- - Sunday, January 3, 2016

The year 2015 has been very eventful. The Islamic State has been in the news so regularly that its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was the runner-up to be Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Following not too far behind are the numerous shootings of blacks, and questionable arrests caught on video, which led to the fight for justice by the Black Lives Matter movement. Mass shootings on “soft” targets, such as malls, movie theaters, schools, college campuses and office parties, are causing fear in places once considered safe. Legalized same-sex marriage became reality, as well as the push for recreational use of marijuana nationwide, led by Colorado, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and D.C. What else can we say about undocumented immigrants, the gun control debate and the call to stop Muslims from immigrating to the United States? What can we expect for 2016?

We haven’t even discussed the presidential race that will usher in the person to succeed the first black president of the United States, who has struggled to get his programs through Congress for two terms. What can we expect from the next leader of the free world? To ask some, our nation has fallen further into moral depravity because of the “liberal stance” of our present government. Others say it was a great victory for those who considered the Defense of Marriage Act discriminatory against the LGBT community, marijuana less dangerous than alcohol and that a woman should have the right to terminate a pregnancy from conception to late term. The next president will either stay on the same bandwagon, or rollback everything the outgoing president gained during his tenure. It’s a battle between two totally different worldviews, vying for the same American voters. Which worldview will win out, and what is the church’s view on the issues at hand?

As a minister in a Protestant church body, I have experienced the changing attitude among the congregants concerning lifestyles considered “sinful,” but now for the sake of political correctness referred to as “alternative.” Teaching religious studies in the college environment has exposed me to the temperament of our American youth on such matters, and regardless of religious belief, culture, racial background or gender, their opinions and beliefs are not as conservative as previous generations. How will this affect the future of our nation? Will our society’s quest for total freedom to express themselves without inhibitions place this nation on the road to chaos and destruction, or will it be seen as a perfect example of what a free society should be?

There is a verse in the Old Testament Book of Proverbs, known as the Book of Wisdom which reads, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34, NASB). What is sin? What is righteousness? It is said that sin is “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.” More specifically the church believes this divine law was given to mankind by God, and because the United States has transgressed this divine law, it has placed our nation on a slippery slope to destruction. Man’s law and the law of God have come head to head, and God’s law has been given the boot for the sake of individual freedom. Also it is written in the Old Testament, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind” (Isaiah 64:6, NLT). With all the humanitarian aid given by the United States to impoverished third world countries, and a helping hand extended in natural disasters, our nation should feel good about their valiant efforts. But has the steady moral degradation of our society overshadowed the good the country has done in the world?

It is said that moral degradation is a sure sign of a nation in decline, and if this is true, many believe that this country is in a world of hurt. What are the churches saying about the depravity of our nation? Unfortunately the churches are encountering the same problems of the secular community, and are split on the interpretation of the sacred scriptures about such matters. How can our nation self-check itself, when the moral voice of the nation is being smothered by its own vices, and losing credibility because of it? A new year is beginning with new expectations. Everyone is looking forward to the future, planning for a positive outcome and goals to be achieved. But when a country governs itself without acknowledging God and his moral standard, its future is said to be bleak. Another verse in the Old Testament reads, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17, KJV). It speaks specifically about the future of those nations that forget about the Creator of all things, who was acknowledged extensively, and without shame from the foundation of this great nation, but now has been suppressed to a whisper, unless being invoked in the trite phrase, “God bless America.”

What can we expect in the year 2016? This nation has the capacity to continue to strive in being the greatest nation on earth. Technology is exploding, and seeking information on any subject is satisfied by just “googling” it. This nation has been at its finest when our leaders sought the wisdom of God, our churches prayed for his guidance and promoted family values. To quote President Lincoln, “To predict the future, we must create it.” What can we expect in 2016 and beyond? As always God has placed the choice in our hands, as he did from our country’s foundation. Hopefully Lincoln was not prophetic when he said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Charles B. Ellerbe is a retired military veteran, assistant professor of religious studies at Northern Virginia Community College, Loudoun Campus, and an ordained minister. You can join Charles on his Facebook ministry page, Charles Ellerbe Ministries, and blog, Sheep Without a Shepherd.

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