The Decline of a Society (part 2)

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I remember when President Bush invaded Iraq. I have no desire to get into the politics of that decision, but I do remember listening to talk of “nation building” and “establishing democracy in Iraq” with a fair amount of skepticism.

Democracy is more than giving everyone a vote. It is more than holding “free” elections. Reminds me of another saying I recently read somewhere. “For so long I wanted my mother off my back, now I realize she was the only one who really had my back.” But really, in a healthy, working democracy, we all have each others’ backs. When democratic values are functioning as they should, we as a people seek our neighbor’s good, and not harm, and we expect the same from our neighbors. We have each other’s backs. If someone drops their wallet on the street, most people in the U.S. (still) will pick it up, run the person down and give it to them. People still care. There is something in our culture, in our national psyche, that expects honesty, that generally tries to help, serve, and protect.

Right? Or maybe we are losing that. Maybe we are tempted to steal the iPhone. Maybe we would look inside the wallet before returning it.

Part 2 in this mini-series of a society in decline talks about how increasingly conflictive we have become. Husband and wife are divided. Families are angry at one another. Prejudice resides deep within us. Suspicion and even hatred take the place of trust. We are in trouble.

I spoke to a good friend about a difficult time in his family after the death of his mother, and how, since that time, his two sisters do not talk to each other over a disagreement they had. That same friend mentioned issues between his family and his in-laws, something that started as a misunderstanding and has morphed into a family feud.

I could mention more instances of arguments between good people, Christian people, which have not been forgiven for years, perhaps decades, and the resentment has accumulated. What began as a simple thing, perhaps even a silly thing, has with time, grown into a monstrosity. The sun has set many times on our anger. Have you ever seen a dead, bloated opossum after several days in the sun? Seeds of anger have blossomed into resentment, even hatred.

We have notions of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Our ideas are invariably saturated with ideas that have nothing to do with discipleship. We are moral people. We don’t smoke, drink, or chew, and if we do, we don’t do it to often, or in public anyway. We pay are taxes, mostly. We are decent people. Decent people. Yes, decent people.

No we are not. We are proud, arrogant and critical. We have become unforgiving, stubborn and crass. We do not bend or bow for anyone or anything. “That’s just the way I am,” is our creed. We are damning ourselves.

If much of the church is like this, can we expect those who do not profess to know our God to do any better?

Or perhaps we do not really know what it means to follow Jesus after all. Will he, in the final day, say to us with a sigh, “Who are you. I never knew you.”

If you missed the first part of this series, click HERE.

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