And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.
– Thomas Jefferson
Some Christians in the USA have viewed this election cycle as if the nation’s existence depended on November’s vote count. If the wrong candidate won, the USA would go into decline, causing Christian freedom and/or witness to shrivel. In effect, the election would either continue or curtail the USA’s manifest destiny.
But the worry of many US Christians is unfounded. The election of an immoral candidate will not destroy the USA’s economy or its place as a world power. The hypothetical demise of the USA (something I would never wish for!) would have zero impact on God’s kingdom.
1. Immoral Leaders Don’t Destroy a Nation’s Economy or Influence
Israel’s success or collapse depended on obedience to God, because Israel and God had a constitution document tying them together. If Israel obeyed God, God would bless Israel by providing rain, defense, and success to Israel. If Israel disobeyed God, God would retract the rain, allow enemies to enter the gate, and make Israel fail. Israel’s experience matched their constitution. God blessed Israel during the reign of Solomon and David, because they followed the constitution. God cursed many other kings, eventually sending the nation as a whole into exile because Israel disregard God and his constitution.
The USA has no such agreement with God, nor is the USA in any sense a new Israel. Some Christians in the USA believe that if abortion, LGBTQ rights, and social policies pass into law, then God will judge the USA by decimating the nation’s economy and power. But a person only needs to look north of the border to Canada to see that this narrative disagrees with experience. Canada legalized abortion in 1988, provides robust rights for LGBTQ persons (gay marriage in 2005), and supplies various social policies to its residents. Yet we’ve done well in terms of economy and power. The same would be true for many European nations.
An immoral nation does, however, bring judgment upon itself in other ways. The primary way, I suggest, is through God giving a nation over to its sinful desires without restraint. Romans 1 may not describe how nation progresses deeper into depravity, but it certainly describes typical ways sin works and God responds to it: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Rom 1:28). It seems not unreasonable to believe, then, that the destiny of a nation who ignores God is to continue to ignore God, to be freed up to do evil.
One possible future for the USA is unrestrained evil with a successful economy and with a powerful military and political influence. Many Christians may hope for this possible future (or present) since the outward signs of the nation seem strong. But the heart of the nation may be corrupt.
I am not saying that the USA nor Canada are in this state, nor am I saying that I have all the answers. But I am saying that Christians must not confuse national success with God’s blessing, since a nation’s ability to freely do what it wants may be the judgment God gives it (cf. Rom 1).
2. The USA’s Hypothetical Demise Would Have Zero Impact on God’s Kingdom
I hope the USA thrives for years to come (I hope Canada thrives for years to come too). But if for some reason the USA did collapse, this would have zero impact on God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is not reliant democratic freedoms, nor is it reliant on a strong economy, nor is reliant on American Christianity. The church of God thrives because no earthly power can overcome it. It smashes the gates of hell, upends the nations of the world, and moves cosmic powers through self-sacrificial love and a compassionate plea of the Gospel. The blood of martyrs may fill up rivers, but those rivers would flow with the seed of the church.
Please don’t misunderstand me. God is using the USA as an important contributor to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But the USA, as such, is unimportant to God’s kingdom. God can raise up nations from stones to praise him, should he wish.
Never associate one nation with God’s kingdom so strongly as to belie the beautiful reality that the church comprises every tribe, tongue, and nation under the sun.
For many, success means prosperity and power. Yet Christ taught the church that honour comes through poverty and powerlessness with a complete trust in God. A nation’s outward success may mean very little about God’s relative blessing or curse on it. A nation’s unrestrained prosperity and power may even be one way God judges that nation. And even if an historically Christian nation falls, God’s kingdom still triumphs for the church is a international reality. God can cause stones and the mouths of babes to praise him. He certainly doesn’t need one particularly country to advance his kingdom.