There was a time when church bells were torn down and melted. The public worship of God was strictly forbidden. The “Law of Suspects” was enacted; turning any sense of justice on its head, government suspects had to prove their innocence. And the cult of the “Supreme Being” took center stage.
No, I’m not describing a fictional novel. The year was 1793, and it was the French Revolution in full swing.
“That could never happen here,” we might be tempted to imagine, “as we are the people of liberty and the First Amendment.” But the British-American author Andrew Sullivan raises an interesting idea as he describes what he calls America’s new “successor ideology.” I think it was the essayist Wesley Yang who actually coined that term, and it refers to a new era in America that has superseded true liberalism. Right here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, there is no longer a “liberal” society and a “liberal” democracy – posits Sullivan – where every voice can be heard, but we’ve been left with a place of “no escape, no refuge from the ongoing nightmare of oppression and violence – and you are either fighting this and ‘on the right side of history,’ or you are against it and abetting evil. There is no neutrality. No place for skepticism. No room for debate.”
No room for debate. If it’s true, that’s a scary place to be, friends.
What’s going on around us, right now? I’d be tempted to call it the rising tide of secularism, but I acknowledge that I can’t adequately wrap my mind or my words around every corner of the phenomenon. Please allow me to take a stab at describing what I see.
- There is a godless philosophy mounting in strength. That’s why I mentioned the French Revolution. It’s a great picture for us of the importance of who occupies the place of royal authority. Do you remember learning about the storming of the Bastille? As Christ followers, our primary concern is not the royal authority in Paris – or in any other center of human government – but our supreme passion should be the royal authority who reigns on high, and who has graciously revealed Himself in His Word. And here’s what we must recognize: the sin-twisted worldview which seems to be carrying the day is simply the latest version of the serpent’s mantra: “Did God really say …?”
- There is a race for firm control of the history books. A deist state religion – and that’s what I fear is arising – must demand that we learn nothing from past mistakes. By way of example, socialism can be cool again. (Never mind its global death toll.) Herein lie some of the dangers surrounding Critical Race Theory, in my opinion. It oversimplifies human history, and it forces people into false categories which serve to divide us even further. It is my contention that CRT undermines some of the principles of freedom which are absolutely necessary for the flourishing of all people, and that it accomplishes this particularly by distorting American history for its own ends.
- There is a phony “reason” emerging in influence. I think you will agree with me that people seem to be losing their ability to think, critically and rationally. Emotional heat has supplanted honest dialogue. Quite ironically, “safe spaces” are threatening the healthy marketplace of ideas. France’s “Cult of Reason” recognized no god, but it did worship the goddess of “reason.” Consider the present similarities, if you dare. When I think about the potential dangers of the so-called Equality Act, for example, I can’t help but imagine all the ways in which inequality now masquerades as something noble. It’s as if someone has crept in by night and switched all the price tags! Oh, how you and I need a renewed mind for such a time as this!
- There is a growing hatred for any dissenting voice. We don’t seem to be witnessing the eradication of every religious worldview (Islam seems strangely but widely unquestioned), but I think that we may be witnessing the attempted eradication of the central tenets of Christianity. I say that because we’re seeing such overt hostility in our society at those places where Biblical values crash into postmodern values: the definition of gender, for example. (One can barely keep up with even the ever-morphing terminology related to the house of cards that’s under construction.) And, because we’re losing the liberal marketplace of ideas, someone has to be silenced in order to avoid the direct conflict. We don’t even have to wonder who that will be.
- There is a false characterization of the Christian faithful. When I look around and consider current trends, here’s what I observe: Biblical morality is increasingly considered oppressive, discriminatory, and downright dangerous. In the days of the revolution, and in its quest for absolute power and control, the French government attempted to “de-Christianize” everything, literally. I see nearly the same thing happening here and now. (Believe me: I don’t like writing these things any more than you like reading them.) But these are our times. Our God has put us here, and He has put us here now – let’s not shrink back from the grand spiritual opportunity which is today!
- There is a hostile passion to silence said dissenters. In order for a firm cultural takeover to succeed and to stand, all non-complying doctrines and institutions must be removed and replaced. In light of church history, that really should not surprise us, nor should it terrify us. What most people fail to recognize is that Christ’s gospel will never be silenced – because it is Christ’s gospel! So press on, beloved saints of the Lord!
This present phenomenon is not simply the rising tide of secularism, but it’s really the rise of a powerful secular religion. Because everything I’m describing here is happening all at once, and it’s happening with a passion and zeal which makes an old-fashioned tent revival seem tame by comparison.
Against the backdrop of our current cultural malaise and cult of unreasonableness, I find God’s stern rebuke voiced through the lips of an ancient prophet (Jeremiah 2:11-13) to be quite chilling: “Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Fill my cup, Lord. Please, fill my cup.