Sunday, January 14, 2024

Popular Ruins - by RT: Restoring Truth

Forgetting the Most Important Thing in the World

I don’t watch much television anymore, but there’s one show that I once found funny enough to watch every so often; its lead character, Homer, captured all the mediocrity of beer-can living with his crude quips and vacant observations. However slovenly Homer Simpson was, he will long be remembered for his infamous bits of fatherly advice. Speaking to his son Bart, he advised, “being popular is the most important thing in the world!”

To witness our national plunge into absurdity and decay, it seems that Homer’s words resonated with far too many. We have become a nation of unserious people, consuming—and consumed by—a popular culture with no understanding of the most important thing in the world. We’re armed with every technology and absorbed by endless apps but have a spiritual radar the devil himself can evade. With our own days swamped in mindless distractions, we float in the toxic debris, with our children left bored and begging among the ruins.

Signs of our decline appeared decades ago—fractured families, welfare dependency, addictions—but society’s total bankruptcy still waited at a polite distance. We hadn’t yet surrendered our faculties to our phones. The progressive cult hadn’t reached its peak fervor; nobody was talking about ninety-nine genders or privilege walks. People said, “boys will be boys,”not “what is a woman?”. Those landline days, in retrospect, now look quaint.

Just a handful of years later, our world moves exponentially faster, and radical voices are amplified into our homes through the left’s confederation of silver-tongued activists. They wear once-friendly and familiar faces; they are athletes, entertainers, animators, and educators—and some are even priests. As the left’s faithful, they worship at the pantheon of pride and proselytize our children, whom they regard not as individual souls, but as the communal property of the state.

Now that we’re surveying our shadowy surroundings and watching wicked mobs dismantle our country, we wonder how we arrived at this place. How did we become so stupid, unhappy, wicked? Our nation’s leaders bear much blame, but we did not arrive here against our will; our habits of complaisance and compromise paved the way.

We drank the sweet poisons of psychology, entrusted our children to progressive education, and welcomed the Trojan horse of digital devices. We squeezed God out of our schedules, chased him from our schools, and even politely ushered him out of our churches. Although our list of failures is longer than this, they all flow from a single fault—we refused to pursue the most important thing in the world.

What is that most important thing? The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith starts this way: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever. A long list of scriptures ground the catechism’s first claim. It’s simple yet profound, countercultural in every way—a sweeping rebuke to our world’s disordered ways. To enjoy and glorify the God of nature and scripture is indeed the most important thing in the world.

Sadly, we decided our hearts didn’t want the God of scripture. Instead, we preferred the weaker one that “religious leaders” presented in our chapels, churches and books. That popular god identified with “people at the margins” and was mostly about advancing the culture’s pet projects—things like climate justice or anti-racism. Once social justice doctrines replaced the biblical ones, it was an easy coast downhill. We just had to lament this and that, vow to “do better”, and memorize a new catechism—one that conveniently included no cross.

Without the distraction of the redemption story, the compassionate left easily sold us on its other repugnant ideas—suddenly, Jesus was nonbinary. As it turns out, one can sell almost anything by cleverly twisting Christian virtues. Satan is a great copycat, after all, and most church attenders were now too biblically illiterate to notice the counterfeits anyways. Best of all, it was easier to hide the most important thing in the world.

Therefore, Christian virtues would be appropriated for dark and popular agendas. The virtue of kindness was easily redefined to mean including and celebrating everything from the far left. Finally, the church offered something that everyone could embrace! Parents warmed to this because they were concerned with making sure little Aidan and Ava were kind and inclusive, too. When the crowd pushed into the next stupid or perverse territory, being kind and inclusive required that their children join. Being kind was finally popular and the most important thing in the world.

After we learned the new catechism—also called “the ways of Jesus”—we kindly allowed leftists to direct our children’s education. As enlightened parents, we were eager to be pliant students, too. Global citizenship was important, they said; it demanded that we trade history’s facts for new narratives and place our faith in STEM. It demanded that our children choose identities from a panoply of unhappy genders and racial categories. We agreed and left the task of shaping our children and civil morality to School of Education experts and their progressive idea of the most important thing in the world.

The more conservative among us even thought schools should be ideological Switzerlands. That less strident approach assumed that moral neutrality exists, and that our educational establishment specialized in facts. We were sadly wrong on both counts; instead, our educators were proud and partisan evangelists for the most illiberal and discredited ideas of humankind. Yet, many parents were afraid to resist them lest they be called unpopular things like racist, transphobic, or unkind. As a result, our children know little and suffer much, and all in the sacred name of education.

As for our previous most important things—and there have been many—one of our most celebrated social crusades failed, too. For all the noise about women’s rights and girl power, many females were content to concede those vaunted claims, even as odd-looking males invaded their bathrooms and sports teams. What is a woman, anyways? Trends change, and so did we; feminism is no longer the most important thing in the world.

All of this sounds discouraging, and cold facts are often like that. A full accounting of our rebellious and fruitless schemes could leave us in despair, with little light or direction. In God’s otherworldly calculations, though, all is not lost. Although the wide and popular gate has proven that it opens to destruction, we can still reroute towards the narrower gate to life.

Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 
(Isaiah 55:7)

Only by God’s grace can we uproot the destructive but important-sounding idols that we welcomed in our ignorant past. Only with his guidance can we shepherd our hungry children towards identities rooted in his joyful and transcendent purposes. It likely won’t be popular, though the true things seldom are. It means rebuilding the ruins of this worldly kingdom to glorify the God of another—because enjoying Him is the most important thing in the world.