“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19, 20
The Holy Week issue of Newsweek magazine declared the passing of Christianity in America; the “steep decline” of Jesus Christ’s influence in a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles may be a surprise to some, but it shouldn’t be considering the source. It’s no surprise, however, given the 1960’s era mantra of “God is Dead!” and the secular-progressive theme that has filtered through the mainstream media ever since, that every year on or about Easter and Christmas, this declaration resonates from the minds of those who are thoroughly convinced they alone are put on this Earth to educate, defend, criticize, and guide the rest in the correct direction. “Play” God, in other words. Take the place of God, if you’d rather.
The Holy Week editorial was in many ways expected in its timing, as so often these works are designed to diminish, demoralize, and even demonize those who already know how to put the pessimistic and often insignificant words of the media into perspective. Christians strong in their faith look at writings, such as the Newsweek article, through the prism of The Word of God. But what about the many people who are not so strong and determined in their faith? If there are doubts, if the realization of God’s assured presence is wavering, then these damaging words can destroy one’s faith.
According to all recent polling data, Americans who say they are Christian come to about 76%.* This number (“a steep decline”, according to the media) is down from about 82% twenty-years ago. Steep?
There may be other entirely different explanations for such a “dramatic” exodus in two decades, contrary to Christianity’s failings and Americans falling-away from the church: immigration of non-Christians, perhaps? Maybe fear of staking claim publicly to that which can be ridiculed publicly is yet another reason. Nevertheless, these are just two possibilities in a multitude of reasons why, over a long stretch of time, the numbers have declined 8%, other than the official declaration by over-zealous reporters that “God is Dead!” that is.
Completely ignoring the obvious optimistic data, Newsweek failed to mention that after the 8% decline, more than three-quarters of all Americans are still Christian. 76% of a presidential electorate would win by a landslide no matter what “hope and change” are offered by the opponent. What president has ever enjoyed 76% approval?
Moreover, the article fails to explore (statistically accurate) dramatic positive changes recorded the world over. China, for example, in less than the same window of time the Newsweek study was concluded, evolved from a totally secular nation that forbade any kind of religion, to a relatively open society that now embraces The (Christian) Word of God. This year over one-hundred million Chinese-Christians did celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ during Holy Week** – Praise God!
It has also been reported by mainstream media outlets like BBC News that Christianity’s numbers and influence are on a downturn and are very nearly gone in the Middle East – most notably, Iraq.**** But what else can be expected in an environment that largely considers Christians second class - that persecutes and executes believers of Jesus Christ. “Tolerance” is not always a two-way street and fear wins-out where violence and death are so often punishment for expressing faith other than that which has been mandated by dictators, extremists, and heavily armed thugs.
Saddam Hussein’s defeat by the US military has unleashed a people starved for God’s Presence. One of the most ruthless dictators of our time cannot stand in the way of the Holy Spirit – now at work healing a once crippled and dying nation. Christianity can and will prevail in Iraq over time, but to write it off in a country that a short time ago waged bloody holy wars and exterminated with mustard gas hundreds-of-thousands of innocent people for expressing their faith, is a bit premature.
These battles are fought and won around the globe all the time, yet the media fail to recognize them. Falling numbers of Christians in a war zone over seas, or a small percentage “decline” in the United States, mathematically speaking, does not prove God Dead. Apparently the editorial staff at Newsweek and the producers at BBC News have their collective mind made up as to cause-and-effect before considering all the facts. But this too is good news missed in the hurry to declare God Dead.
Christians need not dwell on the works of men that take aim at what they hold sacred, for God answers (and deals with) all of these issues in His own way – on His own time. Meanwhile His Living Word guides believers through the maze:
”And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Any impulse of anger, or temptation to respond to these works of men, is eliminated by the guarantee and promise of The Living Word. Christians can go on with their lives knowing that He will prevail.
This does not mean that there is no work to be done, however. And it also does not mean the future will come without challenges to Christianity. Christians must do as God commands: continue the work of Christ.
Author E. W. Kenyon, in his book In His Presence, states that it is the responsibility of all Christians to ”go and make disciples of all the nations”, but he is very clear to point out that the word “disciples” does not mean “converts”, as so many are inclined to believe. He describes a true Christian as a “reflection of the love of Christ” – one who is “slow to judge, slow to anger, quick to love, and quick to help”.*** Go and lead by example. Live it and make others see the Holy Spirit at work in you!
The rest will take care of itself. The Holy Spirit can perform miracles when living with, in, and through God’s people. One needs to look no further than the aftermath of 9-11; in the wake of the worst terrorist attack on American soil in history, where thousands of innocent lives perished before our very eyes on television in a matter of hours, the miracle of God could be seen everywhere – the entire world united. If that isn’t the Holy Spirit at work, what is?
Look at it another way: according to Newsweek magazine, more than three out of every four people in America is a Christian. Pretty good odds when you consider it’s hard to get those numbers to agree on who should win America Idol. These are also pretty good numbers in a culture where it isn’t unusual to see a fist fight break-out over a seating dispute at the local ball park.
There will always be a force at work in the universe that will try to distract Christians - a force that will use many clever means to shake and destroy faith. Does that mean publications like Newsweek magazine are at work for the adversary? No. That kind of assumption would be giving the media way too much credit. But the skill and drive to deceive is certainly a characteristic that is not lost on those who would purposely try and derail the faith of so many well-intentioned people.
It has been called “The War on Christianity” by some in the media. This drama plays-out very well on prime time television and certainly draws many viewers. But the “war” has been waged for a long time – long before television, radio, electricity, and the written word existed. Long before media pundits and religious zealots began taking this war to the airwaves where millions of viewers and listeners can be so easily distracted from The Living Word. Long before Newsweek officially declared God Dead in America.
See it happening when government votes on legislation to remove the word “God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. See it happening when someone proposes “In God We Trust” be taken off US currency. See it happening when manger scenes are forbidden displays in public places at Christmas. See it happening when prayer is outlawed in public schools. See it happening when churches refuse to display the American flag. See it happening when people are afraid to admit they are a Christian. See it happening when the Constitutional protection of “Freedom of Religion” is twisted and distorted into the words “separation of church and state” destroying a right that this country’s founders fought and died to win for everyone within the borders. See it happening when teachers embrace the still unproven scientific theories for the origins of man and cannot even so much as utter the words of The Son of Man without condemnation from the secular minority. See it happening when the killing of an unborn child is a matter of personal “choice” and not a matter of doing what is right. See it happening with the acceptance of marriages other than those between “one man and one woman” as America’s Founders intended. See it happening every day little-by-little eroding the basic principles upon which America was built.
Then look to the One in control of all things and learn to trust in Him:
”And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Words you will never see printed in Newsweek magazine. Words that will Live long after they and all the other media vanish. The very Words should compel every Christian to say, “In God We Must” – Trust.
*SOURCES: Gallup & Rasmussen 2009
**SOURCES: Human Events & FOX News 2009
***In His Presence; E. W. Kenyon, 2003 Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, Inc.
**** BBC News Online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4499668.stm