I know I’ve spread this thought out over weeks due to the (pleasant) interruption of my novel, which I’m editing at this time. I want to do a quick review before I continue and then in the very end, I want to sew this all up—I hope—to a simple synopsis.
- The fragmentation of information sources, made possible by the invention of electronic platforms such as the internet, cable TV, and satellite radio. These platforms made it possible to reach the whole world with a very small (relatively speaking) financial investment. However, in order to compete in the world of information dispersion, the main lanes were taken by the established networks and publications. Therefore, these “entrepreneurs” had to find niches in the extreme (left or right) in which to draw attention and profits. To consolidate their positions, these “sources” had to rely on sensational, emotionally-based, reporting (including the manufacturing of conspiracy theories). They make the consumer of their lies feel special by saying they have a unique corner on the TRUTH that no one else has, and they are the nice guys. Examples on the right are Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and Tim Fritton. On the left, Bill Palmer, Justin Brotman, and Ana Marie Cox.
- Philosophical movements (only two of many) that contributed to our movement away from TRUTH include Deconstruction (AKA; Linguistic Deconstruction) and Synthesis (AKA; Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis). In the first one, it states that all information is biased and therefore untrustworthy (except the information being promoted by those making this argument) and the latter says that TRUTH is no longer possible because the opposite of any position is also true. Black and white are the same. The example that Curt (comment in that post) is that Jesus is both the son of God and also, Jesus is not the son of God. While such statements can bring temporary peace to those advocating opposite viewpoints, it does no service in trying to know TRUTH as only one can be correct in the classical notion of logic.
As I mentioned, Francis Schaeffer was urging the Christian Church in the West to stand against the erosion of TRUTH, however, in some ways it has contributed to that loss. I want to next look at the Church’s role as in this process. I have to start with the fact that the West is now post-Christian to make sense of this role. This leaving of Christianity started in Europe over two hundred years ago and is now spreading quickly in the Americas. But before I can continue with this assumption, I felt that I had to address the reasons behind this departure from Christianity.
I have spoken before of how the Church in America is dying and that dying is inevitable. This makes many of my Christian friends very angry when I say this, but I’m only the message bearer. The statistics are overwhelming. I may come back and talk about this issue again at another time. But one point I want to make today is that for those who love the organized Church, don’t worry there will still be churches in 100 years, but rather than a small town having 10 active church communities, it will be consolidated down to 1 or 2. The Church will also have a diminishing influence in our society over time. Also, this death of the Church is not necessarily a bad thing for those who simply want to follow Christ. His followers thrived in the ages when the Church would be considered dead, or in the pre-315 AD period, when the organized Church wasn’t even born yet (for all practical purposes). But let me also define “Church,” in the way I’m using it. I share this definition in my feeble attempts to cut down on the hate mail I expect to receive. For “Church” I don’t mean the invisible body of believers and followers of Christ as some people mean when they use that term. I’m talking about the human institution of the Church; buildings, programs, and intricate extracted doctrines (in another article I will explain what I mean by “extracted doctrines” as compared to simple and obvious teachings of Christ).
Why We Live in A Post-Christian World
I am going to describe this from two perspectives. The first perspective is from the white evangelical baby boomer viewpoint (which I will call WEBB). I know the WEBB viewpoint well because I was a WEBB for more than 20 years. I have also had many conversations with WEBBs in recent years. I don’t think this viewpoint is accurate (at all) but I must share it as a contrast to what I think is the real reason.
Before the 1960s America was great (from where the slogan “Make American Great Again” has its roots), people then went to church, they all loved God (think of the show The Andy Griffith Show). In those days, sex outside of marriage was only done by the very few bad people, there were no drugs, people worked hard, and were honest. There was also no homosexuality and America had no racism because we were mostly white, and those people of color knew their place in society.
Then the 1960s came and the kids (wink, wink; who are now in their 60s) started using drugs, having sex outside of marriage, and turning their backs on God and the church. This was caused by our kids being exposed to liberal ideas and godless philosophies in schools; some of those philosophies include evolution and secular humanism. I call these ideas “Plausible Alternative Explanations (PAEs).” For example, for hundreds of years the only explanation for why humans existed was being created by God (there were very few atheists during this period). When Darwin first made observations about evolution, his purpose wasn’t to supplant the belief in God or even his faith in Christianity. However, near the end of his life he started to have serious doubts about God. So, the WEBB’s belief that allowing these philosophies into our schools and “liberal” media sources, that our kids were brainwashed in turning away from God.
The WEBB “ace” that they play (but I think is more like the “joker”) is what I call the eschatological cop out. Eschatology of course deals with issues of the end times. The view adopted by the WEBBs (but wasn’t part of the previous Church’s doctrines for over 1800 years, or most other, non-American churches today) is that we are living in the last days, that there will be a great falling away from God as part of the plan. Then there will be a great and bloody war (Armageddon), and then Jesus will return. So many of the WEBBs I’ve spoken to will complain how lazy and selfish the younger people are, but it doesn’t matter because “it’s all going to burn and Jesus is coming back soon.”
Their solution is turning back the clock, making America great again, ridding our society of these godless philosophies. As an elder said in my previous church, “No child should ever go to anything but a Christian school and never go to college where they are exposed to these godless philosophies.” (quoted but my paraphrase).
Historical Viewpoint: History, if studied carefully, tells a very different story than the above. But like with the rise and fall of all great movements (e.g. Roman Empire) the story is complex and multifactorial. In my remaining space I want to pick out just a few of the reasons we are moving into a post-Church, post-Christian epoch of western civilization. While the story of why the West has left, and continues leaving, Christianity as a worldview is convoluted, there is a simple theme behind most of the mistakes and that is the Church’s historical lust for money and power. I will pick just a few major landmarks to illustrated this.
The first was the French Revolution (1789) and the deliberate de-Christianization of France. In France, the Aristocrats was the highest social strata and was made up of the powerful nobility, the very wealthy, and the Church leaders. The problem became that the Aristocrats made up only a very small percentage of society, yet they held the vast majority of the power and wealth. The common people were becoming poorer and poorer and were starting to starve. The Church, rather than showing compassion to the masses, who were in dire straits, sided with and were in bed with (figuratively and literally) the tiny minority who were powerful and wealthy aristocrats.
When the common people took over the government during the French Revolution, they started the “reign of terror” where they chopped off the heads of the nobility, the rich, and the clergy. Hundreds of priests were beheaded, and tens of thousands had to flee France to save their lives. The climax of the revolution was when an exotic dancer was brought into the Notre Dame Cathedral and crowned, the Goddess of Reason, as the new religion of France, replacing Christianity. This became the watershed moment for much of the departure from Christianity in the West, as many anti-Christian writers grew out of this movement in France and spread their ideas to the rest of the West.
Now some will say how terrible these people were to do that. But I say, how horrible the Church was for getting in bed with the corrupt rich and powerful, just because they were rich and powerful, and ignoring the needs of the masses for decades. This French church did not reflect the priorities of Christ, himself and this created a strong resentment and sense of betrayal among the masses.
The next big turning away from Christianity came after World War II. There were two major reasons for this. For one, the great disillusionment in a good God in the aftermath of such atrocities of the war. The second reason was that, like the French church in the 1700s, the German Lutheran and Catholic churches in the 1930s and 40s sided with the rich and powerful Nazis. It is hard for American evangelicals to understand this, but prior to this point, the Church had a long history of antisemitism and they welcomed the formation of the Nazi Party, which had the following statement as part of its platform:
We demand the freedom of all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not jeopardize the state’s existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The Party as such upholds the point of view of a positive Christianity without tying itself confessionally to any one confession. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit at home and abroad and is convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only be achieved from within on the basis of the common good before individual good.
The great tragedy was that the German churches remained complacent (with a few exceptions) even when the holocaust developed. In the post WWII period, there was an increasing momentum of the masses in Europe becoming disillusioned with the Church.
While there are thousands of reasons for why we now live in a post-Christian society, I will including two more major event, and like the two previous mentioned ones, it is the Church finding itself on the wrong side of history, but this time I will focus on America. I considered the fact that many major churches (Southern Baptist, Presbyterian Church in American, and others) aligned themselves with the pro-slavery south (based on the income that slaves could bring the church members) and in the Jim Crow years, had a high tolerance for racism and bigotry, and those views continue until today.
The second reason, which may even be greater than the slavery , is the WEBBs aligning themselves with Donald Trump in 2016. This alignment was also based on money and power. Several writers have already observed how the exodus of the millennials, Gen Xers, and younger people from the Church has greatly accelerated and they say it is the support of that church for Donald Trump that has driven them away as it has lost its moral voice within our society.
From the viewpoint of the younger generations, the American Christians had long been the voice of moral criticism of their lifestyles (including then being unchurched). However, this same younger groups (per many surveys) have held much stronger moral ideals than the Church in the area of human rights, compassion for the poor, freedom from greed, and concerns for the way we treat this planet. When the WEBBs joined Donald Trump in his racist language, disregard for the environment, love of money, and immunity from telling the truth, the younger generations observed a profound hypocrisy of the Church (not to mention Donald Trumps profound moral failures in the areas of his sexuality and shady business dealings), the departure from the Church has accelerated.
I will point out, in closing, that the WEBBs viewpoint places all the blame on the people leaving the Church, while the history view places the responsibility on the Church itself. While blaming others or even one’s eschatology, is emotionally convenient, it is not consistent with how society works. Sears goes bankrupt but they knew better than to blame the customers, who no longer liked shopping there. They blamed themselves for not better responding the needs of their customers.
Once again, please overlook typos as I typed this in one quick setting. I want to get back to my chores and editing my novel.