Denison Forum – How likely is civil war in America?

A new poll asked Americans about changes in the US political climate, including whether divisions have worsened and what they expect for the future. Here were their responses:

  • 66 percent believe political divisions have gotten worse since the beginning of 2021.
  • 62 percent expect political divisions to get even worse in the future.
  • 66 percent say political violence has increased since the start of 2021.
  • 60 percent expect such violence to increase in the next few years.

Here’s the most sobering part of the report: a plurality (43 percent) believes a civil war is at least somewhat likely in the next decade. Only 35 percent say it is not likely; 22 percent are unsure.

Of course, conditions are markedly different today than they were in 1861, when the South and the North were contiguous geographical entities each dominated by a single party (Republicans in the North, Democrats in the South). By contrast, today’s electoral map indicates blue coasts and a red middle, but many states are experiencing deep internal divisions.

In Texas, for instance, Austin is clearly “blue” while West Texas is clearly “red.” If our state attempted to secede from the Union, I’m not sure which side would lead the effort or what the other side would do if secession were successful. Electoral maps reveal similar divisions in Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, among other states. And it is a surprising fact that in the 2020 election, Donald Trump received more votes in California (6,006,429) than he did in Texas (5,890,347).

While an organized, military, two-sided civil war such as occurred in 1861 may be implausible today, the divisions and distrust reflected in recent polls are nonetheless ominous for our future as the “United” States of America.

“Public virtue is the only foundation of republics”

Our nation’s founders were convinced that personal virtue is indispensable to political unity. George Washington observed, “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.” Benjamin Franklin added, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” And John Adams was insistent: “Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.”

What would they think of our nation’s character today?

The answer is not simple, of course. There are many areas of American life where progress has been significant and transformational. I am grateful for our declining poverty rate, the tremendous contribution of minority businesses to the US economy, and the fact that our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high. We have seen great advances with regard to the rights of women and minorities, though we have far to go.

But when a majority of a nation’s people endorse abortion and unbiblical marriage, when premarital sex is the norm and pornography is an epidemic, when nearly eleven million children live in poverty in America and violent crime is escalating, is God able to bless that nation?

If not, what is her future?

“Reveling until they learned about the capture”

America has been the world’s only superpower since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Our analogy in the seventh century before Christ was the Babylonian Empire, a massive military power that conquered the nation of Judah and destroyed her temple in 586 BC.

Babylon, the empire’s capital city, was the first ancient city to exceed two hundred thousand people. Its outer defensive wall was so wide that chariots driven by four horses could pass each other. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus called Babylon the world’s most splendid city. He described its walls as fifty-six miles in length, eighty feet thick, and three hundred and twenty feet high.

And yet, according to the prophet Jeremiah (who lived during the zenith of their empire), the Babylonians’ fall was sure and certain: “Her young men shall fall in her squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, declares the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Jeremiah 50:30). That “day” was the day of judgment coming on the nation because of her sin: “You were found and caught, because you opposed the Lᴏʀᴅ” (v. 24).

As a result, “The Lᴏʀᴅ has opened his armory and brought out the weapons of his wrath” (v. 25) because the nation “has proudly defied the Lᴏʀᴅ, the Holy One of Israel” (v. 29). This judgment was enacted by the Persian Empire when it overthrew and replaced the Babylonians on the world stage in 539 BC.

According to Herodotus, when the Persian king Cyrus captured the city of Babylon, “the inhabitants of the central parts . . . long after the outer portions of the town were taken, knew nothing of what had chanced, but as they were engaged in a festival, continued dancing and reveling until they learned about the capture.”

What a sobering reminder that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

“The truest friend of the liberty of his country”

I am not predicting the demise of the United States of America, but I would remind you that the average age of empires is 250 years, an age our nation will reach in four years.

Presuming that a nation’s future is guaranteed is a guaranteed way to hasten its demise. The best way to serve America is to help America be a nation God can bless (cf. Psalm 33:12).

What is the best way to do that?

Samuel Adams was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and was considered by Thomas Jefferson to be “truly the Man of the Revolution.” Adams was adamant: “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend of the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue.”

How true a friend of your country will you be today?

Denison Forum

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