If life was a dance, religion would be the music and the rhythm. The word religion comes from the Latin word religare, which means “to bind.” It provides moral instruction, offers answers to life’s deepest questions, and helps to keep a society intact. The Christians of the West are watching the world as they know it unravels. The natural family has been torn down and reorganized into something more suitable for the age, and traditional moral values belong in history books. They are brought up as a model of how not to behave. And the Church’s response? We sip our lattes and throw a $20 in the offering plate for the children in Haiti. We don’t see how threadbare our faith has become.
My grandfather always told me that God voted Republican. While I never doubted God’s enthusiasm for democratic principles, I always wondered how Grandpa knew how God filled out His ballot on Election Day. But as I see my peers participating in society’s downward spiral, I ask myself, “Is God no longer voting Republican?” Then I remember that the country bled red last year when Donald Trump became President and the Right won the House and Senate. We may have bled red in the ballot box, but that didn’t stop the Church’s hemorrhaging as people continue to flood the exits.
“The solution to this crisis is to have the women demand that the men stand up and be men,” Says Miss Betty. Miss Nora, the prim lady with the same pair of glasses that have graced the tip of her nose ever since I can remember, nodded in agreement. Some of the ladies in the circle cast sideways glances at me, distrustful of my youth and skinny jeans. These ladies rotate in an eternal cycle of potlucks, baby showers, and food drives. If they would listen, I would tell them that, just beyond their white picket fences, there is no such thing as just men and women anymore. Their good intentions are too late. The music is fading but the Church has is too deaf to notice.
These women form a protective huddle around their traditions. They are fiercely proud of their roles as wives and mothers and lament that their daughters will not pick up the baton when they pass it to them. When their daughters move in with their boyfriend or their son enters rehab for drug abuse, they turn off the radio and stop watching the news. Warfare -even the spiritual kind- terrifies them, so they do not venture beyond the walls of their church. They form an order of women who claim to resist the world without realizing that they have joined the ranks of its passive citizens.
If only it wasn’t our fault; if only we could blame the men or the millennials. If only we could save the world without admission of our own inherent failings. Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn, a survivor of the Soviet gulags, saw the worst of mankind during his time at the labor camps. He once wrote, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” Most of us will turn our faces in shame, but we’ll avoid the question.
If the good Baptist ladies have retreated, the traditional lifeblood of the church, then who else is there? I explored outside the church, but I also considered trying on different sects of the Church. My mother was raised to be a devout Roman Catholic, and although she converted to Protestantism when she married my dad, I considered becoming Catholic for awhile. The stiff pews, starched expressions, and emphasis on Calvinism of the Southern Baptists always felt stifling to me. My spirit always soared every time I entered a cathedral, although, to be honest, I’m not sure if I was inspired more by the Holy Spirit or by those ornate vaulted ceilings. I’ve been told that cathedrals are designed with the intent to always draw your eye upwards to heaven. Raptured, I would sink to the kneeler and just feel a prayer. Surely this was truer than being handed a moldy hymnal and being told to sing along to the tune of tradition?
While I inevitably walked away from Roman Catholicism, my hunger for something both absolute yet insatiable in remained. Everywhere I look, no matter the sect or generation of Christianity, I see more and more the world reflected. Whether it’s through legalism in an attempt to save ourselves (pride), or it’s progressive churches watering down the gospel for the sake of relevancy (also pride), we’re drowning in our own conformity.
The last, sweet strains of the Western Symphony are fading away. The same repeated refrains we hear in the churches no longer ring true. Those of us who have given our lives to the music wonder what happened to those blessed chords. How can we preserve the song of our faith? For the current state of our own country, we should not focus so much on sharing the song of faith with strangers, but make sure that it rings boldly, clearly, and purely in our own hearts first. This is not a permanent exercise, but a necessary one. After all, we cannot give what we do not have. It is a humble acknowledgment that our politics, potlucks and choir practices are actually no match for the gates of Hell by themselves. In order to resist the spirit of this age, we must re-entrench ourselves in the Truth of the next.