America: While We Seek Mirth and Beauty, Judgment is at the Door
America’s premier nineteenth century folk songster was, hands down, one Stephen Collins Foster. He died a pauper as have many folk songsters before him, but in 1854, Firth, Pond and Company published one of his songs entitled “Hard Times Come Again No More” and it became popular both in America and across the continent of Europe. Nation founding and pioneering were at their height across the globe, but never so much as in America. Songs of struggles and scarcity were common and Europeans found them interesting in their fully developed nations where poverty was limited to certain cities or regions, but the general welfare of most European citizens was stable. Foster’s songs invoked the sense of struggle and hard times, but were often misinterpreted as a sign that America was weak and could barely stand to her feet. In fact she was never stronger. Enduring hardships is a cleansing and purifying element that has long gone, and now it may be only the absence of the latest handheld gadget or the money to lavish on entertainment that is considered a hardship. Difficulty has never made anyone weak if they refuse to move forward conjuring the best attitude and sense of resolve as they go. Was it a prayer or simply a mournful cry for hard times to come no more – in any sense, it was the call for better times that is generated from a belief that they can and will come.
Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears, While we all sup sorrow with the poor; There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears; Oh! Hard times come again no more ‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary, Hard Times, hard times, come again no more Many days you have lingered around my cabin door; Oh! Hard times come again no more While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay, There are frail forms fainting at the door; Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say Oh! Hard times come again no more
America sees her hard times as far behind with little chance of re-emergence in these times. This is the juncture where premier old folk songs and premier new false beliefs meet. This writer is not guided by the latest trend in Christian journalism or the latest fad in doctrinal emphasis. Generational curses, prosperity gospel or any other fad of the church is taken for what it is worth, but will take no precedence over declaring the whole “counsel of God” as the Apostle Paul declared. It is what I have “heard in the ear” (Mt 10: 27) that I must declare on the housetops, not what passes muster in today’s rapidly oncoming pop-culture gospel and trendy Biblical interpretation. So, exactly what have I heard? America is heading toward hard times. The short version is easy to declare, the causes require far more detail and that is what I write about endlessly. America is prone to idol and hero worship and that is where the subtle error first makes its debut. Politicians, political pundits, news anchors and celebrities all have their place in the American scheme of things, but they rarely see the larger picture without some kind of compromising mistake that may look small, but in the light of biblical truth is major. The seemingly invincible Fox News now hires homosexuals, has its top voices (Bret Baier) dismissed from speaking engagements because they have gone soft on key issues or succumbed to PC pressure of the day. The daily and morning shows host celebrities that have introduced sleaze into America through media which is generally looked at with snickers, laughter and curiosity. Heroes like Bill O’Reilly are seen as the last and best voices even while their views of the nation may be generally correct, their solutions are almost non-existent or ignored. Hard work, lower taxes, economic responsibility all have their place in the old America but do little to help a nation that is plunging into moral reprobation. We see in the last chapters of O’Reilly’s first best seller “Culture Warrior” a cavalier approach to the onset of the militant gay agenda. He concludes that it is a passing culturally faddish and unimportant part of the changes in the nation. What some are now calling the “Gaystapo” is today making our foibled impresario of the fallacious look a bit foolish. As if the hero was not sufficiently exposed, we all rush, not to read the bible, but O’Reilly’s book about the bible’s key figure –Jesus of Nazareth. O’ Reilly insists that only his trusted researcher Martin Dugard and a library of history books along with Bill’s high level of commonsense can discern the veracity and the importance of the man Jesus. Leaving the authority and God given fullness of the bible behind; our hero runs ahead at gallop speed with America’s conservative hordes running fast behind trying to keep up. It should be embarrassing to see the nation falling even as the trumpeter calls the troops to the charge. As for Fox and O’Reilly the word for the day is ‘braggadocio.’ When writing to us, don’t use this word as a substitute for the truth and for misleading a nation about what is causing it to fall. A tilt has been discovered in the no spin zone. It was never just about the killing of Jesus – it has always been about the life of the resurrected Christ carried on in the Holy Spirit empowered daily lives of the believers. It was never about how, where or when Christ died – it was always about for who he died.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Ro 5: 6)
But as soon as possible research this, forget its historicity, it emerges from the Divine who resides in the eternal. To wit:
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. (Pr 10: 19)
We use SNL for parody, spoof, sarcasm and satire about daily events in America much like the French use Charlie Hebdo. We get a laugh out of it, but little more. There is no relief, change or meaningful reparation to our ills following our laughter. Here is where it behooves us to realize that hard times come at the ‘backend’ of a nation’s run for a reason. The reason is blaringly simple – it is so that nation will not fall as all the other nations throughout history have fallen like so many dominoes in a row. God is not a whip toting angry taskmaster, but a loving Father who cares about our future as individuals and for our nation as well. Consider this:
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1Co 11: 31-32)
Politicians, news anchors, celebrities and the best of the best all have their significance, but if we are ignoring the admonishments of the Lord we will still have to pass through chastisement. Those are the days when laughter ceases. Almost in a prophetic sense Stephen Foster’s sad song ends with a picture of an old woman who, after all, could find no relief and, in fact, the dirge is carried right to the edge of the grave – is that woman America?
There’s a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away, With a worn heart whose better days are o’er: Though her voice would be merry, ’tis sighing all the day, Oh! Hard times come again no more ‘Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave, ‘Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore ‘Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave Oh! Hard times come again no more
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