A local church has on its street bulletin board the message:
“IT’S SIMPLE. GET AMERICA BACK TO GOD!!”
That’s good. Simple is good.
But as H. L. Mencken reminds us, “For every complex problem, there’s a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.”
And so I’d like to ask some questions.
What does that mean, exactly, to “get America back to God”? I know where the concept comes from, all those Psalms and Old Testament moanings about Israel “turning away” from Yahweh, wherein Yahweh got testy if the Israelites weren’t paying attention to him 24/7. I suspect this church means the same thing, i.e., make everyone worship exactly as they do — since we haven’t been doing that, God has allowed (or worse, caused) our problems.
What mechanism is the church thinking of, exactly, to “get” us back to God? Public whippings? The stocks? Re-education camps? Blue laws? The Mildred Layton Committee to Stamp Out Strife and Tribulation?
What problems, exactly, have been caused by America’s not paying attention to God? Are these real problems, like global warming or income disparity? Or are they the imaginary boogeymen that are the usual sources of fear for this church’s amygdalas, like Teh Gays and illegal immigrants and some soaring crime rate that doesn’t exist?
Does this return to God involve increasing freedoms and liberty and prosperity to every American and non-American in our country? Or does it involve repression and hiding and cutting off? Do they want everyone to support each other with love or are they demanding that we all straighten up and fly right?
Do they mean that we should throw our weight behind politicians who are going to vote to provide for the least of these, with policies like socialized medical care and childcare and a livable minimum wage? Or do they want to restrict our tax dollars to those who “deserve” it?
It would be uncivil of me to put words in this church’s mouth, so to speak, but I think the odds are pretty great that what this church means is that this nation has changed in ways that make them uncomfortable. Where before there were tidy boxes for every category — and there were categories — now we have boxes and crates and beanbag chairs and waterbeds, and people keep going from one to the other with shocking ease. Those People act as if they have a seat at the table, and this church wants us to remove those chairs immediately. With prejudice.
In the end, their sanctimonious sign is empty posturing, a static version of the gospel of Luke’s Pharisee in the Temple, smug that they are not as other men are. They might be better off reading Matthew’s reporting.
 Blue laws, for those too young to remember, required local businesses to be closed on Sundays — and yes, this church would be in favor of their return.