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Tis the Season for Secular Silliness

[This article was first posted on culturewarrior.net on December 13, 2013. Given the growing hostility of the majority of secular culture to all things Christian,it seems appropriate to publish it a second time.]

Holiday letter to my secular humanist friends,

The first signs of the holiday shopping season peek from store shelves in September. October’s chill warns that Halloween nears. We must select a costume that tops last year’s. November heralds that most wonderful time of the year—Black Friday. But Oh My! What shall we do with December and that highly embarrassing “other” holiday? You know the one I mean. We once masked it by calling it Xmas. But the X could be misconstrued as a cross. And a cross can be associated with you know who, and that will never do. Now we call that “other” holiday by many names such as Winter Solstice celebration, Festival of Lights, and Winter Carnival. Those are so inclusive, so democratic…so…so generic. (I almost said ecumenical, but that sounds too religious.) With these new names, the holiday season can mean whatever one wants it to mean rather than have a religious meaning crammed down our throats each December. Why must we be subjected to those old-fashioned myths and fables that have lingered for two thousand years? We have Santa Claus!

But there are still millions out there who haven’t gotten the message. They are generally backward, unintelligent, and remain culturally insensitive unlike those of us who have progressed beyond those crude expressions of faith. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to join our shining, non-offensive, tolerant, all inclusive, sensitive secular society.

You hear those sentimental Christians whining every year at this time. They are always hiding behind the Constitution which they say guarantees their religious freedom. Well of course they have religious freedom as long as they don’t flaunt it in public!

We must be ever vigilant and ready to crush any efforts to return to those bad old days. Just a couple of years ago, a group of carolers singing at various businesses in a Silver Springs, Maryland, shopping center entered a U.S. Post Office also located in the shopping center. Dressed in period costumes reminiscent of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” they were only a few words into their first carol when the vigilant and brave Post Office manager rushed into the lobby to stop the indiscretion. “You can’t do this on government property,” the angry manager shouted. He ordered them to leave immediately because there was a Post Office policy prohibiting solicitation. They attempted to explain that they were going to all the businesses in the shopping center. But he would have none of it and insisted they leave in spite of boos from the patrons waiting in line.[1] Even though there was no such policy, this Post Office manager should serve as a role model for that small minority of managers who aren’t so enlightened and have allowed caroling in their Post Offices. Fortunately, our government is filled with like-minded militant secularist bureaucrats rigorously defending society from such unauthorized merriment.

But we can never let down our guard. Just the other day the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives announced that its members would be allowed to use previously banned holiday greetings in official mailings to their constituents. Representative Candice Miller said, “I feel it is entirely appropriate for members of Congress to include a simple holiday salutation, whether it is Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and so on.[2] Shameful! How could these legislators abuse their franking privileges by including messages of Merry Christmas to thousands of their constituents? Such episodes tend to be contagious and must not be allowed to go unchallenged.

Such blatant relapses can cause others to become weak-kneed when banning Christmas from any public display or expression. One example is the Bordentown, New Jersey, Regional School District administration that had banned religious Christmas music at winter public school concerts effective as of October 18th. Less than two weeks later the superintendent backed down after national attention was focused on the school’s ban. The superintendent announced that the religious Christmas music would be allowed for now “…after reviewing additional legal considerations and advice on this matter and the expressed sentiments of the community at large…” However, she promised that, “…the school board will continue to examine the issue to determine how the policy will be handled in the future.”[3] Of course it is always wise to impose these unpopular restrictions on a low-key basis. The school administration should have imposed the restrictions banning religious Christmas music in, let’s say, March. Once policies are established and in effect for a period of time, opposition to those policies can usually be attributed to a fringe element of religious fanatics bent on imposing their religion on others and which violates our constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. It doesn’t matter that the words “separation of church and state” aren’t in the Constitution; we know the Founders really meant freedom from religion instead of freedom of religion. You see, that Constitution thing can work both ways.

Wait a minute. I must go to the door. No, it can’t be! There are carolers out there singing religious Christmas songs and indiscriminately shouting Merry Christmas right there on the public sidewalk for everyone to hear. Where’s my cell phone? Hello! 911? Send the police. No, better yet send a SWAT team. We are having a major public insurrection right here in River City in direct violation of the Constitution. Hurry! There are children in the neighborhood being exposed to this brazen criminal activity!

I must go. I think I see one of my neighbors putting a nativity scene on his front lawn. Hmmm. Would that violation fall under the city’s building code or advertising ordinance? Where’s my cell phone?

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] J. P. Duffy, “Post Office Manager Throws Christmas Carolers Out into the Cold,” Family Research Council, December 12, 2011. http://www.frcblog.com/2011/12/post-office-manager-throws-christmas-carolers-out-into-the-cold/ (accessed December 10, 2013).
[2]Chris Deaton, “Victory: House members no longer prohibited from saying “Merry Christmas” in official mail,” Red Alert Politics, December 4, 2013. http://redalertpolitics.com/2013/12/04/victory-house-members-no-longer-prohibited-from-saying-merry-christmas-in-official-mail/ (accessed December 10, 2013).
[3] Billy Hallowell, “N.J. School District That Banned Christmas Music With ‘Religious Origins’ Backs Down,” The Blaze, November 6, 2013. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/11/06/n-j-school-district-that-banned-christmas-music-with-religious-origins-backs-down/ (accessed December 10, 2013).

Talk, trust, and truth – Polarization of American society

Mark Brewin is an associate professor and chairperson of the Department of Communications at the University of Tulsa. Mr. Brewin’s guest editorial for the Tulsa World’s Sunday Opinion section titled “Can we talk?” states that there are remarkably high levels of distrust in America which is creating an unhealthy nation. He says that, “We owe it to ourselves, and to each other to make a more conscious effort to listen to different voices, to forcibly and consciously move ourselves out of our networks.[1]

Brewin believes that the opposing ideological sides evident in 2016 presidential election have created this unhealthy situation. Brewin described the opponents.

At times over the course of the fall election period, it seemed as though half the country existed of mean-spirited racist and misogynistic troglodytes, who lacked either the ability or the inclination to use their reason; whereas the other half was composed of entitled elitists who drank craft beer, traveled to places like Paris or Ulan Bator for their summer vacations, and looked with utter contempt on God-fearing folk who fixed their plugged-up toilets and bagged their groceries.[2]

What Brewin is really describing is the centuries-long clash between conservatism and liberalism. With this understanding we can restate his caricatures of the two groups: The first group identified is the hateful, bigoted, women-hating, caveman conservatives who won’t use their reasoning ability (assuming they had the brains to do so which is doubtful). In the second group we have the snobbish liberals. Their great sin is not who they are or what they believe but merely looking down their noses and failing to appreciate the lower classes of society.

Brewin says that the inability of well-meaning people of all political and cultural persuasions is of recent origin. He states that only twenty years ago Americans could disagree without resorting to charges of moral corruption for merely supporting the other side. However, Brewin’s claim is clearly bogus with regard to the political spectrum. Even a cursory examination of American history (dating back to the Adams-Jefferson presidential campaign of 1800) will prove the fallacy of his statement. With regard to the cultural spectrum, the drift apart began occurring mid-way through the first half of the twentieth century beginning with Franklin Roosevelt’s administration when he successfully purged the Democratic Party of its conservative voices. Thus, the cultural and political divide is not of recent origin and will not be bridged by conciliatory dialog and understanding of the other side’s point of view.

Brewin suggests that the path to a mutual disdain between the two sides of the culture wars is long and complicated. In that he is correct. This complexity arises because the nation’s problems flow from non-negotiable issues that have risen as a result of the liberal-conservative split and a consequent loss of a cohesive central cultural vision once held by Americans for over 150 years. Talk alone will not heal this loss of cohesion in the nation’s central cultural vision.

The networked society

Brewin says that we can begin to gain an understanding of the development of this divide by looking at the concept of “network.” Social scientists have theorized that modern culture has evolved into a “networked” society and that these changes came about because of the way Americans get their information. The “mass” media in the twentieth century tended to be large and centralized. Social scientists feared that it was possible for the mass media to dominate society by controlling what they saw and heard thereby create a “mass” society of apathetic clones that were easily manipulated.[3]

In the latter part of the twentieth century the power and domination of the mainstream media was supposedly replaced by the Internet and other alternative media sources which collectively became known as the “networked” media. Mass media’s so-called passive audience had become an active group of information seekers that turned to the networked media which was supposed to bring them freedom and variety. However, Brewin is concerned that information networks may only “provide a vision of the world that flatters our opinions rather than challenging them. We do not hear arguments from opposing sides that might work to change our minds, or at least modify our opinions into something less radical.” Put another way, he sees the new networked media as appealing to our worst instincts because we listen to only those things with which we agree.[4]

But who decides what is radical? Although Brewin admits that the mainstream media produced a lot of “bad cultural product,” it sounds like he longs for a return to the good old days when the secular mass media controlled content and presented its humanistic vision of society. Thus, the liberal elitists could once again protect the masses from their “worst instincts.”[5] He provides an example.

But some of the things [delivered by mass media] that we didn’t like and didn’t want to listen to were good for us anyhow. It was good for pro-lifers and pro-choicers to be forced to listen to spokespeople for the other side every night on the evening news.[6]

Given the mainstream media’s decades-long support of abortion, when in the last forty-four years since Roe v. Wade have pro-choicers been forced to listen to spokespersons from the pro-life side every night in the mainstream media? Such would be a rare and brief occurrence comparable to an eclipse of the sun. Here Brewin reveals either his naiveté or duplicity. It is no secret that Christianity and its beliefs have been substantially evicted from the public square for decades.

In summary, Brewin believes that networked media makes it possible for information consumers to “bypass challenging but important views” which leads to ideological cocoons that foster distrust among the citizenry and produces an unhealthy nation. Brewin would have us break out of these cocoons by making a conscious effort to listen to different voices, to forcibly and consciously move ourselves out of our networks so that our radical ideas caused by our worst instincts can be moderated.

Clash of Worldviews

Here we arrive at the crux of the problem that Brewin misses. Brewin and the social scientists’ assume that people were weaned away from the mass media and now have developed an ideological cocoon in their brains because they have spent too much time imbibing their chosen narcotic provided by the networked media. But the mass media continues to have much greater power to manipulate and indoctrinate the populace than the networked media. Television was by far the dominate segment of mass media since the early 1950s and continues to do so today. In 1981, Richard Adler described the power of television in forming the worldviews of the nation’s citizenry.

The TV set has become the primary source of news and entertainment for most Americans and a major force in the acculturation of children…Television is not simply a medium of transmission, it is an active, pervasive force…a mediator between our individual lives and the larger life of the nation and the world; between fantasy and fact; between old values and new ideas; between our desire to seek escape and our need to confront reality.[7]

In his article “Television Shapes the Soul,” Michael Novak called television a

…molder of the soul’s geography. It builds up incrementally a psychic structure of expectations. It does so in much the same way that school lessons slowly, over the years, tutor the unformed mind and teach it “how to think.”[8]

To Novak, television is a “homogenizing medium” with an ideological tendency that is a “vague and misty liberalism” designed “however gently to undercut traditional institutions and to promote a restless, questioning attitude.”[9]

Therefore, we must ask the question with regard to Brewin’s conclusions. Have Americans in this polarized age retreated into information cocoons fed by like-minded media sources? This is the question asked by Brendan Nyhan when writing for The New York Times website in 2014. Nyhan’s answer was spelled out in the title of his article: “Americans Don’t Live in Informational Cocoons.”

In short, while it’s still possible to live in a political bubble [Brewin’s ideological cocoon] of your own choosing, the best evidence suggests that very few people are getting their news only from like-minded outlets. Why, then, do so many Americans seem to live in different political realities?

The problem isn’t the news we consume, it seems, but the values and identities that shape how we interpret that information — most notably, our partisan beliefs. In other words, Democrats and Republicans don’t see the world so differently because they see different news; rather, they see the news differently because they’re Democrats and Republicans in the first place.[10] [emphasis added]

If Nylan’s conclusions are correct, then Brewin’s contention that Americans have retreated into information cocoons fed by like-minded media sources appears to be erroneous. Additionally, the origins of this distrust and ideological differences are far older than suggested by Brewin and his social scientist theorists. This raises a second question. If the theory that the networked media causes an ideological cocoon is a fiction, then what is the source for the polarization of American life? It occurs because of the way the two sides see the world, that is, their worldviews are fundamentally different.

One’s worldview is built throughout life and reflects the picture of one’s understanding of reality (truth). From this understanding of truth we form our values, beliefs, and identities from which we attempt to answer the basic questions of life: who are and where did we come from, how did we get in the mess we are in, and how do we get out of it.

In a free society, the worldviews most commonly held generally form the central cultural vision that brings order to that society or nation. In a humanistic society order is achieved through socialism, and in a socialistic society it is the worldviews and philosophies of the state, as crafted and dictated by its ruling elites, which flow downward to the citizenry and are imposed on each sphere of society. As Western civilization moved away from the Judeo-Christian to a humanistic worldview over the last three hundred years, the pathologies in these societies have exploded because of the tyrannical demands of relativistic humanism contradicts the God-given innate nature of man that seeks objective truth and freedom.

Requirements for cultures to survive: Unity and Truth

The two essentials that any culture must have and without which it disintegrates over time are unity and truth. A society’s central cultural vision must command unity, and such unity must filter up from individuals, not be coerced or forced down on society by its elites. Also, a culture’s central cultural vision must be based on truth with regard to the nature of God, creation, and man. Without a central cultural vision that commands unity and is based on truth, there can be no order to the soul or society, and without order in both, society deteriorates over time and eventually disintegrates.

In America there are two worldviews competing for dominance in the nation’s central cultural vision—the Judeo-Christian worldview and the humanistic worldview (defined by its various components – liberalism, progressivism, relativism, and naturalism among others). For most of the nation’s history its central cultural vision has been built on the foundation of the Judeo-Christian worldviews of its citizens.

This central cultural vision has been under attack since the late nineteenth century. Beginning in the 1960s, the humanistic worldview gained momentum and by the end of the century the predominate leadership in the spheres of American life held a humanistic worldview (in politics, government, the sciences, economy, education, law, media, entertainment, popular culture, and much of the church). As these leaders consolidated their power, they began to fashion and impose a network of humanistic laws, policies, rules, and regulations on a society that is still predominately of a Judeo-Christian worldview. Each side holds diametrically opposed views of reality (truth) with regard to God, nature, the origins and purpose of man, and a host of other flashpoints in the culture wars. These differences are immutable and irreconcilable which no amount of discussion and negotiation will bridge. This is the reason for America’s polarization.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] Mark Brewin, “Can we talk?” Tulsa World, January 22, 2017, G1.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Richard P. Adler, Understanding Television – Essays on Television as a Social and Cultural Force, ed. Richard P. Adler (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1981), p. xi-xii.
[8] Michael Novak, “Television Shapes the Soul,” Understanding Television – Essays on Television as a Social and Cultural Force, ed. Richard P. Adler, pp. 20.
[9] Ibid., pp. 26-27.
[10]Brendan Nyhan, “Americans Don’t Live in Informational Cocoons,” New York Times.com, October 24, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/25/upshot/americans-dont-live-in-information-cocoons.html (accessed January 25, 2017).

The failure of Western liberal ideology

Nothing has exposed the falsity of the reigning humanist-progressivist worldview and its tenets of tolerance, multiculturalism, and diversity in Western civilization as has the massive flood of immigrants from Africa and the Middle East to Europe. The same is occurring to a lesser extent along America’s porous southern border. Floods are destructive, but a steady flow of unpolluted water is crucial to sustain a beautiful and bountiful land. Is the analogy of the hydrology of water and the occurrence, flow, movement, and distribution of immigrants into a country not accurate?

One is not anti-immigrant to want an orderly, lawfully conducted immigration process that respects the existing citizens of a nation whether they were natural born or properly immigrated and assimilated. Progressivist policies that fail to stem the continuing surge of large numbers of illegal immigrants were one of the greatest flashpoints of conflict in the campaigns of the two aspirants for the presidency in 2016. These progressivist policies undermine American society because they reflect a failure to understand the true meaning and importance of culture.

There is a ceaseless struggle between a culture’s will to survive and the agitant of modernist pluralism. Pluralism, rightly defined, is “a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.”[1] [emphasis added] But modern progressive definitions of pluralism have attempted to displace the general synthesis of values in America, that is, its central cultural vision. Humanistic forms of pluralism attempt to supersede and thereby shatter the confines of a common civilization through imposition of perverse definitions of tolerance, multiculturalism, and diversity in all spheres of American life.

Progressivist tolerance

Progressivism’s idea of tolerance is a consequence of the humanistic doctrine of cultural relativism. But how does one order a society if it is culturally relativistic, that is, what anchors its beliefs and welds together a cohesive society? Humanists claim that order is achieved by a tolerance that requires a suspension of judgment as to matters of truth and beliefs with regard to moral judgements of right and wrong since all belief systems contain some truth within while no one belief system has all the truth. In such a progressivist view, a strong belief in anything becomes a desire to impose those beliefs on other people which translate into loss of freedom. It is humanism’s values-free approach which must ultimately deny any absolutes. Through the humanist understanding of toleration comes liberty by preventing the development and promotion of strong beliefs.[2]

One dictionary’s definition of tolerance is “…the allowed deviation from a standard.”[3] This definition implies a standard by which to measure the value of other cultures as well as a limit to the extent to which deviation from the prevailing culture’s standard will be allowed. However, this definition violates the humanistic understanding of tolerance which suspends all judgement as to standards of truth and morality.

Progressivist multiculturalism

Progressivist ideas of multiculturalism closely mirror its rationale for tolerance which is based on a relativistic, values-free society and a denial of absolutes. Multiculturalism is a humanist doctrine that came into vogue during the late twentieth century. As humanists see it, morality shouldn’t be imposed by religions or legislated by governments. Rather, the alternative is to develop civic and moral virtues in accordance with humanist doctrine by means of moral education.[4] As a result the humanists’ doctrine of multiculturalism has spread throughout the educational system in America. Humanist educational elites believe that America has been too immersed in Western “Eurocentric” teachings to the detriment of other cultures. It has been their goal to redirect the education curriculum toward various counterculture teachings (i.e., Afrocentrism, humanistically defined feminism, legitimization of homosexuality, and radical doctrines such as neo-Marxism) that challenge the “white, male-dominated European studies.” But a closer examination of the humanist agenda reveals that multiculturalism is not intended to supplement but rather to supplant Western culture that is so steeped in Christianity.[5]

Progressivist diversity

Humanism’s diversity is a close kin of multiculturalism and focuses on the differences within society and not society as a whole. With emphasis on the differences, mass culture becomes nothing more than an escalating number of subcultures within an increasingly distressed political framework that attempts to satisfy the myriad of demands of the individual subcultures. There is a loss of unity through fragmentation and ultimately a loss of a society’s central cultural vision which leads to disintegration. Humanism’s impulse for diversity is a derivative of relativism and humanism’s perverted concept of equality.[6]

The meaning and defense of culture

Once again we must turn to Richard Weaver for his brilliant insights into the meaning of culture and its defense against becoming syncretistic (a culture that attempts to mix or combine different forms of belief or practices).

It is the essence of culture to feel its own imperative and to believe in the uniqueness of its worth…Syncretistic cultures like syncretistic religions have always proved relatively powerless to create and to influence; there is no weight or authentic history behind them. Culture derives its very desire to continue from its unitariness…There is at the heart of every culture a center of authority from which there proceed subtle and pervasive pressures upon us to conform and to repel the unlike as disruptive…it must insist on a pattern of inclusion and exclusion…[It is] inward facing toward some high representation…Culture is by nature aristocratic, for it is a means of discriminating between what counts for much and what counts for little…For this reason it is the very nature of culture to be exclusive…There can be no such thing as a “democratic” culture in the sense of one open to everybody at all times on equal terms…For once the inward-looking vision and the impulse to resist the alien are lost, disruption must ensue.”[7]

The essence of a culture may be described as a general synthesis of values common to a group’s vision of the world, that is, the way things ought to work. Every culture has a center which commands all things. Weaver called this center imaginative rather than logical and “…a focus of value, a law of relationships, an inspiring vision…to which the group is oriented.” The foundation of the cultural concept is unity that assumes a general commonality of thought and action. A unified culture requires a center of cultural authority from which radiates a subtle and pervasive pressure to conform. The pressures to conform may range from cultural peer pressure to moral and legal restraints. Those that do not conform are repelled of necessity. Thus, in any culture there are patterns of inclusion and exclusion. Without such patterns, the culture is unprotected and disintegrates over time.[8]

There is an inherent tension between the exclusivity demanded by culture and progressivism’s doctrines of tolerance and its corollaries of multiculturalism and diversity. Tolerance suggests acceptance and inclusiveness while exclusivity implies segregation and denial. By segregation is not meant segregation within a culture but between cultures. The culture that values its central vision welcomes integration of diverse groups that share or at least respects that culture’s common central vision. Because of such diversity, a culture becomes a stronger.[9] It is in the humanistic definition of pluralism in which cultures are prone to failure because the central cultural vision becomes fragmented as the values-free central cultural vision does not provide the cohesion necessary for survival.

By its very essence, culture must discriminate against those outside its boundaries that do not share or respect its central vision. A culture must believe in its uniqueness, worth, and the superiority of its worldview. To attempt to meld together or comingle multiple cultures into one culture with multiple centers of vision is to create a powerless culture with little influence and place it on the road to disintegration. By definition, culture must be an inward-looking vision and resist the alien. Without such is a loss of wholeness, and a culture’s cohesiveness dissolves into chaos as its various parts drift into orbits around parochial interests and egocentrism.[10]

Failure of Western liberal ideology

There is hope that Western civilization is awakening to the real and looming dissolution of its respective cultures because of decades of dominance by liberal elitists who promote a humanistic culture and impose policies in support of that worldview.

In the evening of December 19th, a terrorist hijacked a truck and ran over and killed twelve people and injured forty-eight more at a Christmas market in Berlin. Patrick Buchanan wrote of this tragedy and points out that it was merely the latest of a decade of similar attacks in London, Brussels, Paris, Madrid, and Berlin. Buchanan wrote that the responsibility for the attacks can be laid at the door of Western liberal ideology which is says is the ideology of Western suicide.[11]

…the peoples of Europe seem less interested in hearing recitals of liberal values than in learning what their governments are going to do to keep the Islamist killers out and make them safe…Liberals may admonish us that all races, creeds, cultures are equal, that anyone from any continent, country, or civilization can come to the West and assimilate…But people don’t believe that. Europe and America have moved beyond the verities of 20th century liberalism…Only liberal ideology calls for America and Europe to bring into their home countries endless numbers of migrants, without being overly concerned about who they are, whence they come or what they believe.[12] [emphasis added]

Buchanan rightly identifies the first duty of government is to protect the safety and security of the people. But the responsibility for our present peril in the West goes beyond a failure of government to protect its people. It is the failure of the peoples of Western civilization to defend their respective cultures from the false claims of those holding and promoting a humanistic view of the world. The rapidly approaching demise of the Western ethic can be stopped and reversed. It will not be quick, easy, or painless, but we have no choice other than to battle this menace if we care about what kind of world our children and grandchildren will inherit.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] “pluralism,” Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pluralism (accessed December 29, 2016).
[2] M. Stanton Evans, The Theme is Freedom – Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1994), pp. 40-42.
[3] “tolerance,” Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Company, Publisher, 1963), p. 930.
[4] Paul Kurtz, Toward a New Enlightenment – The Philosophy of Paul Kurtz, (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1994, p. 101.
[5] Larry G. Johnson, Ye shall be as gods – Humanism and Christianity –The Battle for Supremacy in the American Cultural Vision, (Owasso, Oklahoma: Anvil House Publishers, LLC, 2011), pp. 188-189.
[6] Ibid., p. 398.
[7] Richard M. Weaver, Visions of Order – The Cultural Crisis of Our Time, (Wilmington, Delaware: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1995, 2006), pp. 10-12. Originally published by Louisiana State University Press, 1964.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid., pp. 11-13.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Patrick J. Buchanan, Patrick J. Buchanan – Official Website, December 22, 2016.
http://buchanan.org/blog/europes-future-merkel-le-pen-126291 (accessed January 4, 2017).
[12] Ibid.

The Church triumphant – Part II

[Part II was intentionally written before the results of the November 8, 2016 elections were known. It was released for posting on November 11, 2016.]

Will the church of Jesus Christ survive in Western civilization? If Christianity does not survive, then the church must also die, and there have been many predictions of the imminent death of both over the last three centuries.

The skeptics

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first—rock n’ roll or Christianity.[1]

These are the words of John Lennon of Beatles fame who made these statements during an interview for a magazine article fifty years ago (1966). But Lennon won’t be the last and he certainly wasn’t the first to predict the demise of Christianity and the Church.

However mild and reasoned their protestations against God and His church are in the beginning, skeptics invariably end with the creature murdering his Creator. The anti-God philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) thought this the most promising and glorious event in human history. He continued his vitriolic harangue about the death of God to the end of his life from a padded cell in a Venetian insane asylum.[2]

What if our modern skeptics could be transported back in time and allowed to stand at the back of the crowds and listen to and observe Jesus during His earthly ministry, eavesdrop on His private conversations as He taught His disciples, and follow Him as He trod down dusty paths and ministered to people along the way such as the Samaritan woman at the well. Would a seeing-is-believing moment change their opinion as to the longevity of the church of Jesus? No, they would have been like the pagan rulers and religious elite of Jesus’ day who most certainly believed that the itinerant preacher who claimed to be the Son of God and his little congregation of twelve were undoubtedly destined for failure, and sooner rather than later. They would call this little church anything except “The Church triumphant.”

They had multiple reasons for their skepticism. The church did not have the right venue to be successful. It was located in a troublesome little backwater country on the fringes of the Roman Empire. The preacher had little formal education and obviously was not born to wealth and privilege. He was the son of a carpenter and trained as a carpenter. Rumor was that the carpenter may not have been His real father. Even members of his own family thought him delusional. The members of His congregation were not found on the social registers of the day. Most of these men would be called blue-collar workers in today’s vernacular—fishermen and other low-ranking occupations and one hated tax collector. Above all, the preacher’s message was too demanding and short on benefits in this life. He called His followers to a life of surrender, sacrifice, and death to self. He told them that in this life they would be hated of men, persecuted, and that many would be killed for their faith. And He was always in trouble with the establishment—both political and religious.

After only three years of ministry, the preacher was executed on a Roman cross, and his little band of followers went into hiding. The skeptics must have felt assured that their original predictions of the demise of the little church had been justified. The skeptics stooped to etch an epitaph on the tombstone being prepared for the little church. It read, “The Church humiliated.” And the skeptics would have been correct except for one thing. The itinerant preacher really was the Son of God.

The Church triumphant

Why did Jesus’ followers believe He was the Son of God? Was it blind faith? Low intelligence? Lack of education? Hysteria? Wishful thinking? Delusion? Kevin Swanson gives us the correct answer. His followers knew Jesus had defeated death and that only God could do that.

It is an indisputable fact: the Lord Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, and He is reigning as sovereign Lord on the right hand of the Father, until all of His enemies are under His footstool. For the Christian this is the historical fact by which all other previous and future events are to be understood. It is the most important historical fact of all. Marx and Nietzsche hated this historical reality, and they fought it with all that they had within them…

However the future is viewed, there is no avoiding one stubborn, historical fact—Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and His kingdom will never fail. Faithless men will put together eschatological scenarios that ignore this fact. Faithless men will minimize the antithesis or compromise with it. Faithless men will give too much credence to the antithesis and not enough to Christ. Contrary to John Lennon’s premature pronouncements, this is not the end of Christian influence in the world. It is only the beginning.[3] [emphasis in original]

The Church and the end of the age

In light of the seeming meltdown of Christianity in America and the Western world, many Christians are exceedingly distraught about the future. Although Christians should be greatly disturbed and dismayed at what is happening in America, they should never be fearful of the future and never believe that the church has been defeated. The words of Isaiah assure God’s people of His and their ultimate victory. “So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” [Isiah 59:19. KJV] Even when the ungodly rule the land, Daniel reminds us that God is in charge of the times and seasons and that He removes kings and sets up kings (See: Daniel 2:21). Thus we know that God is sovereign and that He orders the affairs of men in all ages.

As the last scenes of history play out, proud, boastful, and seemingly independent man is oblivious to the reality that he is being drawn as though by a hook in his nose to the prophetic conclusion of the age. Mankind is on its last downward slide and nears the end of the last days. The Bible’s itinerary for a sin-filled world cannot be ignored or changed as it nears its final destination. There is no escaping it. The only questions that remain are the final dispositions of the lives of men and women living at this defining moment in history. Nations are also being sifted, tested, and tried to determine the final outworking of events within each before His soon return.

The circumstances and events in the political, economic, and social arenas that Christians see as disastrous for the church are only passing scenes in the unfolding drama that God is directing as the end of the age approaches. Nations that turn their back on God and His laws are paying a high price for their disobedience. Although Christians are aliens in a foreign and hostile land, they are also citizens of these earthly regimes and will also suffer because of their nation’s descent into wickedness. Even now the body of Christ (the Church) in many nations is experiencing a measure of this suffering before the rapture. But the church must never forget that its real home is in the wonderful and eternal presence of God. His purposes in allowing these momentary afflictions are often beyond our ability to comprehend, but He has assured His followers that, “…all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28. KJV]

Becoming impossible people

Satan is attempting to destroy the church through the destruction of the Christian culture of America and all of Western civilization. He and his evil empire oppose righteousness, weaken the church through compromise, debauch the truth of God’s word in the minds of men, and pollute the land with a vile stream of wickedness that is flowing into every facet of life. Knowing this, Christians who in the world’s eyes are “impossible people” must have

…hearts that can melt with compassion, but with faces like flint and backbones of steel who are unmanipulable, unbribable, undeterrable and unclubbable (i.e., coercion through comfortable conformity), without ever losing the gentleness, the mercy, the grace and the compassion of our Lord.[4]

Perhaps the best advice for the church in this troublesome age comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. First, he makes certain that we understand who the real enemy is that the church battles. Then, he tells it how to prepare for battle.

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. [Ephesians 6:12-13. RSV]

In his commentary, Donald Stamps gives our modern minds insight into what Paul is saying.
Satan and a host of evil spirits are the spiritual rulers of the world. They empower ungodly men and women to oppose God’s will and attack believers. They form a “vast multitude and are organized into a highly systematized empire of evil…”[5]

The church must confront this empire of evil and does so by putting on the whole armor of God (see Ephesians 6:13-17). And when the battle is heated and defeat seems near at hand, having done all, the Church must continue to stand. It can do so because that itinerate preacher who trod the hills and valleys of ancient Palestine two thousand years ago really was the Son of God, and his kingdom will never fail.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] Kevin Swanson, Apostate – The Men who Destroyed the Christian West, (Parker, Colorado: Generations with Vision, 2013), p. 277.
[2] Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), p. 11.
[3] Swanson, pp. 289-290.
[4] Os Guinness, Impossible People – Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization, (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2016), pp. 31-32.
[5] Donald C. Stamps, Study Notes and Articles, The Full Life Study Bible – New Testament, King James Version, gen. ed. Donald C. Stamps, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1990), p.439.

The Church triumphant – Part I

Christians in the West are living in a grand clarifying moment. The gap between Christians and the wider culture is widening, and many formerly nominal Christians are becoming “religious nones”…

We face a solemn hour for humanity at large and a momentous showdown for the Western church. At stake is the attempted completion of the centuries-long assault on the Jewish and Christian faiths and their replacement by progressive secularism as the defining faith of the West and the ideology said to be the best suited to the conditions of advanced modernity. The gathering crisis is therefore about nothing less than a struggle for the soul of the West…[1]

So wrote Os Guinness wrote in Impossible People. One aspect of this grand clarifying moment for Christians will occur as Americans go to the polls in in the November elections. The results will be more than a minor historical footnote and promises to be a pivotal event in deciding the direction of the nation and ultimately Western civilization. Many Christians are shaking their heads in disbelief. They ponder how America could have arrived at such a low point. But the assault on Christianity is not of recent origin for Satan’s war against God predates the Garden. However, God’s special creation gave Satan a new target for striking at the Creator.

After two centuries of growth, anti-Christian progressive secularism in America has recently achieved critical mass and now boldly attacks Christians and Christianity in every sector of American society. We must ask how the church arrived at this sorry state of powerlessness in defending the faith and influencing American culture. When we speak of a powerful church, that does not mean the church should wield power to dominant the state but to change men’s lives who subsequently may exert a Godly influence on society and its institutions.

The large and momentous showdown between the Western church and humanistic progressive secularism is also occurring during the time of the great apostasy within the church—a confluence of events in which Christianity is caught in the perfect storm. Paul spoke of the end of the last days in which much of the church would become apostate, that is, falling away from or departure from the faith. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition…” [2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. KJV] [emphasis added]

Is the Christian West in that day spoken of by Paul? Considering what has happened over the last two hundred years in Europe and America, Kevin Swanson called this period “the most significant Christian apostasy of all time. As measured by sheer numbers, there is no other apostasy so extensive in recorded history.” [2] Without doubt, the church is in the time of great apostasy.

An apostate church is a powerless church because it has fallen away from or rejected the truth of God’s word. Over time the adulterated message of these churches becomes unrecognizable when compared with the inerrant teachings of the Bible, and without a firm foundation of biblical truth, they become powerless.

The powerless condition of the church in America is not unlike the German church following World War I. The German church was weak in both the war and the peace that followed, but it had not yet allied itself with evil. The weakened German evangelical church was filled with terror as its political power and influence declined during the 1920s. Frail and fearful, the church became territorial and defensive, and some looked to a rising political leader as the savior of the church. This eventually led to an unholy alliance between the German church and one of history’s greatest incarnations of evil—Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. Whatever their private thoughts, both the Protestant and Catholic churches capitulated to Hitler’s demands and domination upon his rise to power. Hitler’s program for the church was deliberately ambiguous. He placated fearful church leaders with these words, “We demand freedom for all religious denominations in the state so far as they are not a danger to it and do not militate against the customs and morality of the German race.”[3] Do we not hear similar words from our secular leaders today? They assure us that there is freedom for all religions so long as they do not stand at cross purposes with the state.

While the German Lutheran Church was a principal pillar of the Reformation during the sixteenth century and a subsequent forthright defender of the faith, the depths of apostasy to which the vast majority of German church leaders had sunk during the 1930s is incomprehensible. Some sought to obliterate the Jewish background of Christianity. Others proclaimed Hitler as “the redeemer in the history of the Germans…the window through which light fell on the history of Christianity.” Still others welcomed barbarous uniformed Nazi units into their churches and supplied them with chaplains. Both the German Protestant churches and the German Catholic Church gave huge support to the Nazi regime during its rise to power and throughout World War II.[4]

Hitler was not a Christian and most of the members of the Nazi elite were openly and vigorously anti-Christian. Hitler never officially left the church into which he was born, and for political reasons he occasionally attended church during his early years in power. But Hitler hated Christians and Christianity. Soon after assuming power he vowed that he would stamp out Christianity in Germany.[5]

One is either a Christian or a German. You can’t be both…Do you really believe the masses will ever be Christian again? Nonsense. Never again. The tale is finished…but we can hasten matters. The parsons will be made to dig their own graves. They will betray their God to us… [6]

The stated goal of Hitler with regard to Christianity aligns substantially with the goal of most of the humanistic-progressive-secularist ruling elites in all spheres of modern American society Many Christians unintentionally or unknowingly support that goal through their ignorance, apathy, or lethargy. That goal is to stamp out Christianity altogether or so constrain it that it will die of its own accord within a generation or two, and the church has been complicit in its own demise.

Satan subverts the church by injecting into it the very thing in which it is in a struggle to the death—a simpering humanistic worldview that caters to self. Guinness wrote that these church leaders are “courting spiritual and institutional suicide” for themselves and for those they are leading astray.

…[They] are reaping what others sowed with such fanfare a generation ago. For were we not solemnly sold a barrel of nonsense in the form of maxims that all good seeker-sensitive and audience-driven churches were to pursue? Here is one example from a well-known Christian marketing consultant: “It is also critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign.”

The audience is sovereign? No! Let it be repeated a thousand times, no! When reaching out as the church of Jesus, the message of the gospel and Jesus the Lord of the message is alone sovereign—and never, never, never the audience…[7] [emphasis in original]

Audience-driven Church Growth leaders of seeker-sensitive churches justify their methods by pointing to Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians in winning the lost (See: 1 Corinthians 9-19-23). Here Paul renounces his rights in sympathetic consideration of the sinner. However, Paul does not mean that he was willing to compromise his Christian principles or sought to please others for the purpose of winning their esteem. Rather, Paul was willing to conform to the standards and convictions of the lost as long as it did not violate his Christian principles.”[8] Church Growth leaders cry foul and say that they are only changing their methods and not their doctrine. But their methods are in truth filled with the humanistic spirit of the age that undermines or ignores doctrinal truths and are leading millions to an eternity in hell.

Seeker-sensitive churches in their quest to please the seeker have compromised the gospel and allowed the world to change the church instead of the church changing the world. Over the course of the last fifty years, not only has the church failed to defend the faith in the public square and failed to transmit its values to its children, many modern church leaders have also drunk deeply from the well of doctrinal apostasy and have allowed the marginalization of Christianity in the larger culture. The evidence is abundant and undeniable. Many have embraced humanism’s themes of abortion, homosexuality, relativism, higher criticism of the Bible, evolution, progressivism, multiculturalism, diversity, religious universalism, promotion of socialist-Marxist concepts of organizing society, heretical concepts of salvation, and such like. They are digging their own graves and have betrayed their God.

Hosea’s description of Israel’s sinful state is a harbinger of what awaits the Western church without repentance and turning back to God.

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads, it shall yield no meal; if it were to yield, aliens would devour it. [Hosea 8:7. RSV]

Much of the modern church has foolishly sown to the wind and is reaping a whirlwind. Hosea’s prophesy revealed sin and pronounced judgements on a people that would not be reformed and had become apostatized over several generations.[9] Our modern crisis of the soul in Western civilization has arisen because the majority of the Western Christian church is powerless to defend the faith let alone win the lost. There is little truth, little harvest, and what little harvest occurs is devoured by a cunning and rapacious humanistic secularism driven by Satanic forces.

Does this mean an end to Christianity? Never! Whirlwinds need not be followed by obituaries. God is ready to redeem returning sinners (both individuals and nations) and restore a right relationship with Him. The true Church lives and will always remain triumphant.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] Os Guinness, Impossible People – Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization, (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2016), p. 22.
[2] Kevin Swanson, Apostate – The Men who destroyed the Christian West, (Parker, Colorado: Generations with Vision, 2013), p. 19.
[3] Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, (New York: Touchstone Book, 1976), pp. 479, 483, 485.
[4] Ibid., pp. 484, 488.
[5] Ibid., p. 485.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Guinness, pp. 72-73.
[8] Donald C. Stamps, Gen. Ed., Commentary, The Full Life Study Bible, The New Testament, King James Version, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1990), p. 366.
[9] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, ed. Rev. Leslie F. Church, Ph.D., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), p. 1105.