Ninety-eight years ago this month, all church property in Russia was confiscated as a result of the “Bolshevik Revolution.” Furthermore, all religious teaching in schools was done away with. January 20, 1918 was a massive blow to a nation that had been full of Orthodox Christians for nearly 1,00 years. For the next few generations, Christians had to come to terms with the reality of living under an unfriendly dictatorship. Instead of Christianity being the viewpoint that steered society, as it had been for ages, suddenly Christianity was taboo and people were forced to choose between remaining true to their convictions and facing persecution or taking the “safe” route.
Looking back on this nearly a century later, the parallels in America are striking. America has, over the last several decades, undergone a revolution of sorts of its own. Polls consistently show that fewer and fewer Americans, particularly young Americans, have what would be called a “Christian” worldview. Even among professing Christians, the views that shape people’s lives and decisions in America tend to be secular. In time to come, it is likely that fewer and fewer Americans will have robust Christians worldviews, which means America will have fewer and fewer laws that are accommodating to Christians.
America is already not a nation that is friendly to Christians. America being a Christian-friendly nation may have been true once upon a time, but it simply isn’t the case anymore. Those who have firm convictions about what the Bible says about marriage are being marginalized and ostracized as “bigots”. One need only think of Dan Cathy of Chick-Fil-A and the backlash he experienced in the Fall of 2012. Companies that don’t want to assist in paying for their employees to have abortions have to go all the way to the Supreme Court to fight to protect their most basic religious freedoms. One need only think of Hobby Lobby. Christian groups on college campuses are being told they cannot actually operate based upon their Christian convictions when electing student leaders. This is “creedal discrimination”. One need only think of Vanderbilt University.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this week, said in the late 1960s during the height of the Vietnam War that the American government was the “greatest purveyor of violence on the face of the earth.” The same sentiment could accurately be expressed today. Planned Parenthood, which performs millions of abortions annually and sells baby body parts for profit, is itself largely funded by American tax money. Just think–however pro-life you may be as a voter, you are, whether you like it or not, helping to fund Planned Parenthood. Your tax money is going to support a public school system whose values are increasingly hostile to Christianity. Your tax money is going to fund a “war on terrorism” which often amounts to the American military terrorizing opponents. One need only think of the horror stories one hears about the use of drone warfare in the Middle East.
There is much to be angry about in our society today. The church needs more people who are willing to get angry about the things God is angry about. We must be rid of the false notion that Christian meekness means passivity in the face of wickedness. In his 1986 book, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Steve Brown pointed out that historically during the Jewish feast of Purim, when Esther is read, whenever Haman’s name is mentioned, “the reaction of the Jews is one of verbal cussing and expressions of anger.” To the contrary, when Esther’s name is mentioned, the response is “joy and blessing”.
Brown’s conclusion was that, “God has provided a festival for the Jews to express their anger. It was a proper anger that was psychologically healthy because it was an anger against injustice, persecution, and oppression. God was angry and therefore gave his people feast in which they could express their anger.” Just as the Jews of Esther’s day had much to righteously be angry about, 21st American Christians also have much that ought to anger them.
“Religion” is increasingly looked at as something ultra personal and ultra private, something to do behind closed doors. If you actually want to live out your faith in the marketplace of ideas, you are going to increasingly be looked at as a freak. Americans in the second decade of the 21st century are in a position very similar to that of Russians in the second decade of the 20th century. A time may be coming when Christians in America have to either leave or go “underground”, just as was the case with the persecuted Russian church.
Let us learn from history. Let us not be naive to the dangers facing us, willfully ignorant that the world our children and grandchildren are growing up in simply isn’t the same one that existed a few decades ago. Of course, there is nothing new under the sun. There has never really been a post-Eden “golden age” on this earth. That said, there are cycles of progress and decline, spiritually speaking, and undoubtedly the West is declining. Fear-mongering is not in order, but mature reflection on the perils ahead is certainly called for.
Nations come and go. Though individuals have immortal souls, governments are not in any sense whatsoever immortal. America had a beginning point and will most certainly have an ending point some day. Contrary to the popular sentiments of many of the early American settlers, North America never was and never will be a “Promised Land” akin to what God promised Israel. America is just one among many nations in the world, a mixture of good and bad, a nation that is susceptible to the same temptations as any other nation. We don’t know how much longer America will go on. The U.S.S.R. lasted for about 70 years before conking out. If the nation doesn’t repent, how much longer can America last without conking out? Only God knows.