Losing Our Religion…

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25 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    Very good topic:

    Using the early church as an example in no way shields the conversation from turning political but I will appreciate the effort. The early church would never have garnered together their kids and sent them to Roman schools to learn emperor worship and paganism. So the liability is that our system makes the early church rather inaccessible. I told my church for years that the government extracts a tithe in the form of taxes and charges you money to disciple your kids away from your faith.

    However, the home school escape mechanism is falling to the gods of this culture as well in that home schooled kids are more likely to be trans than public school – at least anecdotally, I;ve read this but it may be propaganda.

    Bottom line is that media, education and entertainment have all seduced our kids away from loyalty to the family. We boomers, the first generation post-WWII to experience the full force of all those things became adults who abandoned marriage and separated it from sex and reproduction. See all these things are both spiritual and public so they include politics.

    As a person devoted to ‘revival’ there is much that has died that needs to be awakened. Foremost the covenant marriage and devotion to the one flesh union of male and female.

  2. Alan says:

    Having written above my lament let me urge that I am not in despair though I expect America to go the way of Europe in regard to the faith. The vigor of evangelicalism no doubt provided a bulwark that resisted secularism and enlightenment unbelief. However, postmodernism has proven to be a ramrod that has broken the evangelical castle gates. Which is not to be confused with the Gospel’s power against the gates of hell.

    Nevertheless, eschatology precedes soteriology and causes me to live with confidence that the city of God will prevail, The mystery of God’s patience eludes us. Why God? Why do you move as you do in unseen steps upon the raging waters? Just now we are like the beleaguered hold outs of Bastogne with no answer in the presence of our enemies except our refusal to relent. So we cry out. Christ have mercy!

    Our nation has had, according to Nobel Laurette Robert William four Great Awakenings. Each one consisting of a Religious Phase followed by a Political phase, followed by a phase of Challenge to the Dominance of the Political Program. The blessing of this cycle is the rise of egalitarianism. In other words these awakenings have been salutary in the public sphere.

    We are due for another wave but young people just now are swept into an awakening that is religious but very anti christian. It raises activist in the place of missionaries.

    We must not lose our vocation as those who single-mindedly build families and families of God that are outposts of love and light and with a refusal to bow the knee to the current gods of the age.

    When I get to what I really care about I fail the brevity test

  3. Michael says:

    Alan,

    You and I view these issues quite differently.

    I will go to my grave believing that if the church dared to live and act according to biblical principles, it would attract young people in droves.

    However, it is in the nature of the young to see hypocrisy and corruption and name it in front of the hypocrites and the corrupt.

    I will also go to my grave not understanding why so much of the church is so comfortable with the wolves among them while decrying the wolves outside the gates.

    The lessons of Achan have never been learned…there is no power available when there is sin in the camp.

    My only political consideration is the fact that having a family is unaffordable today…if you can even find a mate you would want to start one with…

  4. Alan says:

    Michael,

    Then would the Jesus Movement pass muster in your eyes as a time when the church dared to live and act according to Biblical principles. The young did flood in droves to the church.

    I would say that the church of the sixties certainly had stronger families than we have today though it was at that point that the family began to fracture due to relaxed divorce laws and church taboos, and the separation of sex from family formation. So I don’t see the claim to be very clear.

    As for the wolves, well, the assessment that we are simply comfortable is divorced from the fact that wolves are indeed constantly exposed but they reproduce like rats in our free church tradition. I cannot vouch for the ecclesial churches other than to say that scandals abound.

    Seems to me that wolves are very good at sheep imitation and they take time to expose and that by the time we see them they are in power and not so easy to expunge.

    Your idealism does not seem to have any clear models.

  5. Michael says:

    Alan,

    The Jesus Movement was interesting…because in some ways it was closer to a biblical standard than most other “revivals” in that it was driven by people on the margins.

    “Hippies” were the cultural equivalent of todays gays/illegals/democrats.

    There was a concerted effort among them to create something of a familial facsimile.

    It would seem to me that we should be addressing what kind of familial and community structures we can create now in advance of a move of God.

    If politics is the arena you choose to move in addressing how to make housing and supporting families affordable should be at the top of the list.

    As to the wolves…they would be relatively easy to dispose of if people had the balls to take them out…but people would rather demonize politicians …no cost to those campaigns.

  6. Michael says:

    I’m tired of blaming external forces for our decline.

    They are surely present…but we have to focus on what we can do outside the world system.

    If we transitioned all that money and energy from partisan politics to fixing our own house (and cleaning it up) perhaps God would bless our intentions…and our children.

  7. Alan says:

    Understand I am not the one constantly addressing partisan politics around here and I hardly ever participate in those discussion. My comments above were definitely not in any evident way partisan. I just see the culture and public policy as inevitably intertwined with our faith.

    Public education was not a partisan political effort and was probably founded upon the egalitarian realities of Christian faith. That it has become co-opted by partisan interests is another matter.

    My interest is and will always be the Gospel with a belief that public outcomes are inevitable and that as long as we live in this world the arc of history will be to move every egalitarian advance into an antichrist direction.

    I detest government while knowing it is essential to life.

    Fixing our own house is the constant renewal of the church and I think it is what Fogel’s thesis is about Great Awakening. It is certainly what I mean. Nothing in my comments above is about partisan efforts to fix the church or the world.

  8. Michael says:

    Alan,

    I speaking in a general fashion, not specifically about your personal beliefs.

    The public school system is just another evangelical bogie man…there are issues, but much of it and the people who work in it are worthy of respect.

    My whole theme is that we need to pay attention to what we are supposed to be doing and committing to that instead of constantly blaming our decline on “the world”

    My theme works about as well elsewhere as it does here…

  9. Reuben says:

    “Iā€™m tired of blaming external forces for our decline.

    They are surely presentā€¦but we have to focus on what we can do outside the world system.

    If we transitioned all that money and energy from partisan politics to fixing our own house (and cleaning it up) perhaps God would bless our intentionsā€¦and our children.”

    That needs repeated.

  10. Reuben says:

    For me anyway, probably very different reasons, that is a critical statement. The church is moved too much by the world. There is no internal focus.

  11. Michael says:

    Reuben,

    Unfortunately, I’ve grown old and infirm and repetition has become an affront to both my condition and dignity.

    Things will go on as they always have and the aging American Christians will die cursing the culture instead of the rat bastards in the house.

    I gave it a shot…I’ll go out holding my cat and hoping for better.

  12. Alan says:

    I can keep trying to engage you. Ignatius was as early as you can get in terms of the early post apostolic church. Ignatius was profoundly eucharistic, though I have some questions about it because eucharist was his argument against docetic gnosticism. Sounding a lot like John’s anathemas on anyone who denied Christ in the flesh.

    Ignatius was also very Bishop centric as per authority on the ground. There is where you might deal with your “rat bastard” infestation. Finally he was obsessed with the problem of false teachrs.

    So Ignatius probably vindicates your thesis.

    You did raise cultural issues and posit that a strong church is the remedy. Not sure how.

  13. Michael says:

    Alan,

    I have no remedy for the culture, nor am I very interested in one.

    I’m obsessed with creating sanctuaries from the culture…gatherings of people who know they are in exile and who are sharing their resources and themselves around that table to live lives worthy of Him.

    I want my godson and his children to have a place to go where Christ and both proclaimed and demonstrated, where we care not about how the culture is doing, but does what it is called to do as an outpost of the kingdom of God.

    Maybe if we lived out full lives of Christian ethics and teachings…married, educated, supported and lived in radical Christian love what we do would be attractive enough to grow our ranks.

    Maybe if we drove the rat bastards out of the house there wouldn’t be rat droppings everywhere polluting even the air we breathe and the sounds we hear.

    The culture wars are over, we “lost” …we lost both the war against the outside culture and the culture within.

    It’s time to start over…long past time to start over.

    We are in exile…until the real kingdom comes.

  14. Michael says:

    My thesis is that unless and until we first recognize the problems internally and quit try to change externals, there is no future for the church other than as a hated remnant.

    Hated nor because of Jesus, but for trying to impose ethics we ourselves do not follow.

    We need to repent…it’s time for show and tell…so lets build something to show.

  15. Alan says:

    This was the Puritan separatist dream was it not?

  16. Michael says:

    Alan,

    The Puritans went overboard a tad…I’m not interested in complete separation because it’s simply not possible, nor helpful.

    I am saying that the early church Christian colonies had something going as cultures within a culture…which I believe is the biblical model for exiles.

    We don’t want to identify as exiles…we want to be patriots forming the culture into our image by controlling the means of power.

    Exiles,by nature, are not in power…al least not secular power.

    This project has to start by knowing who we really are, then the mission we’ve been given.

  17. Jean says:

    In the early church of the Roman Empire, you had:
    Emperor cults;
    coinage promoting Emperor and Empire cults;
    Festivals of Bacchus;
    Orgies;
    homosexuality;
    Gladiatorial games;
    A pantheon of Pagan temples (with their sacrifices)
    Social communities and structures revolved around Pagan religion;
    Slavery;

    and yet, the Church established itself and grew and influenced the culture, instead of becoming the culture.

    I don’t see anything today that is any worse morally than what the early Church faced. Therefore, (1) I don’t think our culture can be blamed for the ill-health of the modern American Church, and (2) I don’t think our culture is any excuse or reason for the American Church to try to control or change the culture through organs of power.

  18. Alan says:

    Jean,

    My second comment was exactly what you claim the early church did … without providing much info about that. The Jewish economic historian Fogel credits American religious awakenings with vast egalitarian outcomes. I think he does us a service. I think the church has been the most significant influence on culture in the West.

    I am not in despair about the culture nor am I blaming the culture for our problems. In fact I am doing little more than Michael did in his Tik-Tok Only Fans comment. These forces are here and we must face them. I think we have done rather well historically but we are at a flashpoint.

    Partly because I never listen to any of those nationalist preachers that vex everyone here thus I think the concern about it is blown all out of proportions but that is what silences me so I will drop that.

    The substance of what I comment on above doesn’t get engaged just the perceptions of it.

  19. Michael says:

    Alan,

    Speaking a bit more openly than I would like too…the drugs and exhaustion make me slow to understand.

    What is it specifically that isn’t being engaged?

    I often feel as if we’re talking past each other, but these days I feel the same way with my cat…help me with some clarity here.

  20. Alan says:

    Ha good point. Give me the cat’s benefit of the doubt. I neither think culture is to blame nor that changing it is our object. I simply think culture is the reality that we face that is destroying the young people you cite as lonely and swallowed by TikTok and OF. We agree on it.

    I do however have an optimistic view of both the effect of Christianity upon our culture… as illustrated by Fogel, and the possibilities of another hopeful wave of awakening within our churches.

    But I cannot talk with a sunny outlook upon the early church and compare it to us. I think it is the same. The apostles struggled with horrendous forces. The post apostolic era likewise had ideological and socio-political opposition.

    Still our object is the Gospel. I do not feel as much affinity as you do to the exile motif. My viewpoint is more realized eschatological. God has returned to his people. Exile in the OT had the reality that God had left them and indeed pushed them away. Exile was not their vocation. Nor is it ours.

    We can agree about the ratbastards. We can agree about the suffering of our young. We can agree about the reality of Jesus among us being our reality. We can agree about a modality of church that is more servant and less King.

    I believe you posted this thread to change the subject. I welcomed it. It brought me out of the shadows. No doubt my means of commenting sounded as if I was resisting the change. I wasn’t.
    .

  21. Jean says:

    Thanks Alan! This sentence from your second comment really resonated with me:

    “We must not lose our vocation as those who single-mindedly build families and families of God that are outposts of love and light and with a refusal to bow the knee to the current gods of the age.”

    This can and will result in a bottom-up salutary influence on culture. This would be an internal, within God’s people, approach, where preaching and teaching would be primarily aimed at the people of God. It takes time, patience and the grace of God.

    It makes me recall the letter of Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon:

    “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

    In particular, that last sentence, “Pray for the welfare of the city…for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” These are Babylonian cities.

    Can conservative American Christians, pray for the welfare of “blue” cities?

  22. Michael says:

    Alan,

    I think at the end of the day, we have far more in common than our comments would attest to.

    A significant difference is in our view of the state of exile.

    The apostles all taught that until the final kingdom consummation we are to live as exiles in whatever country we find ourselves in.

    Our vocation is to represent the kingdom from exile…not try to take over earthly kingdoms to escape it.

    We do indeed agree on the matters you posited…and that is enough to go forward together.

  23. Michael says:

    “Can conservative American Christians, pray for the welfare of ā€œblueā€ cities?”

    I simply hate this question.

    As long as we keep pressing the blue/red divide it will feed on the attention.

    All Christians can and should pray for the welfare of all our cities…

  24. Muff Potter says:

    I hold to the tenets of The Apostle’s Creed as non-negotiable parameters up-front and on the table.
    The rest of the stuff beyond the Creed?
    I keep my own counsel and pick and choose as I see fit.
    I have not lost my religion.

  25. Alan says:

    The wisdom of Jeremiah 29 is indeed the very best picture of living in exile. However, the relationship to YHWH of Israel in exile and of the New Covenant believer is not analogous. There is certainly continuity with the exile in the apostolic writings but I think there is sufficient discontinuity to give us pause.

    I spend my life with conservative Christians and they have no issue praying for the welfare of blue cities. People are well able to see the bankruptcy of public policies and the centrality of Christ’s mercy, When I look at our cities all across the nation I see a very strong argument for insisting upon new administrations. It is not hard to tell that our cities are crumbling. Of course we pray.

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