Losing Ground in a Post-Christian America

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Photo by christianpost.com

We need only look back at the collapse of the Roman Empire to understand the ultimate peril we face as a nation when the influence of the church is lost.

Referring to that collapse, 19th century British historian James Bryce posited that: “the old religions had lost their hold on the belief of the educated and on the conscience of all classes”.The Romans had ultimately rejected religion and fell prey to their own depravation and loss of moral conscience.

Today’s Millenniums are abandoning the church in unprecedented numbers – being assimilated into a post-Christian culture where any stand for Judeo-Christian teachings is viewed as intolerant bigotry – a culture that is becoming ever-increasingly hostile to the traditional teachings of Christ and those who hold onto them. A culture where Millenniums and Centennials now sequester themselves in “safe spaces”, where opposing thoughts or views are not allowed, if those thoughts or views conflict with theirs.

1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us that “the message of the cross is foolishness (absurdity) to those who are perishing…“. This passage should sound an alarm to all those of faith – particularly its leaders, pastors, and priests.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared in one of his addresses that, “If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.

“Why are our churches losing their influence in our culture and society?”

Is it because they’ve lost their prophetic zeal, as Dr. King alluded to; or has it been the perceived hypocrisy of white evangelical churches and televangelists, who have chosen to publicly and politically align themselves with a president, whose character and behavior run contrary to any form of Christ-likeness?

Dr. King further went on to state that, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool“.

When Millenniums and Centennials look for genuineness of spiritual leadership, what they see is pretense.

Having said all that, the root (no pun intended) cause of the church’s loss of influence, might be found in the  “Parable of the Sower“.

Jesus used parables to teach his disciples the precepts he wanted them to learn, and this particular parable is book-ended with the following words:

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear!

In this story, a sower haphazardly spreads seed, with some seed falling in areas with no soil, and some where the soil had been taken over by thorns. In these instances the seeds produce little or no harvest. However, when those seeds fall on areas of good soil, the result is a bumper crop.

Jesus then interprets the parable to his disciples, revealing that the seed represents the Word of God; the soil represents how people respond to the seed; and finally, the sower represents anyone proclaiming the Word of God.

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear!

The church today, as in the time preceding the fall of the Roman Empire, is sowing seed upon soil that is very poor (a culture that has acquiesced to sin and has all but rejected Christ and his teachings), and as a result, the seed is going to waste.

The thorns (being the sins which are inherent in our culture) have choked out the seeds’ ability to produce a crop.

As I was writing this post, I was reminded of the Old Testament account of the prophet Jeremiah’s warning to the Israelites, who had reneged on the covenant their ancestors made with God when He delivered them out of their slavery in Egypt.  They (leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, palace officials, priests, and all the rest of the people”had turned their backs on God and were about to face an all out attack by the Babylonian army (“I’m handing the lot of them over to their enemies who are out to kill them.”).  Those not destroyed in the attack would be taken captive back to Babylon as slaves once again.

However, God in his infinite mercy, gave them one last warning through his messenger, Jeremiah:

“I’ve got something to say. Is anybody listening?
I’ve a warning to post. Will anyone notice?
It’s hopeless! Their ears are stuffed with wax – deaf as a post, blind as a bat.
It’s hopeless! They’ve tuned out God.  They don’t want to hear from me.”

Angered and believing they were beyond judgment, officials ignored the warning and the rest, as you’d say, is history.

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear!

Has the wax of our culture muted the sounds of the Gospel in the ears of those who need to hear it most, and if so, should this be cause for hopelessness and surrender?

Do we prepare to withdraw into a monastic communal state, just as Saint Benedict did following the collapse of the Roman Empire?

Or, to continue within the context of the parable – “should the church just drop its seed bag and give up”?

As Dr. King once acknowledged, the church needs to recapture its prophetic zeal; and although the  message of the cross may seem foolish to those in our post-Christian society, who having heard it – rejected  it, there is optimism in knowing there are still those across our society, young and old, who may still be listening, if only through muted ears,

and that’s the answer.

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