The Day of America’s Fall

In Psalm 137:7, the psalmist writes, “Remember, O Lord, the Edomites, the day of Jerusalem’s fall.” The words are those of Israelites who have been cast out of their homeland; they sit on the bank of a river in Babylon and mourn their exile from Jerusalem. They remember how things “used to be” in Jerusalem, and how things are now that they have been captured by the Babylonians. They are in shock. They were God’s people, but God, tired of the people’s constant rejection of God’s rules and laws, used the Babylonians, their enemies, to bring them down.

The Israelites are angry. They plea to God to “remember the Edomites,” who joined the Babylonians in the attack on Jerusalem. The Edomites had been vicious, saying to their soldiers to “tear it down,” meaning Jerusalem. In the psalm, the beleaguered Israelites, in essence, curse the Babylonians, and vow vengeance, “Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us!”  The psalm concludes with the Israelites saying, “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock.”

They are angry and hurt and lost; they had a good thing in Jerusalem, they now realize, as they sit under the rule of foreigners who laugh at them and beg them to “sing one of the songs of Zion.” They balk, insulted, one might guess, and ask, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

In 2001, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, then the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, preached a sermon entitled, “The Day of Jerusalem’s Fall,” quoting this psalm and prophesying that America was in trouble. It was shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11. The nation was reeling and angry; Wright, the prophetic preacher, recalled in the sermon how those who had gone against the will of God had been forced into exile …by God.

Nebuchadnezzar II was the king of Babylon in 597 BCE and he fought against the Pharaoh Necho in the Battle of Carchemish and then went on to invade Judah. The king of Judah at the time, Jehoiakim, resisted Nebuchadnezzar but lost. Jerusalem fell, and the Israelites mourned the loss of all they had ever known and treasured.

Today the president of this nation sided with a modern-day Babylonian king, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and on international television, put his own country down in obeisance to one of America’s arch enemies. It was stunning to watch. Today we watched the “day of America’s fall.”

It has been coming for some time, though nobody could have predicted that the man elected to be the president of this nation would hand it over to Russia. It has been shocking to watch the president cow-tow to Putin, putting this country’s systems down and insulting its institutions, and it has been noticeable that this president, who has put down almost everyone in this government, has not said one negative word about Putin.

Not even today.

This president has put the country he swore to protect – and its institutions and constitution – in real jeopardy, leaving the way clear for our present-day Babylonians – aka Russia, to have its way.

He has not done this alone. The Republican-led House and Senate have been partners in the undoing of America. The rabid fear of the browning of America, along with other social changes that Conservatives have hated, has been paralyzing even as it has been motivating for these primarily white men to resort to base instincts which have led them to make moves and create policies that will have repercussions for generations. They are afraid to stand up to him and to oppose him, a fear which has encouraged him to do what he did today: give the America we have known since its birth – to an arch-enemy.

The American democracy was far from perfect, but it was better than many governments. This country was known, even in somewhat mythical proportions, as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” People had confidence in what America claimed to be.

Not anymore.

The world has watched this president destroy the progress that has been made over five decades; it has watched as the president has trashed allies and praised and supported autocrats. Already, so much damage has been done that it will take at least a generation to repair what has been destroyed – if, in fact, it can be repaired.

Americans have not believed that its democracy could be destroyed. We have been like Germans, who when Hitler was grabbing power, never believed it would get as bad as it did. The truth is, in most countries where democracies die, the leaders of the destruction have been voted into office by the people.

When Jeremiah Wright preached that infamous sermon in 2001, he was bombarded by critics who called him everything from racist to anti-American. He preached that America was being paid back and would be paid back for what it had done over the years in its quest for power, and he reminded listeners of some of America’s history.

It was not pretty.

In the name of God, he preached that we should be reminded that God sees what both individuals and countries do and that there is a price to pay when God’s people stray from God’s requirements.

God directed the fall of Jerusalem.

And God is in this, the day of America’s fall. We, too, may find ourselves looking back at what we had, taunted and insulted, asked to “sing a song of Zion,” and we, like the over-confident Israelites, may find our voices quieted, our spirits wounded, because we did not believe that this country would ever see the day when its president threw it under the bus.

(To listen to Wright’s sermon, visit (

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