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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Saturday, October 26, 2019
There's A SOLUTION To The Cultural CHAOS: Doing GOOD
How to respond to cultural challenges Illustration on doing good by Alexander Hunter
In his book “The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church and How to Prepare,” John S. Dickerson argues that the church in America is dying. The evidence he presents to support this terminal diagnosis is multifaceted.
According to Mr. Dickerson, orthodox belief, church attendance and denominational loyalty are all dropping precipitously. As our culture, by way of attrition, transitions from the religious homogeneity of the baby boomers to the therapeutic deism of the millennials, the church, contends Mr. Dickerson, will flounder, flail and lose influence.
Political division and partisan disagreement will result in intramural splits. Church attendance will plummet. More than 2.6 million of those who are presently 18-29 years of age are predicted to leave the sanctuary and abandon biblical faith and traditional values over the next 10 years. The trend will accelerate in the decades to come.
The number of nonreligious and secular Americans will skyrocket while the percentage of conservative Christians — i.e., those who actually believe the Bible and seek to live their lives by its precepts — will decline to less than 7 percent of the American population in just a handful of years.
The days of a Christian majority are over, says Mr. Dickerson. The Judeo-Christian ethic is a thing of the past. But even more sobering than the rise of religious indifference and theological syncretism, he warns, will be the increase in animosity and outright antagonism for biblical values.
The evidence of Mr. Dickerson’s predictions is replete. Postmodernity’s intolerance for and even hatred of orthodox Christianity is the stuff of the nightly news. Consider just a sampling of recent headlines:
A California pastor is arrested for reading his Bible in public.
A group of Catholic nuns is prosecuted for refusing to provide abortion-inducing drugs to its sisters.
Chick-fil-A is banned from numerous university campuses, including Johns Hopkins, Fordham and Emory, simply because of its views on the sanctity of marriage.
The American Psychological Association considers amending its own Diagnostic and Statistical Manual to include a diagnosis called “intolerant personality disorder” as a description of any Christian who believes sexual behavior should be reserved exclusively for heterosexual marriage.
The European Union has passed a resolution declaring all people who have an “aversion” to unbiblical sexual behavior are guilty of a “crime” equal to “racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and sexism …” and should be subject to “criminal penalties.”
And just two weeks ago, a British court ruled that a belief in Genesis 1:27 [the view that humans are created as distinctly male and female] “is incompatible with human dignity.” The court went out to say, “in so far as those beliefs form part of [a] wider faith, such faith does not satisfy the requirement of being worthy of respect in a democratic society.”
The list of grievances against Christians seems endless. One could fill books with anecdotes calling for the church to be “thrown out and trampled underfoot” by those who hate its piety. Christianity, it appears, is now dysfunctional rather than desirable. Biblical values should be prosecuted rather than promoted. Followers of Christ are an insult to human dignity. We deserve no respect. We need treatment. We deserve to be punished.
In the face of such news, what are we to do?
There is an answer, and it is found in the message of the first century church, a church that faced many of the same cultural challenges that we face today.
Our responsibility is quite simple and clear. Do good.
In the midst of storms that had an eerie resemblance to some of the same dark clouds we now see on our own cultural horizon, St. Paul told the early Christians in Rome to “not repay evil for evil but to do good!”
He told the first believers in Galatia to “do good.”
He told those being persecuted in Jerusalem to “do good.”
He told Timothy to “do good.”
Time and time again, the early church was admonished to not repay insult for insult, but instead, to heed the very words of Christ and “do good.”
Jesus couldn’t have been more clear: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
By responding to intolerance, not in-kind but, rather, by doing good, the church changed the world. Orphans were adopted. Widows were loved. The sick were cured. The poor were fed. The dying were saved. Women were honored. Children were wanted. Hospitals, schools and colleges were founded. Slaves were freed.
Chesterton once said, “Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.” The church’s way out of what appears to be its present “grave” of cultural irrelevance is to follow that risen God, who promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against us.
With confidence in that promise, we are to “bless those who persecute us, bless and curse not” — and do good.