Who’s Cursing America?

June 29, 2011

Time for Round Two of Patriot Week, as I’ve dubbed it here on the blog.

You remember when the earthquake hit Haiti, Pat Robertson said that the natural disaster was God’s curse on those people.

Now, claiming that God is punishing people is nothing new or original.  Just recently, John MacArthur declared that America is under God’s curse and that, “if God doesn’t destroy America soon, He’s going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Yikes.

You probably remember Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermon, “God damn America!” that was blasted over every airwave for weeks a few years ago.  And Fred Phelps, of course, says that God pretty much hates everyone before breakfast every day.

Of course, Rev. Wright, Robertson, and Phelps are certifiably kooky.  And after being force fed several of his books in seminary I’m no fan of MacArthur (and his love of anointing himself a “Biblicist”).  But I’m going to brace myself, take the unpopular view and run with it.

What if they’re right?  Maybe America really is under God’s curse…

I’ll Take Pat Robertson Any Day

Like I said, telling people that God is cursing them is nothing new.

The job description of an Old Testament prophet pretty much had one bullet point: to say over and over, “God’s pissed off at you, and there’s going to be hell to pay if you don’t cut it out.”

What do guys like Robertson, Wright, and Phelps all have in common?  They’re not exactly socially acceptable. And like our modern prophets of doom, most of the old prophets weren’t exactly popular or “normal.”  They were eccentric, provocative.  Ezekiel, for crying out loud, laid on the street for a year, sprinkled his beard hair on people, and cooked his food over a poop fire, just to make a point.  Isaiah stripped nude to preach in the streets.  Say what you will about Pat Robertson, at least he keeps his clothes on.

At Least We Don’t Throw Preachers Into Toilets

And like our prophets, we haven’t changed much either.

It’s hard to blame people for thinking that crazy sounding people are, well, crazy. But time and again in the Bible, no one listened to the prophets when they said, “God’s gonna get you!” People scoffed and told them to cram it.  They chased them out of town, ostracized them, threw them into toilets.  People demanded that unless the prophets had something nice to say about them, then they shouldn’t say anything at all.

The reaction we have today is usually the same.  People react to pronouncements of judgement with shock and ridicule.  After all, God is love, and He doesn’t destroy people out of wrath like our ancient, superstitious ancestors believed.  I have never heard anyone say, “Yep, those crazy preachers are right.  God is planning to destroy us.”

God Bless America!

We love saying, “God bless America.”

That song will probably be sung in thousands of churches on Sunday.  We love to acknowledge that God has certainly blessed America (if you believed with Monday’s post that America is “under God” with a divine destiny.)  We are a land of plenty and freedom that upholds our God given rights.

Why is it that no one denies that God has blessed America, but anyone who says God will curse America is crazy?  Is God not in the butt whooping business anymore?  When something good happens, our default response is to say that God has divinely intervened to “bless” us, but when the feces hits the fan, no one wants to believe we’re being punished.

I’m not saying that God definitely is cursing America.  I think God’s a big fan of “natural consequences,” which is handy, since doing bad things always results in natural consequences, saving God a lot of smiting that He’d have to do otherwise.  Even if it’s not by God’s hand, America will be destroyed by our own actions, given enough time, unless we change course, or as the fundies might say, repent.

But is there any reason, other than we think that Pat Robertson is crazy, that he must be wrong?

Several weeks ago, I participated in the “Rally to Restore Unity,” in which the goal was to say farewell to “flippant dismissals” of other Christians.  Well, maybe we need to add this to our list of flippant dismissals we’re guilty of, and actually take a hard look at ourselves when some crazy person suggests that God is mad at us. (Except for Fred Phelps.  We can flippantly dismiss him all we want…)

What say you?  Should the suggestion of God’s wrath give us pause, or are we justifying in dismissing crazy preachers?  Does God curse nations and people, or does He just leave us to reap what we sow?

59 responses to Who’s Cursing America?

  1. i speculate that the wrath you’re talking about is the active wrath of God, versus the passive wrath, where we’re allowed to just continue to exist and do whatever we want, which includes continuing in our sin?

    whichever it is, yes, we should pause because it’s a reminder that God doesn’t tolerate our sin and if He didn’t care, He wouldn’t heave His holy wrath at us (alliteration!). as for dismissing crazy preachers? yes, we are justified in doing that because some of the crazies just aren’t biblical. you already mentioned fred phelps. he speaks for himself. literally.

    and finally does God curse people/nations…..hmmmmm thats a toughie. i suppose one could argue that the act of sin is the curse itself, but with regard to natural disasters, personally, i think sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren’t. of course God can make the earth do stuff at will, but many earthly/natural things we experience i have come to believe are just a part of the “free will” of the earth. i wish i had a reference to back that up with, but i can’t remember it. maybe someone smarter than me will know what i’m trying to get at.

  2. Hi Matt,

    When Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”, I think He was issuing a disclaimer.

    We can’t blame world stuff on Him.

    The world is doing what the world does. Always has.

    And, if any individual country or society goes belly up, the kingdom of God does not suffer loss.

    Rome floundered, no loss to the kingdom of God. Mayan, Aztec, and Inca civilizations perished, Christ’s kingdom managed to get along. The British empire, the Third Reich, The Confederate States Of America–all gone.

    While I love America, served in the Army, vote in every election, display our flag, pray for our nation–if America falls this afternoon to forces from North Korea, Cuba, Iran, orCanada; or even if we fall from internal corruption–so what?

    Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, He will not be harmed by the crumbling of just another petty earthly fiefdom. I’ll be sorry to see us go. But there’s more to His kingdom than my homeland, my hometown, me.

    John Cowart

  3. the “God bless America” phenomenon may be cultural/regional? I don’t hear it much where I live, and I never heard it in New England where i’m from…. Just a thought! thanks for the post.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more of a Midwest / Southern thing. Still, it’s customary for even the President to close a number of important speeches with “God bless America.”

      • I still don’t get the whole uproar about saying “God Bless America.” As you just said in a previous comment, you pray for things you love (and in your case, that includes America). You’d ask God to bless your family or a new business venture or your church, so why not your country? Does asking God to bless America somehow limit Him from blessing other countries? Does Americans saying “God Bless America” prevent the French from saying “God Bless France?”

        I just don’t get it.

        • No, I’m not at all saying that we shouldn’t give props to God for blessings. It just seems like a double standard we place on God. We want a natural, logical God that stays out of our way, unless He’s going to bless us. But we have a much harder time accepting the idea that God would intervene in the world to punish people. All I’m saying is if we’re going to take a God who blesses, we probably have to take a God that punishes too.

      • New England has one the highest percentage of atheists in the US. Why would they want to bother with God? Regionally we also have a high percentage of Catholics who are less vocal about their faith than evangelicals. I mean sort of makes sense.

  4. The problem with modern-day “prophets” like Robertson is that they do an awful lot of cherry picking with their “evidence” of God’s wrath. Robertson or somebody said that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for the “debauchery” of New Orleans (ignoring the fact that the considerably-less-“debauched” Mississippi and Alabama also got hit in the process.) He blamed Fidel Castro’s ill health on God’s punishment (while Robertson’s followers were remarkably silent about his ill health when he died.)

    Shoot, if I take the morning paper today and throw a dart at it I could probably find a way to spin some natural disaster into evidence of “God’s wrath” (if it’s happening to someone I don’t know in a country where I don’t live, that always helps.)

    The other thing that should give one pause is the fact that the “prophets” of today are profiting by the stuff they say. Well, maybe not Phelps, but he is at least getting massive amounts of free publicity. But Robertson made obsene amounts of money from his messages–whenever I see that happening I really wonder whether what he’s saying is a direct line from God, or is it just another way to bilk Grandma out of her Social Security check. I’m pretty sure that 99% of the time it’s the latter. And I think a “flippant dismissal” is totally okay in that case.

    Does God curse people? I do a lot of work with HIV patients and I actually still run across folks that believe AIDS is “God’s curse” on gay people, which I think is pretty depressing. It’s a virus and it’s just doing what viruses do–reproducing whereever it gets the opportunity. If I poke a bear with a stick and it chews off my leg is that “God’s curse”? The “God’s curse” people don’t take into account the folks that got it from a cheating spouse, or a blood transfusion, or their mother. If God really wanted to curse a specific sin, wouldn’t He come up with something a lot more specific?

    In the end, I guess I don’t know. It stands to reason that if God blesses us, He probably curses us, too. I just think that things get hairy when WE decide whether something is a curse or not–who among us can claim to know the mind of God anyway?

    • Woops, I didn’t know that italic thing was going to happen.

    • Ah, that’s a good question. When God curses people, is He okay with collateral damage?

      Perhaps He is not. When Abraham pleaded for Sodom and Gomorrah, God said He would relent if only ten righteous people were found in the cities.

    • Just for the record…I don’t think Pat Robertson is dead just yet…is he???

      • Funny you should ask. No, Pat Robertson is not dead. He’s more like a perinneal flower…or weed, whichever you prefer. He actually made a comment just a day or two ago, that’s right, pronouncing God’s judgement on America because of NY’s gay marriage decision.

        http://www.toddrhoades.com/robertson-god-will-destroy-america/

        • I watched part of Pat Robertson’s editorial. I think it says in Ezekiel somewhere that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because, and I paraphrase, they were “arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned for the poor.” I suspect that if God’s judgment is upon the US, some people being allowed to get married in New York is probably near the bottom of his list of grievances if it’s on it at all.

          My issue with many of the pronouncements of doom is that they focus almost entirely on sins of the “other.” It’s mostly straight, white, middle to upper class men condemning the GLBT community, single moms, and abortion. We’re called upon to be outraged about what other people are doing without questioning our own apathy or materialism, or our complicity in violence and unjust economic laws that help keep people trapped in desperate poverty.

          It feels good, and it’s easy, to get mad at “the state of our nation” and point the finger at people who aren’t in our club. But if we take to heart what Jesus said about taking the plank out of our own eye, maybe we should make sure that we’re tipping our waiters, caring for the homeless in our town, giving up our seats to little old ladies on the bus, or inviting our lonely neighbor over for dinner.

          And God bless everyone. In every nation. :)

      • Woops again. I was thinking of Jerry Falwell. Pretty sure he’s dead.

        • He is quite dead. He was actually invited to speak at my seminary just a few months before his death. I had to give it to him, even at his age, and even though I don’t personally like him, he was an engaging speaker.

    • I get upset with people who say HIV is a curse from God as well.

      Is lung cancer a curse from God for smoking? Is a heart attack a curse from God for eating too many dead animals? Is getting hit by a car a curse from God for jogging? We are all going to die no matter what we do, and it all originates from the same curse: Original Sin.

  5. “After all, God is love, and He doesn’t destroy people out of wrath like our ancient, superstitious ancestors believed”

    Whatever happend to…”God is the Same , Yesterday, and foever”…

    I love what you said about if we believe God can “bless” America…why wouldn’t we think he can “Curse” America?
    If America’s leaders stop being on Isreal’s side (like some want)…then it is simple…we can be cursed according to God’s standards…of us cursing or blessing Israel…so it’s possible…

    • Giving it some more thought….

      We are having a serious drought problem down here in Texas…

      Is Texas cursed?…drought in the old testiment was given by God as a curse was it not?

      But speaking curses….What the point of Christ coming to die On a Cross was to “Break” the curse from the law?….Can a child of God be cursed? NO! But we can be disciplined…

      I think we confuse the two all the time…curse or discipline…

  6. Both the idea that God is cursing other nations or cursing us seem to me to be the same. I’m pretty sure if McArthur is preaching that (and the quote is one I first heard attributed to Ruth Graham at least 20 years ago) he’s not taking responsibility for the curse. It’s still “those people” who are causing it, not we holy ones. God blessing America, on the other hand, is usually because we’re so awesome at being His favorites because of all of the superficial nonsense we think He likes. I just don’t see the relevance. I am not called to do anything differently on a daily basis if He is cursing my nation or blessing it.

  7. Good job, Matt. I do think that Christians are careless with with this sort of thing. However, we can’t overlook the fact that one of God’s attributes is justice, and with that comes judgement. He does punish sin. If it is on the list of sins, then the sum total of those sins is death. Grace is not a license to sin – the book of Romans is very clear on all these facts.

    Judgement is reserved by God who does the judging – a slow to anger God, a merciful God, a loving God – but one who will judge the living and the dead.

    You mentioned the prophets. The truth is that most of the church does not believe in the gift of prophecy, it’s too kooky, or they think that it is so rare it is not worth mentioning – yet Paul said to earnestly desire it. (Yet Christians read horoscopes and see psychics in record numbers – how does that work?) While much of the church would rather focus on a more logical and natural God (as opposed to a supernatural God), prophets and the prophetic alert us, our churches, and our regions to many things God wants us to know. We should seriously consider why guys like John MacArthur refute the gifts all together. (Hey, I have taken a lot of heat for my criticism of this guy.)

    Why we just recoil at the fact that God judges (and loves) is just immaturity. A good parent loves, enjoys, disciplines, and punishes his children. God is our Father.

    The misconception of unity is pitiful. The Gospel and the Word of God are not just talk, but power. I’m sorry, I am not going to spend a huge amount of time on a powerless Gospel that produces nothing until eternity. He said go out and heal the sick, and all the fun stuff. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is at hand. That includes the power, the glory, the love and the judgement.

    In terms of God blessing America. I am happy to have as much freedom as I have. I do want God to bless America, and you, and my family and my town and the good works that He has set before me.

  8. I think God is mostly into the business of letting us ruin ourselves. I don’t know that God has really “blessed” America. At least not more than a lot of other countries. After all, doesn’t the Bible say “blessed are the poor”? And I’m pretty sure we’re very, very far from that sentiment.

  9. I listened to McArthur (on the radio) on my way into work a couple days in a row.

    Talk about a curse.

    His preaching was horrid.

    ALL law…no gospel.

    “Being obeient to God is not that difficult.” Huh?

    He sounds like a Pharisee.

    It IS that difficult, and none of us are up to it.

    Maybe that’s why we need a Savior.

  10. I’ve often wondered who the modern-day prophets are. If Katrina really was God’s judgement on the city (and surrounding areas), then I believe that God would have given ample warning to the leaders and the people alike.

    Who was sent to tell Saddam that, like his idol Nebuchadnezzar, his time was up?

    No answers here…

  11. My Question has always been, is this how God would bless us?

    I mean, would a God whose purpose in the world is to bring justice, mercy, love, and forgiveness really bless us by making us militarily and monetarily successful?

    When you consider that the places with the most vibrant and growing churches in the world are those places with persecution–places like China, Iran, and India–couldn’t we conclude that those are the blessed places?

    On another note, I think we think of the OT curses as everyday occurrences, when they were actually rather rare. Hundreds of years could sometimes pass between a major “curse” from God. Yes, we see examples of back to back cursings (Ten of them in Egypt), but those are rather isolated examples. That said, don’t we think that a curse from God would be in some way clearly a curse? Shouldn’t we as Christians be able to distinguish easily between God’s wrath and natural disasters?

  12. Well, in hindsight, that “Rally” was just an attempt by liberal Christians to silence critics. 😉

    I’ve always chuckled at the people who say it’s impossible for God to punish America or that anything said by Robertson, etc. is always crazy and unBiblical. God’s God. He’s FREAKING GOD. He can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants as long as it’s not sinful. And here’s the thing…man’s definition of sinful isn’t God’s definition.

    Honestly, we’re all just a bunch of children when it comes to God’s punishment. We’re a collective four year old yelling at their parent “who do you think you are to punish ME?”

    He’s God. He created everything. He has the right to do it. And it’s foolishness to think that He can’t send wrath upon us.

  13. I just wrote a blog post about the Passover on my blog. How does an oldest child of the most powerful nation on Earth read that story? http://thewholedangthing.wordpress.com

    I too have wondered what the prophets were like. Your Isaiah and Ezekiel references certainly put them in the “crazy and offensive street preacher” category. What if ol’ Pat is right?

  14. I refuse to accept that people like Robertson and Wright are actually prophets, mostly because I don’t think any of the OT prophets were self-proclaimed anythings like these windbags. OT prophets didn’t seem to have credentials, and that’s what made them seem crazy. The problem is that these guys claim to have credentials and presume to be speakers, teachers, pastors, and prophets. Prophets weren’t arrogant, “pious”, hypocritical pharisees. They were people (most-likely artists if we read Chronicles and Kings) who were told – by God – to say something, probably not through any academic study of scripture but a deep personal understanding of it. What they’re saying isn’t prophetic, it’s just…obvious.

    I don’t usually get this riled up about things, but these guys, though they are my Christian brothers, presume to be more than they were called to be, and I believe they will be judged harshly for how they’ve used their gifts for their own political agenda instead of God’s purpose.

  15. ” Say what you will about Pat Robertson, at least he keeps his clothes on.”
    Let the Church say AMEN!

    I do not take the position that He has cursed us, but that He has every reason to, and as of yet, we don’t seem to be turning around.

    I also challenge anyone to find a country so perfect that God wouldn’t have any reason whatsoever to curse it.

  16. I lean more toward the consequences of reaping and sowing…and collateral damage of other’s consequences.

    I believe God still can curse but if America (or any other specific country) had been cursed by God, the nation wouldn’t be around to talk about it.

  17. As a Brit, never having lived in America, I find it hard to understand why America would be so “special” to receive specific blessings or curses than the rest of the world. Yes God has used America for great good, but no more so than other countries/civilisations that were around hundreds of years before America was even discovered! The US has but a tiny impact on the spread of the Gospel and the history of Gods people, and yet some people talk about it as it it is Gods appointed country. Only in that context does the possibility that He would “curse” a country because of a gay marriage law in an (ultimately) insignificant city not sound completely ludicrous! America is important, yes, but to echo some other commenters, it needs to get over itself. God cares no more or less about America than Africa, or Iraq, or Israel, and I’m under the assumption that since the death and resurrection of Jesus made an atonement of all sin (when we repent), that there will be no punishment until judgement day. I don’t see why God would bring percieved punishment on one group of depraved people who happen to fit with the “prophet’s” political agenda and leave the rest of the world to keep on sinning!

    Also, I’m not sure that God sends prophets in the new covenant. Unless I’m mistaken, John the Baptist was the last one? Don’t get me wrong; Prophecy in the church definitely takes place, but not to bring judgement, and how do we even define the word? I don’t believe that it’s always about telling the future!

    • Hey, now, be fair–England was acting like the self-appointed center of the universe ever since Henry VIII was around. You can’t blame the Yanks for trying to catch up :)

      • Ha! That’s right. We’re just trying to emulate the mother land. Ciao, gov’na!

        • Haha, yeah, in no way am I suggesting that the UK has had any more right to claim superiority or God’s favour than some Americans claim about the USA today. Infact, maybe it highlights the fleeting rise and fall of earthly powers. Merely just suggesting that from the outside perspective, it seems odd that God would chose to raise one country up above any others (arguably if He were, would it not be Israel? Though I think Jesus made it clear that he came for both Jews and gentiles).

          Kaye, thanks for those references. It may be the way that I’m reading it, but there appears to be a difference between these prophets and the OT ones. Wasn’t the purpose of the OT ones to prepare the way for Jesus? Not to call out random judgements. Furthermore, prophets in the OT were a select few, while NT prophecy appears to be a gift available to all believers (Acts 2:17-18). It isn’t about seeing into the future, but telling the world of Jesus, whether that involves a spiritual knowledge of God’s future plan for a specific person/place/event, or God’s greater plan of salvation for all. I’m not sure there is quite the distinction that we make it out to be in thinking that prophets must provide details of the future. Just a thought?

          • The distinction may very well be true. I don’t know enough about the guys in the NT to know to what extinct their gift of prophecy reached. I don’t know if the information is available, but I am certain that I don’t have it.

            Great further thoughts…

    • Ben,

      There actually were prophets named in Acts 13 and 15. See Acts 13:1 and Acts 15:32. Not trying to argue, but just for clarity’s sake.

        • erm…i think i spoke too soon, my bad.

          but @Ben, technically you’re right in that NT prophecy can be available to all believers, but at the same time not everyone can receive the gift of prophecy (Eph 4:11).
          in the end, yes, I’ll agree with your main point though. either OT or NT, the prophets were all about giving glory to God (either speaking of what He’s going to do when He comes or what He did when He was here) towards Jesus and even now, its all about making Him famous.

    • Well said, Ben. We Americans need to get over the idea that we are “extra special” in God’s eyes, thus deserving more blessing or more punishment than other countries. If God’s favor toward a country was based on our definition of religious fervor, Sweden would be in big trouble.

  18. I have been reading Isaiah and Jeremiah and wondering how on earth you tell the false prophets from the true ones. They had prophets they listened to — the ones who tickled their ears and told them everything was going to be fine — and they had prophets they hated, who offended them and acted out stories that pointed directly at them as sinners and fools and who told them they had repeatedly broken the promises they had made towards God to such a degree (burning their children alive as sacrifices to other religions!) that they were about to reap the consequences of their betrayal.

    Now, if they had wanted to, they could have gone into their sacred writings and verified the prophets’ messages. This only happened on rare occasions.

    I’m not sure we can do the same, because we’re not Israel and we don’t have that kind of covenant with God. We’re in the new covenant, and Jesus already kept it for us, perfectly. So the situation is totally different.

    Still, we don’t listen to everyone who claims to speak for God. Which brings me back to the original question — how do we know who to listen to? What if the messages we hate are the true ones?

    Maybe Jesus is the key — those who speak truth today are the ones who include the good news — that even though we can’t live up to standard of perfection, Jesus did for us. Grace. The truth-speakers are the ones speaking/preaching/prophesying grace.

    Just thinking out loud. Er, I mean, online. :-)

    P.S. I dislike MacArthur too — he is so emotionless that he doesn’t seem human.

  19. “…at least he keeps his clothes on.” Uproarious laughter. Followed, unfortunately by the mental image of… Ewwww!

  20. Two verses came to mind while I skim-read these posts.
    1. For the wages of sin is death
    2. I will bless those who you bless, I will curse those who you curse.
    (disclaimer; I didn’t look those up, that’s just what popped in my head.)

    1. Someone asked if lung cancer was God’s curse for smoking. No, I think it is an effect of the choice to smoke. Is smoking a sin? HA, wouldn’t touch that w/ a 10 foot Baptist pole. Is taking a toxic chemical into your lung going to cause cancer? Probablility is high. And yet, if God doesn’t heal you of your lung cancer, do you get mad at him? oh, what a slippery slope!
    Anyway, people make choices, and there are effects of those choices. Some of them bad, some of them GOOD!

    2. Hmmm, don’t know why this popped into my head, or how it necessarily applies, but there ya go. (I must be prophetic 😉

  21. Indebtedness, hedonism, divorce, having other Gods (Gods of materialism, lust, and comfort) disregard for the poor and the alien among them, lack of interest in God–all these things brought God’s judgment on the ancient Israelites, as recorded in the Old Testament.
    I have lived in America for 17 years. After 9-11-2001, I sensed an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, and there was a rush to attack Iraq and Afghanistan which history is proving was unjustified.
    God has certainly blessed America in the past. However, I no longer have the sense that America is, any more, a nation particularly under God’s blessing. The events of September 2011 started an inevitable and inexorable decline in my opinion.

  22. The earth is cursed. The earth and all it’s creation groan. However, do those things just “happen” or does God decide which parts of the world to take out with each natural disaster? It is very hard to know which preachers to listen to and which ones to tune out. It’s interesting to say the least, to see how believers can interpret the same passage in the bible in different ways. Good discussion!

    Blessings,
    Mel
    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  23. God Bless America. Maybe he already has and its time for him to bless the rest of the world?

  24. Hi again, Matt, Thanks for your personal email. I reflected further on this post on my blog, and thought you might be interested.
    http://dreamingbeneaththespires.blogspot.com/2011/07/whos-cursing-america-by-matt-church-of.html
    Blessings,
    Anita

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