Assessing the “What Hit Us?” Conundrum

It feels a lot like a dream, or nightmare if you prefer, from which we’ll emerge in the morning. But it isn’t. It is, in fact, a revolution that has ridden in on the wings of the promise of change.

Interestingly, words and phrases like change, hope, a better future, new world order— or, as of old, a chicken in every pot—have an allure almost certain to win massive numbers of unsuspecting followers. The wake-up call too often comes when these buzzwords are finally defined.

Now that we are in the early stages of 2010, definitions are taking shape, leaving the majority of Americans bewildered and asking the inevitable, “What hit us?”

Our conundrum is the product of Washington and the strange phenomenon that seems to take place when elected officials cross the Potomac to breathe the mind-altering air of Foggy Bottom. Whether or not we approve of the changes overtaking us, the fact remains that we now live in an environment to which most of us are unaccustomed.

For some, the experience may be akin to what they endured as children when a trusted parent or relative asked to wiggle a loose tooth on the promise of a nonviolent tweak. But the tweak turned into a wicked yank that left trusting kids screaming like banshees all the way to the dentist. A lingering sense of betrayal and alienation usually remained for years. Finding quarters under the pillow helped a little, but who really believed in the tooth fairy?

In reality, America is in the unpleasant age one might call the national loss of innocence. Perhaps the World War II era that journalist Tom Brokaw  described as “the greatest generation” in his best-selling book of the same name was exactly that—for the nation and individuals as well.

But we are not privileged to live in the past. We are creatures of the moment, living with the reality of the now. Perhaps the sardonic “that was then, and this is now” axiom applies.

For Bible-believing Christians in America, the challenges are self-evident. The allure of affluence and the titillations of the here and now have proven devastating distractions. The 1940s through the ‘50s was an era that forged the great missionary movements and evangelistic campaigns that sent passionate emissaries of the gospel to the ends of the earth, ready to give their lives for Christ. The message was the mission, and a chasm separated the lifestyles and values of the “world” and those of the churches. Sanctification meant something to believers, and the sense of personal obligation to share a Christian witness with the lost was a paramount objective in daily living.

In a sense, America’s contemporary Christian condition was exemplified by our commander-in-chief’s announcement, “We are no longer a Christian nation.” No longer is America to be regarded as dominated by Judeo-Christian mores. Instead, we are supposedly a country of heterogeneous religious fiefdoms—Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.—each demanding equal status and brooking no criticism or hint of the necessity to communicate the message of Christ. As a matter of fact, one must believe that, if the current trend of hostility toward anything related to Christ or historic Christianity  continues to accelerate, anyone who openly declares Jesus as the only Source of life will pay a heavy price.

The new wave of thinking for the “now” constituency loosely termed evangelical  is assimilation. It is not a new phenomenon. It is no more or less than the social gospel that swept the mainline denominations roughly a century ago. Cresting the new wave is the burgeoning emergent movement that majors in converting churches into social-action agencies: less classical biblicism, more contemporary action. In the main, called by whatever name, there is a movement toward accommodation with secular culture, driven by the “you’re okay, I’m okay” philosophy.

We must remember, however, that change doesn’t always run in one direction. In democratic societies, changes may be made at the polls, where people are free to speak their minds with the pull of a lever, touch on a computer screen, or mark on a ballot.

In the house of God, there is a mechanism we remember as revival, with Jehovah controlling spiritual revolutions among His people. If we truly believe our times are in His hands, we can believe in hope and change that will alter events and revitalize His church. The key here is bound up in the word return. It was the operative word every time ancient Israel turned back to God. It remained so during the great revivals that swept America and Western countries in the past. Can it happen again? Don’t presume to tell your Maker it cannot.

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