The Storm

A tornado of social, legal, political, and moral conflicts is pounding our nation and society, and I struggle to snag anything in my mind long enough to understand it and decide how I should deal with it. They’re all whipping around together, but it’s not immediately obvious how—or even if—they are really connected.

The election. The most liberal candidates want to fundamentally transform the US into a socialist government, while the most conservative candidates are trying to return our government to its constitutional roots. Those in between seem to be grasping for whatever they can get hold of.

One of the two front-running candidates gives every appearance of being a pathological liar, cheater, and power-grabber, with no regard for law or morality, while the other became famous by exploiting his caustic personality and narcissistic lifestyle, and shows every intention of running his presidency (if elected) the same way.

Statue of Liberty in stormy weatherTerrorism. Although terrorism has been common in some countries for some time, it’s just now becoming a real possibility for many of us, forcing us to second-guess our moral compass on issues like how to show compassion to war-worn refugees, and whether to buy firearms to protect our homes and families.

The press. Instead of performing their proper role of dispassionately informing the public of important events and issues, major media outlets have become the unashamed spokespeople for political agendas, actively trying to shape public opinion by filtering and spinning the “news” they broadcast and publish.

Education. Instead of exposing our young people to the widest possible spectrum of ideas and philosophies so they can learn to think intelligently for themselves, our universities are becoming hermetically sealed quarantine bubbles to “protect” students from any ideas that might “offend” someone.

Public middle and high schools are being forced to cater to individual students claiming silly self-perceptions of sexual identity, forcing other students to be exposed to potential (if not likely) sexual predators.

Illegal immigration. Our president allows and even encourages thousands of people to illegally enter our country, using up resources that our own impoverished citizens—many of them veterans—desperately need.

Innocent deaths. Our leaders get all up in arms about horrible mass and individual shootings that kill thousands of people each year, while at the same time supporting the heinous murder of hundreds of thousands of babies through abortion.

Freedom of religion. The government is caving to pressure to force committed and devout Christians to compromise moral tenants of their faith in the hypocritical guise of preventing discrimination.

So what is to be made of all this? It would be easy to become overwhelmed and paralyzed by it all, and to imagine that our society will continue to disintegrate until we destroy it completely.

 

David responded well:

The Lord delivers and vindicates me!
I fear no one!
The Lord protects my life!
I am afraid of no one!
When evil men attack me
to devour my flesh,
when my adversaries and enemies attack me,
they stumble and fall.
Even when an army is deployed against me,
I do not fear.
Even when war is imminent,
I remain confident.
I have asked the Lord for one thing –
this is what I desire!
I want to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life,
so I can gaze at the splendor of the Lord
and contemplate in his temple.
He will surely give me shelter in the day of danger;
he will hide me in his home;
he will place me on an inaccessible rocky summit.
Now I will triumph
over my enemies who surround me!
I will offer sacrifices in his dwelling place and shout for joy!
I will sing praises to the Lord!
Hear me, O Lord, when I cry out!
Have mercy on me and answer me!
My heart tells me to pray to you,
and I do pray to you, O Lord.
Do not reject me!
Do not push your servant away in anger!
You are my deliverer!
Do not forsake or abandon me,
O God who vindicates me!
Even if my father and mother abandoned me,
the Lord would take me in.
Teach me how you want me to live;
lead me along a level path because of those who wait to ambush me!
Do not turn me over to my enemies,
for false witnesses who want to destroy me testify against me.
Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience
the Lord’s favor in the land of the living?
Rely on the Lord!
Be strong and confident!
Rely on the Lord!

Psalm 27 (NET)

Image courtesy of Damian Brandon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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6 responses to “The Storm

  1. Regarding freedom of religion, I would like to share an answer to the question “How is radical individualism manifesting itself in America today? Do you think Abraham Kuyper’s ideas could provide a solution?” (from a church history course I am taking online)

    Radical individualism today is promoting the welfare of minority groups of radical thinkers at the expense of the the majority of the citizens. These relatively small groups have been very effective at furthering their agendas by shouting down all opposition. They do not use rational arguments, but ad hominem attacks. They are undermining the Rule of Law by using emotional blackmail to enlist sympathy for their causes. Instead of analyzing their ideas and the consequences, they hold up a sympathetic “case” to appeal directly to our emotions, rather than to reason. In this way, a few individual’s desires have been foisted on an entire population. These people, who called for tolerance and free speech when they were in the minority, now denigrate anyone who not only does not condone what they want to do, but insists that their view is the only acceptable view. They have gone so far as to begin penalizing and prosecuting those who do not hold their world views.
    Therefore, in this strident and malicious climate, I doubt there is sufficient tolerance to allow Christians to “live and let live.” The secular radicals have not only taken over the reigns of influence, but they are rapidly moving into the active persecution of Christians. They are relentlessly removing any public expression of Christianity, and rigorously declaring Christians as “evil” and dangerous to their way of life.
    However, we know that what man means for evil, God means for good, so we can anticipate a powerful work of God even as our nation descends into spiritual darkness. We need not fear, but pray for strength in the day of trial, and look in awe as God does His work. We know that the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” and that God is always faithful when we bend our knee in humility and in complete surrender to Him. We need to love one another as Christ loved the church, and love our enemies, doing good to those who persecute us, even as Jesus did.
    Just as God is working amidst the horrors of Islamic jihad to bring thousands of Muslims to Jesus Christ, we can be confident that, as we pray in faith, and prepare ourselves with the knowledge of the Word, that God will work in our own nation as we have not seen Him work in our lifetime. As long as the church felt satisfied and self-sufficient, it was luke warm, and comfortable for the tares. Once persecution is underway, only those regenerated by the Holy Spirit will want to be identified as Christians, and the Lord will certainly strengthen those who do not deny Him in the time of trial. In this way, God has historically purified and grown His church, and the gates of hell have not prevailed against it.

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    • This is very interesting, Scott–thanks for sharing it! It seems like a good analysis of both the current state of affairs and the probable future trends.

      But one thing bothers me. I’m not a historian, but it’s my understanding that the heart and soul of America might be called “radical individualism.” The founding principle of our society is that because we were made in the image of God, every individual has the equal right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Said another way, the rights of every person are just as important as the rights of society. Everyone has the right to live his life as he sees fit, as long as he doesn’t infringe on the right of anyone else to do the same. A nephew of mine puts it this way: “Your right to wildly swing your fists around ends where my nose begins.”

      This means that every citizen has the right to practice whatever religious faith they choose, as long as they don’t infringe the right of anyone else to practice their own. So Muslims can meet, and chant, and do whatever they do for their religious traditions, but they cannot intimidate (much less murder) those who choose to worship otherwise. It doesn’t matter if murdering “infidels” is a tenant of Islam. It infringes the right of others to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so that aspect of Islam is unconstitutional.

      Similarly, a same-sex couple may have the legal right to marry, but forcing Christians to support such a marriage by taking the wedding photos or baking a same-sex wedding cake infringes the right of the Christians to practice their religion.

      I don’t know how “radical individualism” is defined in your course, but it seems to me that America’s Founding Fathers intended our society to support and foster an environment that guarantees individual rights that can only be called “radical.”

      That said, I completely agree that God’s plans for our nation might very well include using the persecution of Christians to strengthen and embolden His Church, and that we all must be getting ready for it.

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    • The particular lesson where this question was raised was a lesson about Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) whom the instructor considers to be the most important Christian thinker of the modern era, because Kuyper helps us more than any other modern Christian thinker to understand the situation we are in today. He was a man of extraordinary ability who would remarkably influence in the Netherlands during the nineteenth century.

      Kuyper believed that understanding how Christians are different from the world will help us to understand our place in the world. In particular, he insisted that the “sovereignty of spheres” is the only way to protect against tyranny in the modern world.

      Kuyper believed the answer to state control was to recognize that God created the world with a variety of spheres under His direct authority. God did not give the state all power in society. Rather, the state exists to administer justice in society. God created other spheres in society. For example, the family is created by God and directly accountable to Him. And, since the state did not create the family, God did not give children to the state. God gave children to the family, and the family is responsible for how children are raised. The state’s right to administer justice extends only to the protection of children from harm, but the state does not have the authority to raise children. As a result, Kuyper’s vision has radical implications for the education of children. Moreover, Kuyper insisted that the sphere of science and advanced thought is where the university should exist. The university needs to exist in its own sphere if it is to remain free. It is not under the authority of the state, the church, or the family. Universities are the gathering place of likeminded thinkers to promote advanced thought. Putting this idea into practice, Kuyper founded the Free University of Amsterdam.

      Kuyper believed that genuine pluralism was the key to genuine freedom. A modern society necessitates a variety of churches for a variety of families for a variety of schools for a variety of political parties. These spheres would function to preserve a genuine diversity and a genuine freedom. He attempted to provide a pluralistic model that would actually allow for a plurality of ideas. While Christians are often thought to be antagonistic to a pluralistic society because they believe they alone worship the one true God, Kuyper’s model allows Christians to live without compromising the truth or a commitment to evangelism. The freedom envisioned at the core of Kuyper’s model allows people to live in accordance with their beliefs.

      The radical individualism of America is truly at the heart of the increasing intolerance we see today: every individual demands to be equally respected in every institution. As we are confronted by a storm of hatred that threatens our freedom of religion, Abraham Kuyper’s thought not only provides Christians with a blueprint for the modern world; it also provides us with a hope that rests ultimately in God.

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      • That’s really interesting Scott–thanks for the great synopsis of Kuyper’s thought. I’ve heard of him, but I don’t know anything about him. I don’t remember if I read anything of his in my college theology classes.

        What you describe regarding the family I completely agree with. Hillary Clinton’s socialist ideas of child-reading (“It takes a village”) will do great harm to society, if they receive widespread acceptance.

        I agree that parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children, but it’s hard to argue against the widespread literary that public education has given us. If we took all education away from the state, I’m afraid we’d lose a lot of the progress we’ve made. On the other hand, we still have too much illiteracy in the US, and that might well be largely due to the breakdown of the family. Single-parent homes are inherently unstable, and that makes even public education very difficult, due to discipline problems. Parents directly giving their children all their education–such as home schooling–isn’t always practical. But I do think parents should be much more involved in the schools and the education process than they generally are.

        I’m not sure about separating the university from the church. As recently as 100 years ago I think, church-supported higher education gave us some of our top scholars. I think the church has lost a lot by letting the secular state take over that control.

        I think every individual should be equally “respected” in every institution, because every individual is made in the image of God. Where we go wrong is in thinking that respect is the same thing as agreement. I can–and must–respect a person without agreeing with his beliefs or philosophies. That is the foundation of the pluralism that Kuyper seems to have advocated. So I’m not sure that radical individualism itself is the problem, but rather some of the ways it is lived out and applied to a person’s life. Were not some of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, and Jesus Himself radical indivualists?

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