For American conservatives, Christians and even devotees to what used to be known as classical liberalism, 2019 has gotten off to a rough start.
We have seen elected officials in New York and Virginia cheering on infanticide. Nancy Pelosi faced Donald Trump’s demands for border wall funding straight on, forcing him to delay his State of the Union address while yet another migrant caravan was forming to assault the U.S. border. Roger Stone was indicted. The establishment media absolutely ravaged a handful of high school students from Kentucky over what amounted to their exercising their free speech rights. And speaking of free speech, conservative speaker Ben Shapiro was denied permission to speak on the campus of the largest Christian university in America.
OK, that last one happened on Feb. 1. But it seemed a fitting capstone to a month that felt like it lasted for 90 days.
Things have gotten so bad that Steve Deace mourned the “cultural twilight” of western civilization as January faded into what Hallmark and Russell Stover would no doubt like us to think of as Valentine’s Month.
“We are on the precipice of becoming the generation Reagan once warned us about: the generation sentenced to lament what it was once like in America when men were free,” he wrote on Conservative Review.
If you’ll pardon the cliché, things are not always what they seem.
I wish I could transport Americans back to the Roman Empire just prior to the coming of Christ, where they could see the squalor, the wealth inequality, the slavery, the blatant idolatry and sexual immorality common in everyday Roman culture. Homosexuality is no more common or more socially accepted today than it was in ancient Greece and Rome.
In fact, what used to be called pederasty, that is, sex between an adult man and adolescent or younger males, though sometimes a crime, was a commonplace occurrence in the educational life of young boys in Greece and a customary way to gain favor with the rich and powerful in Rome.
And if you think the LGBT agenda isn’t aimed directly at reinstituting that barbaric effrontery to God, nature and humanity, you haven’t been paying close attention.
So what changed? Why did all of that disappear from western civilization for so many centuries? What happened to all that immoral practice?
The coming of Christ and his church to the Roman Empire and the Greek-speaking world brought with it clear instruction to avoid sexual immorality, like those found in Mark 7:21, Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 5:11, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3 and elsewhere. In fact, writing specifically to the church at Rome, the Jerusalem Council mentioned four elements of the Jewish law that Gentile believers should seek to honor — three of them had to do with eating, and the fourth was avoiding sexual immorality.
It was St. Paul who brought up homosexuality specifically in his first letters to the Corinthians and to Timothy, making it clear in both cases that he was not referring only to specific issues they were dealing with, but to Christendom in general.
The word of God, combined with the faithful witness of those who carried the gospel of Christ throughout the ancient world, brought an end to the cultural acceptance of homosexual behavior throughout the western world that remained in place for nearly two millennia.
To put that in 2019 terms: The church won the culture war. And it won against an immoral culture that had been entrenched throughout all strata of western civilization for centuries.
If you think the church of Jesus Christ, through the power of his word, the Holy Spirit and faithful witness, cannot repeat that victory in America by the grace of God, then, again, you haven’t been paying close attention.
I already see signs of hope. The media lies of the Covington incident were uncovered quickly and thoroughly until even establishment media sources were apologizing for jumping to conclusions. (Conclusions, if we’re going to be honest, that they jumped to years ago and only expressed once the video made it convenient to do so.) Grand Canyon University is experiencing a tremendous backlash for its decision to ban Shapiro from speaking on campus.
Perhaps most importantly, Americans on the right who have been largely silent on abortion are finally waking up to the fact that the prevention of the murder of innocent babies is more important than placating your liberal aunt on Facebook, and they’re speaking out against what can only be called evil from the left more than I’ve seen in decades.
Will America turn its back on evil and turn to God to heal our wounds and forgive our cultural sins — sins of commission against the innocent or of omission in remaining silent while we have watched our friends, families and neighbors engage in rampant self-destruction because we hope to “keep the peace”? I wish I knew.
But we can. It’s not impossible. It’s been done before.
But what if we don’t? There are some who claim that with the fall of America comes the Rapture, the Tribulation and the return of Christ, not necessarily in that order. (Note: All those people live in America. No theologians elsewhere have such a high opinion of us.) No doubt, should America fall, the world will have lost the most magnificent experiment in human freedom in history. But the world got along for thousands of years before the U.S. existed; it can go on for thousands of years after we’re gone.
I hope it doesn’t have to, but that’s not even the real point.
Regardless of what the coming months and years hold for American culture and governance, our ultimate hope lies not in a safe and secure America. Our hope is not in Donald Trump, Dan Crenshaw or even James Woods. It’s not in baseball, Tim Tebow, apple pie or Chevrolet. It’s not in the First or Second Amendment, or even the Constitution taken as a whole. It sure isn’t in Hollywood, Wall Street or the Federal Reserve.
In Christ alone, our hope is found.
As Augustine argued in “The City of God,” even as we watch earthly empires rise and fall — and we have, many times, since the birth of Christ — it is the City of God that will triumph in the end.
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