I was delighted at the invitation to speak last Sunday afternoon about “current events” to a group of Christian seniors at the monthly dinner they have together after their church service. Among the group were several people we know and admire and so it was a special honor for me. The general purpose of my talk was to encourage my colleagues (and myself) to take seriously the duty Christ gives us to be salt and light in our rapidly decaying culture. I’m printing below a condensed (and otherwise edited) version of my remarks.
“Do you remember the TV show from the early 60s called ‘That Was the Week That Was’? It was a combination news, commentary, and comedy program that originated in Great Britain. Anyhow, as much as that program jammed in every week, it would have certainly been hard pressed to handle all the happenings from this past week. Think about it. The week started off with the biggest sporting event in the world, the Super Bowl. Now, I must tell you, since even before the shameful Colin Kaepernick business, I’ve been off the NFL. I haven’t seen a single game, including the Super Bowl, for several years now. I’ve been told this one was one of the most exciting and entertaining ever. Terrific. Of course, I’ve also been told that the excitement level was substantially ratcheted up by a soft porn halftime show that was, even by modern television standards, a new low in decadence, tastelessness, and sexism. And there’s no excuse of a “wardrobe malfunction” this time around; these outfits and strutting stripper moves were all carefully planned beforehand. Good grief.
But again, all of that was just on Sunday, the first day of this remarkably roaring week. The very next day came a bombshell, the live and on-air announcement of a stage four cancer diagnosis affecting one of the most influential media figures of our time, Rush Limbaugh. On Tuesday night there was a profoundly upbeat and inspiring State of the Union message from the President of the United States. Both the speech and the introduction of the President’s special guests in the gallery were stirring celebrations of America’s success and ideals.
Nevertheless, a most remarkable counterpoint to that speech was played out at the same time for the millions of Americans watching; namely, the petulant, almost mindless discourtesy shown by the Democrats there in the Capitol. I mean, obstinately sitting on your bottoms and refusing to applaud great economic news is one thing (though a terribly mean-spirited thing it was) but obstinately sitting on your bottoms and refusing to applaud the reunion of a military family, or the president-in-exile of Venezuela, or a 100 year-old Tuskegee airman who the President had just promoted to Brigadier General? Are you kidding? Those were truly over-the-top displays of unpatriotic, schoolyard crudeness.
And yet, that wasn’t the end of the insults to America we saw before our eyes. No, there was still to come the unbelievable sight of the Speaker of the House brazenly ripping up the official government document that was her copy of the State of the Union address. It was a moment America will never forget.
But this momentous week had plenty more in store for us; most notably, the Senate acquittal of President Trump from the national nightmare that had been the Democrats’ very expensive, quite unjust impeachment efforts. The following day the headlines (even that of the old guard liberal media) were full of the Democrat’s fiasco in the Iowa Caucuses and that was followed by a major court victory in which 230 Congressional Democrats were strikingly rebuffed in another of their efforts to smear the President.
Finally, President Trump appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast and a ‘victory lap’ press conference. At both of these widely reported events, the President showed himself understandably boisterous and bubbly but, most regrettably, he also made comments that were boorish and coarse. Now I am a consistent supporter of and cheerleader for President Trump and the unprecedented conservatism of his administration. Nevertheless, as with anyone, we need to call him out when we think he’s dropped the ball.
As I wrote on my Facebook page, “President Trump’s performance both at the prayer breakfast and at his ‘victory lap’ news conference seriously detracted from what was otherwise a fantastic week for him and the conservative cause. That week could have been even sweeter for him and perhaps won new friends had he spoke with more kindness and class. So, c’mon, Mr. President; stay above the fray and don’t let the Democrats get to you. After all, you’re winning. But we need you (and the true conservatives in Congress and other political offices around the country) to win yet more goodwill, more momentum, and more votes.”
So, I’ll repeat myself – it was an amazing, surprising, seriously important week. Yet there was one more important item occurring last week and I’m going to guess it’s something you haven’t heard anything about. It is this – the esteemed evangelist, humanitarian, and prophetic Christian leader Franklin Graham was given notice that all six of the public stadiums in Great Britain at which he was contracted to deliver gospel addresses this spring cancelled his appearances. The reason was pressure brought against Rev. Graham from LGBQT and Muslim leaders. Talk about strange bedfellows. Indeed, one wonders what possibly could bring such two startlingly disparate groups together in a common cause? The answer, of course, is a fear of and disdain for orthodox Christianity.
But wait; this terribly sad state of affairs becomes worse still when you learn that these cancellations found approval with many Christian leaders in Great Britain! That’s right, Christian clerics (self labeled as such, anyway) have joined the wicked chorus which condemned Rev. Graham for being bigoted, homophobic, divisive, intolerant, misogynistic, and ad nauseum. And, to tar him yet further, British newspapers are pleased to show graphic “evidence” of Rev. Graham’s being on the wrong side of morality; namely, photos of him in conversation with (gasp) Donald Trump. Case closed. Shut him up and ship him home.
Consider the tragic irony. The nation of John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, the Mayflower Pilgrims, William Wilberforce, William Carey, Thomas More, Hudson Taylor, G.K. Chesterton, John Wesley, Hannah More, George Müller, Charles Spurgeon, C. S. Lewis, William and Catherine Booth, Gladys Aylward, Mary Slessor, Eric Liddell, Amy Carmichael, Isaac Newton, John Bunyan, Florence Nightingale, Malcolm Muggeridge, and so on is now banning the open airing of Christian doctrine. And so-called Christians are in full-throttle agreement with such a thing.
I’m especially grieved to say that many evangelical leaders are accepting this unprecedented act of intolerance without a whisper of alarm or protest. Some are even joining in the thoroughly bogus castigation of Rev. Graham. Why? Because even formerly conservative voices within Catholic and evangelical churches are desperate nowadays to go along with the crowd, to avoid making any waves, to blend in as much as possible with the culture (sinister and decadent though it may be) so that they may hold onto, as Francis Schaeffer would have put it, their “personal peace and affluence.” These church leaders are deeply afraid of confrontation; they are worried about anything smacking of controversy; and so they are committed to providing safe and comfortable spaces for their congregations to “worship.” Salt? Light? Speaking truth to a dying world? Uh, no thanks.
Instead of Christian orthodoxy and strict obedience to Holy Scripture’s lifestyle commands, modern church leaders prefer an approach to religion that emphasizes enthusiastic, feel-good music – music that entertains and encourages positive emotions in the moment. They also present sermons strong on self-esteem, happiness, and spiritual feelings. And they create plenty of fellowship opportunities that provide the same things, including the occasional service opportunity — provided it’s not too taxing and definitely nothing that might be considered politically incorrect.
Is it any wonder then why so many Christians who take seriously the deep importance of Scriptures that apply to social and political matters find themselves disappointed, frustrated, even angered by their church leaders? Should anyone be surprised by the move of these believers to sources like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Dennis Prager, and conservative websites that champion the practice and promotion of biblical values in the public square? After all, the pressing issues of our day include abortion, the most bizarre of sexual perversions (even the biological reality of gender), religious freedom, protection of conscience, euthanasia, socialism, free speech, immigration, the wildly inaccurate claims under the banner of “climate change” which are used as excuses to steal once-guaranteed freedoms, lawlessness, and so on. They are what everyone talks about (except in church); they are what children are being constantly indoctrinated about in government schools; they are what elections are decided over; they are the weighty matters that will determine the course of society’s future.
Yet the Christian so often looks in vain to his or her church leaders for answers and counsel about these enormously important issues, let alone being left without a principled course or example of response. Thus, the movement of interest and, eventually, loyalty and passion for the sources who do help such Christians to understand and relevantly act, as the Bible commands, to “strengthen the things that remain.”
So, in the light (perhaps, I should say, in the twilight) of this surrender to worldliness, how do we meet the daunting challenge to live for God? When not only the general irreligious culture is arrayed against us, but also when our own churches tend to be drifting downstream with whatever tides are fashionable, what do we do to hold the line of faithfulness to Bible doctrine, personal holiness, and a courageous witness for Jesus Christ?
As many of you know, I address this matter with some frequency. After all, being a Christian pro-life activist for 40 years, reminding my fellow believers in Christ of such biblical admonitions as “occupying” until Jesus comes, speaking the truth in love, “doing” justice, delivering those being dragged away to death, preaching the Word (that is, the whole counsel of God) in season and out of season, not participating in wicked deeds but rather exposing them, keeping one’s light from being hidden by a bushel basket, etc. are not only necessary calls to action for the prophetic ministry to which I have been called, but they are of enduring importance to every Christian’s sanctification, blessings, and eternal rewards.
Here are the basics. Be committed to an active and ever more consistent sanctification. Read, study, and seek to diligently put into practice the Word. Improve your life of prayer. Engage in purposeful fellowship with the sharpest saints you can find — saints who are more eagles than ostriches when it comes to living out their faith in the public square. Be involved in ministries that reflect biblical priorities. And work hard to remain unstained by the world. Indeed, a counter-cultural lifestyle is what the Lord requires of His peculiar people, His chosen nation, His royal priesthood.
Simple to do? Of course not. But, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is doable. And men and women who love the Lord and courageously, winsomely, and joyfully display his standard to the world are what it so desperately needs. More wonderful still, such saints are those who the Lord Jesus will reward throughout heaven’s eternity. Last week was a truly astonishing week though most of us, if we were to go by the silence of our churches on these matters, would never have known it. Nevertheless, by our faithfulness as informed Christian activists, we can make every week a significant, even supernatural, one for his glory. Let’s do so.