WASHINGTON (BP)–American Christians will one day not recognize their country if a movement of God that begins with a revival among His people does not occur, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land told a pastors briefing in the nation’s capital.
“If we don’t have a revival that becomes an awakening and ripens into a reformation, many of us — if we live out our full lives — are going to walk the streets of our neighborhood, drive the roads of our city and our state, and, oh, we’ll recognize the place names, but the America we’ve known will be gone,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “We’ll be strangers in our own land….”
Land spoke at the annual Watchmen on the Wall pastors briefing sponsored by Family Research Council and attended by more than 500 people.
He spoke on 2 Chronicles 7:14, which says, “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
“All great movements of God,” Land said, “start with God’s people getting right with God.
“And the future of America is being decided in Christians’ hearts, in couples’ homes and in churches all across this country every day,” Land said. “Are we going to respond by humbling ourselves and praying and turning from wickedness and sin in our lives?”
The lifestyles of professing Christians look too much like those of non-Christians, Land said. The divorce rate among Baptists is like that among the American culture at large, he said.
“The reason is too many Baptists have been quoting the Bible by the yard and living it by the inch,” he said.
The failures to keep their marriage vows and to address the abortion issue are two ways professing Christians have sinned, Land said. He also cited illegitimacy and fatherless homes as two ills that have plagued America in the last 50 years.
“When it comes to illegitimacy, we’ve gone from 5 percent illegitimacy to 41 percent illegitimacy,” Land said.
“Fifty-five percent [of American children] have lost their fathers in the home by their 6th birthday — when we know that this is a catastrophe for children,” he said. “We’ve conducted a 35- to 40-year experiment in this country on whether or not fathers are optional accessories in the rearing of children. And the answer is, ‘They are not.’
“Boys who don’t have their fathers in the home between 12 and 22 [years of age] are 300 times as likely to get in trouble with the law as boys who have their fathers in the home…. The single most determinative factor of whether a boy is going to get in trouble with the law is whether or not he has his father in the home,” Land said.
A Duke University study “found that girls who lose their fathers in the home before their 6th birthday are five times as likely to become sexually active before they’re 17,” he said.
“And yet we continue to just abandon our children, abandon our responsibilities, abandon the promises we made to our God and to our spouses and walk away in sexual rebellion as the devil cackles,” Land said. “God’s not going to bless that kind of sin. He’s simply not going to do it.”
He is not pessimistic, Land told the pastors May 28.
“Now I believe God has blessed America in manifold ways, but I’ve never seen a heal-the-land kind of blessing,” he said. “I’d love to see that before I die. And it has to start with a revival.”
Change will come from outside the U.S. capital, however, Land said.
Washington “has been, is and always will be a caboose,” he said. “It’s never been, and it never will be, a locomotive. Washington is what sociologists call a lagging social indicator. When the country changes, Washington will change. Washington’s not going to change the country. We’re going to change Washington.”
Recalling Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, Land told the gathering, “I believe if you look with the eye of faith, and you listen, listen with the ear of hope, you can see a long-slumbering giant called the people of God, and they’re awakening from their slumber, they’re coming to themselves and, like the prodigal, they’re determined they’re going home to their Father and they’re going to take their country with them.”
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.