When I first heard Donald Trump use the phrase “Make America Great Again” during his 2016 presidential campaign, I had mixed feelings.
Yes, I strongly love my nation. I consider the United States of America one of the greatest nations in world history.
I’ll explain why in a moment.
On the other hand, a weakened Church, vast social demise, and the onslaught of secular forces–bent on destroying our Judeo-Christian heritage–have greatly eroded our once great nation.
Donald Trump ran on MAGA and won.
What does “Make America Great Again” really mean?
Make America Great Again
On August 16, 2018, New York governor Andrew Cuomo caused a stir by stating that “America was never that great.” His careless remarks raised eyebrows and led to a “clarification” a few days later.
Former attorney general Eric Holder was even more bold in a recent MSNBC interview on April 2, 2019 in which he proclaimed without apology:
“America has never been great.”
“Holder’s comment came in response to a question from host Ari Melber about how it was possible to call America a ‘leader as a democracy’ during the 1800s when women and African-Americans could not vote.”
“‘When I hear these things about ‘Let’s make America great again,’ I think to myself: ‘Exactly when did you think America was great?’ Holder said, in reference to the President Donald Trump’s slogan.”
“Holder then pointed to instances in the United State’s past when he said America was not great.”
“‘It certainly wasn’t when people were enslaved,'” he said. ‘It certainly wasn’t when women didn’t have the right to vote. It certainly wasn’t when the LGBT community was denied the rights to which it was entitled.'”
“‘It takes us back to, I think, an American past that never really in fact existed with this notion of greatness,’ Holder said. ‘America has done superb things, has done great things, and it has been a leader in a whole range of things, but we are always a work in progress.'”
Holder’s comments are a mixed bag. He says we were never great, then talks about America doing some great things. He mentions slavery and women’s suffrage, but fails to note that these rights were never universal until biblical principles produced them in Western civilization.
And LGBT rights as progress? The vast majority of the world still view sex outside of a man/woman in marriage as sin.
Yet, Cuomo and Holder both want us to know that America was never great.
Two generations ago, only a tiny minority of people would have argued against American greatness–despite our obvious transgressions. All people and societies are fallen, and human sin rears its ugly head in the lives of nations as well as individuals.
For example, though most nations tolerated or condoned slavery throughout history, America fought a war to eliminate it. We then slogged through another century to bring about full human equality for African-Americans.
That episode wasn’t “great” but produced a good results.
We also failed to treat indigenous Indian tribes with justice and empathy. Yet, human rights improved out of that struggle because some New World tribes practiced the evil of human sacrifice–up to 20,000 people a day–and other atrocities. Those barbaric rituals don’t exist today (except through abortion).
Yes, we mistreated the Indians–but some acted far worse to their own people. Today, Native Americans share the blessings of freedom we enjoy.
All of us can point to mistakes and sins in our own personal/national lives that fail to rise to the level of greatness.
Welcome to the human race.
But does greatness mean perfection, or a lack of serious mistakes? If that’s true, then no human being ever attained greatness, and certainly no national entity. Yet, we all consider some people and nations great–at least, greater than others.
So, what is the standard for greatness? Let’s allow the only truly perfect being in the universe–God–educate us on the concept of greatness.
I ran across this truth in my daily devotions this week from Deuteronomy 26:16-19:
“Today the Lord your God has commanded you to obey all these laws and regulations. You must commit yourself to them without reservation. You have declared today that the Lord is your God. You have promised to obey his laws, commands and regulations by walking in His ways and doing everything He tells you. The Lord has declared today that you are His people, His own special treasure, just as He promised, and that you must obey all His commands. And if you do, he will make you greater than any other nation.”
There you have it.
Greatness comes through obedience to God.
These words were given to the nation of Israel in Moses’ time. God imparted to the Hebrew nation the Ten Commandments and many applications of His ways for use in their civil society. The promise was:
“If you DO THEM (God) will make you greater than any other nation.”
Obey his principles and ways in the world.
A human life is great to the degree he or she obeys God–living a holy, righteous, just, loving, and compassionate life.
Thus, many human lives have attained greatness (though not perfection) through their overall obedience to God.
Let’s list a few famous examples:
- Abraham, the man of faith, who obeyed God in traveling to the Promised Land despite many tests and problems.
- Moses led over 2 million people out of slavery in Egypt though he killed a man and lived in exile for forty years.
- David, despite being a murderer and adulterer, became Israel’s greatest king due to his passionate worship, heart integrity, leadership skills and obedience to Yahweh.
- Peter rose to greatness as the pillar of the Early Church even though he denied His Savior.
- John Newton became a great pastor and composer of “Amazing Grace” after repenting of slave trading.
- And finally, a current example–Abby Johnson–oversaw 20,000 abortions at a Texas Planned Parenthood facility before an ultrasound changed her life. She now works as a “great” pro-life crusader and the inspiration for the movie Unplanned.
Greatness is not based on sinlessness, but overall obedience in our lives. Some people are greater than others because they live out more of God’s truth than others do.
It’s that simple.
Same with nations. Israel enjoyed numerous “seasons” of obedience to God, making her great compared to others.
Other nations in history have shown varying degrees of greatness in their laws, cultures, human rights, and achievements that reflected God’s holiness and righteousness in the world.
America, at her zenith, reached a pinnacle of “greatness” in world history due to:
- Spirituals revivals that formed the character of the American people (1730’s, early 1800’s, 1850’s etc).
- Strong families based on biblical order and relationships.
- A unique form of government “by the People” that came directly out of the Bible (Isaiah 33:22).
- A Constitution which enshrined God-given human rights (of which the most quoted source came from the book of Deuteronomy).
- The rule of law, presumption of innocence, due process, and “liberty and justice for all.” (Many modern nations still don’t practice those principles)
- Free enterprise capitalism bringing invention, innovation equal opportunity and prosperity.
- Victories in two World Wars and protection against tyranny all over the world.
- Giving leadership to world evangelism with more missionaries sent and monies given to share God’s salvation.
Compared to other nations, and firmly based “In God We Trust,” America rose to greatness by obedience to biblical principles rarely seen in human history–as a nation.
To “Make America Great Again” we must return to the pathway of obedience to God’s ways in our families, legal system, social lives and institutions.
Faith-filled obedience is the key to greatness.
That’s the true meaning of MAGA.
May God revive it again.