Does God punish nations?
Some religious people would say yes. The 9/11 Attacks, according to some Christians, was God's punishment for sexual immorality in America. According to some Muslims, America is the Great Satan and had it coming.
But even taking away the theology, there is some merit in the idea. If we define "God" impersonally as the entity from which the universe comes forth, who makes itself known through recognizable patterns which human reason calls natural laws, then it is arguable that, yes, God does punish nations.
Let's put it this way: if you jump off a cliff, then God "punishes" you by causing you to plunge to your death. For God is the author of the laws of the universe, including the law of gravity. Decades of filling the body with toxins means that God will "punish" you with disease. Similar causes have similar effects, because that is how the universe works.
In the same way, God punishes nations. God inflicts mass misery. God destroys governments. That is, God brings about the consequences to the choices politicians and the people make.
For instance, after modern banking developed, in which banks would lend out more in paper than they had in gold and silver deposits, God would sometimes punish the nation for tolerating this systematic fraud with bank runs and panics. When the bankers got together to create a monopoly and pushed the Federal Reserve Act through Congress, God punished the nation with a needless war (World War I), a new federal police state (to enforce Prohibition) and a Great Depression which ended after 12 years only by creating a conscript army that sacrificed 400,000 young men.
So God does punish nations. Does God "bless" nations as well?
Think of your own experience. When you refrain from self-destructive ways, put your ego aside, and forgive others who have wronged you, aren't you better off? In the sense that you are, we could say it is God "blessing" you for the same cause-and-effect reasons God "punishes" people. You start doing good things instead of bad, and it comes back to reward you. Indeed, the keys are repentance and forgiveness. Repent of your own wrongdoing even if others don't forgive you, and forgive others even if they don't repent. It's the only ways to start off with a psychological "clean slate" and mitigate the negative effects of previous negative causes.
The question is, can a nation repent?
Not directly. Perhaps the best people can do collectively is renounce failing policies and bring in leaders promising something new. But even this is a gamble. The new leaders may not be as committed as it first appears to the changes they promised. They may, indeed, do the opposite of what they promised, as Franklin Roosevelt did in 1933. According to economic laws, his New Deal couldn't work, and it didn't work, yet the people re-elected him again and again. They were comforted by the fact that somebody outside of themselves was at least trying to be responsible for their welfare, no matter how disastrous the consequences.
Many Americans have been yearning for a leader like him. I suppose they are gluttons for punishment.
Here's how it's gone since Roosevelt: Eisenhower was to bring relief from Truman's coarseness and misguided Korean conflict. Kennedy was to bring hope after Eisenhower's dullness, but the dream died midway through his first term. Nixon was to save us from Johnson's arrogance and misguided Vietnam conflict. Nixon was done in by corruption, and Carter was to bring new idealism in the face of Ford's weakness. Reagan was to revive America after Carter's incompetence. Bush I was to make America "kindler, gentler" than Reagan. Clinton was to "feel our pain" after Bush's neglect. Bush II was to "change the tone in Washington" after Clinton. Obama is to bring "change" after Bush's disastrous record.
Presidential changes are like the woman who makes poor choices in husbands. The first one drinks and neglects her. The second husband sleeps around. The third beats her. Finally, she finds a husband who seems kind and decent, but who gambles. Nevertheless, she's convinced "this time it's different!"
Well, yes, it is different, but the new man will not bring her the security and happiness she yearns for. It is her own thinking that must change before God brings the right man into her life.
As to the American people, I believe they need the President to guide and lead them like a fish needs a bicycle. For the first time in ages, they are making sensible, money-saving decisions. Obama will do nothing but inflate the money supply and devalue the money they're saving.
But many Americans are saying, "Give Obama a chance!" The fact is that, despite his smooth talk, he has never promised anything other than more government debt and perpetual war. While Bush II's poll numbers were at record lows, Obama voted to give him sweeping new powers of surveillance and hundreds of billions of discretionary spending in the Big Bailout. The only conceivable reason Obama would commit these crimes against the Constitution is that he wanted these powers for himself.
There is nothing in American attitudes or voting patterns to suggest that their support of Obama is anything other than a desire for a charismatic leader to bail out the economy through government spending. In other words, they want more of what they have already received for the past 80 years. This is not repentance. There is nothing to suggest that Obama appealed to our "better natures" or "higher selves."
It is more likely that, instead of God "saving us" or "blessing us" through Obama, God will punish us.
As the Rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof said, "May God bless and keep the Czar ... far away from us!" It is time Americans said the same prayer for their President.