Jul 042013 7 Responses

Why I Can’t Say, “America’s Going to Hell in a Handbasket”

On Sunday, during a live Q&A, I was asked the following question: “With all the recent news stories, it seems like things (in America) are getting worse. Is it getting worse or it it just more media access we have?” Here is my answer:

There are two reasons I can’t say, “America’s going to hell in a hand basket.”

The first reason is: it’s hard to judge the moral condition of a whole nation.

On one hand, it would be easy to say America is in moral decline.

  • There is a growing passivity toward God.
  • Church attendance is declining.
  • We do not protect life in its most fragile forms—the pre-born or the aging.
  • We do not uphold a New Testament definition of marriage.
  • We are living well beyond our means as individuals and as a country creating massive debt.

On the other hand, it would be easy to say America is in much better moral shape than in the past.

  • There is increased freedom and opportunity for people with physical disabilities.
  • We no longer institutionalize those with mental disabilities.
  • There is equal access and opportunity for people no matter their race or sex.
  • There has been a dramatic decrease in sexual and physical abuse.
  • No longer is it acceptable to bully, abuse, or intimidate someone based on their beliefs or lifestyle.

In some ways we are better and in some ways we are worse.

The questioner made an important observation regarding media coverage. We are so much more aware of what is taking place today than any culture before us that bad news nearly overwhelms us.

  • Does it surprise you that you are half as likely to be a victim of violent crime today compared to 20 years ago? It’s hard to imagine with all the images of crime we see on television, but crime has taken a dramatic decline.
  • A few decades ago people didn’t talk about sexual abuse even though it was rampant. By bringing it into the light, cases have dramatically declined even though everyone is far more aware of the issue.
  • Divorce rates have risen, but they have risen in part because women in abusive relationships now have the freedom to leave their spouses where as in decades past they would have had to silently suffer while staying married.

There are many issues at play regarding America’s moral standing.

Chances are, your opinion about America’s morality is more determined by race, gender, age, political affiliation and income than about understanding of Biblical morality.

As a pastor, I can’t say that America is in a good place or headed in a positive direction morally.

But I also can’t say that America is coming from a good moral direction. At which point in our history would we claim moral superiority?

  • When we were killing women as we called them witches?
  • When we were enslaving others?
  • When we were killing political opponents because we disagreed with them?
  • When we were killing children in the womb?

As a kid growing up in the 1980’s, I often heard of the greatness of the 1950’s.

But I always wondered, if the 1950’s were so great, how did the 1960’s happen?

The truth is: America has always gotten a lot right and a lot wrong. Just as soon as we correct one of the wrongs and make it right, we also take one of the rights and make it wrong.

It’s the nature of our country because it is the nature of humanity.

No doubt things could be better.

No doubt things could be worse.

But be careful about making broad moral declarations regarding the state of morality in our country.

Rarely are we able to properly diagnosis ourselves, much less others.

My friend Jeff Jones, pastor of Grace Community Church, says we are quick to point out moral issues which don’t require us to change.

The gossip points to the glutton; the glutton points to gullible; and the gullible points to the gossip.

When was the last time a racist every worried about the moral condition of our country because of racism?

When was the last time a liar worried about the moral condition of our country because of the lack of truth?

When was the last time anyone ever worried about the moral condition of our country because of something they struggled with?

We tend to determine the moral state of others, or our country, based on the issues with which we do not struggle.

We do so because it requires no change, no repentance, and no confession from us.

It makes us feel good, but it doesn’t change anything and it’s probably only partially true.

What is the moral state of America? It’s good in some ways and bad in others. It’s much the same as the condition of my own heart.

Thankfully my eternity is not determined by what I do, but by what God has done for me in Christ.


There are two reasons why I can’t say, “America’s going to hell in a hand basket.”

1. It’s hard to correctly judge the moral conditions of others because we are blinded by our own sin.

2. I’m not really sure what a hand basket is and if things in it travel fast or slow.

I love our country. I’m concerned for our country. But I can’t condemn her to hell because I’m deeply aware of my own sinfulness. All I can do is repent, love, and hope God gives others the grace which he has lavished upon me.


7 Responses to Why I Can’t Say, “America’s Going to Hell in a Handbasket”
  1. Mary Smith Reply

    Good Article!

  2. Caleb Reply

    Kevin, I think that my views on this are probably influenced by some of the factors you mentioned; however, I think they are also influenced by my own observation and view of myself. It seems I often have the tendency to relax my faith when things are going good, or I think they are, and that I grow closer to God when things don’t seem that fun.

    Now this is a generalization in some regards but it seems God even knows this and takes advantage of this idea – which trying to read exactly how God is working in our lives can be a difficult thing. This idea also seems to be reflected in the OT history of Israel.

    Anyway, I see this very thing going on in our country. It seems like about every century some enormous tragedy takes place in our country. It seems that the past Christian leaders and movements I respect the most and who leave the greatest legacy come out of those periods. Smaller national tragedies do occur, and out of them other leaders and movements seem to grow. It seems there are larger and smaller cycles.

    I would add that I see it as possible that certain elements get better while others get worse. I agree with what you said about the fifties and sixties; however, I would add that although the sixties seemed to be crazy in many ways, it was also the decade that seemed to send us in some very good directions in racial relations.

    This idea used to depress me some because I feared as things become more comfortable, we would spiral downward spiritually until some tragedy wakes us up. But I realize that no matter what the world around me is doing I can rest in Him. And not matter what those around me are doing I can depend on him fully to grow my faith and make me stronger in heart and character.

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  5. James Russell Reply

    There are Christians in the United States but that does not automatically mean that the United States is a Christian Nation. Should we even be worrying about this on any account. Jesus’s Great Commission was that we start with the local areas and then eventually reach out to the world. I smh when I hear the words that we need bring back God to America. We need to bring people back to God not a whole Nation!

  6. R. Eagleton Reply

    This is all a perspective from a religious slant. Religion is a man-made construct (for either control of others or self-soothing in a world of unknowns) so using it as a measure of morality is an ineffective measure of any morality/ethics. Dogma clouds any real visions of Truth.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I appreciate you capitalizing Truth. Seems like we do agree that absolute truth exists.

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