Thursday, October 26, 2017

Humble Yourselves and Pray

Christians in America love to quote and claim the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 (albeit out of context). The problem is that the promise has a condition: “if my people humble themselves”. This is a problem because although the people of America have many great characteristics, such as generosity, enterprise, hard work, they seem to have a great of difficulty looking honestly and critically at their nation’s past.

I read a great deal of history. Some of what I read about America is really ugly. The invasion of the Philippines in 1899 that killed hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions is an example. I have just read a history of the early years of the CIA during the 1950s and 1960s. Some of the things they did, ostensibly to advance democracy, but often just to protect American business, were despicable: killing heads of state, using propaganda to destroy others and installing dictators.

There are many nasty actions. Dropping 400,000 tons of napalm on the villages of Vietnam and destroying the lives of people, whose only crime was wanting independent from their Japanese and French colonial masters. Bombing everything that moved in North Korea until all buildings and infrastructure were destroyed and the land was flooded. More recently, the trashing of the nations of Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Historians can write about these incidents because they are not widely read. However, I notice that when people write about them in more popular magazines and blogs, they are slagged off for being un-American. At best, they are accused of having failed to understand that America has to do evil stuff because it was fighting against evil. When I write about these things, I get comments suggesting that I ungrateful for what America has done for me.

It seems that many Christians are so committed to the myth of America as the exceptional nation, that they cannot look honestly at their own history. They are free to think that way, but it is the opposite of “humbling yourselves”. We cannot humble ourselves because we are a great nation does match 2 Chronicles 7:14. And of course, the promised blessing does not follow.

Here in New Zealand, the treatment of the indigenous Maori people was ugly. The British government made a treaty to protect them in 1850 and then used legal military means to systematically seize their land and destroy their culture. While Maori men were fighting overseas for the British during World War 1, some had their land back home alienated.

It has taken a hundred years, but successive governments have now acknowledged that actions of early governments were wrong. They have made restitution to the people who lost their land and mana. This has had a massive positive effect on race relations in this country.

I cannot see something like that happening in the United States of America, because it requires a government to humble themselves and admit that their forebears were wrong, and acknowledge they benefitted from it.

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