What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
Who is more wicked: the murdering mobster who was raised in a life of crime and hardly knows otherwise, or the life-long Christian man who cheats on his wife? Is a man who was abused as a child and later in life beats his own children more wicked than the woman who has been taught all her life to love her neighbor, yet who harbors a deep animosity for others not like her?
Judged on their face, it is easy to determine which actions themselves are more wicked. Murder is worse than adultery, and abuse is clearly more offensive than animosity. But determining which of the actors are more wicked becomes more tricky, requires more context, and flirts with judgments that one should in many cases leave in God’s hand. But we’re told to judge righteous judgment; God wants us to observe and judge between contrasting choices and circumstances, in order to best determine our own.
God has said, “For of him unto whom much is given, much is required.” This passage of scripture is well known, to the point of it being easily repeated (but perhaps not sufficiently practiced) by most Americans. The verse continues, however, with a striking statement that helps us judge who in these examples may be more wicked.
“He who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.”
In other words, those who understand what is right, and then consciously do what is wrong, are more condemned than those who do something that is wrong without fully understanding the nature and consequence of that decision. Wickedness, then, is contextualized by determining the contrast between the light and truth one has received, and the extent to which he has deviated from that standard.
This helps explain why I believe that America is the most wicked nation on earth. This does not mean that other nations or peoples do not commit worse crimes than those which are committed by Americans or their government agents. No single nation has cornered the market on evil actions. It only means that America is held to a higher standard, and has significantly deviated from that standard, because of the “greater light” it was given.
Consider the inspired and well-known words in America’s founding manifesto of its guiding principles—the Declaration of Independence. Some truths were observed to be self-evident: “that all men are created equal” and “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” including (but not limited to) “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In succeeding years, attempts were made to defend these rights through a constitutional federal framework. And despite all the inconsistencies and imperfections along the way—slavery, failed currencies, unjust wars, and egregious legislation like the Alien and Sedition Acts, among many other things—the American culture, and to a large extent its political systems, were infused with the understanding of the importance of protecting these rights.
That America is no longer.
Despite it being “wisdom in the Father that [we] should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father,” and despite a historical recognition of self-evident truths, American culture and nearly all of its political systems have progressively come to the point where institutional violations of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness occur routinely and are so entrenched as to be near impossible to purge. What’s worse is that this is not simply tolerated by most—it is openly cheered and defended through twisted logic and emotional rhetoric. Forget boogie men in caves half a world away; we have become our own worst enemy.
Americans have exchanged painful truths for comforting lies. They have set aside a desire to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for the desire to feel secure at all times and from all potential phantoms. “Once we roared like lions for liberty,” said Norman Vincent Peale. “Now we bleat like sheep for security.” And as Benjamin Franklin famously quipped, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
During his first inaugural address in 1789, President George Washington said: “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”
Can the same be said of today? Are Americans bound to acknowledge little more than the results of their favorite reality TV program, or the score of the latest sports game?
Americans and the government which rules over them commit plenty of wicked acts. Infanticide occurs on an apocalyptic scale. Millions of innocent people worldwide have been prematurely sent to their death because of immoral and offensive warfare—blood on the hands of Americans once dedicated to life and liberty. Consumerism has become a plague, and Americans purchase things they do not need with money they do not have. The government prints and borrows without abandon, enslaving future generations not yet born. People’s privacy is routinely and systematically violated. The standard of morality has sunk below anything worthy of measuring, and pornography and adultery have become as common as bread and butter. And Americans have come to demand a government that takes care of them for themselves, unwilling to assume personal responsibility.
This list, obviously, could be quite lengthy. And a list compiled for other people and the governments in which they live may have better or worse things. But America is different. Its cultural tradition and political history set a higher standard against which we are to be judged. 25 years ago, Ezra Taft Benson stated that “We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: ‘Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground.'” Americans and their governments have had many successes and positive developments in the past two and a half decades, to be certain, but a significant and shocking number of wicked actions are likewise laid at our feet since this statement was made. If we were “fast approaching” this point then, where are we now?
I do not recognize America when its government presumes the authority to kill Americans without any pretense of trial or due process; when the government bans naturally-occurring plants, raw milk, soda, and a lengthy list of other ingestible items; when it incarcerates per capita far more of its citizens than any other nation on earth, most of them non-violent non-criminals; when it kills innocent people on a daily basis around the world, inciting rebellion and violating life and liberty in the very name of “spreading” it. And I do not recognize Americans when they cheer with thunderous applause their degrading morality, deviation from liberty, and dependence upon an ever-increasing tyrannical state.
America is the most wicked nation on earth not because there exists more evil here than elsewhere, but because we have collectively sinned against the greater light. We have, as a society, tolerated a government which has become far worse than the one against which our forefathers rebelled.
As with an individual committing a wicked act, America stands in need of swift and sincere repentance. But like wicked societies of old, Americans generally despise and denigrate those in their midst who rebuke their wickedness and call them to repentance. Consider the political defeat of Ron Paul, who has been prescribing the proper antidode for this disease for decades. Most Americans simply refuse to listen, and many are openly hostile to the slightest of suggestions that we alter course and correct bad behavior.
In light of all of this, it appears that America is unfortunately ripe for destruction. It has happened to previous societies; why would we think ourselves exempt from this natural trend?