Janie B. Cheaney – Truth as conscience or consequence

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Wednesday, July 29th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. What happens when a country’s center doesn’t hold? Here’s WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney.

JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: When I was a kid we played a game called “Spin the Statue.” Whoever was “It” would take each player by both hands, spin her around and let her go, to freeze in position. Once everyone was frozen, It would survey the group and assign each person a part in a scene (“You be the car, you’re the driver, and . . . uh . . . you’re the road”). Then turn around and count slowly to 10 while everyone assembled themselves. 

When It turned back the scene was in place, usually with one unfortunate person at the bottom of the heap.

Two months ago the whole world was in the middle of an economic freeze, with no one to tell us how the scene was supposed to reassemble itself. Most agreed some changes would be permanent. Some predicted explosions of excess when the lockdowns were lifted, but I don’t recall anyone predicting literal explosions.

Given the pressures of being cooped up for two months, any emotional trigger could set off a whole nation. George Floyd’s death became the trigger because it was so iconic. A black man crushed into the gravel with a white man’s knee on his neck—what better picture of the whole tragic history of race? The tinder was already there. All it needed was a spark.

When the center does not hold, things fall apart. The political center formed by Western values has been crumbling for decades. Our culture, post-Christian, is quickly becoming post-American. Will God save us?

The one time in history God claimed a nation as His own, it wasn’t for national pride. The story of Israel’s roots, told in Genesis 12-50, is not the typical heroic origin story. 

Our own history is a mix of lofty ideals and shameful deeds, heroic sacrifice and hypocritical greed. The potential for nobility creates a corresponding potential for venality. Freedom to achieve means freedom to stumble—but also to self-correct over time.

“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’s our national conscience, a sound and Biblical principle—and sound because it’s Biblical. 

The United States as conceived is worth striving for, yet we know for a fact that no nation lasts forever. Sooner or later the United States will disunite.

We can pray for later, even while remembering we are dual citizens. What remains is the Word of God. Truth is stumbling in the streets (see Isaiah 59:14). But it won’t disappear. If we (as a nation) will not have truth for our conscience, we will have it as our consequence, played out in literal and figurative street fights. But we (as a royal priesthood) will always have a place to call home.

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.

Giuseppe Milo/Creative Commons

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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