Yesterday it came to my attention that Dr. Suess, you know the guy who gave us Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat, is now on the list of authors who created books that are too dangerous for children to read. Apparently some view some of his books as racist, reinforcing stereotypes that are detrimental to our social well-being. Personally, I never cared much for his work, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, just sayin’. Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel was a man of his time (born 1904) and it seems that some of his books reflected something less than modern cultural sensitivity, hence the ban on reading them. I am more amused than alarmed by this development, convinced that America will survive.
But, will we survive the rejection of Biblical Christianity? That is a serious question!
Americans are conflicted about religion for many reasons. Too many scandals have disillusioned millions. A perceived conflict between science and faith has driven a wedge, too. Some churches have chosen to retreat into the comfort of tradition, failing to focus on the timeless message of the Gospel. This has led to the conclusion that Christianity is a relic of yesterday, not to be taken too seriously. Others have abandoned the Bible’s truth replacing the transforming Gospel of Christ with social activism based on contemporary moral values. As a result of the loss of a vital Christ-centered faith many, particularly the young, have just walked away.
What concerns me most is not the preservation of the institutions of the Church, but the loss of her truth and the consequence for the world. Becoming a purely secular nation is a certain route to a cruel culture in which the power of the elites is unrestrained and the rights of the poor and weak are trampled underfoot. How quickly the awful results of Russia’s Marxist atheism and Germany’s National Socialism are forgotten.
As a society, what we believe about God and ourselves has real consequence. 500 years ago, a 34 year-old priest named Martin Luther realized that the Church was corrupt to the core. He re-examined the Scripture and renewed the understanding that we all matter to God, that we can individually experience the power of the Spirit, that ‘the just will live by faith!’ His protests sparked a reformation that has implications for all aspects of life even five centuries later.
Harold Berman of Emory University writes that “the key to the renewal of law in the West from the sixteenth century on was the Protestant concept of the power of the individual, by God’s grace, to change nature and to create new social relations through the exercise of his will. The Protestant concept of the individual became central to the development of the modern law of property and contract….” In short, America was born out of the religious ideas of the Reformation that empowered individuals who are known and loved by God. The followers of John Calvin, in the 17th century, enumerated the theology on which rests the ideals of American civil rights and liberties including freedom of speech, press, and religion.
We are living in a time of great moral, ethical, and spiritual confusion; a result of the abandonment of vital faith. Christianity is part of the polarization of America. Deep thoughtful conversations are replaced with shouting matches from the fringe. Jesus is revered by some and hated by others. The faith is loved as liberating by the devout and despised as a perceived tool of oppression by opponents.
In these turbulent times, I am praying for the persistent quiet witness of Christians to grow, not from public rallies and political actions groups, but in care for the least, advocacy for those without access to power, in personal holiness, and commitment to strengthening the foundations of family.
My prayer is for us, Christians, to experience a personal renewal of faith. I am not longing for the emotionalism that too often passes for spiritual renewal. My heart and mind yearn for a deep, well-thought faith, grounded in the principles of Holy Scripture, from which grows godliness that nurtures life. I pray for God to make Himself real and present in me. In the knowledge of God’s justice and love of Christ there is a real restraint on the pursuit of selfish gain and pleasure. When we know that we are eternal beings, created for His glory, we understand that we will each give account for the way we conduct our lives to an omniscient God.
To be clear, I have no desire to see America become a nation in which the church is wedded to the State. That union produces another kind of tyranny. My prayer is that we will become Christians whose deeply held convictions about God and His Christ will shape our social contract, influencing our personal choices, making us good people who form a better government that includes ‘liberty and justice for all.’
The word from the Word is a reminder of the high and holy calling the Lord has given to us. May this word challenge and comfort, giving hope that steadies the faithful.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—
he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.”
(Psalm 33:12-22, NIV)
The Church’s One Foundation
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the word.
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.
Elect from ev’ry nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses;
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With ev’ry grace endued.
‘Mid toil and tribulation
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till with the vision glorious
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious,
Shall be the Church at rest.
Wesley, Samuel S. © Public Domain