What happened in America, where did it all go wrong?
In the midst of the great cultural revolution of our previous century, countless scholars and social thinkers of the European continent relished the imminent secularization of the United States and the rest of the West.
Gone would be the last vestiges of a bygone era, disappearing as a warm vaporous cloud by the cold hard reason of the burgeoning naturalistic paradigm.
Science would render our miracles as merely the causal outworking of logical forces.
Psychiatry would classify all of our pathos by a carefully constructed structure of internal chemical balances (or imbalances).
The continuing rise of feminism would topple the white throne of patriarchy that had enabled the clergy to wield unchecked cultural authority.
Yep, if God was going to be a player on the world stage, He was going to have to be happy with merely a “walk-on” role.
So what happened?
Of course, not only was that not the case throughout the era of modernism in the West, but also seems even less the case in our current post-modern era.
Modernism came and went, with God still asserting Himself throughout the culture… in different, if not new, ways.
Indeed, it seems that the very same things that were anticipated to dismantle faith in God (globalization and mass communications) are being utilized by believers to spread their messages farther and wider than was ever thought possible.
The numbers of religious adherents in countries continues to grow in communities believed to be bastions of socially progressive values and libertine culture.
New York City’s high-church heavyweight, Redeemer Presbyterian, is expanding to several sites throughout greater NYC, with a congregation numbering in the thousands.
In that secular city of all secular cities, Seattle, the Mars Hill Church boasts nearly 10,000 members spread across ten campuses.
The pastors of each (Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll, respectively) are best-selling authors and frequent guests on programs as diverse as the classic newsmagazine 20/20 to controversial syndicated radio show Loveline.
Even the many Longhorn faithful down in Austin (arguably ground-zero for secular progressivism in this state) had to put up with their star quarterback’s almost constant thanking and praising of a God whose reputation around ATX has hardly been favorable over the last several decades.
But certainly the ability of a Divine Being to survive the rising and crashing waves of culture is no great accomplishment. Certainly if He can create the known universe in a matter of days (or years, depending on how you read Genesis), outlasting a steady parade of skeptical philosophers and yammering celebrities should be no difficult task.
Even a cursory glimpse of human history shows that God has always stayed on the scene, irrespective of how His public relations (that is, the clergy) continues to blunder or align itself with madmen, fools and thieves.
If all else fails, there’s always the unceasing conflict over holy cities in the Middle East to keep God in the headlines and in the opinion columns.
In my own day, I’ve been able to observe the explosion of the “mega-church” model, not only down here in the “Bible Belt” but from coast-to-coast.
As our nation’s charter makes no provision for a “state-sanctioned” church or religion, pastors (armed with MBA’s instead of seminary degrees) soon realized that they could apply a corporate model to the church.
Utilizing techniques of branding and expansion, these “pastor-entrepreneurs” treat their sheep like customers and branch out like fast-food franchises… guaranteeing to deliver “your God your way” and always at the lowest price to the consumer.
So now we’re seeing God as a marketable commodity, to be bartered and exchanged, and the church as a venue for suburban social networking.
What’s next? Well, in short, probably another backlash of some form.
Skeptics such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens are publishing works that are attempting to reinvent the position of non-belief in God, even as churches are also reinventing themselves for a generation that is starting to wonder if God can be found in a store.
Who will prevail? Will it be another “Age of Reason” or “Renaissance” or maybe a “Great Revival” that defines God for the next century or so?
Perhaps the real question is not whether or not God is “back” or, rather, if He was ever truly out of the picture to begin with?
Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit.