October 22, 1999

If so, why the corrupted optimism?
Are we "slouching toward Gomorrah"?

By JOHN ANDERSON  www.cryministry.com

"The Lord said, "The prophets are prophesying lies in My Name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds... I did not send them, yet they are saying, 'No sword or famine will touch this land.'" (Jeremiah 14:14,15)

When Alistair Cooke, the British-born American journalist and broadcaster, was asked about Chesterton's famous remark that the United States was a nation with the soul of a church, he replied, "That's true, but also the soul of a whorehouse."

Cooke's observation comes to mind in light of presidential candidate George W. Bush's chiding assertion that too often on social issues the Republican party "has painted an image of America slouching toward Gomorrah," a biting reference to Robert Bork's excellent and best-selling analysis of the declining state of the culture.

Mr. Bush has his own political reasons, of course, to speak as did. But political expediency aside, there are multitudes of citizens, many of whom are deeply committed Christians, who are genuinely concerned about the moral direction of our nation, who believe we have marks of the soul of a whorehouse and are not merely slouching, but speeding toward Gomorrah, no less in the era of the current president. Why castigate them?

Intended or not, Mr. Bush's comments fit nicely with that superficial, corrupted optimism so popular among many politicians - and, sadly, among many preachers - which ignores the moral health of the nation and instead focuses blissfully on whatever are the political hot topics.

The national character of our country is fundamental. Certainly many of our economic problems can be tracked to our moral breakdown such as rising welfare costs because of illegitimacy and divorce. Any presidential candidate who thinks he best serves our country by discounting our moral crisis lives in a precarious fools paradise.

Have we in our good economic times so stroked our politicians that they pander to us like this? Suzanne Shields quotes Edward Gibbon in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,'' who painted a dramatic picture of what happens when character, public service and civic engagement atrophy. "Prosperity,'' Gibbon wrote, "ripened the principle of decay .... As soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight.''

Whatever the reasons, our times are ripe for strong, clear biblical voices from our pulpits who speak truth. Dr. Henry Blackaby, special assistant to the presidents of several boards of the Southern Baptist Convention and co-author of Experiencing God, spoke May 22, 1999, at a conference at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. He was asked his view of the future of America. He said, "If you put the U.S. up against the Scriptures, we're in trouble. I think we're very close to the judgment of God." James Dobson agreed: "Sadly, I believe Dr. Blackaby's assessment of America is entirely accurate."

Today of course preachers generally do not speak of such things as judgment as Dr. Blackaby did - which is probably why someone asked him the question. And of course neither do most of our politicians mention the subject. But many of our forbears in public life did. For instance, George Mason, during a debate in the Constitutional Convention about slavery, said: "Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven upon a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities." We could add Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and others who spoke like this.

Of course Dr. Blackaby is correct, we are in trouble, very close to the judgment of God - we are already under the judgment of God. Place against Scripture our grievous record since 1973 of shedding the innocent blood of over 38 million of our unborn. Can we truthfully believe that we can just continue right on like we are, freely killing our unborn without end, ad infinitum, without facing justice? Will the God of justice who "hates hands that shed innocent blood," who is not mocked by our sin, forever hold back judgment for the blood dripping from our collective hands? Just for killing our unborn we as a nation carry an enormous weight of accountability, a reality alone that blots bright hope for our future.

Is there hope? Certainly people want hope; human souls cry for optimism. Yes, there is hope. However it begins with repentance. And any message that purports to be optimistic for America which excludes calling us to face our sin and repent is a traitorous, spurious message. Such a message treacherously allows our nation to continue, unrestrained, its slouch toward its fast-approaching Gomorrah. Any of us who preach such false tidings will have a lot to answer for.

Jeremiah faced corrupted optimism. In Chapter 14 God told him not pray anymore for the people as He would "destroy them with the sword, famine and plague." (vv 11-12) Jeremiah then refers to the sunny, upbeat messages that the prophets were proclaiming: "Ah Sovereign Lord, the prophets keep telling them, 'You will not see sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.'" (v 13)

The Lord's answer is piercing, "The prophets are prophesying lies in My Name.. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds... I did not send them, yet they are saying, 'No sword or famine will touch this land.'" (vv 14-15a)

About these false messengers, God was searing: "Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine!" And He firmly re-stated the certain judgment that would come upon the nation: "The people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and sword... I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve." (vv 15b, 16)

Such words from our Lord should sober any of us who preach.

Biblical hope is rooted in repentance. Repentance is a word of mercy. Jesus began His ministry saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17) It was His first word of the Gospel. And it must be ours who preach.

Otherwise we abandon our nation to its "soul of a whorehouse."

And to Gomorrah.

Let us join in prayer:

Our Heavenly Father, we rejoice that you are holy, just and merciful. Many of us who preach have sinned by omitting mention of sin, judgment and repentance, and given the impression that our society can sin with impunity. This while our nation sinks in moral mire, headed toward your certain judgment. Forgive us of our corrupted optimism. Forgive us for our compromised message. Forgive us for wanting to please men instead of You. We want our message to have integrity and to be blessed by you. And we want to see you move powerfully again in our nation."

John Anderson has been in ministry over 34 years, including 24 years serving three churches. Since 1988 he and his wife, Esther, have been in traveling ministry across the world. Recently they have based their CRY OF THE INNOCENTS MINISTRY near Washington, D.C. John is editor of The Pastor's Alert, a publication of The Alliance for Revival and Reformation. He is author of two books, CRY OF THE INNOCENTS and THE CRY OF COMPASSION. He and his wife travel extensively in speaking engagements; and is one of those available from The Alliance for such engagements. You can reach him via e-mail at CryMinJohn@aol.com.