The Downside to Assimilation
Every parent of teenagers has, at one time or another, lived through a period of greater or lesser anguish. The question “Why can’t I be like the other kids?” often initiates a running battle of wills. The cry for liberation from family standards usually is not motivated by style, conduct, or adult opinion. Rather, it comes from a desire to assimilate into a peer group where bad taste or bizarre behavior often is “cool,” and not being “cool” results in ostracism.
Having said that, there are, nevertheless, two sides to the assimilation story. For example, when people immigrate to another country, it is imperative they assimilate into that country’s culture, language, and laws. However, there are those who immigrate with the intention of not conforming. Worse yet, they attempt to impose the ways of the place they left on the country that took them in. These people should make a decision: assimilate and become a participating citizen, or pack up and go back to where you came from.
Bad Choices, Dire Consequences
Ancient Israel showed us how bad decisions can produce unanticipated consequences. One such decision is recorded in 1 Samuel. Israel had emerged from the chaotic period of the judges to be led by the prophet Samuel. Toward the end of Samuel’s life, there was a stirring among the people. They had surveyed the pagan nations around them and came to a conclusion. No longer did they wish to be a national phenomenon, a “special people” set apart to God (Dt. 26:18). So they approached Samuel at Ramah and informed him of their decision: “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5).
The age-tempered prophet responded by enumerating all of the problems inherent in their proposal. But they persisted: “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles’” (vv. 19–20).
The Israelites unwittingly opted to forget their unique position as a light to nations that were mired in a world of dead-end paganism. They had been warned that they were taking a long step down, but the attraction of assimilation was irresistible. They did not want to lead any longer. Instead, they chose to settle for a seat among the people bent on their eventual annihilation. It was a bad decision—one for which they would, in the short term, pay dearly.
And, as is often the case, one bad decision is followed by another. The Israelites made a flawed appraisal of the type of man who would make a good king. King Saul—best described as tall, dark, and handsome—was ill-equipped to take the reins of responsible leadership. They were enamored with him, not based on his qualifications, but on the externals that made him an attractive image. Their hue and cry had been for change. Yet they would suffer the dimensions of that change after reality set in and the image had lost its allure.
They chose to join the crowd and be like everyone else. But as dark as the situation was, it was not irreparable. Despair was not to be the coin of the future. The matter was in higher hands; and His, after all, are the hands of the Master Planner who would set things right.
Old Paths, New Pilgrims
King of the Hill was once a game kids played on every play-ground in the country—that is, when it was still in fashion for kids to play outdoors. It was simple. The guy at the top of the hill was chief. But he was never secure. There were always contenders ready to knock him off the pinnacle. Yet there will always be someone at the top. In this world, someone will always be king of the hill.
Nations, movements, and organizations constantly exhibit the principle seen in the experience of ancient Israel’s bad choices: someone is going to lead, and choosing to be merely one of the guys at the pow-wow—to be like all of the others—will not do. Not if the rare gift of exceptionalism has been bestowed on you.
America, at this juncture, is a glaring case in point. We are in the midst of a movement—a revolution, really—that unilaterally wants to disenfranchise the country of its place of leadership among the nations. This statement is not a partisan attack on politicians we don’t happen to approve of. We are simply observing the hammers of disintegration falling on many fronts:
- The radical fringe has become the center.
- Freedoms of individual citizens are being diminished.
- Our traditions and foundational tenets are scorned.
- Christian relevance is under attack.
- Moral restraints central to survival are being undercut.
- Fidelity to the Constitution is treated with disdain.
- Sworn enemies are treated with deference.
- Steadfast friends are belittled or left to fend for themselves.
For more than two centuries the United States has been loyal to and sustained by the four freedoms articulated by President Franklin Roosevelt who shepherded the country through World War II: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom from fear.
When Roosevelt made these declarations in January 1941, he was not creating a new national moral currency; he was reaffirming the obvious and committing the nation to prepare to fight enemies who threatened our existence. The tone was not surrender but, rather, assurance of victory and undying support for our friends in the democracies then under attack.
When you build a house, you do not tear down a foundation that is sound, enduring, and trustworthy. You build on it. The direction is up, never down. Today, unfortunately, we are tearing down every foundation that has held us up; and we are pursuing a descent to a level that will make us like everyone else.
A New Face for Christianity
Some of the articles in this issue of Israel My Glory report on the excesses of the self-described emerging church, a movement that says, “Let’s be like everyone else.” In some ways, it is a spectral visitation of the old “modernist” movement of a century or so ago, proposing that God’s Word is obsolete and that a new theology has emerged.
The difference is that emergents have moved a step beyond the old-guard liberals of a former generation and imbibed a large dose of unvarnished paganism. They find Christianity as we have known it for more than 2,000 years too restrictive and the Gospels of the Bible crimpingly narrow. The new beat is to concentrate on one’s own actions and chosen path rather than on the restrictive call to “the [exclusive] way, the truth, and the life,” which is, of course, Jesus. But what about the plethora of other claimants to religious inclusivism? Are they not as legitimate as we?
Here the issue gets much broader than the emergents. It encompasses the fashion of the hour, which mainstream religionists and secular critics stamp with endorsements. They are all joining hands to create a type of one-size-fits-all garment that universalizes religion and sweeps Bible-believing Christians into the scrapheap of the so-called intolerant.
As in the prophet Samuel’s day, we have been warned. In today’s realm of militant, religious political correctness, the big losers will be those who refuse to bend the knee to the mores of the popular “liberation” movement. If you want a look at what may be around the corner, turn to page 13 in this magazine and read about the physical persecution assailing Christians around the world.
The consuming spirit of this new-order religion is a return to Babel, with a one-world unity tower of mankind’s own making. It is a march down Mars Hill into the pagan agora of ancient Athens with its multiplicity of gods made by human hands. Such idols were lifeless, soulless monuments to the come-one, come-all addiction of the pagan world.
We hear much these days of the desire to do things differently in our churches and Christian organizations. But beware. The nirvana some believe will result from assimilation is a delusion.
Israel Is Not Immune
There’s an interesting new development in the story of modern Israel. It’s called post-Zionism, and it has much the same ring as post-Christianity. The defining characteristic can perhaps be seen in the little-noticed flap over the identity of the Jewish state. As one would expect, Israel’s Arab and Muslim antagonists refuse to acknowledge the existence of a Jewish state. They will only endorse an entity dubbed Palestine—minus the Jewish stamp. Their intent, to no one’s surprise, is to accomplish the final liquidation of the “Jewish problem.”
It would, therefore, seem rather shocking to hear there are Jewish people who agree with them. But there are. Their argument is, “Why should we be different? We can live in a country that is open to all because Zionism, as it has been known in the past, is irrelevant to us.”
And yes, the post-Zionist devotees bring us back to square one. We want to be like everyone else. The key word: assimilation.
It seems ironic that not many years ago, the greatest fear among American Jews was assimilation into Gentile society. Intermarriage was seen as the diluting element that would eventually scoop up and destroy Jewish identity in the country with the then-largest Jewish population on Earth.
Then came the rebirth of Israel. With a Jewish country, the assimilation bogeyman almost seemed to fade from view. However, with the rise of the notion of the every-man nation of Palestine, it is returning.
It is true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Turn the clock back to the days when the Israelites lived among pagan nations and told Samuel they wanted to be like everyone else and lose their identity as a chosen people for the Lord. ”Let’s just be one of the gang.” That, my friends, never works.
The Imperative for Divine Intervention
All this brings us to an arresting conclusion: we are not living in the last chapter of the volume of the history of man. This delinquent compulsion to join the crowd, to be content with uselessly squandering exceptional qualities and valid expectations, has long been anticipated and ruled out of order. But to find out where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we are going, there is only one accurate source. It is the Word of God. God is going to step in, and we’re admonished to be ready.