The Modern World's Never-Ending War on Faith
Over the past couple of generations, belief in God has lost stature among the people who have governed this country. It has gone from being a foundational norm to being something of a historical embarrassment. Most politicians, particularly on the left, now only check the box for "Christian" for the sake of a few votes among believers in their districts. They are "Christians" with a nod and a wink.
It wasn't always so.
Jimmy Carter, for all his faults, actually believed in God. Not some watered-down, fatuous little fairy tale of God, but a robust and fearsome God that underpinned his universe. I remember the time when Carter regretted, in a Playboy interview of all places, that he had "lusted in his heart." He felt that he had fallen short of the Almighty's expectations. How quaint. Fast-forward to Joe Biden, who nuzzles and gropes women and young girls in public but is held up as a committed Catholic. A committed Catholic who does not let his personal views on abortion get in the way of popular social trends. A Catholic in name only. Oh, good old Joe has a religion, all right — but it has nothing to do with stodgy old ideas like faith or Christ crucified. It's a religion of political power. Power in the here and now. There is nothing of humility about Joe's beliefs. He wouldn't know a broken and contrite heart if he stepped on one.
There isn't a Christian on Earth who is truly free from sin. One can be far from perfect and still be a Christian. What one cannot be is a relativist — believing that there is no such thing as absolute morality and that therefore there is neither any real sin nor any real need of redemption. In today's more popular liberal churches, everybody wins the lottery just by being born. Or, at most, by being born and not becoming an actual serial killer. The narrow gate and the broad highway seem to have gotten reversed. Heaven is the default participation prize you are entitled to when the long arm of government oversight is finally done with your earthly services. This pathetic freebie of a religion is not in any way a suitable faith for Christians. Frankly, it isn't even a suitable faith for grown-ups.
The Christian believes in a God who is more than a supernatural game show host. The Christian believes in a morality that stands outside human wishes. He believes in a God that, as life shows us at every turn, isn't here to make things easy for us — a God who wants us to struggle in dignity and grow up.
The particular class of people who have ruled this nation in recent decades worship no one but themselves. They despise us because we fail to worship them. Christianity, straight-up and unadulterated, is an affront to their authority. A sign of inferior breeding. A vulgar deficit of what is needed to be cool.
The lesser ranks of liberals, the people who teach in our schools and populate our legal system, want to be just as cool and hip as their political idols on the coasts. The Atlantic and The New Yorker are their scriptures. The faithless faith of the ruling elite has trickled down and lives among us in our towns. One cannot swing a quiet prayer these days without striking a nearby progressive in a self-righteously sensitive spot. God was first un-modern to them, then un-postmodern, and has now bizarrely morphed into an oppressive weapon of the dreaded white patriarchy. Odd how this new godless religion appears quite noble at first, especially to the young — with its talk of fairness, justice, and trans-sisterly love — but it gets around in no time to the bloody retribution stage. It begins quite comfortably, promising absolution and handouts enough to let its acolytes avoid the unpleasantness of responsibility and self-sufficiency — but after the appetizer, there comes a heavy main course of unapologetic wrath. Where Jehovah was slow to anger, the amorphous god of the age seems quick. Fire-bombing police cars is only the beginning. History has shown us how this juvenile tantrum always ends.
What are we to expect from a religion based on nothing better than the ambitions and the desires of self-indulgent human beings? If there is no greater behavioral standard than our own raw wants, what can we expect as a result? Sooner or later, that attractive veneer of secular idealism gets rubbed off by the inescapably brutal logic of the underlying creed: "Why does any life matter — especially when that life is in my way? Why should I love my neighbor as myself? Who is there that I cannot replace?" The answers to these questions can't be found inside ourselves. You will not get them from a clean Darwinian calculus. If we are nothing more than a collection of desires, then all of life is war. All is a quest for power. That is the endgame of a strict materialism.
Not all secularists are evil. Most are at least partially restrained by a vestigial thread of decency they cannot, themselves, really account for. Something they don't believe in still remains to bind them to their God-given moral core — but the voices of the culture shout against it. "Morality," the voices will tell them, "is just the ghost of an ignorant and superstitious past. God is nothing but an unenlightened social construct. Society" (that parody of humanity that is merely the bloated proxy for an aristocratic political class) "is more important than any number of ordinary people's lives." The individual, for the leftist, is an empty shell — a blank slate to be written on. A manufactured representative of the group. The truth is what human authority says it is.
Man can reject God, but he cannot reject his need for Him. In his resulting loneliness, man sets up a false god in His place. He worships money or sex or power or his own idea of virtue — and he imagines he is enlightened because he doesn't think of his new dependence as a form of worship. He calls it "personal choice" or "self-empowerment" or "creative expression." He calls his passions freedom while he makes himself their slave. The leftist cry for social justice is the siren call that gathers up the lost, the misguided, the unsatisfied. The mirage that lures the dying farther into the desert but offers them nothing when they get there.
There is no worse religion in the world than the one the godless have constructed for themselves. Many religions miss the mark but get, at least, the fundamental notion right. They know, at least, that it is better to worship even a stone idol than fickle man or his desires. If they do not see the truth quite clearly, or even at all, they at least look for a god outside themselves. The hard materialist, on the other hand, casts about in moral darkness, instinctively seeking light while simultaneously denying that it exists. As material objects, mere pounds of flesh, we count for little. At best, the follower of the secular religion pursues one shiny virtue-signaling opportunity after another, assured by consensus that it is meaningful — today. Yesterday, it was recognizing the plight of the exploited worker. Today, it is decrying the oppression of anyone who is either non-white or gender-dysphoric. Tomorrow, it might be anything at all. Anything that serves the purposes of the collective social cult. There is nothing very enlightened or progressive to be found here. The tyranny of one group of people over another, the very thing leftism rails against, is precisely the end that leftism achieves.
Heaven, we are told, is attained by a profound surrender to the divine — by being more through faith than one can be by one's own nature. Hell is attained by a slow surrender to the material — by making your own nature the little god of your existence. These two roads are as old as humanity. Only the superficial details make them seem like something new.