Did you know that there was a time when you could buy firearms right from the Sears catalog? Anecdotally I have heard that in the earlier part of the 20th century one could purchase dynamite at the local hardware store. One would think, then, that the culture would be full of violence and mayhem, school shootings, and teenagers blowing each other up and away on street corners. After all, back in the “old days” all you needed to do was show up with money in hand at your local hardware store and walk away with a pistol, no questions asked.
Yet it didn’t happen. Why?
Because people were different. Yes there were criminals back then and violent people as well. Yet there was something more that kept the whole thing from turning into the chaos we often see in our present. There was, even if people didn’t always follow it, a larger moral, and dare I say Christian, consensus about right and wrong.
Sears could send you a military grade pistol because it was also understood that the person who purchased it more than likely understood what “Thou shalt not kill…” meant. There was a consensus that doing harm to another was something that, for normal people, was an option only in the gravest of conditions. For that small community of people who chose to ignore that consensus justice was swift, sure, and sometimes harsh. Beyond the specific laws themselves there was a moral world that often and largely stayed the hand of evil even when law enforcement was not present.
Fast forward to today. We have laws beyond laws, a police presence that is growing more militarized every day, and still more violence than we ever thought possible. Cameras are everywhere and people are killing each other on the street. Why? The answer is simple. We’ve lost the moral consensus.
A child growing up today will see thousands of shootings and killings on TV, many of them simply gratuitous exercises of people blowing each other away for the reasons of a moment. They will see their own government using death and destruction as the first response to international crisis. They will bathe themselves in a culture that sees people from before they are born as disposable. They will steep in a consumer culture that sees no value in anything or anyone that cannot provide the next “fix” of happiness. As they grow up in this self-centered and empty world they will also have no larger moral guidance to help them steer their way through the challenges because the idea of any kind of truth beyond the person has been relegated to the collective ash heap as a sign of a primitive past. Then we wonder why people pick up guns in a way the vast majority of people even 50 years ago would have never considered and kill a classroom of their peers or “put a cap in the ass..” of some guy in the street who is wearing the wrong color.
Here’s a secret. If you want to turn a culture into some kind of pagan war zone the first thing you need to do is compromise the churches. And its our compromises that have helped our culture become this mess. We have given in, in ways large and small, to the spirit of the age. We’ve failed to teach. We’ve failed to lead. We have failed to serve. We’ve failed to be the salt and light we were called to be and people, even people with no religion at all, are feeling the consequences. There are whole denominations of Christians who have abandoned nearly the entirety of their historic witness and embraced an easy consumer driven “relevancy” that little to do with the actual Christian Faith. Among the observant Christian communities there are many that, while retaining the dogmatic content of historic Christian Faith, are very much asleep, unwilling to wake up and see what is as obvious as the nose on their faces. Because we are not who we have been called to be the entirety of our culture has suffered, is suffering, and may die as we know it.
We, as members of the observant Christian community, have shirked our duty, content to be little boats floating on the waves of the culture convinced that by doing so we are safe. It was a lie then and it is a lie now and as the culture has abandoned the things we’ve taken for granted we’re going to discover that our safe compromises with the world are the deceptions that may one day overwhelm us. We’ll survive, of course, but not without great suffering. Fire is harsh, yet it will burn away the extraneous and reveal the pure.
Still, there is hope. We need a generation of observant Christians who will give themselves entirely to God and actually live, in every realm of their life, the Faith. Could it be that in the events we see around us that God is calling His people to a rediscovery of the grace, the love, the power, and the holiness of the Faith. In the face of the world around us our enemies would have us despair, withdraw, and give up the fight. “All is lost” they will say. “You’re on the wrong side of history” they will proclaim. The temptation to give up and go along to get along is strong. Yet even now there are lights being kindled in the present darkness, people who are seeing the world and the people around them with God’s eyes, the eyes of Faith. Even now there are people who, somewhere deep in their heart, are being asked by God to live lives of love of neighbor, service to the least of these, joyous holiness, and fervent dedication to eternal truth. As these lights are kindled those who are slaves in darkness will see and be drawn to it. Person by person, moment by moment, the great pain of our time will be turned to joy, our promiscuities to holiness, and our futilities to enlightened purpose.
We can be saved, but for this to happen so much has to change, and soon.