Monday, June 23, 2008


“Strangers devour his strength, yet he does not know it; gray hairs also are sprinkled on him, yet he does not know it” (Hosea 7:9).

Last Friday night on the PBS news program “NOW” the topic was the growth of the middle-class in India and China. We were told that as the group grows they will use up more and more of the world’s resources. As their standard of living rises, it appears that ours in America will go down. Some Indian college students were quizzed by the American reporter. The concern expressed by the reporter seemed to be that this was not good for America. I don’t remember the exact words, but the students’ reply went something like this: “Why shouldn’t we get our fair share? We may have come late to the table but we want what’s coming to us. We are going to be a superpower by the year 2020!”

For over 200 years, we in the USA have felt that we were world leaders. We’re rich! We’re powerful! We’re right! Especially after WWII we have been seen as a superpower; then with the fall of the USSR, we were the only superpower.

But we are now, I believe, the world’s largest debtor nation. We are borrowing money from the nations of the world we feel we are superior to, and are going farther in the hole – our government, our businesses and ourselves as individuals. Yet we still feel that we are the world leader we once were.

When the nation hit an economic slump (some call it a recession) our President and Congress awarded us a tax rebate, called an “economic stimulus payment” (borrowed from other nations and to be repaid by our great-grandkids) so we can help keep our debt economy afloat by spending more.

Watch our TV ads; walk through the shopping malls. Our whole economy and, it seems, our culture is based on the idea that we can buy our way to happiness. For younger people it’s clothes or electronic gizmos; for us older people it’s some sort of pill, something to make us look or feel or perform as if we were half our age.

Which brings me to the title of this blog. I believe that Viagra (along with its imitators) is a parable of America. When this product was introduced it was as a help to men who had a certain physical problem, men like Bob Dole, men who (I assumed) were getting up in years. Yet now it is touted as if it were an aphrodisiac. Commercials show men half, even a third my age unashamedly singing its praises..

If I am to believe what I see on TV, the men of this nation are suffering from an epidemic of impotence. Maybe they are.

But this is only one aspect of the problem. Throw in all the ads for hair color for men, all the macho ads for cars, trucks and beer and we see something disturbing. We see a nation of men in denial – the baby-boom generation -- who have passed their prime, are afraid to admit it and are doing whatever they can to keep up the illusion.

And I believe that, like this generation, our whole nation is past its prime and we are afraid to admit that. We as a nation want to continue in a lifestyle of affluence which we feel we deserve. We are like Ephraim (the northern kingdom of Israel) to whom Hosea speaks.

America is not a Christian nation, never was and never will be. But it’s always had a Christian influence, sometimes strong, sometimes weak. But I believe the Church has too often bought the thinking of America and blurred the distinction between the two.

Are we, the Church in America, past our prime? Are we in denial?

Bill Ball

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