I’ve compiled a list of articles below with topics I’ve been reading (lately, in the past, or in the not so distant past) that get at some of the most concerning trends I see occurring. The Republican and Democrat divide going to extremes is of course front and center for many of us because of the major news sources, but I’m even more concerned about underlying, structural, societal issues with discourse, governance and the elites running the show. And I’m not talking about “shadowy” elites playing the puppet strings. I’m talking about those in power and leadership positions openly doing so. It also seems to be we are quickly pivoting toward a culture of screaming down our opponents, taking them down in virtual flash mob, pitchfork-like attacks or flounder-gigging if you will to social exclusion either from career or status. This is the bitter, logical end of relativistic, post-modernism (also called post-postmodernism): sheer power wielded by those possessing the power to get what they want based on their version of truth. The only question is, whose truth will reign? And it turns out it’s a power wielded primarily by the small number of elites versus the people who will get what they want.
The babies “born alive” that were murdered by Kermit Gosnell are the same babies alive in the womb, everyday, who silently scream and fight for their lives when viewed on ultrasound. Out of sight, out of mind. Don’t stick your head in the sand about what happens during an abortion. Know what you’re supporting.
“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13 ESV)
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23 ESV)
This is something I’ve been noticing as of late (at least from what I’ve personally been reading and seeing on a national and personal level, meaning it may not be what’s going on in the totality of things): that the sustained clamor of secular, anti-Christian, vitriolic chatter is kicking up a notch in terms of the audacity and indecency of it, publicly and in private conversations, among friends I have in the social networking world, even among supposed Christians oddly enough sometimes. The cynical bashing (not just criticizing) of Christians by (sometimes alleged) Christians for holding steady to the faith in practice seems striking to me and at odds with John’s doctrine of love for our brothers expounded upon in 1 John.
From the Nicki Minaj spectacle at the Grammy’s (and the subsequent lack of outrage), to personal conversations I’ve had, to the increasing level of hatred generally toward Christian notions and doctrines informing life at any level, whether in op-eds, interviews on the news, everywhere almost: Christianity is becoming a less tolerated belief system that informs public policy and of course morals.
I had an atheist friend who said recently in our chatting, quite chillingly (since he really meant it), that in the next several decades, Christianity will simply become “obsolete” and go the way of the Dodo bird. Now 1) some may just merely dismiss this as mere chatter and 2) I certainly know that Christ will build His church despite the odds and even through persecution.
But nevertheless, it’s statements like that which kind of put you back on your heals a bit, because it wasn’t just loose talk as a result of defending his atheism. This is something he really believes. The implication coming from him is that Christianity is so backward and narrow that it can’t possibly survive in the wake of science and human progress. In the course of the conversation, how and why it came up is what gives it the context too.
All of this to say: we’re not moving toward a post-Christian era, we’re in it. He’s not alone in his thought on this. I have quite a few other friends, from high school and whatnot, who think exactly the same thing. And it’s quickly turning from just (truly) tolerating Christians to opposing them actively it seems.
I’ve been recently disturbed by some of this because the slide seems to be accelerating. I’m not surprised, but in my human frailty, it is slightly fearful. And for the record, no, I’m not referring in any sense to Elephant Room 2, though that was certainly instructive to be sure and possibly correlative. That’s another discussion though.
I guess all of this is not that much different (in principle, notice) than the hatred experienced by Zechariah from his own people (Israel), who was then murdered by the same in a climax of fury. The Old and New Testaments are always instructive for present times, especially when it comes to persecution at all the varying levels, shapes and forms it takes.
What I’m curious to see is how “missional-ism, and [what I’m calling] Seeker 2.0, that is the merging of the two methodologies of seeker-ism and missional-ism” (broadly speaking, not necessarily the better examples and parts producing lasting fruit) and all this talk of “relevance” and “attraction” pans out in the face of rising persecution and deals with subordination by a culture bent on removing us from the public square, at least at first.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how trendy we are toward culture, in staying “up with the times”: if you support certain hot button issues (and believe me, a time is coming when you won’t be able to hide it), or claim Christ alone for salvation, or attempt to evangelize in any sense, that’s all outsiders are going to see and hear. That’s not to say Christians should be culturally irrelevant. I’m just making that point that it doesn’t matter whether you’re into Radiohead, organic food or whatever when it comes to persecution of a belief system. Someone coming from an ingrained secular humanist mindset could care less about your subjective tastes. I’m just not sure many of us Christians (actual and especially nominal) are prepared for the secular onslaught.
Thoughts? Am I just paranoid? Or do others see a dark cloud approaching in terms of where society is moving? I’d be curious to hear what others think on this, agree, disagree, whatever.
Charles Hugh Smith, a writer over at the site Of Two Minds wrote a very interesting blog on the state of the global system, whether political, economic, social, or otherwise. He sums up our situation globally, as many others have, as one based on three fundamental things: 1) debt, 2) consumption, all with the the assumption or presupposition that 3) demand for these will always continue to infinity. And the little/big secret many, if not most, are beginning to see yet don’t want to speak of is that this entire model of debt and consumption is collapsing.
The results are first being felt in smaller nations dependent upon or a part of the West’s system: the Arab nations and southern and peripheral European nations. The riots across the Middle East and now the riots of Greece, Spain and other places in Europe are rooted ultimately in the fact the Western system is coming undone and our policies are making the dollar less valuable, which drives up the cost of food and energy. What follows is anyone’s guess.
That aside, what is interesting in particular is when Smith gets to why this is the case, philosophically, perhaps even theologically, speaking. Why are we reaching this point in the West? What has brought this about? I agree with his assessment and analysis while offering an even better remedy: Christ. Here are some of the best quotes without getting into all the economic talk as much (emphases from his site):
There’s another deeply pernicious facet to a consumer-based economy: our identity and meaning now flow from consumption, not from production or inner resources. I spent a considerable amount of Survival+ explaining how marketing and consumption are two side of the same coin.
The marketing complex has hijacked our sense of identity by engendering a deep, soul-destroying anxiety that only buying more stuff can assuage: since we are judged and valued solely by our purchased externalities, we are constantly in danger of being rendered worthless if we fail to measure up to the current metric of brand-group identity (wearing all black and a tattoo for one “brand,” a BMW and designer clothing for another, reading the New Yorker and claiming to only wear vintage clothing for another, etc.)
What we do in the real world is simply part of the “brand” which we must project, or cloak, to sooth the gnawing anxiety that is the bedrock of a consumer society. The iconography and totems of consumerism define our identity, our strivings, our sense of purpose and our experience of meaning: what I call the politics of experience, a phrase coined by R.D. Laing.
Consumption is our god, our faith and our religion. Like a cargo cult dependent on a magical connection to prosperity, we are terrified by the prospect that our religion is based on a false god–that is, that consumption and consumption alone leads to prosperity and happiness.
Like a cargo cult that we mock in our infinite industrious superiority, we worship the equivalent of rocks painted to look like radios that we can use to “call” the gods of endless prosperity.
This rock that’s painted to look like a radio is called “debt,” and we call upon it to magically provide us with prosperity from over the seas.
This other rock that’s painted to look like a radio is called “aggregate demand,” and it’s carefully worshipped by a special troop of voodoo-wielding witch doctors called Keynesians.
We are chanting magical phrases to these rock-painted “radios,” pleading for a return to easy prosperity, but nothing’s happening. We fear the magic no longer works, and that possibility terrifies us so much we can’t even bear to speak of this loss.
Future generations won’t get to spend their surplus; they will have to devote it to servicing the debts we have gaily borrowed and blown on digging holes and refilling them, part of our worship of the magical painted rocks of our false and hollow religion, Consumerism.
By degrading ourselves from producers to consumers, we have not only lost our identity and our meaning, we have lost the ability to create surpluses and invest those surpluses wisely.
And oh how the Western church has bought into and borrowed from this whole system of Consumption, and with it the marketing apparatus that has become so pervasive in our midst it’s sickening. We have bowed in many ways to the idolatrous “god” of Consumerism as a useful tool if not the answer to the survival of Christianity in the West. We have set it up as an idol that we need to repent of, returning to a more Biblical framework, i.e. faith in Christ, for every facet of church life instead of borrowing from the corrupt and worldly business world of our day.
On a related note, I was considering the other day how much the religion of Consumerism is actually rooted in the philosophical concepts of materialism, particularly dialectical materialism. This is a philosophy put forward by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose philosophy gave rise to the theories of none other than Karl Marx. Marx held to this view of the over-arching meta-narrative of life, dialectical materialism, which says (being a bit reductionistic) our sole purpose in life is related merely to the here and now. There is no deity we need to appease or even refer to, simply because he doesn’t exist, so it is thought.If he does exist he’s irrelevant to our lives and therefore we must find our own answers to our own problems.
Of course Marx went in the direction of collectivism as the answer to find hope and meaning in the midst of his bleak worldview. What is odd is that Consumerism as a religion is merely the flip-side of Marx’s view, yet they both spring from the same place: the absence of the true and living God, made known in Jesus Christ. They are two sides of the same coin. Both of these systems are inherently atheistic and borrow from the same corrupt worldview of dialectical materialism. Christianity has no business meddling in let alone borrowing from a worldview that is inherently anti-Christian.
May we repent of our dependence upon materialism, consisting of brands, products, styles, entertainment, fictional worldviews, fictional story lines and narratives that detract from the glory of God by the way we operate in life. May we find our identity in Christ alone, His person and work in the Gospel, not any of the aforementioned results from materialism. May we find our identity in who He has made us and what He desires for us, namely, holiness. Praise Christ there is hope for the lost and self-absorbed materialists. May we be a witness to a world absorbed in self and consumption as the meaning to life.
For years I’ve heard the constant theme that my and younger generations will be city dwellers for the foreseeable future. However, tonight I came across an interesting podcast by Albert Mohler who spoke with a guy named Joel Kotkin, recognized for his trends forecasting. In the discussion they had, Kotkin indicated that this trend isn’t going to continue for very long. Why? Young people get married, get settled, and start having kids. City-centers aren’t conducive to raising family’s but the suburbs are. And this is where young people are already beginning to move. Check out the podcast (hover over link and click play): http://albertmohler.com/media/audio/totl/Podcast/Thinking_In_Public_Joel_Kotkin.mp3
Also, check out an article recently written by Kotkin: http://www.joelkotkin.com/content/00444-why-america%E2%80%99s-young-and-restless-will-abandon-cities-suburbs
I know Carl Trueman from Reformation21 would appreciate this article. I don’t agree with every point, assumption or conclusion in this article (try to guess). But the broader, general points about American society being completely oblivious to the things that matter as far as democracy and our society is concerned are right on. I really sympathize with how this guy feels looking out over American society and seeing the utter banality of so much of what people are devoting their lives to. I don’t say this as one looking out and feeling better about myself, but one who mourns what is happening to society as a result of sin. It is immensely saddening to witness. You start talking about things going on in the news that matter and affect us collectively and privately and eyes glaze over, in general. Most in our society, even confessed Christians, are obsessed with their image and their “brand”. Or if they’re not obsessed with themselves, they’re obsessed with the next new fad or movement or whatever. And this thinking greatly influences the church in negative ways. A few good sections from the article:
The United States, locked in the kind of twilight disconnect that grips dying empires, is a country entranced by illusions. It spends its emotional and intellectual energy on the trivial and the absurd. It is captivated by the hollow stagecraft of celebrity culture as the walls crumble. This celebrity culture giddily licenses a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Day after day, one lurid saga after another, whether it is Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or John Edwards, enthralls the country … despite bank collapses, wars, mounting poverty or the criminality of its financial class.
This kind of makes me sick at my stomach. Just as a study is released within the past several months indicating genetically modified soy has been linked to sterility and infant mortality in hamsters (and thus likely humans as well), DuPont has been approved by the USDA to begin production of soy with yet another genetic modification.
Seeing how inept the government is at managing, well, anything these days, you can imagine my concern for what this means when the USDA claims to have vetted genetically modified food that we all will consume at some point in the near future. Read on and be prepared …