’s presence directly in their camp and their falling into idolatry as a nation.

What did God do? Well… he shut off the milk and honey — that’s for sure! Pagan armies swept in. They conquered Israel, laid waste to Jerusalem and carried away its treasures. But perhaps most profoundly, they carried away its people. Will America escape this fate? … or will we continue to be carried away bit by bit until we are gone?

I ask because we, too, have begun worshipping idols — and through the agency of political, economic and social changes — we have married the women of the land. So, how long will it be before we abandon our distinctions and American exceptionalism fades from the world?

Some say that America is simply too big to fail… but I’m not convinced. Israel had God right in their camp! — and they failed! … and it’s the little things. The women of the land were pleasant to look upon, and the men of Israel took them as their wives. So, it was through the honorable institution of familial love the nation left its moorings.

Sometimes destruction comes quickly, and sometimes destruction comes sweetly… but God will not be mocked. So, let’s acknowledge the grace that God shed upon this continent, and let’s acknowledge the role these physical gifts played in establishing our land. But let’s also not abandon the processes of mending our flaws and walking through the flames when necessary. Sin is at the door, and it’s pleasant to look upon.

America will cease to be good when her people cease to be godly, and America will cease to be godly when her people cease to be good… and when our country is no longer a beacon of freedom and goodness to the world, what will she be called?

Babylon, I suspect.

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