It is time to examine what the future will look like after the 2016 elections are over. The modern presidential election cycle in America lasts nearly two years, since White House hopefuls often announce their intentions to run at the beginning of the year prior to the actual vote.
This past campaign season was as mesmerizing as it was sickening, like a terrible accident or tragedy. Many of us simply couldn’t look away, even when it was turning our stomachs to watch.
I am writing this days before the election, which might seem like a strange time to pen an “autopsy.” The patient hasn’t even died yet, you might say. True, but the sickness was fatal. I can write the postmortem before the final breath is taken and still be correct.
Therefore, regardless of who wins the right to lead our government this coming January, there are certain things that will still be true. There are (at least) six deep and abiding problems with long-term potential consequences for the Church, our culture, and the Republic. They might not be as fatal as the above metaphor suggests, but they are matters of grave concern nevertheless.
My intention is to outline those problems here and unpack the ideas in subsequent blogs. I’ll focus on two main areas – the Christian community and the general American public.
Here’s my take:
1 – The church appears to be increasingly infected with the spirit of the age.
This is a dangerous virus that is creating numerous symptoms. At its core, however, is an age-old demonic strategy that stretches back to the creation of the human race: the promotion of unbelief as a result of questioning the authority of God’s word.
“Has God said?” (Gen. 3:1) may be the defining ethos of Western Civilization in 2016. The power of this philosophical view is growing in the U.S., too, even though America has been considered one of the most Christian nations in the world.
Out of this sickness have erupted four additional – and related – maladies: pride, hyper-individualism, rebellion, and the love of pleasure.
All of this has crept into the church, defiling her and sapping the power of the only human force constituted by God for the saving of souls and the reformation of culture.
2 – When it comes to a consistent theology of “church and culture,” Christians are all over the map.
Admittedly, this is not an easy topic. Questions such as, “How are Christians to be in the world but not of it?” and, “What does it mean to be salt and light?” have perplexed Christian thinkers for two thousand years.
The church is currently doing a poor job of internally drawing any permanent conclusions about the place of education, economic enterprise, or artistic endeavor; the power of entertainment to mold and shape our culture; and the importance of sex, marriage, and family as institutions that either enhance or degrade cultural life.
In America, as in most of the West, we have tremendous individual and corporate freedom to explore, create, and bless. However, we seem perpetually locked in internecine controversies that demonstrate a shallow understanding of Scripture.
3 – Many Christians haven’t decided what purpose politics serves in God’s grand scheme of things.
Of course, this issue is related to the previous point, but politics really does deserve a category of its own.
Over the last 40 years or so, as the so-called “religious right” has become influential in American politics, the internal dissension within the Christian community has become red hot. Should we be involved in politics or not? If so, how much is too much?
This election has exacerbated this divide. Stones have been thrown by one side against the other, and it is tearing us to pieces. It is making us not only ineffective but irrelevant.
General American Public
1 – Our nation is hopelessly and angrily divided, and it will only get worse.
Not since the years before the Civil War has this country been so viciously polarized. During the “culture war” over slavery, there was no middle ground. The two sides held mutually exclusive positions that were rooted in the worldview of each side.
As President Abraham Lincoln said in an 1858 speech, the Republic will not remain – cannot remain – eternally divided over slavery. “It will become all one thing or all the other.”
The same is true today. One side believes in God, wants a republic anchored in the Judeo-Christian worldview, and demands that public policy reflect this. The other side is explicitly or practically atheistic, wants a secular republic, and demands that public policy reflect this philosophy.
These viewpoints are mutually exclusive and cannot be compromised. Because human nature is no different today than it was in 1858, America will certainly become all one thing or all the other – at least in terms of its public life.
2 – Americans distrust their own government.
According to the Pew Research Center, studies of the American public show “near record low trust in the federal government.”
This is probably cyclical in nature rather than something that is permanent and lethal, but there is clearly something beneath the surface that deserves attention. Historically speaking, when people in democratic societies lose faith in their form of government, they wind up refusing to preserve it when revolutionaries beckon or enemies attack.
3 – Many Americans are alarmingly politically illiterate.
According to one poll, only one-third of the American people could name all three branches of the federal government. In another survey, 9 of 10 people could not name the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Apathy and ignorance are two other historically significant and potentially fatal maladies that can afflict and destroy a republic.
For a variety of reasons, many citizens of the U.S. appear to be largely ignorant of how their own system of government was designed to work – and don’t seem interested in learning.
There are certainly other challenges facing America than the six listed above, but these are daggers aimed at the heart of our nation. Regardless of who wins the numerous elections nationwide this Tuesday, America is a crippled and ailing country.