Should America get a divorce from itself? Twenty percent of Americans think so, believing Republican- and Democratic-leaning states should split into separate countries.
Twenty percent sounds like a small number. However, as Axios notes, it represents sixty-six million people, roughly equivalent to everyone in Texas, Wyoming, West Virginia, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Idaho, Arkansas, Kentucky, South Dakota, Alabama, Georgia, and Nebraska—combined. It is also larger than the populations of most countries in the world.
This finding is unsurprising as partisan animosity continues to rise: 72 percent of Republicans now say Democrats are dishonest and immoral; 64 percent of Democrats say Republicans are dishonest, while 63 percent say they are immoral. In 1994, fewer than a quarter of people in both parties rated the other party very unfavorably; now 62 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Democrats have a “very unfavorable” view of the other party.
Of course, splitting America into “red” and “blue” states presumes that the various states are themselves “red” and “blue,” but this is often not so simple. For example, everyone considers California to be “blue” and Texas to be “red,” but Donald Trump received 6,006,429 votes in California and 5,890,347 in Texas. Joe Biden received 5,259,126 votes in Texas, or 46.5 percent of the total.
If either state were to “secede” into a “red” or “blue” coalition, a significant part of the state would want to secede from the state.
The idea that Americans don’t need America, that we can “go it alone,” is central to the American frontier spirit. But such individualism has been called “our most toxic myth,” one that isolates us from each other and from the communal dependence we were created to need and to supply (cf. Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 12:27).
This myth is indeed toxic.
Filling a “void of purpose”
The United Nations has designated today as the International Day of Happiness and is encouraging us to be mindful, grateful, and kind to each other. But it’s hard to be any of the three when 74 percent of us believe the US is “off on the wrong track.”
Forty-four percent of teenagers report “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness,” while adult “deaths of despair” (from suicide, alcohol, and drugs) continue to escalate. Depression and anxiety are now the most prevalent psychological and emotional problems faced in the workplace. “Microstresses”—small, difficult moments through the day—are less obvious but still dangerous to our mental health. Unsurprisingly, psychologists report that our overall stress level is “rising rapidly.”
Venture capitalist Vivek Ramaswamy announced recently that he is running for president. As the leader of a nonpartisan ministry, I am not endorsing his candidacy in any way. However, I found his description of America’s greatest challenge interesting: “America today is so hungry for meaning and identity at a moment in our history when the things that used to fill that void of purpose—be it faith, patriotism, hard work, family, you name it—those things have disappeared.”
When we do turn to faith, it is not biblical faith we seek but faith in tolerance. Theologian H. Richard Niebuhr described the “gospel” of our culture: “A God without wrath brought human beings without sin into a kingdom without judgment through ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”
How’s that working for us?
“You do not have, because you do not ask”
What we need is the gospel of God’s grace: a God who is love (1 John 4:8) forgives sinners who seek his pardon (Ephesians 2:8–9) and makes them part of his family (John 1:12) through the ministrations of Christ on the cross (Romans 5:8).
Here’s the problem: grace, like all other gifts, must be received to be experienced. And Satan has deceived our “go it alone” culture into believing that we need neither Christ nor his church. Our materialistic success has blinded our eyes to our impoverished souls. Our insistence on tolerance has deluded us into tolerating a cultural ethos that is destroying us from within.
Satan has done something similar to evangelical Christians: we know we have trusted Christ to save us from hell for heaven, but we are tempted to trust ourselves for everything else. What we need is to admit that we need God’s grace in every moment in every way. What we need is to be “poor in spirit,” recognizing how desperately we need God’s Spirit to empower, lead, and redeem our lives (Matthew 5:3; Ephesians 5:18).
“You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2) applies to every dimension of our lives where we are not experiencing the “abundant” life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10).
“Let us make daily use of our riches”
The good news is that God’s transforming grace is available to you right now if you will admit that you need what he alone can do: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Charles Spurgeon was right: “Grace, whether its work be to pardon, to cleanse, to preserve, to strengthen, to enlighten, to quicken, or to restore, is ever to be had from [Jesus] freely and without price; nor is there one form of the work of grace which he has not bestowed upon his people. As the blood of the body, though flowing from the heart, belongs equally to every member, so the influences of grace are the inheritance of every saint united to the Lamb; and herein there is a sweet communion between Christ and his Church, inasmuch as they both receive the same grace.”
As a result, Spurgeon encouraged us: “Let us make daily use of our riches, and ever repair to him as to our own Lord in covenant, taking from him the supply of all we need with as much boldness as men take money from their own purse.”
How boldly will you “draw near to the throne of grace” today?