Moral Crisis

The death of God is everywhere. He is consistently squeezed from the public forum. Chesterton noted, such a social stage, empty of God, becomes far too small rather quickly, and so other gods are loaded onto the stage – Allah, Buddha, Krishna, yes a hundred other deities, pagan and demonic icons are included. Witchcraft is celebrated. Man as god, humanism, becomes the cultural and intellectual intoxicant. Only the ‘long shadow’ remains, God, the God of the Bible, the God of American history, reduced to one among many, stripped of His unique honor, robbed of His exclusive dignity and nobility, as Christ was dishonored on the cross. His transcendence disputed, His sovereignty doubted, His exaltation above all others dismissed, His true power debated, His exclusive claims derided, His existence, beyond a mental concept, considered dubious. He is dead – not invited to the table. Dead – not allowed to speak. Dead – no one can speak openly to Him. As the Supreme Court recently noted, prayers in His name are only ceremonial. He is dead.

The cultural shift is not an outside-in problem, as we Christians want to allege. There is an assault on faith by agnostics or atheists, but the greater problem is a collapse of practiced faith by the insiders. The triumph of the darkness is not due to the strength of the night, but to the absence of vital light. The lantern has been smashed. The candles are not burning. Faith is not a vital, pulsating, daily matter with the average Christian. This contributes to the deadness, both in the soul of the believer and the society.

Frank Laubach would lament, “All day I see souls dead to God look sadly out of hungry eyes. I want them to know my discovery! That any minute can be paradise, that any place can be heaven! That any man can have God! That every man does have God the moment he speaks to God, or listens to Him!”[1] Jacques Barzun charges in his book, From Dawn to Decadence, that we are in part responsible by our capitulation, that church contributes to cultural decadence by adapting it. “When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.”[2]  The greater problem is that when the church loses its vital faith, it gives the impression to a watching world that God is indeed, dead, that faith is merely a matter of human beliefs and preferences, ancient irrelevant ideas.

It is not God’s silence, but our blind and deaf state, our addiction to the noise and mad pace of the culture that causes us to fixate on all but God. While God is everywhere and at every time present – we are absent. It is the ‘pure in heart’ who ‘see’ God; and it is in and through the pure in heart that others see God. Spiritual sight and perception is a matter of a pure, unclouded core. The ancients regard such inner purity as the capacity to engage in contemplative prayer. Theologian Ian Walgrave charged, “…our age constitutes a virtual conspiracy against the interior life.”[3] There is a war on prayer!

Forty-seven times in the gospel of John, Jesus is depicted as under the Father’s orders. What He did, what He said – was as an expression of the Father’s will. In the same way, what we say, what we do is to be an expression of Christ, by the life of the Spirit within us. If Christ was so deeply dependent on the Father in prayer, how can we be any less so?[4] Yet, 44 percent of Americans spend no time seeking ‘eternal wisdom’ found in faith. Some 19 percent say, “It is useless to search for meaning.” Almost half, 46 percent, never wonder whether or not they will go to heaven. More than one-in-four are cavalier about spiritual matters, content to live a superficial day-by-day life – existentialist. “It’s not a major priority in my life to find my deeper purpose,” they chirp. A bit less, but still significant, 18 percent, almost one-in-twenty, do not think that God has a purpose or plan for everyone, and therefore, probably not for them.[5] The nihilism is taking root.

This is living with a God who is alive! As George Lefebvre notes,

Prayer is an end to isolation. It is living our daily life with someone. With Him who alone can deliver us from solitude. For He is the only one we can find in our own heart, the only one to whom we can tell everything that is in us. He is ever present. Intimately. Prayer makes us aware of His Presence, which we might not realize if we did not pay attention.[6]

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[1]       Frank C. Laubach, Quoted by Phyllis Hobe, The Guideposts Handbook of Prayer (New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1986), 22.

[2]       Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence (New York: Harper Collins, 2000), 26.

[3]       Rolheiser, 24.

[4]       Frank C. Laubach, Prayer – the Mightiest Force in the World (Westwood, NJ: Spire Books, 1946), 101.

[5]       Original Source: USA Today (nd), the Mission America Coalition (data from the Love 2020 Conference: Charlotte, NC; 2014).

[6]       Phyllis Hobe, The Guideposts Handbook of Prayer (New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1986), 20.

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