When Wright made the claim from that pulpit that 9/11 was just an example that America's chickens are coming home to roost, I was not altogether in disagreement. This nation has been involved in a good number of evils, but not so much in the ways that Wright stressed. God often uses people more evil as tools to discipline and give warning to others. I could have agreed with the reverend had he also said that his own church deserved to have one of the planes crashing there as much as the Twin Towers.
America's relationships and actions toward other nations or groups would be subject to much debate in regard to the amount of evil performed. Doubtless much was, but it is just as certain that lots of good was also done. I happen to believe that the United States has done far more good in the world than evil. But this is not a reason that I would have any agreement with Wright's statement.
I would more tend to suspect that harsh discipline would be deserved from internal American beliefs and modes of action. Treatment of minorities? Maybe, but the suffering and death via the Civil War could be considered discipline for that. Treatment of the poor? We have spent trillions on the 'War on Poverty.'
Legalized abortion? Now we're getting somewhere. Yet this is just a symptom. It is a symptom in a society that willingly and officially attempts to separate God and his absolutes from governmental or personal action. In this circumstance the government becomes the default absolute authority and arbiter of all right and wrong, public and private.
What could the government use as a template for decisions? The Constitution? For quite a long time that document could be considered one of two synonymous phrases; a living document or a dead letter. What has replaced the Constitution and rule of law? Feelings, rationalizations, manipulations, and power. When God, his authority, and his absolutes are rejected, a Constitution is just a piece of paper. Anything could be rationalized... for the children, for the planet.
Katherine Kersten logs a commentary on StarTribune.com that does a nice rehash of some of the issues of our culture these days:
As a society, we tolerate pastors, priests, rabbis and other religious folks, so long as they confine their message to a vanilla "God is love" theme and bless babies, brides and caskets.We are threatened with instant transmogrification to the Dark Ages. The alternative?
But when religious leaders speak out on the issues of the day...
...the idea that the universe is a random accident, that transcendent truth is a myth, and that man's life has no inherent purpose or meaning....If this trend continues, what chickens are expected to come home to roost? Obama is one of those chickens, and it could get worse.
Human beings are prone to selfishness, lust, vindictiveness and cruelty. Once we cease to believe that the moral rules constraining us are rooted in transcendent truth, they become mere preferences -- a matter of personal taste, and so expendable.
Theologian David Bentley Hart, a critic of the New Atheists, puts it this way: "How long can our gentler ethical prejudices ... persist once the faith that gave them their rationale and meaning has withered away?"
The historical record here should give us pause. The French Revolution, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union -- all sought to replace Judeo-Christian ethics with reason, and ended in massive bloodletting.
Nor does science offer moral guidance. That way lies Social Darwinism -- the notion of the survival of the fittest. Unless scientific ambition is constrained by religion, it can come to see humanity as just another form of technology, to be tinkered with and perfected with utility in mind.