“Reading departures; I’m in some big airport; reminds me of some places I’ve been . . .” So goes the line in an old Jimmy Buffet song. In the same way, I get nostalgic when I think of all the places I have been, the people I have met, churches where I have preached, stories I have heard, food I have eaten, non-food I have eaten, and homes I have lived in. In Jimmy Buffet’s song, he sings that the memory of all those places, “. . . makes me want to go back again.” Me, too.
I remember very fondly a country where I lived once. Of course, while memories are never faithful to entire historical reality, certain facts are undeniable. One of the best things about that place was that it mattered what you believed—especially about God, so much so, that even political candidates made sure that voters understood where they stood on matters of faith and their religious convictions. Laws that prohibited certain kinds of businesses from opening on Sundays were enforced… or at least enforced in theory. In actual practice, no one needed to enforce them because the business owners were in church.
Sins and lifestyles that are “culturally appropriate” in our land today—homosexuality, drug addiction, disposable marriages—were not even mentioned in polite society there. If someone fell into such sins, they were only mentioned in hushed tones among the neighbors, who expressed genuine pity for all the ones the tragedy affected. In that country, when kids got into serious trouble at school, the principal called their parents and their pastor in the same hour. What you believed truly mattered in all of life.
I remember that the President of that country went to church—quite publicly, in fact. Periodically, especially when the country faced crises, key religious leaders were brought in to meet with the President for biblical and spiritual counsel. The country took great comfort in the knowledge that their wisdom was sought and valued. The President could call a national day of prayer and fasting without a full-scale debate in the press about why it was legitimate for a political leader to do so.
I started to miss that country recently when I read that Chile has just declared Reformation Day a national holiday. The new Chilean holiday is officially known as “Dia Nacional de las Iglesias Evangélicas y Protestantes,” or “National Day of Evangelical and Protestant Churches” and will be celebrated on October 31. How amazing is that?! And how sad is it that citizens of the United States of America find it amazing? In some countries where I have been, it is still illegal to get a divorce or an abortion. I know, I know, that is way over the top, right? I mean, honestly. However, the beliefs of the citizens in these countries have influenced their laws profoundly and unapologetically. Amazingly, they do not have a state church nor have they slipped into the cracks of destruction and doom that we are told such a connection will ensure.
I miss that country where the citizens genuinely and unashamedly prayed in public, where the President regularly asked, assured that all were agreeing with him, “God bless America.” Please God. Again.