A Great Communicator -part 4

This is the fourth and final part in a brief series on communication as part of the very quality of God and His Kingdom. It is also a clarion call to that Kingdom to become excellent at this vital issue, the very thing we were made for. You can find part one in the series here.

When people don’t see what we are doing as vital in their lives (and I mean everything from a church picnic to a Sunday sermon) then they begin to look at church services and events as religious duties performed by the faithful, but having little real meaning or import.  They actually begin to view these times as something that must be endured, often primarily in order to maintain their fellowship with the people in the church.

This premise is held up by statistics.  Our young adults are leaving the Church in record numbers.  The reason that they list for this boils down to the fact that they don’t see Church as being something vital and essential in their lives.  These statistics are addressed in both The Essential Church by Thom and Sam Rainer, and Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.  These 18-30 year-olds are not leaving randomly.  They are leaving after fellowship in their church is interrupted by going off to college, graduating youth group, and a change in job schedule.  Put simply, people are leaving Church when they are unable to maintain fellowship with the people they are close to in their church, because they don’t see the other functions of the Church as being important to their lives.

We cannot believe that the other functions of Church are not essential, but maybe we are making it seem that way.  Our fellowship seems to be very good.  In all of this, I am suggesting a deep examination of our communication styles, methods, and practice.  Then based on that, we should endeavor to be the world’s foremost experts in communicating.  Our pulpits should be studied and taught as the model of how to best share, motivate, and inspire.  It is not just a good idea, it is our mandate. –Ryan

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A Great Communicator -part 3

This is the third part in a brief series on communication as part of the very quality of God and His Kingdom. It is also a clarion call to that Kingdom to become excellent at this vital issue, the very thing we were made for. You can find part one in the series here.

I sit in staff meetings often trying to figure out why announcements are not communicating effectively. There will be times when an event that we know meets the needs of our community and has been sufficiently announced will be quite modestly attended. It is not a rare occurrence when we hear after the fact, “Oh, I wish I had known we were doing that,” when I knew that person sat through several Sundays of announcements on that very event. Now, our church is a healthy and growing congregation with vital and growing ministries.  People are not bored with out church, and our events are usually well attended.

Honestly, I am not griping about my church, its announcements, or especially my congregation. I also don’t think that this is an issue that is particularly unique to our church. I hear very similar complaints from other pastors across the nation. Chalk it up to over-advertising, busy lives, congregations who are trained to not listen, whatever you want, it doesn’t solve the issue.

In communication theory, there are always at least two parties involved. There is the sender of the message, and the receiver. Imagine two people on opposing sides of a tennis court. One person serves the ball to the other. The ball is the message that is trying to be communicated. The main difference is that in tennis the goal is to get the ball past the person receiving. In communication, the goal is to get the receiver to either return the ball, or commit to action based upon the message.

When a teenager comes home from school, the parent says “How was school today, Junior?”
The teenager responds with “Fine.”

The ball isn’t really returned in this case. The teenager really has no interest in returning the ball, but the parent has also not done a good job in serving, either. The goal was to start a conversation. In this case, the attempt was a failure.

In Church, most communication is of the other sort, though. A sermon is not intended to motivate people to talk back with the pastor, but to put into action in the people’s lives what was talked about. A sermon about loving one’s neighbor is intended to motivate the parishioner to go home and act in God’s love to someone who is around them (and someone who is not so easy to love).

This brings up a difficult question. If our announcements are doing a poor job of motivating more than a handful of people to attend the, All-Church Prayer Night, is the Sunday sermon on loving your neighbor motivating more than a handful of people to go out and love people? How many of our Sunday morning tennis-serves are coming up aces? If we are really honest, I bet the number is depressingly high.

I am not saying this as an attack, far from it! I think that preaching has power, infused by the Holy Spirit of God to change eternities, motivate the faithful, and break down walls that the Devil, himself, has built in our midst. I believe that God has called His Church to be a Kingdom of preaching priests. I believe that we are called to be amazing communicators of the most amazing message ever created. But if a tennis player must continually practice his serve in order to insure that he is effective on the court, shouldn’t we be working ever so much harder to insure that our serve is the best it can be?

I am positive that there is some great effective preaching out there. But I am equally aware, and I think the Church needs to be, over the fact that there are a lot of us who are convinced that we are serving 90 mile-per-hour scorchers down the line, when we are hitting the net almost every time.

Now there is a danger inherent in saying this. The danger is that we turn ourselves into consumers of preaching. We must never come to the point where we look at the pastor in the pulpit thinking, “How effectively is he motivating me to do something?” If we do that, then we are de-stringing our own rackets, and are being ineffective hearers. It also creates the danger of deeply hurt feelings.  Preaching and teaching are deeply personal endeavors, and criticizing your pastor’s sermons will do little to help anyone. But these dangers should not stop us church communicators from asking ourselves these difficult questions.

For as long as I’ve been preaching, I have secretly distrusted the “Good message this morning, Pastor,” comment as folks exit after church. It isn’t that I really can’t take a compliment, or that I think people are lying to me. However, I am fed in my preaching by the occasional, “I thought about what you said last week and decided to…” That is success. That is what we should aim for.

So in looking toward this target, maybe we need to start re-assessing how we are communicating. How many people in our church know what our church’s mission statement is? What is the measurable fruit of our Sunday sermons?  What methods are bearing fruit in trying to communicate upcoming events and ministry opportunities in our church? If people aren’t attending or getting involved, is it because they don’t know, or is it because they don’t see these opportunities as vital and important? –Ryan

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A Great Communicator -part 2

This is part two in a brief series on communication as part of the very quality of God and His Kingdom.  It is also a clarion call to that Kingdom to become excellent at this vital issue, the very thing we were made for.  You can find part one in the series here.

Communication as being part of the very nature of God is not confined to exegesis of John 1.  In Genesis 3:9 after Adam sins God asks him, “Where are you?”  This is amazingly profound.  God obviously knew the physical location of Adam.  There was no question He couldn’t answer.  The real question should actually be seen as ‘why are you suddenly distant?’ or ‘Where has our intimacy gone?’ Before this moment there were no walls.  Man was naked and unashamed, hiding nothing.  This side of eternity, God would never again walk with man directly, unobstructed.  There was now separation.  The rest of human history is the story of God closing the gap.

Later, God reached out to Abram.  He sent prophets to give His words to people.  He confined Himself to using human language, human idioms, and human culture.  He spoke to rebels who were working directly against Him.  He confined Himself to locations where mankind could experience Him in locality.  Even our loving statement that “God is present,” or “God is here”  testifies to God’s self-limiting.

Then, God participated willingly in an astounding humiliation. He entered His creation as His creation.  He became human, subject to all the frailties (save sinfulness) inherent in that.  As such, he allowed Satan to influence the story.  He even permitted the ultimate disgrace.  He let His own creation torture and murder Him for crimes He had never committed.  Of course, He had the last word, triumphing over death in resurrection.  These seem to be great lengths to restore intimacy, community, and communication with what He had made.

The death and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.  As Christians we not only know this, but base everything on it.  But in some sense we often fail to grasp the depth of that.  This event even marked a complete change in God’s public relations policy.  The Kingdom of God was now completely non-localized, no longer based on messages handed down from a high priest or occasional prophet.  Now all of God’s people would hold the role of priests and prophets.  The Kingdom would now be carried forward by the empowered creation itself.

The Word would now be in us.  But what does that mean, exactly?  It means, among other things that we are to be the mouthpiece and the communication of God to the world.  We are to be above anything else, communicators.  That is our major.  That is our profession.  That is our hobby.

Unfortunately, that is not what we often see happening in the Western Church, at least.  If you want something communicated to the world in expert fashion, you call in an advertising, or public relations agency.  These are people who have spent 4-6 years in college to learn about the best ways to communicate things, because it makes them money.  We believe that the ultimate eternal outcome of humanity rests on the transmission of the gospel message, and we occasionally employ ad agencies and public relations firms to do this.  Doesn’t this seem incredibly backwards?  Shouldn’t ad agencies be calling churches when they get stuck on a project, not the other way around?  After all, the advertisers have a lot of money on the line, but the Church has eternity in the balance, a far more serious risk.

If we are honest, many pulpits around our nation are not seen by even regular church attendees as being vital communication channels from God.  Many Christians would say that it is important to have, but most could not recall what was talked about by the middle of the next week.  Many will even admit that the sermon is usually boring and irrelevant to their lives.

Ministers Sunday task is to communicate the truths of the Bible in ways that impassion His people and emboldens them in their faith.  The message in short should be, “God is vital and powerful for your life, and because of that He wants to help you adjust yourself to His plan.”  I am not sure on the whole that this message is what we are communicating. –Ryan

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A Great Communicator -part 1

God Communicating

This is part one in a brief series on communication as part of the very quality of God and His Kingdom.  It is also a clarion call to that Kingdom to become excellent at this vital issue, the very thing we were made for.

As Christians looking at the Bible for matters that are important to God and thus important for us, we tend to think of sin, righteousness, helping the poor and hurting, eschatology, and others.  These are all very important biblical themes.  But we tend to miss something huge that is both inherent and explicit in the Bible, communication.  It seems simple, a ‘no brainer,’ but it just may spark deep issues related to our faith that we often forsake.  I know we talk about communicating the gospel (good news about Jesus) message, but I think our understanding of a theology of communication should be much broader than that.

The famous passage in John 1:1-2 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.”  The common exegesis of this passage in today’s pulpits is mostly along the lines of, “Well…’The Word’ is just kind of a code word for Jesus…kind of like a nickname.”  But this misses a huge concept that the Bible spends much of its pages trying to get across.  In order to really understand this, we need to turn back a few hundred pages, to the very beginning.

God created the world by speaking it into existence.  He said “Let there be light, and there was light.”  Interestingly, God wasn’t saying “Turn on the lights,” but “Let light exist.”  God created the very concept of light by simply speaking it into existence.  The same goes for everything…literally, everything.  All that is came into being through God’s word.

In John 1 we are transported back to that moment in Genesis 1 when everything came into existence.  The passage starts with the exact same phrase as Genesis (Septuagint), “en archae,” and contains the same concept of creation.  That is the purpose of the passage in the first place.  The other gospels have their genealogies, showing Jesus lineage from Adam, from Abraham and David, but John gives Jesus genealogy from the beginning of all and preexistence with God from eternity.

But John 1 goes beyond just a lineage (or lack thereof).  Going further in the John 1 passage we read, “Through Him all things were made; Without Him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)  Anyone thinking about the tie to Genesis would quite easily recognize that John hadn’t stopped the parallelism here.  John was saying that Jesus was the speaking into being that did the creating.  He doesn’t leave it in doubt at all.  Nothing was made at any time through any means other than Jesus, God’s word.

The concept of trinity to start with incorporates into the Godhead fellowship.  God is in Himself community.  Community requires communication.  The more intimate the community, the more intimate the communication must be.  In fact, communication is not a function of community (or vice versa) but the essence of it.  We, made in God’s image are by nature community-building communicators.

I have some dear friends with a small 1+ year old child.  This little girl has not yet developed the verbal skills to be able to actually tell me what it is that she is thinking, but that doesn’t stop her from trying, and try she does.  She will be involved in all manner of toddler intrigue and dawdle up to me as I sit on the floor.  Putting her hand on my shoulder in order to share with me some deep secret of the universe, she then belts out “phlat ab da phfff.”

This little girl, though currently unable to get it quite right, is doing what she was made to do.  She is sharing her world with me.  There is something beautifully human about that.  It is also a reflection of God Himself.

Stay tuned for the continuation of this series

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The Free Information Age -part 2

In a previous post, I discussed the beginning of what I have dubbed the Free Information Age.  This post was not meant as simply a parenthetical comment to the current zeitgeist, but as an introduction to a discussion of both the cultural waters that the Church must swim in, and a means of strategy for how the Church can carry its message and navigate in this new economy of communication and ideas.

There was a time in which many would accept a bull or ecclesiastical pronouncement with an assumption of infallibility.  Those days are gone.  The Church is mourning this, and that is natural.  But that is mostly because it is natural to prefer blind submission.  The Catholic church didn’t like Martin Luther’s criticism of its theology and practices, in the same way that the Church currently clings to its old position of assumed inerrancy.

Some since of assumed credibility is actually important.  No two parties can truly dialogue if one party questions the validity of every position the other takes.  But should the Church actually fear shouldering the burden of proof?  Let me illustrate.

I remember as a child getting into the argument over “My dad can beat-up your dad.”  This argument was never solved, and never tested.  As a child, I was certain that my step-father was much stronger than anyone else’s, but I secretly knew that there was a possibility that he wasn’t, and the other boy wondered the same.

But what if my father had been Mike Tyson (the 80’s version)?  In that case, I would never have backed down.  The other boy might, but I would be safe in knowing that my position was indisputably secure.

In a similar way, Christians must know that Jesus is who He says He is.  They know that His claims are indisputable.  We have nothing to fear in marketplace of ideas.  We don’t need to defenders of God to the world.  As His claims are tested, He will be shown authentic.

One of the reasons that Christianity has difficulty in this is that our rhetoric is often louder than our actions.  Jesus was clear in that we are to be people who are known by the love that we share, joy, peace, patience, etc.  These are all actions, not words.  Our actions are to be explained by rhetoric when necessary.  In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, we are to always “speak softly but carry a big stick.”

If skepticism of information can cause us to do this more, then it will bring us back to the type of Christianity that we should practice, instead of the rhetorically-driven example of the political Church.  -Ryan

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The Free Information Age

At the end of the 1980’s people began to herald the coming of a new age in human history, one that was based not on metal or manufacturing, but on ideas alone.  By the early 90’s people had accepted that this new era had come and had dubbed it “The Information Age.”

We now know that those early forecasts were entirely correct.  In 30 years we have gone from newspapers and books to blogs and Kindles.  Who but sci-fi writers would have predicted that paper maps would be now virtually useless and things like land-line phones, music you buy in a store, and even most wires might soon follow.  But changes in technology aren’t really what is most striking in this new era.  Technology is always assumed to be advancing, yet major changes in the way people interact and commerce is done has been completely revolutionized.

But I don’t need to go on and on about the changes of the Information Age.  This isn’t in question, nor is it the scope of this post.

What does seem to be noteworthy, is that I believed that there has been a major chapter change in this societal tome.  The zeitgeist of the Information Age or IA (because I am sick of typing this out) was that Information could be a commodity itself.  In fact, information itself could prove to be a more important commodity in many ways than even brick and steel.  Information can be used as a weapon.  The lack of information can  be at times more significant than the information itself.  Whole companies, like Microsoft, are based on commoditizing information.

As the 90’s waned, the idea of piracy became very mainstreamed.  It seems that the creation of the MP3 was really the tide changer in this.  As people realized that they could get music for free over the Internet, we all somehow forgot that this had ethical implications.  Okay, we didn’t forget, we willed our own amnesia.  I remember saying upon receiving my first CD burner, “Aha, I will never pay for music again!”  I’m not proud of this, but it happened.

This was the last page of Chapter 1 of the IA.  The next page introduced the Free Information Age (FIA).  As people switched to the idea of free music, this lead to actual philosophizing about the nature of information ownership.  Who “owned” music?  Was it the artist, the record company?  The CEO of the record company?  When you bought a CD, did you now own the music that was on it?  The record companies came up with their take on all this–that you actually only owned the “right to listen to the music” on your CD.  Copyright law has still not been settled on this matter.

But the striking aspect of this is not what it has done to information media or even legal aspects of copyright.  It has lead to a much larger free market of ideas and information in general.  The publishing company Conde Nast just announced last week that they are going to discontinue 3 of their major magazines in the coming months.  Other major magazines and newspapers have already gone down.

You might think that this has all led to a decrease in publishing, but the opposite is entirely true.  In fact, the volume of publication (in general) has exponentially been increasing.  It is the locus of this information that has changed.  While the MSM (a common acronym for the “Mainstream Media” referring to what has long been considered the source of reputable information) has been in decline, blogging, podcasting, and even alternative print has been spreading like wildfire.

Information is now not coming mostly from sources that the publishing houses have authorized, but from individuals who simply have been democratically given a louder pulpit.  It is information capitalism at work.  In some sense it is very beautiful.  Penguin Trade Paper is no longer the vetter of what we get to know, the market itself is.

Along with this comes checks and balances.  The Iranians conducted a missile test last year and widely publicized a photo of the test.  irainian-missile-1

The photo shows 4 missiles being fired in a sign that the Iranians are not to be trifled with.  The story was carried along with the image to your left, in all of the major wire services.  The problem was that it was a fake.  This and images like it have even spawned a new term, fauxtography.

As this came out, bloggers, and netizens examined the story in detail, and began to notice some problems with the imagery.  It didn’t help the Iranian cause that the administration wasn’t seen as trustworthy to begin with.

iranian-missile-2The image on the right is that as examined by the Internet community.  It represents areas that netizens found to be cloned (reproduced from other areas of the picture).  Finally, an image was found that was determined to be the original, an image that showed only one missile being launched.

The Iranian government realized that one missile being launched in the desert was not particularly intimidating, but four missiles was terrifying.  In the end, the message that was heard by the world was that the Iranians felt inferior and weak, and therefore had to fake being strong and intimidating.  This case showed the information community to be quite capable of rejecting information that was fraudulent.  It also showed that even though the spigot of information was wide open, that did not mean that all information would be accepted.

However, giving everyone a microphone is not always a good thing.  The spread of urban myths and disinformation has also become epidemic.  Less than a year after the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks theories spread out of the Muslim world accusing the Bush administration of orchestrating the attacks in order to invade Muslim lands.  All of these theories (including those that implicated Israel and Jews) have been thoroughly debunked by various unbiased authorities.  A book was even written by the editors of Popular Science magazine scientifically debunking these myths.

Yet, these ideas have only grown.  They have spread through Internet memes that take advantage of people either too ignorant or lazy to research the truth (i.e. “fire cannot melt steel), or purposefully intent on spreading propaganda (i.e. “thousands of Jews called in sick in New York on 9/11”).  What should have easily been discounted as ridiculous by netizens has only grown.

The one factor that links these two issues is that the Free Information Age has brought about a skepticism of information, and an assumption of conspiracies.  People now operate more under the assumption that all information is disinformation until proved otherwise.  This has enormous implications for the Church.  More on that later.   –Ryan

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The Fall and Rise of Barbarism Part 7

This is part 7 of a multi-part series.  Read part 1 here.

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The Effect on Faith

Exactly what to expect for America itself in this future, is very difficult to say. Possibilities include a weakened America existing in its same form but having less world influence, to America’s basic destruction by both outside, and internal fighting, or America existing more as a pre-Civil War loose collection of states. There is no way to predict what the American future will look like at this time.

But that doesn’t really answer what will happen to the American and world Christian outlook. Christianity does not rely on Americanism, of course. But America does powerfully affect the world Christian community. While the growth of the Christian faith is epicentered in both African and Asia, with secularization and Islamification being more prevalent in the West, America is still the center of the financial, resource, and influence world of faith.

The loss of America’s influence will certainly have a huge affect on the Christian world. But how this will work itself out in time is not estimable at this time. Certainly, there will be destabilization in the Christian community. This will most like work itself out to mean that there will be no Capital for Christianity. It might also end in increased persecution around the world, as there will be no powerhouse to protect Christianity’s interests.

However, history tells us that persecution is good for Christianity, as it causes the Christian community to invest fully in their faith, to make Christianity less a culture, and ends in enormous numerical growth. As Christians, we don’t have to worry about the future of the Church. We know what happens in the end. We don’t know all that will happen between then and now, and we certainly know it won’t always be easy.

But that doesn’t really answer what will happen to the American and world Christian outlook.  Christianity does not rely on Americanism, of course.  But America does powerfully affect the world Christian community.  While the growth of the Christian faith is epicentered in both African and Asia, with secularization and Islamification being more prevalent in the West, America is still the center of the financial, resource, and influence world of faith.

The loss of America’s influence will certainly have a huge affect on the Christian world.  But how this will work itself out in time is not estimable at this time.  Certainly, there will be destabilization in the Christian community.  This will most like work itself out to mean that there will be no Capital for Christianity.  It might also end in increased persecution around the world, as there will be no powerhouse to protect Christianity’s interests.

However, history tells us that persecution is good for Christianity, as it causes the Christian community to invest fully in their faith, to make Christianity less a culture, and ends in enormous numerical growth.  As Christians, we don’t have to worry about the future of the Church.  We know what happens in the end.  We don’t know all that will happen between then and now, and we certainly know it won’t always be easy. -Ryan

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The Fall and Rise of Barbarism Part 6

This is part six of a multi-part series.  Read part 1 here.  Read subsequent posts here.

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The Fall of Giants

We have gone past a point in America where we can turn this clock back.  Many experts believe that the American century is over, and the next century most certainly won’t be a repeat.  I believe that the evidence backs this up, both historically and in terms of current events.  This doesn’t mean we will fall into the sea.  It does mean that things will be different.  A look at history should shed light on what may be to come.

When the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Britain, and The Soviet Union fell they left differing decrees of chaos in their wake.  The latter empires left lesser degrees of chaos, but their empires were also dovetailed with another stabilizing empire (in both cases the United States).  The Romans were unique in that there was no other competing empire to really challenge their existence, similar to the situation that the United States faces today, although certainly the European Union (itself a powder keg) Russia, and nations like Canada and Australia are stabilizing.

The Roman empire didn’t just end.  It fractured, as its fringes sought their own independence and regional power.  The competing states model that followed drained the regional competing countries of all internal resources, as they invested in war and outside competition.  Far more resources were expended in competing for resources than were ever gained by those resources.  The result was what we know call the “Dark Ages.”

During this time, the one rising competing empire was the Muslim Caliphate leading to the Ottoman Empire.  The rapid expansion of the Muslims into the carcass of the Roman Empire was almost without challenge.  When Europe finally realized that they needed to respond, it led to the Church controlled Middle Ages, and ridiculous Church corruption and pollution by the world.  It was hundreds of years before the Roman norms of indoor plumbing, rights for middle class, and secure resources where even imagined again.

As America loses its stature in the world, this does not have to echo the fall of the Roman Empire.  The European Union could provide stability in the absence of America’s influence.  Most other countries would likely lack the resources to be capable of this.  However, Europe has its own massive battles to fight.  Europe is in sharp decline, at least as the Europe that has existed for modern history.  They are facing another Muslim invasion, but this time it’s a more peaceful one.  Within 10 years several European countries will be majority Muslim, and almost all of Europe’s non-Muslim population in irreversible decline.

The religious issue in this regard is almost secondary.  The Muslim populations in these countries are not melding into society as other immigrants do.  They bring their own ideas of governance, Sharia law, etc.  This will certainly lead to serious conflict, as can be evidenced already beginning in France over the last 5 years.  Non-Muslim Europeans will either allow themselves to accept Dhimmi status under Muslim controlled governments, or they will rise up.  These conflicts will make it difficult for Europe to be much of a stabilizing force for the world. -Ryan

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The Fall and Rise of Barbarism Part 5

This is part 5 of a multi-part series.  Read part 1 here.  Read subsequent posts here.

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The Emotional American Stanza

There is another cycle at work within America that we need to be aware of.  Just as revivals in the early 1900’s brought about the Pharisee-ism of the early 20’s, which led to crime in the 30’s, we are in a part of our own cycle now.  The Bush years seemed to be a revival without revival, and a triumph of moral legalism (at least as far as the mainstream media and far left would have us believe).  The public responded with a “Yes we can believe in change.”  But now crime is seriously on the rise and healthy society markers are on the decline.

Of course, forces completely outside of human control, or at least strategic planning, could change things in a heartbeat.  But today the decline is possibly spinning out of control.  This is also the first time in modern America where our moral compass has no North.

Think about it for a second: The state of California (and they are not alone in this) has increasingly been restricting any and all tobacco use.  This is not a bad thing, really.  But at the same time, the state has been rapidly relaxing marijuana laws.  There are now cities where it is legal to smoke pot on your porch, but a Marlboro will get you a hefty fine.

Our states are slowly allowing marriage between homosexual partners and whole denominations are allowing actively homosexual ministers, while calling the homosexual “lifestyle” immoral can get you publically censored and censured.  On television, “Oh, God” has become the most frequently used phrase, but “I love Jesus” is never used unless it is somehow a joke.  Cartoons of Mohamed are self-censored from newspapers…the same newspapers that write blistering articles pitting Christian leaders as being ignorant or even evil for their faith.  -Ryan

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The Fall and Rise of Barbarism Part 4

This is part four of a multi-part series.  Read part 1 here.  Read subsequent posts here.
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Where We Go From Here

So what is next? Are we on the cusp of a new cycle, or are we coming to the poem’s bridge? Maybe we are finally poised to break out of this iambic pentameter, and start a new ee cummings Dadaist phase.

If historical reality is allowed to sink in, I fear that the forecast is pretty bleak for our little stanza. As history is somewhat-cyclical, then we need to have an understanding of 2 main issues in order to estimate where we are going. Essentially, it is the same as understanding getting anywhere. We need to have a basic understanding of where we are now, in relation to all that is around us including our momentum, and we need to have an understanding of where the path we are on is going.

So where are we in the historical pattern? What direction have we been going? Truth be told, we have been in an era of unprecedented blessing. My generation is really the first generation in America who has known no real hardship. Generation X was born after the debacle of Vietnam, and though there have been wars since, they have seemed no different to the average American than movie trailers being played during Prime Time TV. There has been no gas rationing, no Polio, and since the toppling of the Soviet Union there hasn’t even been a real threat to our way of life.

All of this created the circumstances that made 9/11 such a powerful moment for our time. We have been dwelling carelessly in the west, as if we were teenage boys, shielded from any possibility that our bones could break, our wallets could empty, and our lives could actually end someday. Our foreign and domestic policies nationally have been mere macrocosms of the average American family. With out of wedlock birth rates aroung 50% and our budget running in the red every year, our only answer to our problems was to go out and buy a nice present to make ourselves feel better.

We are responding to the current economic crisis by firmly placing our heads further in the sand. Just like an alcoholic responding to an intervention by drinking himself into a stupor, we have responded to astounding national debt by creating a CARS program designed to spend more money helping people to buy cars that neither the government, nor the consumer can actually afford.

No one of accredited education could believe that we could continue such ridiculousness, and it is almost beyond believing that we could even pull ourselves out of this mess without massive cultural and governmental overhaul. If we truly want to know our location, it is teetering on a cliff, and we have responded to the danger in typical lemming fashion.

Great Empires don’t usually succumb to sudden external attack. Sun Tzu was right in saying that an intelligent enemy would never attack in a way that plays to ones strength. Our civilization’s enemies would rather sign our death warrant in much more strategic and subtle ways. Great empires have usually been defeated at the hands of themselves more than their sworn enemies, anyway. As Lincoln said, if America was doomed, that its end would come by suicide.

Both the Greek and Roman civilizations fell apart as their societies descended into decadence, and then turned on themselves when they could no longer support their own lifestyles. Foreign invasions were just clearing the already rotten carcasses of these empires. The British empire ended because the small island had clearly overstretched herself, and exerted her influence far beyond what she could actually defend. There is no reason to believe that we are not in the same position.

This doesn’t mean that the United States will become a barren wasteland. Instead of fracturing into states and city-states, we might continue without nearly the influence we have wielded for the last hundred years. -Ryan

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