22 August 2010

Learning to ask the right questions as we interact with the past and the present.

Part of what we've been doing here is examining theological and cultural presuppositions which have led to a what I call a dumbing down and sometimes complete blinding of the Christian mind. We've talked about the historical record of this and focused particularly on what has happened with the American Church.

I've tried to argue for looking at history in a different way with a Christian view of the world that doesn't think in nationalistic, patriotic, civilizational, or Sacral terms, but seeks to honestly discern what has happened and what is happening. Once Sacralism is abandoned it allows us to view the world in an entirely different paradigm and places us not only outside of what passes as Christian thought and politics but for that matter completely outside the spectrum of the majority of the historical and political discussion in America.

Contrary to charges of isolation and irrelevance this different perspective helps us to consciously maintain our identity as the Church, offer a powerful critique and demonstrate wisdom in looking at the problems and issues of the temporal realm. The gospel will always remain an offense, but sadly when overlapped with a Sacralist agenda few unbelievers are ever really exposed to the genuine gospel of the Kingdom.

I have found certain groups ask better questions than the garden variety Christian political conservative. As much as we were taught to despise the 60's radicals, we must ask what were they protesting? What were they saying? Sifting through the rhetoric and revolt for the sake of revolt, we find a generation questioning the values of their predecessors. Why? Many found the moral values and societal ideology of their parents generation incongruous and hypocritical with their practice. America was the good nation who had won the good war and God was on her side. But the youth saw an expansionist Imperial power, saturated with greed, materialism, and ubiquitous racism.

Were they completely right? No. But they were partly right and maybe more correct than many would care to admit. The hippies were asking the right questions but without Christ, they came up with all the wrong answers.

The WWII generation often called the 'greatest' indeed endured much. I marvel at those who lived through the Depression, fought in the War, and have lived lifespans which often straddled the pre-modern and the technological ages. That said, they are not above critique. Drunk with success, power, and a sudden increase in wealth, this same generation turned their backs on the simpler values and ideas of their predecessors. No more an agrarian isolationist nation, the United States became a world power of the first order and this affected society and the moral attitudes that went along with it. Blindly converting to the suburban lifestyle, without realizing it, they embraced a host of new values and worldviews. Materialism, Consumerism, and a never before imagined standard of living were embraced, but they turned a blind eye to the toll it took on their families, the geo-political price, and international economic consequences. More than ever, especially in light of the Red Scare and what they perceived as a monolithic Communist threat, they equated America with the Kingdom of God. Bearing the Mandate of Heaven, history and truth could be made to serve their purposes and xenophobia and racism waxed strong.

The Baby-boom generation growing up in the 1950's no doubt knew more prosperity than any before it, and there is some validity to the argument that the hippies were a bunch of spoiled brats who did not realize what they had, and the price that was paid so they could have it. Yet, there were also many others who due to a variety of influences began to question the social paradigm and then began to listen to new voices, ones critiquing the nature of the American model. The prosperity, security and stability came with a price and sometimes the pound of flesh was extracted from other people in other parts of the world. The hippie generation began to question the economic and foreign policy of the country, and they began to see the veneer-like quality of American social Christianity. Hence, it is no surprise they began to critique the values of that system and the othen double-standard and hypocritical applications of it. In time they would establish a counter-ethic or ethical mirror. Whatever society said, they would do the opposite. Rather than seek security, they turned to anti-materialism and vagabond living.

Am I saying the hippies were right? Is that what I'm advocating a Christian hippie movement? It's been tried before and I am in no way arguing such. But, rather than despise them and dismiss them as I was taught while growing up, instead I want to step back look at the whole context, seeing both sides as problematic. One an anti-Sacralist paganism, and the other a Sacralist establishment order. Perhaps you see what I mean?

I've repeatedly said something was lost at the Reformation. This is why I'm posting all these materials regarding current events and especially America. The Proto-protestant medieval Underground knew who they were. The lines were sometimes blurred, but for the most part they had a clear concept of where the church and society had gone wrong. They did not (as much as was possible) seek to remove themselves from it. They operated within it, sometimes at great risk. Imagine a non-Sacral mindset interacting contemporaneously with something like the Crusades. Were the dissenters stirred to take up the cross and sword and march off to Outremer? Hardly. Think of English Lollards or French Waldensians in light of the Hundred Years War (1330's to 1450's)...were they likely to march to the Plantagenet or Valois banner? They knew who they were.

We (Christians in the West, but mostly in America) do not know who we are today.

Embracing a theology of Sacralism we have blinded ourselves to the reality of the world and the true nature of the country we strongly believe to be blessed by God.

That's the nature and purpose of these discussions. I'm trying to provoke and encourage people with eyes open to re-examine their own presuppositions and have another look at the country we Americans have so equated with the Kingdom of God. To do so is not only eye opening, but can prove emotionally upsetting for many. If that's the case, we need to be willing to ask, have we made our nation into an idol? Is American Christianity guilty of idolatry?

We need to resolve these issues ourselves, within the Church, or within the Remnant, and then we can have a voice of wisdom as we interact with others. We need to make people understand there are Bible believing Christians that utterly reject and abhor the vision of such men as Colson, Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson.

There will still be great obstacles to the gospel. Fallen man has many defenses and the human heart is a fortress of wickedness. But removing the abominable barrier of Sacralism, we can present a vision of the Kingdom that glorifies God and we can offer an interpretation of the world and history that seeks to be honest and realistic.

Along these lines, I include a link to an article entitled Portrait of a Sagging Empire. It references the works of Chalmers Johnson, an insightful and credible author with impressive credentials. His Blowback trilogy goes a long way in helping average people like you and me to understand contemporary history with a non-American bias. This is something many have never even encountered.

A final note. I try and spend some time keeping up on what is happening with the Church in other parts of the world, and I specifically think about the Church, the Body of Christ in these other lands as I read these histories. I think about American power, what it does to the politics in place say...like South Korea. South Korea has probably more Christians per capita than the United States does. Not all forms of Christianity are legitimate of course, but there are a staggering number of what we would call conservative Protestant churches in that country.

America's power is not only militaristic, political, and economic. We also need to think about culture. It's powerful and I think we're rather blinded to how wicked it us. There are many things in American culture not evil in themselves but we as a people seem to have such a propensity toward excess. We export these values and they affect not only other cultures but the Christians in those cultures who can't help but look to America as a Christian citadel. Yes, even other people in other countries are affected by American Sacralism. I'm sure it doesn't run as deep as it tends to here, but I pray the Lord is raising up men to lead those churches and make the people aware and help them to think differently, not only about America but their own nations.

I was thinking about this just the other day when I head someone mention there are now Starbucks in Vienna and Rome. These cities are the coffee capitals of Europe if not the world. And Starbucks is opening up and succeeding there? The American pull is strong. She offers a very enticing message and lures in many.

Am I saying Starbucks is evil? Not at all. But drive thru coffee in styrofoam cups delivered by a global franchise represents a certain way of looking at the world. I'm not saying we have to reject it outright, but let's be careful we don't blindly embrace it. Let's be thinking even as we buy a coffee on our way to work. Let's think about the values of our culture and what it means that it is perceived as Christian by so many, blindly accepted by so many who profess the name of Christ. Let's think about what all this means as it spreads around the world.

God grant us wisdom.

No comments: