"Is your faith privately engaging but socially irrelevant?", asked English author and social critic Oz Guiness. I also ask what is the role of doctrine and the heart of Christians in society?
In the eightenth century, England was a moral quaqmire and a spiritual cesspool, says Christianity.com. It's no wonder, as Archie Bunker said, we kicked England out of our country back then!What did the church have to do with this? Church doctrine was a good part of the problem.
Just as the apostle Paul visited the early churches with his guys to check on them, Sir William Blackstone visited the major churches in 18th century London. He found that the churches had succumbed to worldly values. The sermons had less mention of Christianity than in the writings of Cicero. Listening to the London preachers, Sir William couldn't devine who they were following.Back in the 90s, when I worked as the park naturalist in a Pennsylvania state park, I was invited to speak at a church adult Sunday school class for Earth Day. At Sunday school, there was no mention of God - just social causes. But wait, it gets richer! After Sunday school, for church, I saw a woman pushing a wheel barrel full of mulch! I guess this church took Cosby, Stills and Nash's line "and we got to get ourselves back to the garden" literally.Eighteenth century England was becoming increasingly decadant. One historian described England as "one vast casino", as newborns were exposed in the streets and 97 percent of the children of infant poor died in workhouses. For sport, there was bear baiting and cock fighting. Tickets were sold a public executions as if it were theatre. Drunkeness and prostitution were widespread. The slave trade was in full swing. True Christianity had collapsed, and with it, went morality.Meanwhile, preachers out of the mainstream preached to the unchurched, just as did John Bunyan, author of "The Pilgrim's Progress" in the 17th century. One such itinerant preacher was George Whitefield, who preached to crowds in open fields in London and Bristol. The establishment churches complained that he and others like him were interfering with the parish priest. Another "freelance" preacher was John Wesley, who after reconciling his struggles with his own faith, started preaching in the open air to reach the unsaved, unchurched masses.Mr. Wesley ministered to the poor in prisons, hospitals, workhouses, and at mine pit heads. Dispite taunts, verbal abuse, and occasional violence, John Wesley pursued his mission. And, after a time, there were revivals and a great awakening, where people started worshiping the true God in word and in deed. The society became more moral.Like England in the 18th century, in the 1st century Rome was decadent - widespread homosexuality, prostitution, abortion and other sins, according to an article posted in the Federalist. Women were not valued in Roman society. Rome was falling apart. Rome fell and Christianity rose. Homosexuality and abortion were ruled out. Because Christianity valued women more, woman were early converts. And they took on Christian qualities, and men started valuing them more.Christian women married barbarian men, and converted them. Barbarians became part of the Christian society.There was a smallpox epidemic in the 2nd century, and a measles outbreak in the 3rd. The pagans' response was to run away run away..., as King Arthur and his men did from the vicious rabbit in "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" from these epidemics. But the Christians stayed and helped the sick. They adhered to the scripture: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. . The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”Today in America we are living in a decadent society, where homosexuality, abortion, gambling, greed, and other sins are celebrated. As was the case in Rome and England, Christians can turn the tide and bring God back to society. We did it before and we can do it again!