When does God judge a “Christian” nation?

It seems a common thread among some that the growing acceptance of gay rights in America is a trigger to bring down the judgment of God upon the United States. An amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme court makes this exact claimThe drought in California is seen by at least one pundit as God’s judgment on that state.

I suppose the massive and devastating flooding in more God fearing Oklahoma and Texas gets a pass.

Comments from Christians on social media implore “a return to Christian America”  or “Judeo-Christian values” and worries that the republic is not long for this earth are legion. In the past few days references to “Romerica” have made their way into conversations I’ve read. If the Roman republic lasted around 500 years, we could last around 260 more years, but the past is not an infallible prognosticator.

If gay marriage, greater acceptance of transgenderism, and renewed calls for boundary-less sexual freedom continue to gain steam there will be even louder warnings of impending doom.

But are the warnings accurate? Are we just now, in all our our checkered history, hoisting the flag of Sodom and Gomorrah over the national soil?

Amid the siren wails of coming judgment, we should examine American history and ask why God has not already judged America. Perhaps we should ask if He has. We should wonder if Christians in America would know God’s judgment if it fell.

If sexual issues were the detonator for judgment why indeed has God waited? American society has been over the cliff of sexual rebellion for years–centuries actually.

Brothels have been around since Colonial timesJohn D’Emilio of the University of Illinois at Chicago writes this about General Washington’s army:

George Washington encountered commercial sex in another setting, as general of the Continental Army. During the Revolutionary War, packs of women known as “camp followers” assisted the troops with wound care, cooking, laundry, and other services, sometimes including prostitution. Soldiers also slipped out of camp and visited New York’s brothels, which they called the “Holy Ground.” Venereal disease became so common that the army began deducting pay from afflicted soldiers as punishment.

A Chinese sex slave awaits her next rapist in 1800s San Francisco. [Image credit]

A Chinese sex slave awaits her next rapist in 1800s San Francisco. [Image credit]

Sex trafficking has been around since at least the old west. In his 2010 book, “The Poker Bride,” Christopher Corbett reminds us of what it was like for Chinese women arriving in San Francisco following the Gold Rush. From the NYT review:

Most of the Chinese women and girls arrived in San Francisco, often kept in “holding pens” to be auctioned in what became a flourishing sex trade, as lucrative as selling opium and gambling. “During the early 1890s,” Corbett writes, “prices ranged from about $100 for a 1-year-old to $1,200 for a girl of 14, which was considered the best age for prostitution.” These women were called “daughters of joy” or “100 men’s wives,” and were at the bottom of the class system even among prostitutes, working in filthy, crowded “cribs” or “hog farms.” Many had been kidnapped in China or sold there by families in desperate poverty. A girl in China at the time, Corbett notes, “was nearly worthless.

Please don’t miss 1-year-olds sold into the sex trade. And this back in the “good old days” of a “God fearing nation.”

Native American women were used for sexual favors and sexual servitude by the military and frontier settlers in early America.

The failure to enforce laws or apply them to Native people resulted in the de facto legalization of sexual servitude. Collusion, indifference, and corruption all played roles. Native American women who were exploited by fronter settlers had little [legal] recourse. Violence was commonplace. Courtwright references the advice of a “Rocky Mountain hunter” who purchased a native girl in 1868: “The girl, when sold to a white man, is generally skeary for a while and will take the first chance to run away…Should you take her again, and whip her well, and perhaps clip a little slice out of her ear, then she will stay. (pg. 653)

In “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church,” Dean Merrill writes:

[I]n the middle of the nineteenth century, “New York City has one prostitute for every 64 men; the mayor of Savannah estimated his city has one for every 39.” Marvin Olasky says that abortion “was as proportionately frequent on the eve of the Civil War as it is now. There were roughly 160,000 abortions in 1860 in a nonslave population of 27 million…this was almost the equivalent of our current figure.”

 

Moving forward to the Depression of the 1930s, [Stephanie] Coontz notes that “divorce rates fell, but desertion and domestic violence rose sharply…Murder rates in the ’30s were as high as in the 1980s.” (pg. 81)

What about the slave population as victims of sexual assault? As if slavery was not bad enough slave women and girls were routinely raped by their owners, and their owners’ sons. As gruesome as it is, such assaults were not limited to the females. A 2011 article by Thomas A. Foster published in the Journal of the History of Sexuality, said:

[S]exual assault of enslaved men took a wide variety of forms, including outright physical penetrative assault, forced reproduction, sexual coercion and manipulation, and psychic abuse.

In her book, “The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap,” Stephanie Coontz (cited above) writes:

In nineteenth-century America, the “age of consent” for girls in many states was as low as nine or ten, which makes a mockery of the term. (pg. 184)

Are female consent ages of 9 or 10 not signs of societal sexual perversion? Is what’s happening in America today really worse or just different?

It might be historically short sighted to think the current state of things started with the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s. One historian argues the true sexual revolution was during the 1940s and 1950s. There was the guy who I worked with who was a Bible belt teen in the 1950s. “We had sex all the time. It’s all there was to do where we lived.” In a Newsday review of Coontz’s “The Way We Never Were,” Vickie Erv says,

And as for the myth of ’50s-style deferred sexual gratification, in 1957, more than 97 out of every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 gave birth. (By the by, sexual morality wasn’t so pristine at other times in American history either. In the 20 years prior to the revolution, one-third of all children born were conceived out of wedlock.)

Sexual violence including incest are prevalent in the rural US, and epidemic in Alaska. A Georgia state law enforcement officer told me in the late 1990s that incest was prevalent in poor, rural areas of the state because “there isn’t anything for people to do.” Gonna blame that on Woodstock are we?

The distance of memory distorts the object of the memory, as surely as the embellishment of Christian morality in our earlier years. That is, we may remember things as we wish they were rather than as they were.

The truth is sexual sins, sexual crimes, sexual violence, and perversion in American have been around as long as America itself. Many instances predate 1776. I have seen no convincing argument that gay rights agendas are inherently more evil than a government protecting the rape of children.

Perhaps we are approaching the judgment of God, or another one. Perhaps the latest sexual revolution will be another tipping point. Perhaps, for clarity, there will be physical locusts rather than metaphorical ones. But, if it is to be so, Christians in American should at least be honest enough to admit it was deserved long before now.

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Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Salted Grits

    Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. Ezekiel 16:49

    • martyduren

      Absolutely, but that isn’t the only verse on the topic. That one is usually overlooked by those on the conservative side, while that fact that “Sodomites” had nothing to do with providing meals to the hungry is overlooked by those on the more liberal side.

  • Scott G. North

    Good article….God’s grace and the prayers of many have kept His wrath for another day.

  • Adam Blosser

    I recently taught on Genesis 19. I think I raised a few eyebrows when I suggested that it is silly to say that God is going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah if he doesn’t punish America. I just pointed out that there were 10 “righteous” sitting around the table as I was teaching.

    • martyduren

      Very good, Adam. May just have to borrow that one…

  • Frank Compton

    Excellent commentary and truly good food for thought. Communication/media/what ever you want to call it makes us more aware of this stuff today. We’ve come a long way from The Pony Express as our primary news medium. (I do, however, miss the simplicity of a nickel Coke today:) FC

    • martyduren

      Heard that, bro.