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America: A wildfire awaiting a spark

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Events of the past week shouldn’t have surprised anyone because America has been a wildfire in search of a spark for quite some time.

Yet, after flareups around the nation, conditions remain favorable for that fire to spread widely and rapidly to cause as much destruction as possible.

The environment which sparked this week’s unrest actually began years ago when America started withering as its citizens – and especially its leaders – cut themselves from the vine of God’s word, which is the source of living water. (Revelation 7:17)

John 15:5 makes that point perfectly clear when Jesus told his followers, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Jesus wasn’t talking about financial fruit or material gain. He was referencing fruits of the human spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

Americans are in very short supply of all those fruits, and their emotional warehouses are almost empty.

In John 15:6, Jesus explains what happens when people don’t remain connected to his vine. “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

In other words, people become useless for anything other than feeding a fire.

How did we get here?

Much of the trouble can be traced back to court decisions that threw God out of schools and then out of the public square entirely.

In the past, children used to be taught they were created by God, and endowed with unique skills and talent to accomplish specific purposes in their lives. But, that was deemed offensive and discontinued.

Instead, children learned they were evolutionary accidents and nothing more than descendants of apes and bacteria. Humans were nothing special. In fact, they were to blame for all the world’s troubles.

As children became adults, they came to understand that not only did they lack a productive purpose for their lives, they learned their purpose was to simply do whatever made them happy. Their own self-interests trumped the interests of society at large.

They were taught that success could only be attained by taking advantage of others. As society stopped honoring successful people (other than celebrities), people bought into a lie that only the “privileged” could succeed.

Rather than looking in a mirror and taking responsibility for their own choices, people were told to seek someone to blame for their predicament.

As a result, Americans in general became a brood of angry, aimless, arrogant, selfish, wandering generalities living paycheck-to-paycheck and looking forward to government-subsidized retirement.

The media played a big role by feeding people a non-stop diet of lust, fear, panic and doom. General unease spread throughout the country, exacerbated by political leaders pointing fingers and whipping their supporters into frenzies of worry and rage.

Governments at every level ignored the dry, brittle underbrush allowed to accumulate for decades at the foundation of society. Politicians pandered to special interest groups with nothing more than lip service in election years simply to secure political advantages.

Joining forces with the media, government sought to divide Americans into factions: black against white, rich against poor, old against young, gay against straight, and people of faith against, well, everyone.

Rather than allowing each community or state to establish laws and expectations that best suited the common morals of local residents, broad national policies were enacted that almost assuredly enraged those forced to comply with beliefs with which they disagreed.

Americans had no hope for any productive change, as demonstrated by the increasingly dismal turnout for most elections.

Ripe for destruction

That was the situation in January of this year. Despite record-setting economic gains and opportunities abounding around every corner, the wealthiest nation in the world was still very broken and $21 trillion in debt.

America was polarized nearly 50-50 along political, sexual, racial and generational ideologies.

Then came COVID-19.

People were locked in their homes for months on end and told they could not leave except for essential reasons, like getting food.

All their parks, playgrounds, gyms and exercise classes were closed so that people could not work off their frustration.

All their simple pleasures that make a stressful life more endurable were taken away – for their own safety – so that people couldn’t go out to eat, see a movie, attend a play or even visit each other in their homes.

Schools were closed, adding to the stress of parents already in unfamiliar territory caused by working from home. Children and adults found themselves with too much time on their hands and little to do.

They couldn’t even go to stores to buy home-improvement materials, gardening supplies, games or crafts in order to redirect their boredom into creative outlets. Their only option for entertainment was to stay home and watch TV.

That was okay with the media, which stepped up by providing an even larger portion of lust, fear, panic and doom.

All constructive entertainment outlets were forbidden, so people couldn’t even enjoy sports or plan weddings, graduation parties and vacations. All community celebrations were cancelled, even months in advance, giving people little to look forward to enjoying.

As businesses were forced to close and millions had their livelihoods eliminated, the government sent people a check for what they would typically make in a week or two of work, and told them that “stimulus” should tide them over for the next three to four months — or longer.

Government closed all churches to prevent people from engaging in genuine community and hearing uplifting messages of hope, forgiveness, grace, equality and peace.

All gatherings of any kind were limited to less than 10 people, often smaller than two typical extended families combined.

Finally, all human connections were eliminated by forcing people to hide behind masks so they couldn’t even see smiles, care or compassion. Any type of physical touch, so essential in making human connections, was strongly discouraged to promote “social distancing.”

People were taught to be afraid of each other and suspicious of whomever they encounter over fear they’ll catch a deadly illness, or risk spreading it to others, despite it having a greater than 99 percent survival rate.

Social distancing didn’t work

Well, we found out that forced isolation and social distancing didn’t work out so well. With little control over their lives, people simmered in anger and frustration.

All it took was a single spark to ignite them. Rage works that way. Left unattended, it consumes, like wildfire, anything in its path.

As individuals of influence sought to gain more control over the lives of people, they actually wound up losing control as fed-up citizens grew tired of having others determine their destinies.

The government put all its credibility on the line and went all-in on COVID-19 with a pair of twos.

Eventually, the public finally called government’s bluff, and with devastating consequences. If elected leaders don’t soon admit they played a bad hand, then society is sadly set to reignite again as soon as the next spark is introduced.

Unfortunately, without genuine leadership from people who truly put the country’s needs ahead of their own limited self-interests and those of their narrow bands of financial supporters, what we saw this week is nothing more than regional brush fires.

America remains a tinderbox of withered souls desperately in need of living water.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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