Wednesday, October 19, 2011

FROM THE ARCHIVES of Every Thought Captive magazine

All Quiet On the Western Front

It probably says more about what defines our moments, the television, than the moments themselves, that we keep multiplying defining moments. For my parents’ generation, it was the death of John F. Kennedy. Everyone remembers where they first heard, or more likely saw, the news. Since that time we have added a moon landing or three, two shuttle disasters, and 9/11. We no longer can be certain what will follow, “Do you remember where you were when you first heard…” I was not yet among the living when JFK died, and was barely four when Neil Armstrong took his small step. But the rest of them I remember not only the events, but where I was for each of them.

Each of these events, however, was more startling than shocking. That is, while we weren’t expecting these things to happen, neither were we thinking, “It will never happen.” Presidents have been killed before, and technological marvels, and failures, are virtually a staple of American life. What truly shocked me, on the other hand, was the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and all that it symbolized, the collapse of the Soviet Union. There we had the curious marriage of both bang and whimper. The speed was bang-like. The events themselves were but a whimper.

Because we are such an a-historical people, we tend to forget that empires come and go. Greece and Rome, because they were both so long ago and so long lasting, are given virtual immortal status. Because we can still find Greece and Rome on a map, we think they’re still with us. The Ottoman Empire, along with the sundry dynasties of China, are just too far east to really count. What we are left with then is the Soviet Empire, and the American Empire. As a child of the Cold War, this was the very air that I breathed, the very water in which I was swimming. Until we woke up one day to discover that the evil empire was no more. We watched the hammer and sickle brought down as hammers and chisels chipped away at that wall. And like the good Americans we are we thought, “Wow, I wonder what those little pieces of the wall will sell for?”

We tend to make one of two mistakes in contemplating our corporate cultural future. For a small few of us, being hip to the rickety nature of our economy, and understanding something of the destructive power of the state, and perhaps even hoping that those who reject the wisdom we have to offer will get their comeuppance, and who ironically have an optimistic view of the long term future, we lean toward Chicken Little. In the 1970’s we were certain that inflation would destroy us. In the 1980’s, we learned to fear AIDS. Then in the 1990’s we feared a far more deadly virus, the millennium bug. Yet here we are, still alive while waiting for the Muslims to overrun us. And with our president’s fiscal policies, the ghosts of phantoms past haunt us again.

The other mistake is more common. When I was busy warning folks (with all due decorum and hedging) about the potential dangers that came with the turning of the clock a few years ago the strangest objection I heard was this, “Don’t you believe in the sovereignty of God?” The unspoken assumption there corporately is the same one that messes us up individually. God is in control. Everything is supposed to be comfortable for me. Therefore nothing bad will happen. Well, there is a difference. It is true for the Christian that God is in control, and that nothing bad will happen to the Christian, understanding that “Bad” should be defined as anything that isn’t helpful in the believer’s sanctification. Comfortable is another matter altogether. But when it comes to this nation, things are different. God is in control still. But everything isn’t supposed to be comfortable for this nation. And of course bad things can happen here.

With both of these mistakes, however, comes a third mistake. Whether you are waiting for judgment, or are sure it will never come, in both circumstances what you have missed is the judgment that has come and continues to come every day. What might cultural judgment look like? Would it look like growing sexual insanity as described in Romans 1? Would it look like a culture where thousands of people each year are murdered by their neighbors? Would a culture under judgment be one where tens of thousands of people each year take their own lives? Would it look like a culture where over a million moms murder over a million babies every year? We keep waiting for God to judge us for these things, and miss the obvious truth, that these things are His judgment against us.

That the economy continues to teeter along, that foreign powers do not rule within our borders, that you can still go out and enjoy a fine meal and a play in turn isn’t a mitigating of the judgment, but an exacerbating of the judgment. Because He has not yet chosen to topple our idols we are fooled into thinking we’ve avoided His judgment, and so we continue down the path of destruction. We miss the opportunity to repent, and that is judgment at its most severe.

When He was but a boy, Jesus performed the first anti-exodus. God’s people had sinned so deeply, that the only safe place for the boy was in the nation of Egypt. Then He returned, and over the next sixty years or so systematically drove out the children of Israel, just as they once drove out the Canaanites. The world was turned upside down. In like manner, not long after the demise of the evil empire, where do we find ourselves, but at home and at peace in the evil empire? We now impose our will not over a few satellite nations in Eastern Europe, but over the whole of the Middle East. We now impose our own cultural decadence on nations that haven’t bowed the knee to our particular utopian scheme. They spread communism, while we spread consumerism. Which is more dangerous to the soul?

Judgment has come. Judgment is here. And judgment will come. The only escape is repentance, recognizing that we are Egypt, a stubborn and foolish nation of hardened hearts.


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