The Death of Reverence

CAN YOU DEFINE REVERENCE?

While contemplating this article I conducted an extremely non-scientific, anecdotal experiment. Basically, I asked several people from various backgrounds (religious, irreligious, and a few in between) to define the word reverence as best they could without googling it or phoning a friend. As you can imagine, the answers were varied, to say the least: Some were spot on (mostly the extremely religious), others defined reverence as some type of fear (mostly the mildly religious), several thought reverence was a title for priests or clergy (mostly the irreligious), and a handful simply didn’t know how to define the word reverence at all. If they were willing to play along, I also asked them to define the words sacred, hallowed, consecrated, holy, and inviolable (if you’re like most people you had to google inviolable). People’s attempts to define these words sorted out in pretty much the same way as it did for the word reverence.

Douglas Rushkoff is a widely acclaimed media theorist, writer and university professor. His name might not be familiar to you, but you’ve used phrases he coined. Phrases like “viral media” and “social currency” originated with Rushkoff. Some of his thoughts on socialization and technology are fascinating. His theories have silently impacted your life in more ways than one.

THE YOUNG & THE IRRELIGIOUS!

Pollsters, social scientists, and statisticians are super interested in putting us all into nice little categories. In reality, humans are far more complex and less monolithic than we have been led to believe. However, it’s increasingly clear from stats that the elderly are much likelier than younger generations to be religious.

Rest assured, many young adults are extremely religious, but there is an ever-widening gap between the religious and the irreligious. Meaning, the “in-betweeners” are disappearing. People are either becoming more religious than ever or joining the growing number of atheists. So, the question is why? Why is this gap ever widening and what can be done about it? From the secular perspective, nirvana can be reached by eradicating pesky religious notions. It’s a naive and ludicrous idea.

THE MEANINGLESSNESS CONUNDRUM

Douglas Rushkoff is one of many vogue atheists who laid the groundwork for secularizing modern young minds. Here’s a popular and particularly nauseating quote from Rushkoff:

“It’s also hard for people to contend with the difficult possibility that we are simply overadvanced fungi and bacteria hurtling through a galaxy in cold, meaningless space. But just because our existence may have arisen unintentionally and without purpose doesn’t preclude meaning or purpose from emerging as a result of our interaction and collaboration. Meaning may not be a precondition for humanity as much as a by-product of it.”

THE MEANINGLESS FALLOUT!

It’s almost painful to read Rushkoff, and countless others like him, trying to deal with the conundrum of meaninglessness that secularism produces. All the pandering platitudes and pointless philosophizing in the world can’t reconcile the awful emptiness that godlessness produces. Rushkoff’s quote reeks of desperation. It’s as if he’s trying to force the square peg of meaning into the circular slot of secularism. To his credit, at least he’s making an attempt to face the nothingness of secularism. He’s honest enough to admit that his worldview relegates us all to overadvanced fungi and bacteria hurtling through a galaxy in cold, meaningless space. His feeble attempt to insert meaning and purpose into this worldview falls flat on its face. Any intellectually honest person knows that if this trendy shift away from belief in God continues there will be a catastrophic fallout in the collective human psyche.

Actually, I suspect that much of the world’s woes are precursors to this fallout. Many societal problems are directly linked to the psychological and spiritual disruption that occurs when humans start thinking of themselves as animals. Higher evolved perhaps, but animals, nonetheless. Even worse, what if large swaths of humanity adopt Rushkoff’s view and seriously think of humanity as being little more than bacteria? At least most people like animals, but no one likes or cares for fungi. Certainly, dangerous ideas have real life consequences.

HOW CAN IT FEEL SO WRONG IF THERE’S NO WRONG?

The repercussions of a perceived godless universe are already being felt in big and small ways. I believe the growing suicide rates are an indication of how a perceived world without eternal purpose affects people mentally. Not to mention, mass depression and substance abuse. Secular thinkers are perplexed by the dilemma of a wildly advanced civilization filled with unhappy citizens. Our world has more wealth, health, comfort, entertainment, and prosperity than any other generation in the history of civilization. Yet, we are plagued with dissatisfaction, disappointment, and disenfranchisement. Predictably, while society encourages and celebrates freedom from religion the warm fuzzy feelings quickly fade into a haze of melancholia.

Take racism for example, an issue that is currently spotlighted in our nation, many agnostic millennials are waking up to the shortcomings of their worldview. For example, without a God there is no such thing as tangible intrinsic human rights or freedoms. If we weren’t created equally by God and we’re just overadvanced fungi what makes racism wrong? What makes anything wrong? Why would euthanasia be wrong? Why would suicide be wrong? Why would hatred, racism, dislike, or injustice be wrong? The very word injustice implies an intrinsic human right, but without God humanity doesn’t have intrinsic rights. Without God the world really is just an animalistic fight for survival where only the fittest survive.

Without God we’re all just little specks looking for some silly bits of meaning in a vast ocean of nothingness. Try as they might, godless philosophers and thought leaders can’t change that reality. Because it’s the logical dead end to a series of agonizingly long and twisted veins of faulty philosophies.

INCUBATION, INEBRIATION, INHIBITION, HANGOVER

Like all philosophies (and sins), there’s a kind of early incubation period. During incubation a new albeit terrible idea basks in the warmth of shiny newness. Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun, but mankind has a gullible tendency to mistake ancient sins for brand new brilliant ideas. The “new” worldview temporarily blooms into an exciting “free” way of life, unshackled by the silliness of past ideologies, morals, standards, or antiquated religious reverences.

For a long period of time the Western Hemisphere has enjoyed the inebriations of heady Rushkoffian philosophies. Secular society has tried really hard to create its own brand of morality from nothingness. The inebriation produces predictable inhibitions. They’ve been comfortably intoxicated with the exhilaration of their “new” notions, but for many the hangover phase is kicking in. The stark realization that most secular “moralities” are poorly imitated holdovers from the Judeo-Christian worldview is unsettling. Morality always unravels without the involvement of humanities Divine Creator.

THE GROWING DIVIDE

There was a time when secularists and Christians agreed that certain things were considered sacred. They treated those things with reverence. For example, most agreed human life was sacred and should be treated with reverence. Most agreed there was something sacred about the innocence of children, and that children should be protected. Most agreed freedom and common decencies were sacred. Family was also considered sacred. But an alarmingly large number of secularists hold their noses in disdain at the very mention of things we used to hold in common.

THE DEATH OF REVERENCE

I could fill lots of paragraphs with examples of how society is cheapening the value of human life. The abortion issue alone could fill volumes of books. Certainly, secular society gives lip service to the sanctity of life, but they are increasingly less interested in protecting the lives of those who are in disagreement with their worldview. And, of course, the slow decline of the family unit has been documented for decades. Society can’t even agree to call biological men, men and biological women, women (and supposedly Christians are the science “deniers”). It’s not even socially acceptable to teach children that a family consists of a biological mom and a biological dad who are married. So, how can we expect the family unit (the basic fundamental building block of society) to thrive.

Furthermore, marriage is viewed more and more as antiquated. Admittedly, if marriage isn’t a sacred covenant between a man, a woman, and God then it is pretty ridiculous. Western cultures respect for the sanctity of marriage bit the dust when gay marriage was legalized and celebrated. To be sure, it was already gasping its last breaths, but it officially died with that legal pronouncement. Culture can’t even define the family properly anymore. Ironically, even morally ambiguous counterfeit Christians got more than they bargained for after supporting the homosexual agenda. Most liberal Christians never dreamed the transgender agenda would be the next culture battle. But if life, and family, and marriage isn’t sacred or definable than sexuality isn’t either. Western society had already been pushed down the slippery slope of letting go of sacred things. Vast groups of carnal gullible Christians became willing conspirators in the destruction of yet another holy and sacred institution, marriage and family.

IT ONLY GETS WORSE

Ok. I’ll admit it! I really like to say I told you so. But this is one situation where I desperately wish my predictions had been wrong. Years ago, on this blog I predicted that pedophilia would become socially acceptable. My prophecy was met with incredulity, mockery, and dismissiveness. I was called a fear-monger and worse. I was told by atheists that children were the last sacred totem. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at that because I’m fully aware of the massive abortion rates. At that time, science was already definitively affirming the position of anti-abortionists, yet secular culture didn’t care at all. So, why would I believe children are any safer out of the womb than in the womb? I didn’t believe it then and I really don’t believe it now!

A recent TED Talk entitled Why Our Perception of Pedophilia Has to Change is just one of many disgusting examples of how pedophilia is being normalized. Pedophiles are brazenly referring to themselves as Minor Attracted Persons or MAPs. The internet is filled with MAPs going public and beginning their sexual revolution. Much of the so-called scientific research in this area is trending more and more favorably towards the MAPs community. One recent study (The Internalization of Social Stigma Among Minor-Attracted Persons: Implications for Treatment) reports that 5% of the world’s population might be MAPs. The overwhelming reports of child molestation coupled with the bleak knowledge that the majority of child molestation cases go unreported lends credence to the 5% theory. With that kind of percentage, the societal push for destigmatization will only grow stronger. One day soon there will be no social stigma for MAPs.

NETFLIX HITS A NEW LOW

As if on cue, while writing this article Netflix announced the release of a new show called Cuties where little girls are explicitly sexualized in bizarre and repulsive ways. Girls as young as eleven are scantily dressed and perform sexually provocative dance routines. This is hardly a first for the entertainment culture, but it is one of the more unblushingly pro MAPs shows ever released to the general public. It would do us all well to remember how the gay agenda used this same kind of strategy to normalize itself in the public eye. Little by little shows were littered with overt references and subtle instances of homosexuality. Western culture was predictably desensitized over a relatively short period of time. History is repeating itself, but now innocent children will suffer because of our godless culture (godless churches aren’t helping either, but that’s a different blog for a different day).

DON’T PANIC! PRAY!

Keeping all of this in mind, its little wonder secular culture doesn’t value or consider it worthwhile to protect the religious freedoms of Christians or their churches. This long trending cultural shift makes the Church more countercultural than it’s ever been in modern times. I want to quickly look at how the Church should and should not respond to the death of reverence taking place right before our eyes. Of course, it’s easy to feel panicky when the world seems to be in a moral death spiral. But rather than panic why don’t we commit ourselves to prayer as never before? Prayer will stabilize us and make a difference in the world around us. Prayer isn’t simplistic or naive. It isn’t a lesser course of action then other pursuits. Rather, prayer is the action by which all other actions are judged. Nothing else we do could ever match the importance of praying over our world.

BE SUPER SERIOUS ABOUT SACRED THINGS

In response to societies drastic shift away from reverence the Church should contrast itself by intensifying our respect and awe for sacred things. Our gatherings should be filled with a sense of reverence and majesty. I’m not talking about stuffy formalities; however, we must resist the external pressure to approach the things of God flippantly or casually. I’ve long contended our attire is a reflection of our sense of reverence for the house of God. We should oppose societal pressure to approach corporate worship casually in demeanor, attire, focus, and attention. We must prioritize sacred things above the secular. For example, jobs, relaxation, and entertainment should never be prioritized over the sacred. Even family time shouldn’t be prioritized above sacred things. Family time should always be a major priority, but it should be balanced so the sacred isn’t encroached upon. When Christians consistently prioritize the secular over the sacred it signifies the impending death of reverence in their hearts.

You don’t have to go back too far in history to remember a time when American culture kept Sunday’s sacred on a national level. Even the irreligious enjoyed the benefits of work-free Sundays. Now, Christians are caught between the need to be in the workplace and the need to keep the Sabbath. But Christens must have the courage to put God first and trust Him to bless their faithfulness. This is a basic area where Christians must win the battle, or we will not be able to stand when bigger battles move to the forefront. If we can’t prioritize God over our finances how will we prioritize Him over our lives if needed?

BEWARE OF ALPHABET SOUP

Logical fallacies are fake or deceptive arguments that seem irrefutable but prove nothing. Fallacies often seem superficially sound and far too often they retain immense persuasive power even after being clearly exposed as false. Alphabet Soup is a fairly modern fallacy where a person or group inappropriately overuses acronyms, abbreviations, form numbers and arcane insider “shop talk” primarily to prove to people that an individual “speaks their language” and is “one of them”. Secondarily, people use Alphabet Soup to shut out, confuse, condescend, or to impress outsiders. Officially showing someone, they are on the outside looking in. For example, “It’s not uncommon for a KC-113 with ABC to be both GW and YB;” “I had a twenty-minute DX Q-so on 17with a SED-Q12 and a couple of SQ’s even though the QR-JANE was 34 over B10;” or “I hope I’ll keep on seeing my JNT on my HVL until the day I get my WW511.”

You get the picture. Alphabet Soup is a great way to misdirect someone from noticing you don’t actually know what you’re talking about. And, it’s a wonderful way to keep people at arm’s length by intimidating them into assuming you know things you don’t really know. Secularists use this pseudo intellectual insider jargon all the time to make Christians feel feeble or out of touch. They use made up phrases and talk about elaborate unprovable theories as if they are cold hard facts. They blather about billions of years and trillions of eons as if they know something with certainty they don’t even understand partially. It’s a condescending intellectually dishonest way of dominating any form of real debate before it even begins.

REFUSE TO BE MARGINALIZED

We must not allow ourselves to be marginalized or bullied into silence. If you know Jesus, you know more than the most highly educated atheist in the world. Refuse to be overlooked because of your faith. Be vocal, confidant, and unashamed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Originally, I set out to write an article about irreverent behaviors creeping into everyday Christian life and church services. You know, things like cell phones lit up all throughout preaching. And, one of my biggest pet peeves; talking and joking around during altar services. Empty prayer rooms, grungy casual attire, disrespect towards ministry, disrespect towards elders, immodesty, untouched Bibles, and the list goes on. But while pondering these problems, I realized these are just spiritual manifestations of much deeper cultural problems ineluctably bleeding into the Church. Everywhere I look irreverence seems to be the norm. The dereverencing and dismantling of traditional institutions like faith, family, honesty, and morality are eroding ordinary everyday life. The needed human perceptions of majesty, grandeur and transcendent supernatural accoutrements are sadly lacking even within sincere religious settings. We live in a post-respect, post-truth, post-logic, post-virtue secular society. That secular mindset has imperceptibly influenced unsuspecting Christians.

How has this happened? Well, mostly through secular educational systems that work to legitimize secular evolutionary philosophies and stigmatize religious viewpoints. No longer can Christians unthinkingly hand their children over to be influenced carte blanche by secular educators from preschool to the end of college. Colleges are especially egregious in their cultural brainwashing efforts. This doesn’t mean we should become anti-education, to the contrary, we should be more educated than ever before. However, we must promote positive educational reforms and demand a seat at the table within educational systems.

Beyond that, Christians have allowed secular media to dominate their time and captivate their thinking for far too long. When the elders abstained from television and movies before television and movies were really all that bad, they had spiritual foresight. In the name of freedom and progress, many Christians engage in grotesquely sacrilegious and immoral viewing on a regular basis. I know pointing out television is antiquated. Television is quickly becoming a thing of the past. But the ever expanding web of the internet is far more dangerous than television could ever be. Not to mention the sticky world of social media. It would be incredibly naive and foolish for the Church to ignore the vast powers of all media sources to influence, infiltrate, desensitize, destabilize, demoralize, and stigmatize the holy things of God.

But the Church is shaking itself loose of past naivety. We are learning to recognize what reverence looks like when it is dying. It isn’t too late for the Church. In fact, the only hope for the world is a sanctified Church calling them to repentance and a supernatural Holy Ghost encounter with God.

“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7).”