A letter from someone looking for some positive vibes:

Dear Matt,

I love your writing. I’ve been reading and supporting you from the beginning. Thanks for all you do! My question is more optimistic. I believe a lot of bad things are happening in the country right now but with July 4th coming up, it’s important to remember that AMERICA IS STILL GREAT! Sometimes people need that hopeful and encouraging message. I know you’re upset with the way things are going, but can you write something for July 4th reminding everyone that America is still a great nation… and the best in the world? I think we all need to here something hopeful like that! That’s the criticism of you that I hear all the time… you need to be more hopeful! Tells us the GOOD things about America! Thanks!




Thanks for writing.

I’m sorry but I can’t give you exactly what you want, unless you want something better and truer than the sort of fraudulent “hopefulness” and “optimism” most people seek these days. They want the brand of cheap, commodified hope you get from a 30-second video where a guy finds his lost dog or whatever and at the end tries to sell you beer. They want the inspiration of a viral marketing video. They want it like funnel cake: sweet, empty and quickly digested.

I could give you that, but I won’t. I could write patronizing, pandering nonsense telling you everything is fine, this country is awesome, and the future will be bright and filled with lollipops and puppy dog farts. But what good would it do, besides win me some PR points? If you want hope, it needs to be planted firmly in truth, or else it’s like administering morphine while you die of kidney failure. It’ll make you feel better for a time, but it won’t save you.

Here’s the truth: I am not happy with this country, and you shouldn’t be, either. I am disappointed in it. It disgraces itself. It turns from God. It kills its young. It attacks the family. Am I supposed to pretend otherwise just for the sake of being festive? While Michelle Obama felt pride in her nation for the first time recently, I am more and more developing a deep anger at it, and I think it’s time I admit that out loud. I’m a patriot, but to borrow from Chesterton, a patriot who is uncritical of his country while it teeters on the edge of total destruction is like a son who doesn’t warn his mother that she’s about to fall off a cliff. In this case, however, we already fell off the cliff. We are shattered on the rocks below, and I’m truly not certain if we can be repaired.

You want me to get into the holiday spirit and remind everyone that America is still great, but I don’t know, Mike, does a great country murder a million babies every year?

Does a great country ignore its own laws and tear its Constitution to pieces?

Does a great country become among the first in human civilization to dismantle the institution of marriage in favor of legitimizing sexual perversion?

Is a great country so confused that it can’t tell the difference between male and female?

Does the nuclear family collapse in a great country?

Does a great country have historically high rates of divorce, unwed pregnancy and fatherless homes?

Do little girls get IUDs implanted in them by school officials without parental consent in a great country?

Do citizens burn down their own cities in a great country?

Is moral relativism the cultural driving force in a great country?

Are churches empty in a great country?

Do one in every five citizens favor forcing priests to perform gay weddings in a great country?

Is pornography a billion-dollar industry in a great country?

Are there 110 million cases of STDs in a great country?

Are college students unable to name the vice president but able to chug a fifth of vodka in a great country?

Is higher education overrun by feminists and nihilists in a great country?

Is apathy endemic in a great country?

Does the average person watch five hours of TV a day in a great country?

Are people threatened, fired, attacked, belittled and ripped to shreds for having differing opinions in a great country?

Do young adults ransack stores just for fun in a great country?

Do schools teach kids how to masturbate but forget to teach them how to read in a great country ?

Is “50 Shades of Grey” a best-seller in a great country?

Does Christianity decline in a great country?

Are soldiers forced to sit in classrooms and listen to lectures about “white privilege” in a great country?

Has the gay agenda so infiltrated even the military that now officers are chased out of their jobs for telling lesbians to stop french-kissing while in uniform in a great country?

Does the government hand out birth control to children in a great country?

Do illegal immigrants stream over the border at will in a great country?

Are 151 million people on the government dole in a great country?

Do a majority of Americans vote for Barack Obama twice in a great country?

Does a great country laugh at morality, reject reality and worship cross-dressers?

Do adults in a great country so lack even the most rudimentary knowledge of their own great country that they can’t even explain why their great country celebrates the Fourth of July?

Is this what happens in a great country?

If so, what’s so great about being great? Where is the optimism in that miserable greatness? Where is the hope for the future if moral bankruptcy, selfishness, confusion, stupidity, deviancy and failure are “great”?

This is why I’m surprised liberals are still out burning American flags. What are they upset about? This country has been reshaped in their image. They won the culture, the government, academia, the media, even the churches. This is their America. They own it. Yet they aren’t satisfied because liberalism, like its father Satan, is intent only on destruction and consumption. It will never be satiated.

You might say most of the examples I provided have to do with America’s people, not America herself. But the distinction is irrelevant because a democracy is only as great as its people. Meanwhile, our government is corrupt and feckless, and our political leaders are cowardly and self-serving. Yes, the Constitution is great, but it’s still just a set of laws. If laws are ignored, they might as well not exist. The Bill of Rights can’t make us great if we don’t follow it, just like your running shoes can’t make you fit if you don’t put them on and go for a jog.

So in what way is America great at the moment? Are we a moral beacon for the world now? Where is the rest of the world supposed to locate that shining light of moral clarity? Is it somewhere buried under the dead children and the perversion and the porn and the divorce and the drugs and the disease and the dependency and the Nanny State socialism? What about leadership in government, or education, or the home? Is American culture great in these respects?

Face it, Mike. Judge America by any measure — moral, political, economic, social, cultural — and none of it points to greatness. Not by a long shot. Not even close. Not anymore. Progressivism dominates all of these spheres, and with its rise our greatness diminishes.

You might tell me that some individuals in this nation still preserve and shine that light — particularly veterans and people who serve in other capacities — but are they numerous enough to define our culture? Clearly not. They are great in spite of our society, not through it or because of it.

All that’s left, then, is the past. Because while we’ve declined rapidly, we also rose faster than any country before us. We accomplished incredible things. We stormed beaches, conquered tyrants, built cities; we invented and pioneered and innovated. We faced down evil and defeated it. We abolished slavery. We established civil rights for all. We beat the Nazis. We extinguished Communism. We earned the title of a land of opportunity. A God-fearing land. We went to church, we raised our families, we worked, we loved, we prayed.

Look, I’m not idolizing the past. But it’s a matter of historical record that America was a great country, and an exceptional one. And it’s also a fact that the historical record is just that — history. We have to stop resting on the laurels of our great-grandparents and pretending that somehow, because they came off the boat from wherever and persevered through the Depression, we get to mooch off their greatness for eternity. Frankly, our great-grandparents would be disgusted at our country now, and ashamed of it, and of us. Their greatness was their own. We don’t deserve it and have not earned it.

I know I might sound similar to that famous rant from the HBO show “The Newsroom” a few years back. In that clip, Jeff Daniels goes on a tirade about the failures of America, but Daniels made his case that we aren’t “the greatest” by comparing our health and economic status to other nations. Personally, I think money has very little to do with true greatness one way or another. And in any event, I’m not worried about stacking us up against other places.

People say to me, “Yeah, things are bleak, but it’s still better than Mexico, North Korea, etc.” I’m sure it is. But greatness isn’t attained by simply staying one step above the pitiful things around you. If nobody in the room can read or write, and you manage to compose one semi-coherent sentence, that doesn’t make you Shakespeare. If you want to be Shakespeare, you have to strive for brilliance no matter how brilliant or idiotic everyone else happens to be.

“Yeah, but what about all the other countries and their problems?” OK, what’s your point? If that makes you suddenly cool with a nation that slaughters children and corrupts the institution of marriage, fine. Way to maintain high standards for the country you supposedly love. But, me, I want better for my homeland. When I love something — and I do love my country — I want it to be actually great, not just great compared to Somalia.

And what makes a nation great anyway? I’d say economic status plays some small part in it, liberties are important, the way the government functions, laws, industries, military — all of these are factors. But I’ll tell you this: In the end, the nation that sends the most people to heaven is the greatest. Period.

No nation is truly great if it leads its citizens away from truth and away from God. It’s as simple as that. You find a country where most of the citizens — the culture itself, predominately — is directed toward God, toward a humble, moral life, toward truth, and you have found a great nation. I don’t care what else it has going for it. I don’t care if it the life expectancy is 27 and it doesn’t have a standing army or WiFi. If the conditions in the country are such that people are living a moral, God-centered life, it is a great country.

I’m not saying we should be a theocracy. I’m not saying the president’s job is to get me to heaven. I’m just saying the purpose of life is to stand in truth, be holy and see God. A culture oriented toward that purpose is great. A culture that is not, is not.

Now I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to add the caveat, “America isn’t great, but it can be great again!” or some such slogan.

Yesterday someone on Twitter told me that America will “always” be great, no matter what happens or what we do. Others have insisted it’s divine destiny that America reclaim its greatness. But this kind of talk isn’t patriotic; it’s paganism. It paints this country like it’s literally the Kingdom of God. As if, out of all the thousands of countries that have existed since the dawn of time, ours is the first that really will last forever. This is to make Americanism into a religion. It’s idolatry. It’s foolishness, especially considering the Romans and the Greeks felt exactly the same way yet even they were evidently wrong.

We have no guarantees, nor should we seek them. The Lord, in His wisdom, might see fit to smite America from the Earth, like Sodom and Gomorrah. Can’t say I’d blame Him. Or maybe He will lead us through this dark age to true greatness. I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know, and here’s the hopeful part: Our priority has to be our families and our souls. The fate of the country or the globe has not been put entirely, or even mostly, in our individual hands. But we have profound jurisdiction over the fate of our families, the spiritual state of our children, whether our households serve the Lord, and whether we serve the Lord. That’s our hope for the future. Right there.

We can find greatness if we strive for holiness. We have to. We are entering an age where only the great Christians will spiritually survive. It’s a scary time, but if we heed the call to holiness, we can find immense joy. That’s what I want for my children, though I fear for them quite a bit these days. I can’t imagine what this country will look like in 30 or 40 years. Maybe things will have turned around, but honestly I really doubt it. So all I can do is hold them close, try to be a better father to them and a better husband to my wife, and equip them as best I can for what comes next.

I believe strongly that real persecution awaits us down the road. I think my children will face hostility and opposition and maybe even violence on a level I haven’t yet seen. We are heading into very challenging times, but if we keep our families together and our hearts with God, we’ll be OK. No matter what happens, we’ll be OK. And, by extension, if we pour ourselves into our families and into our faith, we might be able to rescue this culture and this country from the clutches of progressive annihilation. It won’t happen quickly, and I don’t know if it will happen at all, but I know there’s a chance. America is not lost completely. Not yet.

So find strength in the Lord. Love your spouse and your children like Christ loves the Church. Be a leader in your home. Be willing to sacrifice everything for your family. Be unwilling to sacrifice your soul for anything. Confront the reality of our current state and accept that you will be asked to endure a lot of pain and persecution. Pray. Remember what America was. Remember who God is. Remember who you are and why you’re here and that you were put here in this time for a reason.

And that will be your hope and mine. It’s all the hope we need. It’s not sappy, it’s not sweet, it won’t fit in a Dove commercial, but it’s real.

The greatness of America is determined by its culture, and its culture by its people, and its people by their love for God. If we can become better, more virtuous, and train our children in the ways of the Lord, maybe many years from now — perhaps when you and I are dead and buried — America will be able to call herself a great country.

Until then, we can only pray that God gives us the strength for whatever comes. And come it will.

So be it.

God bless America.

Happy Independence Day, Mike.

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