Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Selling Your Soul for a Bowl of Soup

Only the willfully blind fail to observe the obvious spiritual decline that is permeating these United States of America.  The positive indicators, the hard facts, the statistical analyses all point to the reality that increasing numbers of Americans are utterly unconcerned about spiritual matters.

In a generation, from 1974 through 2014, those who never pray has risen from near zero to 15%; those claiming no religion has increased from 6% to 21%, and those who never attend religious services has shot up from 11% to 26%.

And, as an ominous sign portending the future, younger generations are markedly less religious than their elders.   If not anti-religious, many are at least oblivious to such truth and utterly disinterested.

Observers have concluded that millennials (b. 1981—2000) are the least religious in memory and perhaps in all of American history.  Those that follow, variously referred to as iGen or Gen Z, appear to be even more secular.  Compared to youth of the same age a generation earlier, participation in religious services has declined by 50% and personal involvement in spiritual activities has fallen five-fold.

If the present practices of these young people serve as a harbinger of the future, there is no sign of change in the pattern of plummeting spiritual interest across our land.

A recent book, Esau Rising: Ancient Adversaries and the War for America’s Soul, documents that many in American society are driven by the same self-interest, the same disregard for spiritual values, and the same preoccupation with fleshly, temporal concerns as was ancient Esau.  They are literally selling their souls for passing pleasures, fads, and a preoccupation with social media – the moral equivalent of Esau’s bowl of stew.

We who know Christ are charged with discipling future generations and instilling in them eternal values and biblical convictions that will drive them to follow the Lord and not the latest trends on Twitter.  Let us pray for discernment, wisdom and divine grace that will enable us to prevail in the battle for the souls of our youth.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Does Presidential Character Matter?

Twenty-four years ago, the slogan that put Bill Clinton in the White House was, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  I.e., despite other concerns, including the personal character and beliefs of the candidates running, the one issue that should override all others is the need to elect the best candidate to maintain and improve the American economy.  Enough voters were convinced by this rhetorical ploy to elect Mr. Clinton.

Now, six election cycles later, Americans are again faced with a critical decision.  And we are once more bombarded with rhetoric that could well be framed as, “It’s immigration, stupid,”  “It’s climate change, stupid,” or “It’s financial fairness, stupid.”  That is, a candidate’s character is again deemphasized in favor of his views on certain other political issues.

If we evaluate the election from a biblical perspective, character must rise to the top in terms of God’s order of priorities.  Romans chapter 13 declares that civil authorities are to serve as “God’s ministers” to enforce right and wrong by controlling law-breakers and protecting the innocent.  Right and wrong, good and evil, are valuations that civil government must make and enforce.  But this begs the obvious question: who determines what is good and must be protected and what is evil and must be punished?

For those who adhere to the authority of the Bible, the clear answer is that civil government must reflect God’s view on the controversial moral issues of the day.  It should not be the barometer of fickle public opinion.  Rather, the timeless and unchanging standard of Scripture should inform the decision-making of government leaders in their assessment of how to enforce right and wrong.

So, when you enter the voting booth in this primary season, your principal concern should be: which candidate’s character best reflects the truth of Scripture and therefore puts him/her in the best position to enforce legal standards that mirror God’s eternal law?  Proverbs 29:2 captures the essence of the matter: “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; but when the wicked rules, the people groan.”