DENIAL DOESN’T CHANGE REALITY

In my work as a hospital chaplain, it is not unusual to come across family members of a dying loved one who insist death is not imminent. Nor is it unusual for people to disallow symptoms of disease until it is too late. They are in denial. 

On the other hand, hope is essential. As believers, we hold realistic hope in an eventual cure, a beating of the odds, and, even if death comes, we grieve in hope, knowing our loved one is safe with Jesus and we will eventually be reunited. 

Christian hope embraces reality. It neither ignores nor disavows the truth of the matter. 

America is very sick. Without proper treatment, it will die. How do I know? Watch the news. 

Nations die in various ways. Occasionally, one is violently crushed out of existence. More often, its relevance fades until it becomes ancillary. World War I destroyed the Ottoman Empire. The British Empire gradually shriveled to a fraction of its size and influence. 

Like all nations, like all empires, America will inevitably eventually die. Perhaps that time is imminent. Perhaps it is a ways off. Our choice. Will we accept the cure prescribed by the Great Physician, or persist in denial and anger until America is dead? 

The United States of America is in the ICU on life-support. 

Like ancient Israel, idolatry has led to injustice in these United States.  

America is not “one nation under God.” It never has been. America worships Mars, Mammon, and Caesar, but drapes its idolatry in Christianeze. Idolatry results in national sin.

But, there is a cure. Death is not inevitable. The cure involves confession, lament and repentance.

Honest confession (without excuses) to God and to those the nation has hurt, followed by lamentation that enables us to empathize with the victimized, and capped by the kind of repentance that actually and practically sets things to rights – this is the three-fold divine cure. 

Our national sins include:

  • Invasion by imperialist Europeans
  • Genocide of indigenous nations
  • Land owned for 10,000 years stolen from Native Americans
  • Forced relocation of indigenous people
  • Slavery 
  • Jim Crow segregation
  • Systemic racism
  • Voter suppression
  • Convict leasing
  • Militarism
  • Redemptive violence
  • Myths of righteous wars
  • Abortion as a form of birth control
  • Patriarchalism, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ
  • Environmental pollution
  • Greed, exploitation
  • Nationalism, anti-immigrant sentiment 

National sins have led to injustice:

  • The reëmergence of white supremacy
  • Mass incarceration
  • Intergenerational poverty
  • Hatred, greed, environmentally induced illness
  • Violence, killing, wars, crime, police brutality
  • Late term abortions
  • Riots and unrest
  • Political lies, corruption, avarice, immorality
  • Unsavory foreign alignments
  • Lack of civil discourse
  • Disastrous response to pandemic
  • Income disparity

Why should I confess, lament over, and repent of things I personally did not do? After all, I never owned slaves. The simple answer is that I need to confess, lament, and repent because I am an America. I am part of the whole. E pluribus unum. 

America has been in denial for many years. Insisting we are not a racist society, reimaging a history without redlining and mass incarceration, responding to police brutality with “blue lives matter,” calling for a return to a nonexistent idyllic past, thinking the election of an African American president proves a post-racial society, failing to recognize that “Make America Great Again” has always meant “Make America White Again” – all signs of denial.

I am sad because I’m an American and I love America. Majestic mountains, crashing waves, towering sequoia, coral reefs, grazing pronghorn antelope, spewing fumaroles, mist rising from a tropical cascade – so much beauty. Colorful cultures, Mexican dances, African drums, lederhosen, ethnic foods – diversity enriching us all. Education, opportunity, and equality (at least in principle) – founding ideals of liberty and justice. There is much to love about America.

I’m also sad because America doesn’t have to die. As with Israel of old, the healing arms of the Great Physician are outstretched. Will we accept the cure, or, like ancient Judah, spurn the truth until the nation is dead? 

America can go one of three ways:

  • Blame all the problems on whichever political party we don’t like and naïvely imagine all is well if our tribe runs the show. Racism is our zeitgeist, the water in which we swim. If we imagine we have fixed things by swapping out some politicians, we deceive ourselves. Our nation will die.
  • Continue denying we are anything other than great and near perfect. Our nation will die.

“The United States has often been called a land of contradictions, and to be sure, it’s failings sit along side some notable achievements  — a New Deal for many Americans in the 1930s, the defeat of fascism abroad in the 1940s. But on racial matters, the U.S. could just as accurately be described as a land in denial. It has been a massacring nation that said it cherished life, a slaveholding nation in the claimed it valued liberty, a hierarchal nation the declared it valued equality, a disenfranchising nation that branded itself a democracy, a segregated nation that styled itself separate but equal, an excluding nation that boasted of equality for all. A nation is what it does, not what it originally claimed it would be. Often, a nation is precisely what it denies itself to be.”[1]

  • Repent, do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. As with ancient Israel, there is hope.

21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,
    for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
    there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
    and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.[2]

Will we take the cure or continue our denial until the nation is dead?


[1]The End of Denial by Ibram X. Kendi, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research (The Atlantic, September 2020, p. 54)

[2]Lamentations 3:21-33; Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist Jesus Freak Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, husband, father, grandfather

Posted on September 6, 2020, in anabaptist, apologetics, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Justice, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Peace Shalom Hesed, Poetry, Prayer, Prophecy, Spirituality, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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