To me, the ‘R’ word is relationship, not religion. But for the sake of discussion, let’s talk religion. A recent Gallup poll indicates that many Americans feel religion is in decline, at a time when our nation needs more religious influence, not less. It doesn’t take a professional social observer to point out something so obvious. Not only has church membership and attendance gone down, but our laws and cultural mores no longer reflect the religious values that shaped the founding of our nation.
When you consider popular support for issues such as abortion, euthanasia, sexual ‘liberation’ and recreational drug use, in light of the restrictions put on public prayer, the posting of the Ten Commandments and other religious expressions, it becomes apparent that our society has rejected the religious values handed down to us by our forebears.
Society isn’t an abstract concept. It’s simply people. In terms of religion, the American people have changed. Why? There are several reasons for the metamorphosis of a largely religious people into a largely secular people.
To the so-called ‘modern’ thinking of the twentieth century, God was dead — particularly the God of the Bible, the foundation of Western Civilization. At the same time, it was chic to explore ‘non-traditional’ religions. What resulted was a realignment in popular attitudes toward religions. Christianity was now seen as bigoted and ignorant, while Native American religions were seen as noble. ‘Primitive’ religions, such as animism and shamanism became more accepted and respected. Religions from the east, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, were given special reverence, as they were considered ‘oppressed’ victims of the Christian church.
Relativism displaced the need for any supreme moral authority beyond each individual’s own ethics. Multiculturalism granted moral equivalency to all religions — except for Biblical religions, which along with Western Civilization and The White Man (‘best’ represented by the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and skin heads) were labeled as hateful, evil and destructive.
America didn’t need ‘God’ anymore. We had ‘science’ for our authority (which has become nothing more than a lying, political tactic) and we had politics for our democracy (which has become nothing more than a dictatorship of a global, socialist oligarchy). What the people seemed to want was to let everyone ‘do his own thing’.
The problem with that flower-child philosophy is that it violates the old moral standards upheld by religious people, who are brushed aside and expected to keep their faith to themselves, without having any input into the national conscience. We have produced a mixed-up society that fails to exhibit a cohesive moral standard. Every sub-culture within our multi-cultural nation has its own, separate standards. We’ve lost our national character our national unity, as well as our national strength.
Once, we were the American people. Now, it can be said without a doubt,
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way … Isaiah 53:6
All religions meet certain social and personal needs. Religions tend to foster both a sense of community and a sense of identity. The moral standards of religions also generally have a positive influence on the stability and order of society at large. Additionally, the theological doctrines of religions provide belief systems that grapple with some of life’s biggest questions: “Where did I come from?”, “What happens when I die?”, “What’s the purpose of my life?”, etc.
To religions, this type of question is spiritual in nature. So, they invariably come up with spiritual answers. But such questions can also be considered philosophical in nature. Often, those with a philosophical bent are completely turned off by spiritual answers because they haven’t yet come to accept the existence of a spiritual reality. To them, ‘spiritual’ just means fantasy. The closest thing to fantasy for them is science fiction — strictly for entertainment and speculation — not for answers.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” We cannot believe God exists until we first accept the fact that there is a spiritual reality. Yet many Americans today do not want to open that door or enter that room.
But spiritual answers come from spiritual questions. Religion is in decline because Americans are asking the wrong people the wrong questions. We look to popular self-help gurus, to science, law, politics, philosophy, psychology, nutrition, you name it, but we deny the primal reality of the spiritual realm. Even those who are religious on the outside — who follow all the rules, look, speak and act the part — many times only ask questions rhetorically, not really open for the answer because they’ve already decided there is no answer. This represents a significant disconnect between believer and belief.
A common rhetorical question is, “If God is loving, omniscient and all-powerful, then why does he let horrible things happen to innocent people — especially children?” I say rhetorical because it has already been decided that God isn’t loving, isn’t omniscient, isn’t all-powerful and probably isn’t even real. That’s because whoever asks this question is assuming that God must conform to our expectations, based on our standards. If God is perfect and infinite, who are we to expect him to explain himself?
Is anyone more deserving than Job? And yet he suffered greatly. But at the end of his story God was glorified and Job was doubly blessed. The reality is that there is a great deal of suffering and injustice in the world. Much of life is a struggle. But none of that is God’s fault. Sin is one problem and the enemy of God is another. But God has given us a way of eternal escape from sin and evil, reuniting himself with us, through Christ. If that just sounds like religious gobbledygook to you, let me assure you it’s not. It’s actually good news. It’s the most that any ‘religion’ has to offer.
The recent Gallup poll hints that the people may be beginning to see the futility of the secular path America has taken. If you are one of those who think we should be a more religious people, but are unsure of exactly how that involves you personally, please consider this: The second part of Isaiah 53:6 says,
… and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
John 3:16 says,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
When God ‘gave’ his Son, it was as his perfect sacrifice for all sin. Because of “the iniquity of us all” we are all destined to perish. But God gave us his Son, who paid the price for our sin. If we believe in him, we will accept his sacrifice and his lordship. That saves us from death and gives us eternal life in the presence of God.
I pray that this is good news for you. It will answer all your spiritual questions. Sin leads to death. Exposing your heart honestly to God leads to life eternal, if you accept Christ’s sacrifice for you and receive him as your LORD and Savior.