Generation Hope

7:30 AM

My mama read little Bailey the story of Chicken Licken and the acorn that fell on her tail. "The sky is falling, the sky is falling!" she shrieked, and convinced Henny Penny, Lucy Goosey, Turkey Lurkey and Ducky Daddles to fear the same. Now I read that story to my preschoolers, and I can't help but trace the connection between the destruction of sane Christianity by self-proclaimed doomsayers and the fowls' end in Foxy Woxy's tummy.

Perhaps because of my aberrant eschatological beliefs I am disqualified from commenting, but as I am a Christian radio listener and a CBD catalog patron, I feel in turn perfectly justified.

If we get out from Sunday evening service before Musical Memories, inevitably we hear something about prophecy, the Middle East and how everything's lined up: "Now, I'm not setting dates, John, but I am convinced that Jesus will return in our lifetime."

At least those who set up dates do so honestly, extrapolating revelation from imagination, instead of fitting in the puzzle pieces of a broken world into a clear time frame for Jesus' return. Bestsellers run along the same line - "I'm not saying anything, but I'm just saying...." I don't understand how propounding an admitted guess as a done deal does any good to anybody. Of course Jesus could come now. Or now. Or now. The fact is we don't know. Saying you do when you admit you don't - but maybe it's my logic that's off.

People have been convinced for two millennia that Jesus will return and return quickly, in our timetable. In terms of economy, morals, culture and persecution, I would not myself pin our time as the perfect pitch of turmoil. The Great Depression was horrible. So was the French Revolution. Rome's decadence. The World Wars. The Reformation period. For as many hits the world has taken, the current Western famine still has some pretty good pickings left.

Things are lurching along at a troubling pace, undoubtedly. But while a good portion of Christendom predicts gloom and doom, I and many others hold out for hope. Hear me out.

So much of Christianity has been wrapped up in Western culture that we think that losing the latter will lose the former. If America falls, all is lost! If we don't return to the Greatest Generation, we're doomed! If we don't wear suits and hats to church, we're heading for decay!

Quick side note: I wish we would revive hats and suits - I like them.

As much as I love America, I do not consider her the Christian Israel nor do I think her downfall spells disaster. Yes, a Judeo-Christian worldview was woven into America's fabric, yet even if the majority were Christians back in the revolutionary period, they aren't now. We're a very post-Christian nation.

And that both saddens and excites me.

Because it's becoming increasing unpopular to be explicitly, unapologetically Christian, the true church is separating from the culturally Christian - those who identify themselves so only to be in fashion or good society. It becomes harder for people to take the name Christian lightly. Hardly anybody knows anything about Christianity at all nowadays, so the church must evangelize from the roots up, covering all the bases, instead of assuming that, because we're a Christian nation, people know about Christ and His gospel.

Even though persecution is rampant overseas (are we really so spoiled as to call our pigheaded politics full-blown persecution?), the gospel spreads like wildfire and Christians spring up everywhere. God is not dead, as Nietzsche lied. He lives. And until the moment He comes, He will preserve His church, glorify His Name and send out His gospel.

Why sound the trumpet of defeat right when we're in the middle of victory?

We may lose America and Western culture - which has done much to glorify Christ and evangelize and disciple, yes. But God's primary concern is lost people, not lost culture, a thing American and Western culture has also greatly contributed to. And there is much, much evidence of the Spirit at work in individuals.

I think that many Christians over the age of thirty approach all this rather cynically - things aren't the way they used to be (and they're not) and therefore the end is near. Their Christianity is very cultural and American. Not solely, of course, but very much a part of their lifetimes. My generation grew up in post-Christian America. We know nothing else but that. And so instead of sitting in the piles of rubble lamenting that our house has fallen and everything's getting worse, we're concerned with the people the house might have fallen on...and how to build it back up. We have no personal loss in the fall of America: we only know the world is wrecked, the culture failing and the people in need of saving.

We are a generation of hope.

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10 impressions

  1. Great post, Bailey!!! Though I think that its good to live as though Christ could return at any time (since, obviously, He could) and not spend our time in idle waste, I do agree that Christianity does not rest in the fate of America. No matter what happens in our nation (speedy downward spiral or a revival), God is in control and He has given us hope. I too am of the generation born into a post-Christian America and it breaks my heart to see a whole nation that is so lost... but, we DO have hope that salvation can still come to those souls AND we have a bright, glorious future in our Lord, no matter where our country is heading.

    Again, great post!
    Blessings!
    Rachel

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  2. Yes, yes! It excites me too, to think that God might use our increasingly immoral society to smoke the false teachers and false believers out of the church. I mean, who wants to be a Christian if you're going to get persecuted for it? Only a truly Christ-saved person!
    <><

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  3. Interesting... many other countries (like China and others in Africa) have lived so many years and generations with difficulties, persecution, and turmoil, that it is just part of daily life. Then, when America has problems, everyone thinks the end is near. Whereas these difficulties have been normal life for folks in other countries for years. Of course, the growing amount of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. is noticeable. But, the Lord is in control and always has been, and this will all be used to His glory.

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  4. Your view of the world around you and how that relates to your theology is so realistic and grounded - it's very refreshing!

    I particularly liked this: " Yes, a Judeo-Christian worldview was woven into America's fabric, yet even if the majority were Christians back in the revolutionary period, they aren't now. We're a very post-Christian nation."

    Interestingly, many of the "Founding Fathers" were Unitarians (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to name a couple) and, while they may have considered themselves Christians, most Unitarians (or Unitarian Universalists) today, do not.

    I also liked this: "the true church is separating from the culturally Christian"
    While most UUs today are not Christian, most US UUs are culturally Christian.

    Your posts are always both insightful and thoughtful, and as a result, they are a pleasure to read.

    Adele

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  5. Adele, I've been studying post-Revolutionary America in school, and the attempts to herd all God-fearing, religious founding fathers into a staunchly Christian group looks rather ridiculous now. Only recently did I learn that Unitarianism became very popular in John Adams's circle, to the point where his son John Quincy opposed him to his face for it. Their dialogue was fascinating.

    Thank you for your insights! It was a perfect compliment to what I'm studying.

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  6. Bailey,

    That you learn about the major revolutionary and post-revolutionary players in such depth, including their belief systems, is both wonderful and rare I think. Score one for home-schooling!

    Adele

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  7. Okay, this has taken a lot of my rather jumbled thoughts and organized them. Or else given fuel for more jumbled thoughts... I agree on the point that "many Christians over the age of thirty approach all this rather cynically", and now I want to know what you suggest we do about it. How do we take the doctrines we've been taught and then apply them to this messed up world we live in? How do we live as winsome, appealing Christians and not as fuddy-duddies with their heads in the sand because they are so afraid of change?
    Thank you for this post.
    Justine

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  8. Justine, I’ve thought about the same thing: So we recognize everything’s wrong—what do we do about it? I’m working through it myself, and here are some thoughts to get you thinking too. Let me know if you come up with anything!

    (1) This culture (the crumbling Western one) has a love/hate relationship with truth. Americans are very spiritual in the sense that they’re sensitive to their “inner being” and want something definitive purpose and guiding truth for them. Because the Christian religion of has been so external—say, a code of dogma, a political stance, a cultural symbol—many reject it for its “fakeness” and incompatibility with their own spiritual search. Of course, fake Christianity is an issue but it’s also an issue that the belief in a universal, verifiable truth in religion is almost nil nowadays.

    (2) So I think the way to engage this culture is on that level, understanding the profound interest in spirituality and a disinterest and almost disgust of dogma. There was a time when rational discussion of religion provoked people to think; we’re not a thinking culture anymore. Of course, we don’t throw out dogma—the gospel is a doctrine—but we have to make sure it’s real in our own lives. Hypocrisy is the worst sin in this culture now. We need to teach ourselves first.

    (3) Then we can teach others. I’m convinced the homeschooling movement and the interest in Christian education across the board, as well as resurrection of intentional parenting, is going to do wonders. It’s not producing Christians in name only: it’s focusing on surrendering the whole person to Christ. I think a strong faction of Christians who know how to handle good relationships and disciple others through strong family life and who are interested in carrying that on in the next generations is absolutely imperative.

    (4) Our generation, the millennials, is very grace-focused and is producing a culture of grace. That goes haywire if we ignore clear doctrine like the emerging church does, but I think it’s a good corrective to the self-centered, moralistic, cultural Christianity that dominated before. This is the type of radical grace that causes Christians to sacrifice everything to reach out to another person. It’s the type of grace that’s both concerned with the truth and making sure a person understands the truth. Our generation will have to get messy in such a broken culture. So many people are hurting and angry and bitter, and reaching out through God’s grace is the only way to get to them in their sin and brokenness.

    Basically, I think we have to be real Christians obsessed with the gospel as something that consumes our whole life, not just the religious part, and that we become so saturated with grace and truth in our own life that it spills out to other people. The way to win this culture is one-on-one, not cultural or political.

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  9. Thanks, Bailey! I'm going to print this off and maybe show it to the leader of our youth group. Our church is big on doctrine... and our youth group is studying a book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan, so we are thinking about the life of the church and of us as individuals.
    Justine

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  10. Crazy Love is the best example of integrating radical Jesus-living with sound doctrine. I really think sound doctrine without radical living and radical living without sound doctrine does no good...but together, they are unstoppable. Wish I could study it with you!

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