So what can make a society turn around? Lots of things I'm sure, but one thing I've noticed or observed as I read history is this...Hard Times.
The generation in America that's rapidly dying off experienced hard times during the 1930's. This shaped and cultivated their character and they learned (in a worldly wise sense) what really matters, what is really needed, and the futility of covetousness and the silliness of putting one's hope in material goods. They learned the same values the old Roman Republic had...sternness, hard work, frugality, duty, manners, devotion to family, planning ahead, saving...things along those lines. Do some of these coincide with Christian values? Somewhat, but they can also become confused.
My point is that ancient Romans, Chinese, and other peoples learned these things apart from Christianity. I'm hardly suggesting Christianity isn't necessary for the world...far from it. But watering it down, changing its definitions in order to accommodate a social situation is a dangerous thing. Ultimately it does great harm to the Church. Don't be fooled by those who would use Christianity to gain or hold power, those who would use it to build yet another Babel.
The Depression Generation promptly forgot all this during the years of plenty...the post-war decades of the 1950's and 60's. Glutting themselves on success they abandoned their ethic and spoiled their children. Sure, they didn't go over the top as their children and now grandchildren do. Yet compared to what many of them grew up with, their standard of living became extravagant, even if it appears modest by today's gluttonous standards. Today we've gone so far we've lost even the basic ability to make simple judgments between need and want, what is reasonable and what is decadent.
So many technological advances and lifestyle changes were embraced without a second thought...and then the 'Greatest Generation' reeled as they watched their children become adults and in many cases completely reject the values they had cultivated... in hard times.
America is fat...fat in its soul. It's a disgusting corpulent consuming beast that has no purpose anymore, other than to consume. It must consume or die. Society is collapsing. My head spins over the changes that have taken in place in my lifetime. I can't imagine what people in their eighties think as they look about.
Is it because America abandoned God? I don't know what to do with questions like that. I don't think America ever was with God or had God. I think the question reveals more about the inquirer than any answer that could be given. It's the wrong question...it's like asking did the car go off the road because it ran out of coffee? The categories don't belong together.
Even if America was filled with Christians (which it never has been)...it still wouldn't change the essential status of the country. It would still be just another country, no different than the nations about it.
Psalm 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
This verse is often appealed to by those who think in Sacralist terms. Read it carefully....in no way can that verse be attached to any entity other than the Covenant people of God....Israel in the Old Testament, and the Church, the Israel of the New. It doesn't belong to the modern Zionist state in Palestine, nor does it apply to Britain, America, Russia, Byzantium, the so-called Holy Roman Empire or any other man-made creation. God did not choose these nations and when Christo-Americans try to create a narrative that suggests God chose America...they have transgressed the boundaries of Scripture, are presuming to speak for God, and frankly bring curse upon themselves. I find it quite outrageous. Be careful interpreting Providence. We don't have prophecy related to nations today and we won't know what the Divine plan was until we have the Divine perspective in the age to come.
Perhaps one could say the Church in America has abandoned God? Perhaps we could say a society permeated with false Christianity has invited Judgment? Society at large has become deviant due to success. It's a rich man with kidney stones and a bad case of gout, and now cancer. We are very much akin to the debauched culture of latter day Rome. Aimless, lacking any soul...we sit around dreaming up ways to consume...taking things that are not evil in and of themselves and making them into dirty, idolatrous, evil things.
So America is drunk on success? Few would argue with that...well, what happened to Britain? Britain was on the victorious side during World War II, but apart from Germany came out the biggest loser. She lost her empire, and took a painfully long time to recover from the war. Society was transformed. Some of the changes were good, but a tide of secularization swept across the island. Today there's an overwhelming sense that something has gone terribly wrong.
'Britain lost her empire because Britain forgot God'...I heard one Reformed preacher say not too long ago. Very strange sentiment. I might say Britain would need to lose her empire in order to find God...but then I too would be speaking in the same error-laden extra-biblical national terms. How does a nation convert? How is a nation born again? How is a nation Christian? Only by redefining these terms can we even have such a discussion.
Rather than return to the Christendom model I would suggest to David Cameron it was that very model which led to Britain's contemporary situation. Sacralism inoculates a society and Britain was certainly super-saturated with Christian Sacralism. It permeated society. It turned Christians into Pharisees and made the unbelieving rail internally, gritting their teeth as they outwardly conformed. Were they obeying God's commands? Were these forced conformists pleasing to God? On His side? Read Romans 8 again. Placing law on the shoulders of unbelievers will only generate wrath and a backlash. Today's social situation in America and Britain must be understood in light of Constantinianism...soft, hard, official, or unofficial, whatever form it has taken....Western Sacralism has run its course and invited a backlash. We live in the days of wrath, where the Lost of the modern world war against Sacralism, and in the process battle against both the true and false forms of the faith. Thanks to Sacralism we who reject the calls of David Cameron, Rick Santorum, James Dobson and others...will suffer along with them as society rejects their vision.
And the more they push it and manipulate politics to gain power and force it on an unwilling society...the greater the backlash. We've gone beyond the turning point. These people will literally bring persecution upon the Church, not for the gospel of the Kingdom...but the pseudo-gospel of Sacralism.
In Revelation17.16 when the kingdoms of the Beast (the self-deified Empire, the pseudo-Zion) turns on the whore (the false church, the covenant community in a state of apostasy) and destroys it, the True Church and heaven rejoice (Revelation 18.20).
Living in the last days of Western Christendom may make lost people like Pat Buchanan wail and lament...but we should have a different response. The social tumult isn't pleasant, but does the doom of Christendom spell disaster for the Church?
Of course not. We have to think in Gospel terms. And in this age of mass confusion, sorrow, degradation, and post-modern thinking...there is opportunity, the kind we haven't seen in many an age.
After the World War, it's not too surprising people said...alright we're not going back to how things were. For those of us who did not live through the war I think it's hard to grasp how thoroughly it shook the moral foundations of society. A similar event happened from 1618-48. But Christendom recovered, and though it was not unified, it grew, and by 1900 sat astride the globe.
Starting in 1914, the proud tower of Christendom once more imploded and spent 31 years destroying itself. To many, spoken aloud or not, it was a referendum. Christendom had failed. Christendom had played its last hand.
That hardly means the power brokers of the day were going to close up shop and go home. Deep rooted social models don't usually disappear overnight. Even when radical social changes take place, like with the Russian Revolution in 1917...many of the old forms remain. Russia never got her worker's paradise, instead she found out that power uses many vehicles to get what it wants. Men may gain zeal from ideas, but don't we say it all the time...power corrupts? Russia ended up with a new super-Tsar instead. While Britain had run its course by 1945, the United States was just reaching its peak. The Secularist backlash was under way, but at the same time the Dominionists were clamouring for a new level of power...a real concrete hard power. No longer was the United States a continental power alone, no longer was it largely an agrarian society. It was now an industrial super-power, an international force beyond anything the world had ever seen. A great social struggle would ensue and still does. The Dominionists have reached a crisis point. Society at large has moved so far away from their vision, they are grasping desperately for political control...to bring the victory (as they define it) by the weight of law and gain the power to organize and engineer society. I hope they will fail and I think they probably will, but in the process they will do a lot of damage and invite a lot of backlash.
The War seemed like a victory for the West, and it was, but a new West, a reformed West. America might still put 'In God We Trust' on its currency, but society at large was already moving away from such Sacral expressions. For Britain, the Sacralist coffin was sealed in the 1950's if not in 1945.
For Sacralists then, and certainly many today, this is a real existential crisis. These folks echo the sentiments of Jerome. When news reached Bethlehem that Rome had been sacked in 410, Jerome lamented...the Christian Roman Empire was breaking! What would become of the Church? (my paraphrase)
If Jerome had understood the Gospel and the nature of the Kingdom he would have realized the utter bankruptcy and foolishness of such a question. The Church is not tied to, nor does it depend on a political or cultural structure. What a painfully low view of the Church of Jesus Christ!
In the United States our collective memory usually extends for only a handful of years, or as one put it...a baseball season. But in Europe you're surrounded by history and though many people don't always remember the details, many do have something of a grasp of the large sweep, the big picture. They might not remember which king came after which queen, but they know something of war, division, hate, and what Christianity brought to European civilization. For the most part, the student of the Bible when reading history must conclude... Christendom did not bring the gospel, it brought a Sacral Society. Europe was Christianized but that doesn't mean the population was ever Christian. There have always been Christians in Europe, many at times. And more often than not they've gone along with the 'Christianization' model. The Christianized populations have had enough. They don't know where to go, but they know Christendom is not the answer. The call of David Cameron and others are empty. The quest for the Sacral Unity bred centuries of war and after 1648, let alone 1945...Europe has had enough.