Series: Oh Say Can You See?
Entry 8: Back to the Bible
Click here to go to the beginning of the Oh Say Can You See series
I recently read an article by a famous Protestant preacher/author. He was intent on getting his readers to understand that God was about to intervene in history and bring destruction to America very specifically because some states had endorsed “gay marriage,” and it may not be long before there was a federal endorsement. He admitted that homosexuals and lesbians had existed in the country throughout its history, and that for some time it was obvious that many of them had entered into committed relationships of some sort, without the situation forcing God to destroy the nation. But now, as he put it, official state and federal governmental bodies were “institutionalizing” and “officially endorsing” such relationships, and God was not going to tolerate that.
Yes, he implied, once upon a time, and for almost two centuries, our country had been “godly.” Our government had been built on, and continually upheld, biblical principles. Our governmental leaders were men of biblical integrity and righteousness. Oh, how had we so recently turned from these ways and “gone wrong”?!
I do not agree with this famous writer. I am convinced that God has been exceptionally tolerant and patient with this country throughout its history … as its leaders and its institutional governments trampled all over every biblical principle imaginable… long before the issue of “gay marriage.” If institutionalizing flouting the laws of God is what that writer thinks is “the straw that will break the camel’s back,” that back was broken long ago.
If flouting the Old Testament laws regarding homosexual acts is a problem … so is flouting the tenth commandment.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
So what about the Georgia lotteries of the early 1800s that granted the right to “white” Georgians to invade the Cherokee Nation and take over houses they did not build, herds of cows they didn’t raise, property that they didn’t work hard to acquire and maintain? This was the institutionalization of greed and covetousness.
The Tenth Commandment wasn’t some “modern” law of the 21st century that would be “too hard” for “primitive” Americans in the 19th century to understand! It had been around in writing for almost 3,500 years.
When some folks read the story of the Cherokee Removal and the Trail of Tears, they heap all of their scorn over the horrible situation on Andrew Jackson. But the grim reality is that Jackson wasn’t acting for his own convenience. HE didn’t need any Cherokee territory. HE didn’t want Major Ridge’s house, or even gold mines in Cherokee Territory. He was responding to pressure from the Governor of Georgia, who was responding to pressure from his own constituents. It was “We The People” who were greedily coveting the houses, the livestock, the lands, the wealth of the diligent Cherokee people. So Andrew Jackson and the Governor of Georgia merely bowed to pressure and institutionalized and endorsed the greed and covetousness.
I am quite sure that the “Golden Rule” was a common bit of what was likely viewed by many as “pious platitude,” known by most of We The People at that time in American History. After all, it had been spoken by Jesus almost 2000 years before. It wasn’t some “new-fangled” idea.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
So it is not unfair to ask … Was the pillaging of the property of the Cherokees, the inhumane treatment of men, women, and children in the removal forts, the concentration camps, and the forced march along the Cherokee Trail of Tears REALLY what those Georgian citizens, the Georgia governor, the US troops involved, and the President of the United States would have wanted someone to do to THEM?
And if one wants to claim that the US Constitution and laws are ultimately based on “Biblical Principles,” then how on earth do you get a more foundational principle than what Jesus Himself claimed was the Greatest Commandment—love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind AND…
Love your neighbor as yourself.
The Apostle Paul later reiterated this principle to the Galatians…
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
So was the treatment of the Cherokee the kind of “love” that those 19th century U.S. citizens wanted shown to them?
This isn’t Rocket Science! If ANYONE claims to be living with the Bible as their guide to life, they surely know those two principles … the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment. And if anyone claims that they are instituting a human governmental structure BASED on the Bible, surely those two principles should be at the absolute foundation of the plans. And again, this isn’t some pie in the sky 21st century “standard.” It was a standard introduced into writing in Bible documents almost 3,500 years ago.
I assume most readers of this blog are at least vaguely aware that what happened to the Cherokee in 1838 and 1839 wasn’t the end of this utterly ungodly and illegal treatment of both Cherokee and all the other Native American tribes in the US. Over and over and over again they were forced out of their ancestral homes into smaller and smaller plots of land. Over and over and over treaties were broken, promises flouted… because We The People coveted their land and their resources.
And particularly in the case of the Cherokee, all this was in spite of their efforts to do everything they had been told would be a “prerequisite” to becoming “one with the U.S.”
Many Christians even to this day seem to believe that the land that became the U.S. was in essence spiritually “deeded” by God to the Anglo-Americans as part of a Manifest Destiny. They were to be almost a “reincarnation” of the people of ancient Israel, and were to set up a nation that would be the Crown Jewel of the world. It would be The Promised Land. It would set an example for the whole world of what a nation could be like “Whose God is the Lord.” Who would build its institutions on the Laws of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
OK…let’s assume for a moment that this is true. With the Laws of the Bible as our guide, what should have been done with the Cherokee? We can tell, because the biblical Law given to ancient Israel told the Israelites what to do about “the stranger” or “foreigner” within their midst who wanted to be accepted as “one of them.”
43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal:
“No foreigner may eat it. 44 Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, 45 but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it.
46 “It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.
48 “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. 49 The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”
IF a foreigner wanted to be accepted among the Israelites, there was a process whereby, IF they followed the command, they would be “like one born in the land.” In Israel’s case, this involved having all the males in the family of the foreigner circumcised.
In the case of the Cherokee, Founding Father Thomas Jefferson promised them that IF they would accept the customs of the Anglos, IF they would abandon their own ways of dress and wear Anglo clothes, IF they would abandon subsistence hunting and settle down and establish farms, IF they would abandon their primitive housing and build Anglo-style log cabins and eventually fine homes … they would be “like one born in the land.”
And as we have seen in this series, the Cherokee kept their part of the bargain, going on even farther, to become literate, to publish a newspaper, to acquire libraries. So what should have happened is described in Leviticus … “The same law applies to both the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”
But no, that “same law” DIDN’T apply.
Nor, evidently, did the same Ten Commandments apply. Even to the native-born American citizen. He could flout the tenth commandment with impunity, because his government endorsed and institutionalized brazen covetousness.
Want to base a nation on the Bible? Then there is one command that shows up over and over and over in the Bible. It is in the original Law given at Mount Sinai, and is reiterated over and over in warnings from the prophets of Israel to the leaders and people of Israel.
9 “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.
17 Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. 18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.
This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: 2 ‘Hear the word of the Lord to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. 3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
Yes, even the author of one of the last prophetic books of the Old Testament wrote of this…because the nation of Israel never seemed to “get it right” throughout its history.
8 And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
So what was the result of this history of Israel?
11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
The author I mentioned at the beginning of this entry is convinced that “The Lord Almighty is very angry”… and His anger is primarily against the gays in America and the government leaders who are supporting gay rights. THAT is what he thinks God is angry about. That makes it easy on We The People. It’s not our fault. It’s some “other” people who aren’t following the admonitions of the Bible.
I suggest to you that The Lord Almighty has been very angry for a very long time about many things that have gone on in this country, things that have involved greed and covetousness and callousness of a large number of We The People, things that have been condoned and even institutionalized by official state and federal governmental leaders and bodies. Throughout our history the vast majority of people not directly involved with a specific aspect of one of these situations—such as the Cherokee Removal—have “turned their backs and covered their ears” and not wanted to hear about them.
And yet… there have also always been a remnant of truly compassionate, truly altruistic Americans who HAVE paid attention, who recognized evil for what it was and didn’t try to whitewash it, who tried to make a difference in godly ways, blessed those around them, fed the hungry, helped the sick, clothed the naked, been kind to “the foreigner” and the fatherless and the widows, and often prayed for God’s mercy on their nation rather than His justice. For instance, Ralph Waldo Emerson wasn’t the only “white” American who protested the Cherokee Removal. There were others.
THOSE have been the True Patriots. Their presence is what has made this nation truly great at times. They may even have been, in some eras of our history, the metaphorical “ten righteous” like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah for whose sake God would have been willing to spare those cities. God may have spared this nation from total ruin in the Civil War and in later tragedies such as the Great Depression because of the presence within the nation of these True Patriots.
Have you ever considered that God never whitewashed the actions of even the greatest heroes of the Bible? Rather than “hide the history” of evil among his people, He caused it to be written down so that later generations could know all about it. We know about David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, about Abraham giving his wife to a pagan king to save his own skin, about the “We The People” of the time dancing around golden calves and committing idolatry right while Moses was up on the mountain getting the Ten Commandments stones.
Even in New Testament times, we have permanent record in our Bibles of a nasty argument between Peter and Paul, and another between Paul and Barnabas. We know about a major scandal in one of the early church congregations, where a man was having sex with his own father’s wife and the local congregation condoned it. Why did God not hide all this to “keep the reputation” of His Chosen People?
1 Corinthians 10
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
I am convinced that the same thing is true about American History. Knowing about the Cherokee Removal shouldn’t change the fact that I am an American and love my country. It just helps me keep my priorities straight now. Knowing about all sorts of dark spots on America’s history doesn’t cause me to love it less… although it does cause me to grieve for the blindness and hard-heartedness a vast number of We The People have too often exhibited in their actions and words. But it also reminds me that we always need to be eternally vigilant to keep from repeating the same or similar mistakes.
I am convinced that God has allowed an amazing amount of even first-person documentation to be retained in our “annals” so that we may read and heed NOW. The advent of the Internet has made it all available in a way never before in history. We will have NO excuse if we ignore it all and assume it is all just ancient history, irrelevant to our corporate guilt. I am convinced that God loves America and Americans just as He loves all His creation. But I am also convinced that there are a whole lot of things about which He is very angry, that most of this nation has never truly faced and nationally repented of.
I believe it is time to do so. I’ve only recently learned of, and begun facing, many aspects of our corporate history that I have been previously blind to myself. The Cherokee story is just one facet of that. There is much more that I believe True Patriots need to know about, face, and make sure that they are, from now on, a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
I’m only one little woman with a little blog in one little corner of the Internet. But even the American Revolution at one time likely boiled down to two or three people at a kitchen table having a conversation about “what could be.” I intend to do my little part to spark another kind of revolution, because I believe “what could be” is a nation cleansed of the blots in its past, moving forward to truly represent a godly Way to the world.
If We The People continue to turn our backs and cover our ears and blame some minority groups of the present for the danger of God’s Wrath on our country…what we most fear may well come upon us.
Regarding the Cherokee Removal: from my perspective the US…for 125 years…pretty much “covered up” this event that happened in its “national youth,” left it out of the history books, pretended it never happened…a small version of what the Germans wanted to do about the Holocaust but weren’t allowed to. (German citizens from the cities near some of the concentration camps were even forced by the camps’ liberators to come to the camps and look upon the mind-boggling horrors that they had allowed to occur just outside their “line of sight.”)
The Cherokee episode in US history is a festering, infected sore under an imperfect scab. It needs to be opened up, examined, cleaned out, and truly healed.
And there are other pockets of historical infection that are equally in need of such treatment. Not because we need to label ourselves as an “evil nation,” but because we need to confess that evil is evil and needs to be repented of.
IF you are not inclined to turn your back and cover your ears
when confronted with unpleasant truths,
I invite you to continue reading in this Oh Say Can You See? series.
Starting with Oh Say Can You See? II: Episode 1: And a Little Child Shall Lead Them