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“Remember When…?” In the wake of a drawn-out debate over budget cuts, American economists, government officials, and opinion-editorial writers kept asking a version of this question for the nation.
A CNN editorial essentially asked, Remember when there were effective politicians?
The article “In Economic Turmoil, U.S. Needs a Leader Like Churchill” concluded that America needs “leaders today who are as defiant in the face of trouble.”
After Standard & Poor’s downgraded America’s credit rating for the first time in history, New York City-based International Business Times seemed to ask, Remember when the United States buckled down and fixed its problems?
The article begins, “America is broken and needs to be fixed,” then it proposes how to solve the nation’s problems by returning to mostly tried-and-true methods.
These “remember when” questions are being asked by conservatives and liberals alike.
For example, the Republican governor of Texas called for a day of prayer and fasting, saying in effect, Remember when America turned to God in times of crisis?
During a gathering of over 30,000, the governor prayed, “Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government. And as a nation we have forgotten Who made us, Who protects us, Who blesses us, and for that we cry out for Your forgiveness.”
An opinion piece published in the left-leaning Huffington Post recalled the “economic dynamism” of the 20th century, and asked, Remember when the U.S. was on the cutting edge of technology and innovation?
The article stated, “If we fail to rise to this moment, then the American era as we know it will end—not all at once, but slowly and surely—as will our ability to lead the world to overcome the defining 21st century challenges.”
Similar sentiments are being offered across the nation: “America is leaderless.” “America lacks vision.” “America is broken.”
While views from within the nation are dim, they are only one side of the coin. In the midst of the worst economic crisis in the country’s history, there is something equally important to consider: what the rest of the world thinks of America.
The current financial crisis is poised to significantly affect America’s global role. With each gridlock debate in Congress, with each worsening financial setback, with each refusal to change its economic course—allies entangled in the U.S. economy grow wearier of their ties to the once-dominant superpower.
As United States Democrats and Republicans bickered over cutting the budget and raising the debt ceiling, the world took notice. Yes, a decision was reached with a bill cutting more than $2 trillion across the next decade, but the damage to America’s reputation was already done.
This thinking was summed up by The Associated Press article “U.S. Malaise, Debt Stalemate Shake Allies Globally.”
The piece began, “Many governments see Washington’s paralysis as political theater ahead of a presidential election and wonder how American hard-liners can be allowed to hold up a deal and bring a globalized economy to the brink.
“Across the globe, allies fear that the drama between Republicans and Democrats has eroded U.S. credibility, further weakening the superpower’s ability to exercise influence in the Middle East and other trouble spots.”
Asia is worried about slow-moving progress for the chronic deficit problem. As a holder of about $1.15 trillion of U.S. treasury debt, China has particular interest in what the nation does going forward. Japan holds $906 billion in American debt.
The Japan Times said, “After being lectured by the U.S. for policy failings in the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, Asia suffered from the fallout of the 2008 global financial crisis that had ‘made-in America’ written all over it. The reputation of the U.S. for competence as well as reliability was called into question, again enhancing China’s standing in the region.”
The article called the debt-ceiling debate an “absurd and irresponsible political drama,” stating that “serious damage to America’s fiscal reputation has already been done and a dark cloud of uncertainty hangs over future management of the U.S. debt.”
State-run Chinese news agency Xinhua said, “Given the United States’ status as the world’s largest economy and the issuer of the dominant international reserve currency, such political brinkmanship in Washington is dangerously irresponsible, for it risks, among other consequences, strangling the still fragile economic recovery of not only the United States but also the world as a whole.”
Europe has also been affected by the credit-rating downgrade, which has caused many of its leaders and media outlets to express similar thoughts on recent events in Washington.
French paper Le Monde stated that American politicians who lead the most powerful nation in the world are becoming a laughingstock.
Germany’s former finance minister, Hans Eichel, told AP, “A debt default ‘would mean that the USA is no longer seen as a reliable economic power—fatal for the global economy, since it concerns the biggest economy on Earth.’”
For decades, America set the global stride. Because it has the biggest GDP and largest military, as the U.S. went, so went the rest of the world. This arrangement worked well most of the time. While there has always been some anti-American sentiment, overall, much of the globe has been fine with the U.S. as “Leader of the Free World.” After all, America brought economic prosperity, political freedom, and swift humanitarian aid in times of crisis.
The chance of financial collapse changes everything. After years marching to the pace set by the U.S., many now are thinking, How can a nation lead if it cannot take care of itself?
NPR stated: “In the rest of the developed world, the downgrade of United States debt is seen as an important marker in a long process that is likely to harm both the world economy and America’s reputation as a fiscal steward.”
The article continued: “Foreign observers say that the problem with the U.S. is not so much the Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade U.S. debt…Rather, they say, the issue is the lack of political will demonstrated by the debt-ceiling debate.”
Amid the uncertainty, China is regularly floating the idea that the world should no longer use the dollar as the global reserve currency. How long until others join in this call?
Charles de Courson, deputy chairman of the finance committee of France’s lower parliament, told AP that America defaulting on its debt could provoke “an economic crisis, and then a social crisis, and then a political crisis” for Europe.
Paraphrasing Mr. de Courson, the article continued, “Historically, more debt means less influence in the world…” As America continues to spend, its role will steadily decline, meaning that other nations will gain growing influence over it.
For now, however, the world is stuck with America as the life-blood of the global economy, and that outside sway is limited to verbal chastisement. As things slowly shift—perhaps to Asia, perhaps elsewhere—the U.S. appears to be draining any existing global favor.
To many, the continued financial uncertainty seems to stem from a stubborn resistance to reduce its standard of living—both on the part of the American government and its people. Washington seems to believe that it can ensure dominance through continued spending. Citizens want to keep living the American Dream—the 21st-century version, where entitlement programs complement lifestyles in which more than 50 percent of households have three television sets, superstores brim with abundant choices of food and goods, and credit cards are on hand to obtain whatever is desired. The financial downturn has been steadily chipping away at that “dream,” but few seem ready to completely let go.
It is this attitude that is drawing international scorn.
What is impressive, however, is that even after years of incessant overspending (both at the federal and personal levels), two unfunded wars, and an outstanding $14.5 trillion in debt—the United States unquestionably remains the world leader. Its manufacturing sector out-produces China by 40 percent and its GDP of $14.6 trillion towers over the Asian nation’s $5.7.
While some are looking for the next nation to fill the role of global superpower, others are asking, Remember when the U.S. had a solid economy? They are scouring the nation’s history to find what fueled the incredible machine that is the American economy, and how to revitalize it.
Is it the people? Remember when U.S. citizens banded together during World War II, living with rationed supplies of sugar, butter and meat—even saving bacon grease to be used in munitions factories? Or when the nation bought about $2.25 trillion (in today’s dollars) worth of bonds to support the war effort?
Is it the government system? Remember when the Founding Fathers sat down and envisioned a new nation centered on rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Is it Judeo-Christian values? Remember when Abraham Lincoln called for a day of fasting and prayer? Or when the U.S. began printing the motto “In God We Trust” on coins in 1864, then paper currency in 1957?
There have been great leaders throughout United States history, as well as inspiring acts of courage during the American Revolution. There have also been mistakes, such as the fiscal irresponsibility and greedy farming tactics that led to the Great Depression and Dust Bowl.
Examining these as case studies does partially explain some of the ways America obtained unrivaled status on the world stage. For a fuller understanding, however, one must turn back the dial of history much further.
By examining the biographies of the kings of ancient Judah, a five-step pattern emerges: (1) obedience to God, (2) incredible success and prominence, (3) complacency and rampant national greed, (4) defeat by a conquering nation, and (5) crying out to God through national repentance. Then the cycle would begin again. Throughout the Bible, this scenario plays out many times. During the “prominence” phase of this cycle, the nation often fell into covetous, materialistic living.
While historical accounts in the Bible reveal patterns strikingly similar to America’s situation, there is another section of the Book that almost all discount: one-third of its text is prophecy, which is history written in advance.
The Bible is often dismissed as antiquated Hebrew literature, and any prophecies are largely overlooked even by most who profess to believe it is “God’s Word.” Yet these prophecies hold a greater purpose than simple future-telling. They serve to validate the Book’s authority and give advanced warning for things to come.
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, God says, “I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of My mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass…I have even from the beginning declared it to you; before it came to pass I showed it you…” (48:3-5).
Isaiah 46:11 states, “I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”
Read these verses as a challenge. When God declares He will do something, He says it will happen. If just one event does not come to pass as He declared, then the Bible should be thrown out!
Think again to the unrivaled prominence of America. It is—by far—the most powerful single nation of all time. It is a land of abundance and opportunity, to which immigrants move from distant lands. The United States once possessed vital sea gates (such as the Panama Canal) to allow for economic and military dominance—a status that made it renowned the world over.
In the book of Genesis, God promised that Abraham’s descendants would “be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you, and kings shall come out of your loins” (Gen. 35:11).
This promise (or prophecy) was first delivered to Abraham in chapter 22: “That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies…because you have obeyed My voice” (vs. 17-18).
Break down the information contained in these two passages. Due to Abraham’s obedience, God promised that the patriarch’s descendants (who gave rise to the ancient nation of Israel) would become a nation and company of nations.
Throughout history, only two countries have fulfilled the stated qualities: the brother nations of America (a nation) and the United Kingdom (company of nations). At their peak, each utterly dominated the world stage.
Let these passages sink in. This prophecy was fulfilled by God!
In Genesis 48, these prophetic blessings were conferred on two of Joseph’s sons: Ephraim (Britain) and Manasseh (the U.S.), who were Abraham’s great-great grandchildren. Although they faded into history, the descendants of these brothers make up the tribe of Joseph—one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel.
The modern identity of the ancient tribes of Israel is the missing key to understanding what drove the United States to unrivaled greatness—God fulfilling a promise to Abraham—and also why its allies are beginning to turn on the nation.
An extended passage in the book of Ezekiel reaffirms that it is God’s blessings alone that have allowed the United States to prosper.
Chapter 16 describes Israel (which today includes America, Britain and many countries of Western Europe, as well as the Middle Eastern nation of Israel). Notice: “I [God] have caused you to multiply as the bud of the field, and you have increased and waxed great, and you have come to excellent ornaments…” (vs. 7).
The next five verses describe these blessings, in which God “clothed [modern Israel] with broidered work,” “girded you about with fine linen,” “covered you with silk,” “decked you also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon your hands, and a chain on your neck,” “I put a jewel on your forehead, and earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head.”
Verse 13 continues, “Thus were you decked with gold and silver; and your raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; you did eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and you were exceeding beautiful, and you did prosper into a kingdom.”
Think of the incredible blessings U.S. citizens have long enjoyed—peace, material goods, abundant food and water, rich farmland, and large stores of natural resources.
Due to these blessings, America’s “renown went forth among the heathen [neighboring nations] for your beauty: for it was perfect through My comeliness, which I had put upon you, says the Lord God” (vs. 14).
But the United States has ignored the Source of these blessings, leaning solely on its own ingenuity and system of government. Notice: “But you did trust in your own beauty, and played the harlot [adulterer] because of your renown…” (vs. 15).
God kept His promise to Abraham. His promised blessings were poured out on America for all the world to see. For these blessings to continue, however, the nation must return to national obedience to God—to do what He says.
A special warning to the modern nations descended from Israel is found in numerous places in the Bible. In the book of Ezekiel, God appoints a “watchman unto the house of Israel” who is to “warn them from Me” (33:7).
God’s servants are to, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show…the house of Jacob”—which includes America—“their sins” (Isa. 58:1).
Those being used to deliver this “watchman” message do not relish the thought of the United States being punished. Yet God is a loving Parent who does not want to see His people suffer in sin. Similarly, those delivering the warning are motivated by out-flowing concern for their fellow countrymen.
God desires that the U.S. and all Israelitish nations heed His warnings and change their ways. Only then will they be able to regain the success and prosperity they long enjoyed.
Skeptics say the chastisement (national captivity mentioned by Ezekiel and other Old Testament prophets has already occurred. Yet, when Ezekiel was warning of impending punishment, he was already in captivity! Ancient Israel and Judah had already received punishment. Another lies ahead for their descendants.
Throughout the 20th century, The Plain Truth magazine declared this message to America, Britain and their brother nations. The Real Truth continues that work today.
The book of Ezekiel was written as a warning to modern Israel. Chapter 16 begins with God telling the Old Testament prophet to “cause Jerusalem [representing all Israelitish nations] to know her abominations” (vs. 2).
Details of 21st-century America can be seen throughout this chapter. The nation has come to believe it deserves the blessings of God, rather than having received them due to one man’s obedience.
In light of this, God has removed His gifts: “Behold, therefore I have stretched out My hand over you, and have diminished your ordinary food, and delivered you unto the will of them that hate you…which are ashamed of your lewd way” (vs. 27).
America’s extravagant, spendthrift lifestyles raise the ire of many nations around the world. They see entertainment awash in gratuitous sex and violence and a society emulating it. They see drug addiction and alcoholism. They see excessive waste. Worst of all, America is not ashamed of its actions. Rather than the U.S. using its blessings as an example of God’s power, it squanders and flaunts them in the face of the world.
God declares: “How weak is your heart…seeing you do all these things, the work of an imperious [arrogant] whorish woman” (vs. 30).
These are strong words—but they are God’s words! American arrogance stings the eyes of nations throughout the world. Therefore, He likens the nation to a brazen prostitute.
Long ago, God entered into a marriage covenant with the nation of Israel (Jer. 3:14). Yet time and again, its peoples feigned worship of the true God—all while pursuing other “gods” and idols that allowed them to practice guilt-free covetousness and lust after material goods. How true of the U.S. today!
To this end, the next verses contain strong language meant to shake the nation free from its sin.
Yet Ezekiel 16:31 describes modern Israel as unlike the average “call girl,” saying that it “scorns hire” and instead is “as a wife that commits adultery, which takes strangers instead of her husband!” (vs. 32). Normally a prostitute will be paid for services, but God bluntly states that “you give your gifts to all your lovers, and hire them, that they may come unto you on every side…” (vs. 33).
Without God’s blessings, the U.S. can no longer buy lovers (allies). Its world favor will quickly dry out. To awaken the nation, God has removed the blessings to remind its people from whom they came.
These are not pleasant verses on which to meditate. But they must be heard—and heeded. God is furious with America: “Thus says the Lord God; Because your filthiness was poured out, and your nakedness discovered through your whoredoms with your lovers, and with all the idols of your abominations…Behold, therefore I will gather all your lovers [allies]…round about against you, and will discover your nakedness unto them, that they may see all your nakedness” (vs. 36-37).
As God’s blessings are removed, America’s nakedness—weakness—will be uncovered to the nations of the world. Without God’s hand, the U.S. cannot continue as a lone superpower. As its status wanes, national prominence is being given to its allies, which are gaining global influence.
Unless the nation turns to God, the United States will have to become accustomed to other countries telling it what to do. And as these nations’ influence grows, Americans will have to accept the idea of doing exactly what they say!
Recall the cycle repeated throughout the Bible by the kingdom of Judah: (1) obedience, (2) prominence, (3) complacency, (4) defeat, and (5) national repentance.
The United States is somewhere between “complacency” and “defeat.” But there is a positive end to this cycle. Each time the Israelites repented of their covetousness and cried out to God, He heard them, and restored their blessings.
As America’s power dwindles and its weaknesses are uncovered, the nation must hear what God says, then obey His voice.
To understand what God requires for the United States and all Israelitish nations, read David C. Pack’s book America and Britain in Prophecy.