I wrote in the last Wilderness Voice about how President Trump’s recent promise to build a new monument to “American greatest” is eerily similar to a couple of past monuments erected for man’s glory—the Tower of Babel and Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image (Genesis 11:1-9; Daniel 3). I added, as something even more ominous, that it evokes the image or monument the Bible predicts will be erected by the world’s final and ultimate superpower to its own glory (Revelation 13:15). You can read our article from the last Wilderness Voice here: https://bit.ly/3ixltxH.
Today, I want to add to our last Wilderness Voice article an additional warning about a rampant deception that is overtaking the evangelical church in America; namely, the interchanging of American greatness with God’s glory. Far too many Christians in America today see the two as synonymous, and, in doing so, fail to see the ominousness of this inversion, as well as the disaster it forebodes for our future. For instance, Adolf Hitler rose to power in Nazi Germany with the support of the church, which, having bought into Hitler’s promise to make Germany great again, thought it was serving God and working for the glory of Christ by supporting the Fuhrer and working for the glory their country.
It was George Santayana who said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” In order to learn from it and not repeat it, let’s take a short excursion into it. Will Durant once wrote, “Besides machines, there is nothing other, time lasting, which does not come from ancient Greece.” It is back to the Greek Empire, the world’s third great Gentile superpower, that much within our modern-day world can be traced. For example, Greece was originally comprised of independent and autonomous communities known as “poleis.” It is from this Greek word that we get our English word “politics.” Far more important than the Greek origin of our English word politics, however, is the fact that democracy originated in ancient Greece. And even more important to our study than the Greek origin of democracy, is a novel idea that was dreamed up to sustain it. This novel idea, attributable to Pericles, the Father of Democracy, has, unbeknownst to most Americans, captivated our country from its very conception until current times.
The ancient Greeks did not believe in life beyond the grave. Therefore, they believed fame to be man’s only hope of immortality. If man hoped to live forever, then, he must perform such great exploits during his lifetime that his name would be forever remembered upon the earth. This concept of immortality was fostered by the famous Greek poet Homer, whose Odyssey and Iliad, which served as the central works of classical Greek literature, told of the great exploits of the Homeric heroes Achilles and Ulysses.
This Greek concept of immortality created an inherent problem in the democracy conceived by Pericles, along with his great-uncle before him, Cleisthenes. Although it trumpeted a most appealing idea to the masses; namely, that all men ought to have an equal place at the bar of immortality, reality dictated otherwise. It was only the extraordinarily gifted and the financially well endowed who had real opportunities to excel, as well as any real hope of obtaining notoriety, much less fame. Thus, in the face of creating such disappointment and disillusionment among the immortality-seeking masses, it appeared that democracy was doomed to be short-lived, if not stillborn.
It was to solve this fatal fallacy of fledgling democracy that Pericles came up with his novel idea. To put democracy on a more sure footing and solid foundation, Pericles proposed that the Athenians strive jointly for national fame and immortality rather than individually for personal fame and immortality. By joining together for the glory of Athens, in order to make it the envy of the world, as well as the most glorious kingdom of all time, all Athenians would obtain for themselves fame, immortality, and glory!
In his famous Funeral Oration, given in honor of Athenian soldiers who had fallen during the Peloponnesian War, Pericles explained how these brave warriors had earned immortality—“praise that never grows old”—by making the ultimate sacrifice for the “common good” of their glorious Athens. He went on to challenge his fellow Athenians to follow their examples by pursuing the same kind of immortality, an immortality no longer reserved for epic heroes alone, like Homer’s Achilles and Ulysses, but to all Athenians willing to “look upon the power of [their] city and become her lovers,” so much so that they too were willing to sacrifice all for the greatness of Athens.
This calling of the people of Athens to unite to make a name for themselves by building a great city, calls to mind Babel’s ill-fated tower builders, who called the people of the world to unite to make a name for themselves by building a great tower (Genesis 11:4). In both instances, the motive was the same, the erecting of an earthly monument to the glory of man rather than to the glory of God.
What should be far more eerie to us today, however, is the similarity between Babel’s ill-fated tower builders, Athens’ Pericles, and America’s modern-day MAGA (Make America Great Again) Movement. Although most American evangelicals are totally blind to it, the same sinister motive lies behind Donald Trump’s call for Americans to unite for the greatness of America that laid behind Pericles’ call for Athenians to unite for the greatness of Athens. Both are calls for the glory of man, not for the glory of God, for which man was created. The only difference is, Trump has called us together to build for our own glory a greater America, not a great tower or a great Athens.
It is only if we start seeking to glorify God again that God will once again bless us and make America great again. However, as long as we're seeking to make America great again, God won't bless us and America will never be great again. It's time America's evangelicals woke up to the fact that we shouldn't be dedicated proponents of “Make America Great Again,” but desperately praying, “May America Glorify God Again!”