Shall America’s Epitaph One Day Read: How Oppression Killed Lady Liberty
by Joyce Reba Payne
The national anthem of America concludes with the words: “land of the free and the home of the brave!” The theme of liberty and freedom has appealed to people from countries worldwide as they ventured from their homelands of toil and drudgery to the land that promised them opportunities of freedom, wealth and happiness. Even the Statue of Liberty sitting in the waters on Ellis Island (a gift from France to America symbolizing the freedom of the United States as a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad) reaches out to all that approach our shores to bid them a warm welcome to the liberty that is America. The liberty and freedom of America has brought ingenuity from many outside countries to our borders as foreigners sought to make their fortune here. Truly the freedom of our nation has been good to those that have come here seeking their opportunity to grow and prosper.
Not only has this theme and civil system of America been inviting but America also has had religious freedom that was equally inviting. The mostly Christian nation has expressed its faith in a gospel that believed in giving and that each person should love his neighbor as he loves himself. Through faith we have established programs and systems that help and support the needy among us. Our system sought to catch those that fell through the net into poverty and give them a hand up again to be able to compete with the strongest of us. While our gospel inspired us that we could do all things through Christ that strengthens us, our civil system supplied the means to accomplish it.
I know so far all this sounds pretty much like a utopia and some citizens of America have not had that experience, but the theme and plot for the nation does carry with it the ability to make one wealthy if he is so determined. Certainly there are obstacles and persons who do not embody the gospel of Jesus Christ whom one will encounter on his journey to enjoying the good life in America. Some would say that is just par for the course. Can one really enjoy the wealth at the end without some struggle to obtain it? So there are some things on the dark side to consider as well. But for those that challenged the darkness with their own light the possibility of a prosperous and happy life was always there waiting for them.
The Results of American Brilliance
As with any thing that one practices relentlessly, one can become a master at it. And the genius derived from this mastery gives one the ability to do good or evil. He can become of teacher for others in doing good or he can choose to use his expertise in an exploitative way. And this has been the case with those that acquire wealth through our business system and some that have been successful through our religious institutions. Those of pure hearts will surely use their ingenuity to do more good. But those that are not of pure hearts will find other motives to utilize their wealth that will not be so kind. Someone said that money just amplifies what was already inside the person. That is most likely true. Wealth gives one the means to obtain his desires or purchasing power to buy those things formerly missing from his life. Wealth also gives one control over people and systems that can be used for good or evil depending on the motive of the person.
Because America has acquired much wealth and numerous people who have become extremely successful, America has also acquired the ability to do much good or evil expressed through the avenues of those who have the means to perform it. And it is unfortunate that some have availed themselves with the opportunities gained from the wealth pots of American who did not also avail themselves with the opportunities contained in the pot of Christian values as well. Because obtaining from both would have given the wealthy opportunity to do much good through utilizing the Christian principles of charity as he chose to love his neighbor as he love himself. But instead what has happened on a large scale is that the opportunity of getting more of one’s personal desires has turned into the greed that is now more prevalent in our nation as we have seen the wealthy oppress and devour the weak and defenseless in ways that cannot be easily be combated by those that are without the finances to defend their rights. Businesses that overprice their merchandise on the one end are mercilessly demanding more productivity at low wages from their workers with little benefits on the other end. The wealthy entrepreneur, who over charges for his products, does not allow for his employees to meet the demand of exorbitant prices confronting him at the grocery store, hospital, rental/mortgage office or other retail outlets due to low wages.
The Poor Man’s Hope
While the poor employee is being hopelessly driven at work he yet has hope in his religious faith where he knows that God will make a way for him if he just believes. So in his religious pursuit in the church of his choice he is looking for that final answer of deliverance from the drudgery that has become his life. Here he learns of a God that gave his only begotten Son to a death on the cross so that those in captivity to sin, poverty and sickness could be set free and obtain wealth and happiness in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Here he hopes through doing everything that he is told to do that he might obtain that dream and be released from his bondage. However, many are finding that even here, contrary to the Word of God, one must have the financial means to obtain this biblical freedom (Mt 6:33). He is challenged by the minister to give even that he does not have, to be able to access the wealth of the kingdom of God (2Co 8:12-14). Should he give of the money that is just barely enough to pay the rent in hope that God will make a way? And if he gives his money to the church will he have enough left to pay his rent? What happens if his faith is not strong enough after he gives and the rent is still not paid? This is the type of questions and travail that confront many low-pay workers who must make these decisions each payday.
The challenges of those that do not have the wealth of the rich or the faith of the preacher can be daunting. Whereas Americans are told that anyone in America can make it if he tries, there are systems in place that deny that very right. Many of those at the bottom see no way to obtain the wealth or liberty that America and Christianity have promised. The land of the free and the home of the brave for some have become the slums of New York, DC, Detroit, and LA. And the gospel has become the theme of the reality show, “LA Preachers.” The dream is still there but the way has become miry clay.
The possibilities of America are still there but the way is not as clear as it once was and there are many more obstacles than previous. The purity that was once exhibited through the average citizen has changed into something else. We can no longer expect help on the street from a stranger. We dare not accept a ride from the long walk home. We can no longer pull out our wallets on the street to give someone change. And our front door does not always bring entrance of friends and loved ones. The people of America have changed.
Leaders of Change
There is a scripture that describes what many in America are experiencing at this hour:
And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable. Isa 3:5
This scripture was written by Prophet Isaiah as led by the Spirit of God to describe a time when God’s chosen people (Israel) were feeling the effects of their lost favor because of failing to obey God. Similarly, America is experiencing much oppression in the land but those at the top are less likely to be impacted by it. Those with power and authority in the top two percent have merely to increase the pressure on those in the bottom 98% to provide for themselves more of what they desire. The system becomes one like a pressure cooker that is bound to explode at some point but no one really cares at long at his personal needs continue to be met. It is someone else’s problem. The Christian’s bible and American history reveal that it is God who was gracious enough to allow America to be established. He is the same God that watches from above the way that America progresses and who will ultimately intervene at the appropriate time.
Those that lead our nation must be careful to look at the progression of our nation from its inception to where it now stands and make right decisions about the future of this nation. A glance over the history of this nation will reveal its present decline but it can still be turned around by those who care enough to make a difference. It cannot be left solely to either the leaders of congress or the church because many of our leaders have become self serving. The people who are feeling the crunch as the bottom must demand more from their leaders. Those that are poor in wealth and in faith must put on strength through their faith and demand better treatment. It will not occur by simply waiting on the leaders to fix the problems; they cannot without strong motivation to change. Change occurs because of the pressure of an opposing force applied to it. And it cannot be unrighteous pressure that brings about righteous change either. It must be righteousness that stands up against unrighteousness that moves the very God of heaven to stand up with the effort to turn things around.
In his speech, “I Have A Dream”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged America “to rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed--"we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal"; but America has yet a long ways to go in accomplishing that goal. In my research for this article, I read the history of America’s anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner" written by Francis Scott Key in 18l4, who was a lawyer, amateur poet, Episcopalian, associated with the American Bible Society, slave owner and an opponent of the anti-slave movement. The conflict that this song and its writer present, as recorded by Jefferson Morley in his July 4, 2013, article entitled: “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”:
(http://www.theglobalist.com/the-land-of-the-free-and-the-home-of-the-brave/), also illustrates the struggle in the soul of America as she tries to live out the creed of the nation and its Christian heritage. The founders of our nation embraced a God that its descendants have struggled to adhere to and Whom many are now trying to overthrow. Neither their faith nor their democracy have been willing to progress to its fullest potential.
America can be brought into remembrance of its nobler past and renewed to a path for a better future but it will require that the people who care stand up wherever they are to make America better. It will not happen without that demand being placed upon it. America was formed because there were some people that got fed up enough to fight against oppression. It is time for the oppression of our nation to cease but only those who care and are affected can make a difference and cause America to again stand up as a true beacon representing a land for the free and the home of the brave.
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
(Excerpt from: “The Star-Spangled Banner”)
Written and copyrighted by Joyce Reba Payne, 2013. All rights reserved.