It’s just a matter of time before another mass killer once again bloodies our streets, our homes, our schools, and our concert venues with a rain of bullets. Since the 1999 Columbine massacre, we Americans have learned to expect the worst. The scary reality, though, is that we know very little about what is behind America’s mass killings, and so we have come to call them “senseless.”
Now, at the end of the second decade in the 21st century, something new is hitting many of our churches: a social justice ideology that is, as I wrote a few weeks ago, “anti-biblical, borrows heavily from the postmodern worldview which aims to redistribute power (Marx aimed to do the same with wealth), and…is becoming a kind of false religion.” Has a postmodern version of the old social gospel reared its ugly head inside churches where it once, at least during the fundamentalist era, was rejected?
It’s time for me to tell you how Wilberforce Academy is helping prepare them as Christian nation-builders, to use a term that my friend Vishal Mangalwadi has often used. To explain how we do it, I must first highlight the 21stacademic backdrop: Our academic institutions are graduating cynical secular postmodernists, on the one hand, and, inadvertently and indirectly, fueling radical Islamism, on the other (as I suggest when I address the case of Sayd Qutb below). At the Wilberforce Academy, by contrast, we believe God wants us to help shape men and women filled with hope, skills, and commitment for redemptive change because they follow Jesus Christ.
Citizens of Zimbabwe (southern Africa) and Venezuela (northern South America), once known as successful, thriving countries, are starving. And now, in early 2019, the populations of both have reached the boiling point, frustrated by authoritarian dictatorships that recklessly assault those protesting incompetent corrupt, and brutal leadership. In the past several weeks, as dozens have died at the hands of the militaries in both countries, Venezuela’s crisis has reached a tipping point that may have great significance for the future of Zimbabwe as well.
My friend Scott Allen, President of Disciple Nations Alliance, recently blew the fog hornfor evangelical ships tempted to sail into the inviting waters of social justiceideology: “Stay clear, lest you undermine your faith by crashing upon unseen obstacles!” His article is a must-read, and will shock you at the extent to which social justice ideology, which defines justice strictly in terms of desirable outcomes for the poor and minorities, has penetrated the evangelical orbit.
Modern, Western culture wants us to concentrate on ourselves, all little Narcissuses staring at our reflections in the pool. That’s a problem for people made for community and for love, not merely the transmission of a gene pool.
Our friends at Minneapolis-based Intellectual Takeout have just published Bob Osburn's latest blog, which explores a scenario rarely if ever discussed these days: The beginning of America's slide into tyranny (which is no foregone conclusion, by any means) will begin with the Social Security trust fund crisis that will explode into prominence no later than 2028, ten years from now. Dr. Osburn suggests that Congressional inaction and polarization will make the US president (whomever that is at the time) a hero. And why? For acting as an autocrat who, by executive or emergency decree, will solve the problem and thus rescue America from a mortal policy crisis while creating a tyrannical presidency. What do you think about this scenario? Will the five-step program (that Dr. Osburn designed and recommends) help avert this outcome?
As I suggested in my last blog “The Rejection of a Christian Moral Consensus and America’s Political Polarization,” the best hope for our divided nation would be the re-embrace of Christian culture. But, absent that ideal outcome and notwithstanding the Economist magazine’s doubts, I settle for a better hope that goes by the wonderfully prosaic name “Better Angels.”
Politically centrifugal forces--- those that drive Americans from the moderate (not mushy) center to radical political extremes on the Left and Right ---are winning the day in America because the Christian cultural consensus that once united them is long gone. And the elite-motivated effort to substitute a progressive culture is not only failing, but actually drives Americans farther apart.
Why did I feel such revulsion when our American president uttered a profane description of nations in Africa (and the nation of Haiti)? First, I work with international students from around the world, and I do not want to unnecessarily offend them. Secondly, I am deeply concerned that our president is degrading the American people, and especially members of his political party as well as his core support base (evangelicals) in ways previously unimaginable and tragic.
I never took a music appreciation course, but, with carols playing in our family room this Christmas Eve, something is very clear: Christmas music is beautiful. Where else in the pantheon of the world’s great religions and philosophies is there anything that rivals this aural beauty? Could it be that not only has the Gospel produced unparalleled masterpieces that are feasts for the eyes and ears, but that Christianity is the only plausible explanation for beauty itself?
Ever since the 1960s when confident, brassy Baby Boomers rejected what I often call the Christian cultural consensus, we have been struggling to find what unites Americans. Sports? Ephemeral and fleeting. Freedom? A treasured ideal twisted into a license to speed past all the traditional sexual stop signs. Flag? A valuable symbol that, apart from our armed forces, inspires far less sacrifice than it ought. It seems as if we are so brittle that we break into cultural and political ice floes, our separate groups adrift on rolling, turbulent seas.
Rather than meaningless slugs whose only satisfactions are power, prestige, sex, and drugs, every one of us are invested with a two-fold purpose: 1) Wisely steward the natural resources God has given us in the first place; and 2) Apply God-given rationality and creativity in order to create, out of those natural resources, new products and services that can further enhance God’s glory and ensure human flourishing.
I want to make the case that evangelical campus ministry needs to shed its guerrilla image and embrace an institutional presence where Jesus is the vital, dynamic center and reason for everything we do.
In the Wilberforce Academy, we ask our international mentees to conduct analyses of their respective national cultures. What are their ideals, symbols, and celebrations? What are the things that unify and divide? What stories do the members of your societies tell and how do they make sense of those stories?On this US Independence Day in 2017, I offer an analysis of my beloved country, the USA.
The Academy's founder and executive director recently wrote at Firstthings.com about a jailed Indonesian Chinese evangelical politician known as Ahok. His is not only a story of courage and valiance, but carries lessons for American evangelicals tempted to retreat from a culture that has left them.
Today, rural America’s problems go much deeper than uncertainty over the price of grain or the latest weather forecast. Rural America is becoming a wasteland for lost souls on drugs. They find cheap old, semi-abandoned farmhouses to rent, and either waste away, cook the meth, or use the opioids that eventually kill them. In either case, their children suffer, sometimes tragically. Can the rural church make a difference?
The Academy's latest blog is a contribution to a Center of the American Experiment symposium: Was Trump and Clinton's Campaign Silence Regarding Family Fragmentation Golden? In it, Bob Osburn discovers that the Prophet Hosea had much to say in answer to the symposium question!
The worst American campus violence since my college days at the University of Michigan in the late 60s and early 70s begs the question: Why? It’s not just the violence at places like Berkeley and Middlebury, but also students’ increasingly aggressive demands to keep conservative speakers away, create safe spaces, publish trigger warnings, and protect themselves from macroaggressions. After 50 years of endlessly ridding ourselves of biases, instituting cultural studies programs, and parroting the diversity ethic through every campus fiber, sinew, and organ, why are students protesting with greater vigor than any time since those famed years?
You don’t have to look far to see fractures in American society. Rightly or wrongly, nearly every move by the new Trump administration has been met with steep opposition. From the Dakota Access Pipeline, to Black Lives Matter and transgender rights protests, our political, economic, and cultural divides run deep. In view of this moment in history, Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic (2016) is a timely book diagnosing what ails our divided America and why this moment is unique.