During the last 40 years of my ministry, I have had the privilege of ministering in over 100 countries. What I have been hearing from my friends from afar is this. “What is going on in America? It’s seems divided and crazy over there! What’s going on in your government? And, what’s the deal with all the shootings, the debt, the riots, racial tension and other stuff going on? It seems like America is spinning out of control.” People in other nations are seeing something that most Americans won’t or don’t see … yet!
Allow me to share a concept with you that is a key to preventing the stagnation or even collapse of our nation.
Henry Kissinger captures the tension between the historian and the statesman. “I think of myself as a historian more than a statesman. As a historian, you need to be conscious of the fact that every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately failed. History is a tale of efforts that failed, of aspirations that weren’t realized, of wishes that were fulfilled and then turned out to be different from what are expected. So, as a historian, you live with a sense of the inevitability of tragedy. As a statesman, one acts on the assumption that problems can be solved.” A statesman knows history but he also knows how to apply lessons from history to avert tragedy.
Kissinger, the historian, has a point. It’s hard to embrace the statesman approach when history supports the historian. Many nations start off right, end up wrong. The constructive values of what made a nation strong get traded in on destructive values that make it weak. Most every nation seems to have its spring, summer, autumn and winter. History shows nations don’t learn from history. Born to win, conditioned to lose.
The further formerly great nations got away from ‘home,’ the more they get lost. Sydney Harris says, “People are fond of saying that the past is dead, but it is actually the future that is dead. We make it come alive only by applying what we have learned from the living past to the present.” Nations seem to lose forget the old saying, “Learn from others mistakes, the second mouse gets the cheese.” There’s lots of cheese if you are the second mouse who learned.
History shows us the path where all great nations before us have gone. 1. From bondage to spiritual faith. 2. From spiritual faith to great courage. 3. From courage to liberty. 4. From liberty to abundance. 5. From abundance to selfishness. 6. From selfishness to complacency. 7. From complacency to apathy. 8. From apathy to dependency. 9. From dependency back to bondage. In other words, progressive is, regressive. The path of history is littered with nations like this.
Edward Gibbon wrote a book titled “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” in 1788. He discovered five basic reasons why Rome withered and died. The reasons were: 1. An undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis for human society. 2. Higher and higher taxes and spending public money for free bread and circuses for the populace. 3. A mad craze for pleasure, with pastimes becoming every year more exciting, brutal and immoral. 4. Building great armaments, although the real enemy was within – the decay of individual responsibility. 5. Decay of religion –faith fading into mere form, losing touch with God life, and losing power to guide the people. Sound familiar?
As I said at the beginning of this article, other nations are detecting this pattern at work in America before America sees it. It’s like having bad breath; everyone knows you have it but you. Anyone who thinks government will save them is naïve and misguided. Someone once said, “Government is the art of trying to solve problems. Politics is the art of trying to attain power. The two sometimes intersect, but not often.”
Young adults, the immediate future will be determined by you. Get involved. Be a statesman or stateswoman who knows how to stop the demise of a country. Be governmental, not political. Now is the time to look back to our past to secure our future. The farther you go back into your nation’s history and what made your nation great, the longer your nation’s future will have. Your nation’s future is your nation’s past in disguise.
Some want us to forget our past. When you do that, you undermine your future. You won’t learn the lessons (both good and bad) history teaches us. Discover why America is and then the Constitution will make more sense to you.
To be sustainable, we need statesmen and stateswomen, willing to learn from the past, be aware and responsible in the present to be confident of our future.
With God’s help, we can do this. I know we can.