Father’s Day & America’s Dangerous Precipice

For a number of reasons, America stands on a dangerous precipice today, and much of it has to do with Father’s Day. Of course, lots has been written about racism and lawlessness in recent weeks. But as we celebrate our fathers this weekend, we must revisit another vital principle that will shape our nation’s future.

Like many root issues, this is discussed in the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Although each of these commandments is important, this one uniquely includes a special promise to those who observe it: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (v. 12).

Hopefully you had a good father and mother. I did, but I know that not everyone had that experience.

My parents weren’t perfect, and I’m sure yours weren’t either. Yet this verse commands us to show our parents “honor.”

Don’t you wish there was an exception clause to this? Wouldn’t it have been fairer to say, “Honor your father and mother if they are worthy of honor”?

Yet there is no exception clause here. And other Scripture passages warn of dire consequences to those who don’t comply: “If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness” (Proverbs 20:20 NIV). I’m concerned that America is in danger of falling into this very trap.

If you’ve paid any attention to the news in recent days, you’ve seen rioters tear down or deface statues of our founding fathers. First, statues of Christopher Columbus were targeted across the nation. Then lawless people started going after George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Shockingly, not even Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator, was spared.

While I’m not defending Columbus, Washington, Jefferson, or Lincoln as faultless leaders, someone needs to point out the grave danger we face in dishonoring such “fathers.” While we’re promised a long, prosperous life when we choose to honor our parents, I believe our nation’s longevity is imperiled when we allow the blatant dishonoring of our forefathers.

Even if your upbringing was far from perfect, hopefully you would be upset if someone badmouthed your father and mother. But no one seems to care when our nation’s founders are trashed by angry mobs. We’ve sat idly by while our history is unfairly judged by those who only focus on the flaws of our leaders. And even if our hearts contain some remnant of patriotism, we’re too timid to buck political correctness and stand up for the positive aspects of our heritage.

I guess we should have seen this precipice coming. Last year Nike bowed to Colin Kaepernick’s advice and canceled its new line of Fourth of July sneakers featuring the Betsy Ross American flag. Somehow Betsy Ross was a racist just for making a flag that honored the union of our first 13 colonies.

Our Choice

We each must make daily decisions: Will we focus on the positive things of life or the negative things? Will we see the glass as half full or half empty? Will we honor past and present leaders for the good things they’ve done, or become smug faultfinders instead?

This doesn’t mean whitewashing our history or ignoring injustice. But it does mean rejecting the false premise that injustice is pervasive – everywhere and in everyone.

If you’re waiting for the world to be perfect before you can experience true joy and peace, you may be waiting a long time – at least until Jesus returns and sets up His earthly kingdom. Instead of waiting until the world changes, God is calling us to experience peace that “surpasses all understanding” even in today’s broken world (Philippians 4:4-9).

It saddens me to see so many people engaging in angry rampages against statues, police stations, and innocent shopkeepers. While I’m empathic about such people’s pain, I can’t help wondering if they’re unwittingly taking out their internal frustrations on external adversaries. The emotional wounds may be real, but this is certainly not a pathway toward healing.

Many professing Christians have practically justified this kind of destructive behavior. Although I’ll probably lose many Facebook friends for saying so, we violate Biblical principles at our own peril. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT) warns:

“What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.”

One of the principles most of us learned from our parents is that “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Put another way, evil can’t be remedied by more evil.

Self-Evident Truths

Despite all of our sins and imperfections, there has never been another nation with such lofty aspirations as America. Perhaps that’s why our shortcomings are so horribly painful.

Right from the beginning, our forefathers made a bold declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Hypocrisy is a terrible thing. And it’s tragic that those who proclaimed such noble principles could at times have displayed incredible blind spots in their own lives.

But it’s hazardous to judge our forefathers by today’s standards. By cutting ourselves off from the unpleasant parts of our history, we risk finding ourselves adrift on a dangerous ocean of relativism and rebellion.

To their credit, our founders recognized that human equality was ultimately a gift, not from government but from our Creator. By pushing Him out of the discussion, it’s no wonder that we’re struggling to recapture that grand ideal today.