America is in very bad shape right now. We are deeply divided along many lines and some of our most fundamental freedoms are under attack. We have massive national debt, we are enslaved to an ever-growing list of carnal passions, and we are increasingly self-centered, distracted, and superficial. Yet there is hope for America – and I say this as a realist, not a starry-eyed optimist.
Really now, are we as divided today as we were immediately before, during, and after the Civil War? Is it even fair to compare?
The secession movement had been growing in the South before the election of Abraham Lincoln, and once he was in office, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas left the union. That's what you call deep division.
As for the toll of the Civil War itself, consider these devastating statistics.
The population of the USA in 1860 was 31,443,321, less than one-tenth what it is today, yet roughly 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War. In today's terms, that would amount to more than 6 million Americans killed in a single military conflict.
That is pain on a level that we can hardly relate to. That is national agony.
Not only so, but those 620,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War represent almost half of all Americans killed in all the wars we have ever fought – including World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, our conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and other wars.
And even then, there's a massive difference in the total number of Americans lost in battle. In the Civil War, it was Americans killing Americans, in some cases, with members of the same family on opposite sides of the conflict. Who can fathom such deadly division?
Yet we somehow emerged from this costly (and corrective) conflict stronger than we were before. Why can't we emerge from the current divisions stronger than before?
There's no denying that, in many ways, our nation is in a spiritual and moral freefall, and the America of today is far less family friendly and innocent than it was just 50-60 years ago. (For a graphic illustration of this, see here.)
But when it comes to race relations and equal opportunity, would you rather be alive today or in the days of segregation? Surely we are closer to seeing the realization of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech today than we were when he delivered it in 1963.
Or consider the pro-life movement. How much hope was there in the immediate aftermath of Roe v. Wade? How much unity was there, how much courage, how much fresh strategy? Today, pro-abortion activists are genuinely fearful that Roe v. Wade could be overturned, and state after state is standing up for the cause of life.
This is not for a moment to minimize our horrific guilt in the slaughter of more than 55 million babies. It simply reminds us that we have valid cause for hope for the days ahead.
In 2016, while spending some time in prayer one morning, I heard a quiet internal voice say, "Write a book on the fall and rise of America."
Really? The fall and rise of America, not the rise and fall of America?
For years now, I have been documenting our nation's moral and spiritual decline, focusing in particular on cultural issues for the last decade-plus. Have our families ever been in worse shape? Did we ever have to defend something as simple as male-female distinctions?
As far back as 1973-74, as a teenager preaching my first sermons, I talked about the critical days in which we lived while still believing in the possibility of national awakening. But to write about our nation's fall and rise? Isn't that a bit much?
It was in response to that internal leading that I wrote Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Reformation, and I plan to share more about this next month when the book is released.
For the moment, though, let me say these four things.
First, to repeat, as dire as our current situation is, all is not lost and there are grounds for hope for a better tomorrow.
Second, the deeper the darkness, the greater the need for the light to shine. That's why the last chapter of my new book, which is filled with examples from our history, is titled "The Church's Great Opportunity."
Third, the answer lies with us, God's people, those who love Him and know that His ways are best. While every American can work for the betterment of our country, from devout atheist to fervent believer, I am convinced that the only true healing for our nation lies in the gospel. It is a message of life, of transformation, and of liberty.
Fourth, while it may be impossible to find a human solution to the crises we face, all things are possible with God, and He desires to redeem us, not destroy us.
And that's why I say that there is hope for America. He hasn't destroyed us yet.