Well, What Do We Do Now

Jan 6, 2021 by David Fowler

Well, What Do We Do Now?
After the electoral events of Tuesday and Wednesday, multiple thoughts ran through my mind. I scoured the news, praying that I might be given something insightful to say that has not already been said. Whether my prayer was answered, you can judge, but for me, at least, it was.
There is no doubt that things, in general, are a mess, regardless of which political bent you take. I’m reminded of this line from W.B. Yeats’s poem, The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Politically-speaking, Democrats can’t hold the center and are being pulled to the left. The “centrist” Republican establishment is collapsing of its own weight because it has nothing to hold on to but itself. Having cast off by aspersion all its passengers, the captains of the establishment will go down alone with their ship.
Thus, as a friend recently said to me, “What can be done?”

‘Secular’ Political Pundits Offer Their Thoughts

To see what others were thinking, I read a number of “secular” political pundits. They offered several thoughts on what “we” should do next. While I think some of the suggestions of the political conservatives have merit, I did not see anyone (yet) who did as Abraham Kuyper suggested when, in 1891, he surveyed the situation in Europe. He said, “[D]eterioration so widespread suggests the presence of a general cause and this cause must be sought in the ideas which have predominated our thinking.”
None of the secular pundits I read, whether on the left or the right, seemed to dig deep down to the ideas that lay at the base of things. Is there racism in multiple directions, disparate holdings of material possessions, privilege of various sorts in this country? Yes. To deny it would be folly. 
But many have thought those things to be true for a long time, even when the economic middle class was larger. However, it did not lead to the election of avowed socialists or to the kind of violence on the political left and right that we have recently witnessed. Therefore, if we don’t get to the root of what we are witnessing, get that right, and build our answers from there we will not prevent the fruits of the unrest, dissatisfaction, and violence we have seen in recent months coming from all corners. 

‘Christian’ Political Pundits Offer Their Thoughts

From some “Christian” political pundits, I read things like “God is in control” and we need an “eternal perspective” and to remember the “hope” we have in Jesus to “overcome this world.” 
I don’t disagree with such statements, but for me, at least, they are not enough. Their value depends wholly on the substantive content on which they rest. In other words, I want to know the “why” behind such statements. That is partly due to my personality, but the “why” does color how these expressions and perspectives are supposed to help me now.
For example, I’ve been asking myself over the last few years if an eternal perspective is just a Christianized version of delayed gratification. This seems to come in two forms. One is the perspective that life stinks, it’s hard, but keep a stiff moral-life upper lip because there is a big prize at the end--Heaven. A second is to perceive everything here as futile and meaningless, so don’t worry about it; a big payoff is coming once you escape this world.
I have concluded that if this is what an “eternal perspective” means, then it doesn’t mean much, and I don’t think it will change anything going on around us. In fact, I don’t think it will be enough for most people, including the many who profess to be Christians.  
To be honest, it was no longer enough for me, to keep me trudging on in an increasingly unpleasant line of work, and I have come to suspect this form of “eternal perspective” is not enough for the many young people raised in Christian homes who are leaving this version of Christianity.

A Different Christian Perspective

One of my first introductions to a different way of understanding Christianity was in a sermon entitled “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” by Thomas Chalmers, a Scottish pastor who lead several cultural reforms in his country in the early 1800’s. He said this about our hearts: 
[T]he heart keeps by its present affections with so much tenacity . . . that it will not consent to be . . . desolated. The strong man, whose dwelling-place is there, may be compelled to give way to another occupier - but unless another stronger than he, has power to dispossess and to succeed him, he will keep his present lodgment unviolable. The heart would revolt against its own emptiness. It could not bear to be so left in a state of waste and cheerless insipidity. The [Christian] moralist . . . is thwarted at every step by the recoil of its own mechanism, [the heart’s affections]. 
[T]he nature of the heart cannot be left void without the pain of most intolerable suffering. It is not enough then to argue the folly of an existing affection [i.e. this life is vanity and meaningless]. . . . It may not even be enough to associate the threats and the terrors of some coming vengeance [Hell awaits those who don’t “reform” their ways], with the indulgence of it. The heart may still resist the every application [of these two methods], by obedience to which, it would finally be conducted to a state so much at war with all its appetites as that of downright inanition [the quality or state of being empty].
Pie-in-the-sky Christianity and vacuous Christian platitudes won’t cut it anymore. Not in a society that increasingly makes living by its moral precepts difficult. And it will only get more difficult with the deprivation of things we Christians grew accustomed to being able to have and enjoy in a world that either embraced or tolerated our moral values.
Yet, I remain hopeful and full of purpose because God, over the last few years, has graciously given the “why” behind Christian platitudes like “we overcome in the end” and “heaven awaits.” In fact, it came together in an even clearer way Thursday morning.
I am excited to share part of my journey over the last few years on a new God, Law & Liberty podcast series entitled “Hope and Purpose.” For a seriously funny but serious look at part of that journey in the context of this week’s events, watch this video.
Then, I hope you will join me each Friday and will find yourself with a real and solid sense of hope and purpose. You can find the first episode at this link. I begin by laying out the real nature of our situation and build from there.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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