The American future of Christianity? Brilliant Read by William Murchison
Meantime, it seems necessary to advise against Americans’ giving themselves pious airs. Ours is a culture that puts more trust in supernatural religion than does Europe’s—but not that much more. On the way to church, my wife and I sometimes joke about the comings and goings on the road: joggers, bicyclists, the lounging crowds at Starbucks. Guess they’re getting a quick refill for the ride to First Methodist, we might say with a wink, well knowing the patrons to be occupied with latte and laptops rather than Bibles.
The legacy of the Enlightenment weighs upon us, as upon our European co-religionists: religion as claptrap and show, churches and cathedrals as places you repair not for physical and spiritual connection to Reality itself but for the satisfaction of habits or social needs or goodness knows what else. Anyway, how to present Christian realities in the context of a culture wedded to choice, change, and the satisfaction of personal wants? The immediate satisfaction, I should add: not deferred to some Better Time. Now. And preferably with as little pain and inconvenience as possible.
Christianity—we should admit it—is un-modern. Or, rather, it is modern in the sense that it encompasses all eras: past, present, and future. What we might call the “modern spirit” is in fact detached from the Christian spirit.
If anything could be said of the Church in the ensuing years and decades and centuries, it was that the Church spoke and acted boldly—with divine recklessness, even. Why? Because so it was commanded. The same Gospel that relays to us the news of Peter’s commission moves the matter briskly along, some chapters later: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.”
What the Church said, essentially, over and over again, to whomever might be listening, was: “You need this. Upon it depends everything. Life, death, everything.”
We find in Christ’s words a rather alarming promise—alarming to adversaries of the Faith.
It is that nothing they can do will polish off his church. Nothing. That would include, I imagine, multi-cultural instruction in schools, prohibitions of religious symbols, the extirpation of Christmas festivities on public property, even the forced emptying of the churches themselves. Persecution, nakedness, and the sword will likewise fail. Martin Luther turned the same perception to account: “The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him . . . For, lo, his doom is sure.” I think I am right in declaring this to be the consistent witness of the Church, in all times, all places.