LIGHT IN THE DUSK OF AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY
Hesitantly, I finally watched “Les Miserables” with my wife. Besides the love story, the failed revolution, the journey of guilt and forgiveness, poverty, shame, vice, and the struggle of the typical French citizen in the mid-19th century, there was a common thread presented in this play turned into box office success. The common thread clearly evident in songs, prayers, expressions and dreams of those characters and that culture was the foundation that God was involved in their center of their lives and their hopes and dreams, so I found the movie somewhat edifying. Move now to early 21st century America. In reality, the miseries of life haven’t changed that much, what has changed is that God is neither the center of American life and He is the not center of many individual lives including those who claim to be Christians. Label it whatever; “Moral Therapeutic Deism, Post Modernism, Nihilism, Relativism,” whatever! What do these all really mean? “I’m really a functioning agnostic, ‘I believe in God, but God and His Word has little if anything to do with my life and the cross of Christ means little to me!’” To be precise, in a nutshell God is redefined to assist me in my selfish ambition and there’s little room for His Word in my life. That is mainly why many define the church and our society at the Dusk of American Christianity. This is evidenced in lower church attendance, declining seminary and Christian college attendance, Biblical illiteracy, a change in the American vocabulary, and polls showing virtually no difference between how a Christian and an unbeliever lives or views life and ethics. In the dusk of American Christianity, we’ve been lead to believe that we can have faith as long as its kept out of the public realm and that our will and feelings determine reality over and above Scripture. To summarize, one might say they believe, but The God of Scripture is eclipsed in the shine of one’s opinions and in the shadows of ignorance.
The Parkland High School shooting on Ash Wednesday led to grief and pain and stirred the national debate about what we can do over and above, “our thoughts and prayers are with you” to protect students is at the center of American society. Don’t misinterpret me I’m not here to give you my wisdom on gun violence and steps to keep our children safe from such tragedies. God’s Word and your Godly conscience will guide you in your vocation as Godly citizens to do what is best. What I will say is that in the dusk of American Christianity, darkness and confusion will become more of the norm. My seminary professor, Dr. Muller was spot on with his statement, “The more our society moves away from God, the more bizarre it becomes.” In a society where life is mostly seen as meaningless and purpose in seen in selfish ambition, as one’s rights become the norm in a culture without guiding principles, where violence is glorified on large and small screens, we shouldn’t be surprised in the darkness that follows. C.S. Lewis states it clearly, “For the engines of lives to run effectively it needs the fuel of God’s Word and Wisdom to run properly.” As the sun sets on what was once a clearly defined narrative that God blesses and guides us, is now in a free fall of what defines us & the loss of the norms and values that shaped us.
Yet God still speaks and Christ is still Lord! The Church still scatters the seed of God’s Word and the Word does still bear fruit. Even though the Church has moved to the outer boundaries of the culture, God still rules the world. God has positioned the church and yes St Peter’s to be His voice as we have a blessed story to tell from creation to The Last day. You and I believers are invited, called and enabled to tell that story with clarity, charity and integrity. In a dark world, Jesus is the light and Jesus draws many to Him. In this season of Lent, beginning with ashes, even seen on a grieving mother outside of that Parkland high school, God still proclaims His passion and victory over sin, death and the devil, and His Story is for our nation and the whole world. Let us by the Holy Spirit, bear the fruit of faith as “We share Christ and Grow Disciples,” even in the dusk of American Christianity. Pastor Mews