I am having an interesting discussion on one of my FaceBook groups regarding the question of national sin and if God does judge nations for their collective sin. This post comes in the middle of my discussion with the other writer, so it might seem at first disjointed. I believe you will quickly be able to understand his point, and my point.
First, let me clarify what I am about to post. I do not presume to know what God is doing at any given time, or in any given situation. However, we can know some things about God and how He responds to humanity based on the Biblical text. For as long as I have been a Christian I have followed this axiom: “When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise.”
Perhaps the clearest examples in Scripture of God’s eventual response to national sin (or, in the case of Revelation, global sin), is found in the Passover account in Exodus. The ten plagues, culminating with the death of the first born in Egypt, fell upon all Egyptians, men, women, children, babies, we are told, because of Pharaoh’s arrogance, his sin and rebellion (e.g. his derisive comment, “Who is the Lord that I should let the people go?” (see Exodus 5:2). Certainly the entire nation was not 100% guilty and worthy of such devastation (likely there were many who did not want to lose their free labor), but the judgment of God fell upon the entire nation, and so all suffered as a result.
Then there are Israel’s two captivities: The northern kingdom in 722 BC to Assyria and the southern kingdom to Babylon in 605 BC, 597 BC, and 586 (my dates may be a little off here. I am typing from memory). The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Habakkuk, and Joel (to name only five of the nearly dozen others) warned the nation would happen because of their national sins (e.g. Isaiah 5:3-13ff; chapters 28-29; Jeremiah 7-8, 15-17 (actually, chapters 2-38 is one long mournful plea and warning from God about their impending judgment); Ezekiel chapters 4-24 . . . I could go on to cite chapters in Amos, etc, but I think you get the point. God has always meted out judgment on Nations for continual national sins. (Psalm 106:6-43 is a pretty good synopsis of how the Biblical writer viewed God’s response to Israel’s sin)
And then there are those passages in the NT which also warn nations (and the globe) about God’s judgment of arrogant sin. For example, Luke 10:10-15, Romans 11:1-23, 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12, and Jude 5-15. And then, of course, there is the entire book of Revelation. The Lord’s warning to the seven churches in chapters 2-3 speak specifically to Christian churches who lose their first love, or become lukewarm, or tolerate sin, and so on through the two chapters. And then beginning with chapter 4 of Revelation until the 18th chapter, the seals, trumpets, and bowls unleash enormous disasters on the world and those who would not “repent of their murders, nor their sorceries, nor their thefts” (9:21).
I skipped over God’s judgment on personal sin, but I might as well mention only two examples here: Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 is one. The text says it was the Holy Spirit who took their lives. Herod (Agrippa I) in Acts 12:23 is another. Then there are the multiple warnings in the epistles such as 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9; Galatians 6:7-8; 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, Roman 3:23, and 6:23, and dozens of similar NT passages.
St. Paul, in referencing the Old Testament writings, said this in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 - Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
The evidence, to me at least, in the OT (as well as the NT) is overwhelming in its demonstration that God does judge personal and national sin.
Human nature being as it is, history has proven too many times that we typically refuse to do right unless there is fear of punishment. How many times have drivers on the highway slowed down when a patrol car was traveling in the next lane? That’s a simple example, but the principle is I think valid. Deuteronomy 28 is a good example of how God threatens judgment to ensure obedience. And then we read a few chapters later (chapter 30): This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Would to God! that the Church would accept even the possibility that the massive destructions we are slowly witnessing across our land might be the hand of God sent to warn us in the Church, as well as those outside the Church, that we better mend our ways or worse will happen to us. Would to God! that our leadership might be as Daniel and Nehemiah, who believed the earlier prophets (e.g. Daniel 9:23 with Jeremiah 25:11) and recognized God’s hand in Babylon’s invasion of Israel and subsequent pillaging of the land and the people. They then set about to pray, to confess their national sin to God, and seek His deliverance. You can read the prayers of both men in Daniel 9 and Nehemiah 9. The prayers would make a good template for America. I have to wonder what would happen to America if our Church and national leaders fell on their faces before God, as those two men did, and confessed likewise.
You will remember God’s promise to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” But I am reminded of God’s comment to the prophet Hosea about the religious leadership of his day (4:6): “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
I know I have written a lot in response, but I did so because I wanted to provide you the Scriptural context of my question regarding 9-11. I am sure we are still in disagreement, but since our Catholic faith is rooted and grounded in Scripture and Sacred Tradition, I like to look at things in that context.