THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

(c) 2010 Wm. Douglas Van Devender

Recently, TERMINEX ran a commercial that was truly prophetic.

The enthusiastic instructor stands before the class of eager recruits who are motivated to finish training and get busy killing pests.

The instructor says (pointing at a diagram on the board), “You must get at the source of the problem.”

You must get at the source of the problem.

And therein rests the fundamental problem in America.

For two generations we have thrown money at every issue – domestically and internationally — while carefully avoiding the identification, admission and attention to those roots issues.

The last thing Americans want to do is to own up to WHY our problems are the way they are. We’d rather buy them off and hope they’ll go away.

But now the money has run out and that failed remedy is no longer availble to us. (Though we are going to try to make it work a little longer.) And the problems aren’t going away.

Instinctively, everyone realizes we can’t go on like this.

Everywhere the cry is heard for CHANGE. But every attempt at change seems to dig the hole even deeper. There is no question that many public efforts to redress our national issues have instead created difficult new problems.

Besides, there is no national agreement on what change might actually improve our situation.

The good news is that Jesus is not confused about any of this. Jesus lived in a generation awash in similar cultural decomposition.

While maintaining a façade of intense religiosity, 1st century Israel had in fact disconnected from God in all the ways that mattered. Paul summed it up this way:

                For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile [useless, pointless, fruitless, unsuccessful, vain, ineffectual, wasted] and their foolish [without understanding] hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools….                                                                                                                Romans 1:21-22a

Paul’s point is this:

                The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness….                                                1:18

Paul’s assessment of the condition and fate of his own culture simply echoes the same assessment of John the Baptizer:

                The ax is already at the root of the trees and every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.                                                                                Matthew 3:10 / Luke 3:9

Jesus speaks to the same issue repeatedly:

                “Do you see [the majestic buildings of the Temple complex and surrounding palaces]?” Jesus asked [his disciples]. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every stone will be thrown down.”                                                                                               Matthew 24:2

And check out the Seven Woes in Matthew 23:

                “Woe to you…[who] shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to…. Look, your house is left desolate to you.”   23:13-14, 38

The ax is at the root.

It was then.

It is now.

There comes a point when a culture becomes so degraded that there is nothing left to do but declare bankruptcy and start over.

Why?

Because the time comes when people will NOT engage the process of determining the true reasons for the decomposition. They simply won’t go there.

And even when real reasons are apparent, most people are unwilling to make the personal changes in thinking, behavior, religion and lifestyle necessary to salvage the culture.

When the pain of TRUE CHANGE renders voluntary change impossible, when FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE becomes quite unthinkable to most, there is nothing left to do but put the ax to the root and plant something new.

God himself oversees this clearing process.

Who would have thought the British Empire–on which the sun never set–would disappear in a fortnight? Who would have thought the cruel and powerful USSR would disappear without an army marching against it?

You say, “Maybe those empires fell in a heartbeat, but such could never happen to America! America is too strong. America is too wealthy. America is too big to fail.”

The harsh reality: America is bankrupt.

Philosophically. Financially.  Morally. Spiritually.  

America’s problem is not Obama or Bush.

America’s problem is us.

We have abrogated the covenant our Founders made with God.

We have abandoned our God and we have abandoned our founding principles. We–as a people–have thrown off the God who owns this land. The God who entrusted this land to us with the opportunity and responsibility to administer it well as His regents.

Can anyone say–over the last fifty years–we have been faithful stewards of God’s design?

I know, I know, millions still claim God. But genuine, transforming spirituality is in short supply. And it is largely absent in the public square.

As a people we are ambitious, greedy, idolatrous. And religious. We have shed an ocean of innocent blood.  Our culture has become openly Christophobic, flirting with secular and foreign gods, mocking and marginalizing those who are still devout followers of Jesus.

We have told the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ to take a hike. We have told Him we can handle our affairs without His intrusion. And so we have.

We have handled our affairs while living under the corporate delusion that given enough time, given enough money, given enough government, we can clean up this mess.

But we can’t.

And we won’t.

The Dems can’t. The GOP can’t. The Tea Party can’t.

Having torn up God’s green card and deported him, we have nothing left but raw power politics to address our ills, and smoking money presses to pay our bills.

The ax is at the root.

Because the root IS the problem. 

And WE are the root.

Our national fate is sealed.

Does that mean we are left without hope?

By no means!

There is great reason to hope. But not in that which has already died and is rapidly decomposing.

     (to be continued)

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