What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
(W. H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939)
Almost immediately after the horrific terrorist attack September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon killed 3000 Americans, the drumbeat for retribution and revenge pounded loudly. Drowned out were voices calling for restraint. While peoples from nations around the world offered sympathy, so-called Christian America cast aside Jesus’s clear teachings against returning evil for evil to instead foment violent war on Afghanistan, to be followed 18 months later upon Iraq.
Barbara Lee (California) was the only person in Congress to vote against the broad authorization that gave President George W. Bush wide power to launch war against any nation or people he deemed terrorists. Lee based her decision after attending a 9/11 memorial service at Washington National Cathedral. In his opening invocation, the dean of the cathedral, the Rev. Nathan Baxter, said, “Let us also pray for divine wisdom as our leaders consider the necessary actions for national security, wisdom of the grace of God, that as we act we not become the evil we deplore.” For her lone courageous decision, Lee was widely castigated and insulted as an enemy of America, clueless, an abettor of terrorism.
Ponder the phrase pertaining to “GRACE” in the well-known hymn, America The Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea
When His disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, Jesu included two important sections I will mention. He elaborated that we can ask God to forgive us of our sins, debts, transgressions, with the caveat that we are to forgive others who violate us. The prayer also asks God to protect us from falling into temptation, and to deliver us from evil. As I see it, following 9/11, most Americans eagerly lapped up the temptation of violent vengeance against a scapegoat that Afghanistan represented, and then for two decades perpetrated unspeakable violent evil against populations in the Middle East.
And that leads me to ponder what increasing numbers of Americans are feeling. American internally is violent, sharply divided politically and ideologically, with moral collapse increasing. Is God judging America for its foreign wars, for its bloated military budget, for its meanness to desperate refugees, for its insatiable appetite for climate-warping fossil fuel energy? Perhaps a place to start is national repentance in sackcloth and ashes for its arrogant wars. According to the Bible book of Jonah, the violent nation Assyrian capitol of Nineveh repented in sackcloth and ashes, and was spared being destroyed.