As I was jogging the other day, I was thinking about what I perceive as a societal downhill slide that has taken place in America over the past 35 years or so that I have been aware of such things. I know that it is not uncommon for the older generation to think that the younger one is going to hell in a hand basket. It is an historical fact however, that societies decay, and civilizations fall. And it seems to me that it’s not just the younger generation that is having these problems; my generation and my parent’s generation seem to be headed in the same direction as well.
There have been radical changes in our society over the past 35-40 years. Things that my parents would have been horrified at when I was in grade school are commonplace today. And my parents are cool with their grandchildren doing and seeing things that I would never have been allowed to do or see when I was their age.
When I was young, it was commonly accepted that we lived in a Christian society. Now, saying that gets you labeled right-wing and “intolerant”. Where have all the Christians gone in the last 40 years? What does it mean to be Christian in today’s America? It is my contention that America has become what it is today because America’s Christians have stopped being Christian. Either they have forgotten how or have never learned what it means in the first place.
It seems to me that far from regarding God as Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent, Americans regard God as a slightly retarded version of Homer Simpson. When they bother to regard him at all.
Evangelicals will tell you that in order to be a Christian, you must first be saved. So what does this mean? It means that you must ask Christ into your life. Accept him as your Savior and believe in him. Ok, I’m with you so far, now what?
It’s the “now what” that seems to be the problem. There are many who fall into the category of what I refer to as “John 3:16ers”.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. John 3:16
That’s it. End of story. I believe. I am saved. Hello world! I will live my life as I see fit now. Throw away the rest of the book. The new deal is here!
Americans don’t like to hear the word “no”. They don’t like to be told they can’t or shouldn’t do something, even if it is God doing the telling. So they rationalize their way around the problem. John 3:16 provides the perfect out; the perfect “get out of hell free” card, particularly if their study of the scriptures hinges on this one verse and proceeds no further.
American’s are, after all, the smartest people who have ever lived (if you don’t believe it, just ask one). And we have found the ultimate loophole in John 3:16. Why bother to live your religion when you don’t have to? Eat, drink, and be merry, for we are saved! Yes, I know that it is a sin to lust after my neighbor’s wife. But I can lust after that hot chick on the movie screen (she isn’t my neighbor’s wife, after all), because I am saved by Grace. For that matter, if I do happen to hanker after my neighbor’s wife, well that’s OK too. I accepted Christ back when I was twelve years old. Yes, it may not be the right thing for me to do, but it’s OK. John 3:16 tells me I am saved anyway, so what’s the difference?
The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). I am also told that by the magic of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Ghost are all one and the same. Therefore, by extension, to say that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, is to say that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So, if God frowned upon such things as adultery, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, lewd and lascivious behavior, and a whole laundry list of other sins in the past, why is it OK to engage in such today, if he is the same yesterday, today, and forever?
Of course, if you believe that John 3:16 is the defining scripture of the Bible, and all you need to worry about, you probably have never read Heb 13:8, or anything else in the book for that matter, so it really isn’t a concern.
It’s all so dull and boring after all, and besides, the latest episode of “Sex in the City” will be on in a few minutes.
We have divorced ourselves from the idea that we have to actually do anything other than simply say that we believe in Christ.
Satan believes in Christ. In fact, Satan’s knowledge is greater in this area; he knows Christ lives and is the Son of God. We accept such on Faith. To think that God accepts and condones behavior that he has not accepted and condoned in the past simply because you have played the John 3:16 card is to believe that God is an imbecile.
I have been told by many Christians that it really doesn’t matter. If it feels good, do it! It’s the new deal. Read your Bible, man! Check out Ephesians 2:8. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
So see, works are not necessary. It doesn’t matter what I do, I am saved by grace. It is a gift from God. Therefore I can do as I please. Remember John 3:16.
So what about James 2:26? “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” That would seem to indicate that however we may profess Christ, and profess to be a Christian, if we don’t act like one, we really aren’t. No matter what we may have said when we were twelve.
We can bandy about scripture references all day long and not accomplish much. I am not, and do not claim to be a great theologian. My purpose here is not to convert, or to “prove” a particular stance. I am merely trying to illustrate a trend, and perhaps encourage some thought on the matter.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, 78 % of the population of the United States identify themselves as Christian. Only 10% espouse no religious preference at all. If those 78 % were actually living their religion, American culture would be quite different from what it is today.
American culture is what it is, because Americans have made it so. If you, as a Christian, live your life indistinguishable from that culture, then you are part of the culture.
You can’t bemoan the high incidence of sexual immorality if your idea of entertainment is to go watch movies and TV shows steeped in sexual immorality. You can’t wail about the amount of violence in society when your idea of a good time is to check out the latest action-packed thriller with a body count higher than the terrorists are racking up in Iraq.
You can’t expect young men not to think about sex when they look at your daughters, when your daughters are dressed like hookers. And you can’t expect your daughters not to think about sex either; what else is the point of looking and acting sexy, other than to invoke thoughts of sex? Kids aren’t stupid. They can put two and two together. And you can’t expect to quench the raging fire of young hormones by throwing gasoline on the flames.
So let’s see. I watch sexually explicit programs on TV with my kids. I take my kids to sexually explicit movies at the theater. I dress them or allow them to dress themselves in sexually explicit clothing. I allow them unsupervised access to members of the opposite sex, in venues conducive to engaging in sexual behavior. And I am surprised when sex is the result?
We are worried that advertising cigarettes or glamorizing them in movies and on TV might cause our children to smoke, but we think that advertising sex and glamorizing it in movies and on TV has no effect. Hello?
In dieting, we hear that we are what we eat. In the military, we have the phrase “train like you fight”. Guess what? We are what we do. Actions speak louder than words.
So if you profess to be a Christian, then live like one. If you don’t know what that means, prayerfully read your scriptures and find out. It means you will probably have to make some lifestyle changes, but so what? Early Christians had to put up with being fed to the lions; living without HBO shouldn’t be an impossibility. And setting a proper example for your kids, actually living what you preach, will give them the strength they need to cope with this corrupt environment we have saddled them with.
If Christians across the country start doing this, the culture will change. It will be slow – it took us 30-40 years to get to this point. But it will change.
If we don’t…
“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”. Matthew 7:21-22