By Tom Wacaster
Back when I was growing up religion was affirmed and practiced by a much larger percentage of the population than today. Brother Jim Mettenbrink, upon reading an early draft of this article, commented:
Regarding your opening paragraph, when I went into the USAF in 1965, in basic training and tech school, we were in close quarters in the barracks. Three things we quickly found out about each other: (1) from which state we came, (2) from what immigrant heritage we came, and (3) what religion / denomination to which we belonged. I do not ever recall anyone saying he was an atheist or agnostic. That would have been a sobering impact (Jim Mettenbrink, personal email).
While there were those who saw no need for spiritual nutrition, the general attitude toward the Christian community was one of general acceptance and tolerance. The mindset of the 60’s, insofar as the religious scene was concerned, was one of “live and let live.” In the 1970’s, and 1980’s this tolerance for society’s religious element began to wane, and there evolved an “anti” religious attitude among unbelievers. The religious right, sometimes called the “Christian coalition,” or the “fundamentalist movement,” have become despised, and openly opposed. In fact, the religious element is considered in many circles to be out right “dangerous.” Much of this is the result of a pluralistic mindset in which everything is to be accepted. There is no longer truth and error, or right and wrong. In fact, the only ones who are wrong are those who claim anybody is wrong on any particular matter. Judgment is out, acceptance is in.
Some years ago I came across this little tidbit that expresses precisely the problem we face today in seeking to establish a standard of right and wrong. The author focused upon the particular attitude that has produced a “politically correct” mindset. In an attempt to address the underlying principle that has produced the present idea that there is no definite standard of authority in anything, the author took a look at the over-all picture before us: “It is not a pretty sight. From the Fabians to the postmodernists, and from the romantics to the environmentalists, the intellectual elite have been a somber bunch able to agree on only one essential premise: antipathy toward principled reason, bourgeois liberalism, determined progress, and most especially Christian ethics.” Thirty years ago Christianity was “tolerated,” but today it is under attack. In fact, thirty years ago the tide began to shift away from clear logical thinking to a more subjective type of thinking that produced thrills and chills all up and down the spine rather than a clear and concise conclusion based upon reason and evidence. A recognition of the problem helps me understand why so many, both in the church and out of the church, no longer listen to or seek for a “thus saith the Lord.” Instead, the all-important issue is, “How do you ‘feel’ about that?” Perhaps another timely quote will serve to illustrate. “Chip Blankinship, a Presbyterian preacher (US News and World Report, July 7, 1997) in a letter to the editor said, ‘I am much interested in preaching from the Bible and upholding its authority...The issue is not whether we view Scripture as authoritative but how we feel led to interpret it’.” Say again? Maybe I could try this approach next time I go shopping. If the cash register reads a certain amount, I might attempt to pay what I think is right, and then ask the cashier, “How do you feel about that?” Do you suppose it will make any difference on what I actually have to pay? I don’t think so. Or, I could try the same approach in making my bank deposits each week and simply hand the teller a deposit slip that reads $10,000 without any accompanying check or cash. When asked where the money is I could simply respond, “Well, I feel as if you should credit my account the full amount—and while you’re at it, can you give me back $1,000 in cash?” The possibilities are endless.
But this is precisely the approach that our society is taking toward religion in general and morality in particular. Unfortunately, many of our brethren think the same way when it comes to Christian responsibility. Many, if not all of those congregations of the Lord’s church that have abandoned a “thus saith the Lord,” and replaced it with nothing more than ridicule and despite for “pattern theology” have started down the road to destruction. In the final analysis, if you cast off the word of God, what is left? What the preacher says? What my creed book says? How I “feel” about the matter? Where do you stop?
Let us take one step closer to home. Attendance is a persistent and perpetual problem among some who lay claim to faithfulness to the Lord and His church. The irony is that some of those who are so inconsistent in their attendance would be among the first to scream if the slightest hint was made to introduce instrumental music into worship. The Bible plainly says, “Forsake not the assembly.” A large number of brethren take that, not as a command, but as a suggestion, or as “permission.” That’s the way they “feel” about it, and all the scriptures brought to bear on the subject seem to have no effect whatsoever. I must confess that such reasoning and wrangling does not make sense. But then, that’s the way I feel about it!! Whether we realize it or not, all of us make decisions based upon standard of authority. It is either an absolute, objective standard that will produce orderliness in any given society, or it is a subjective, better-felt than told standard that can, and does, lead to anarchy and a break down in morality and ethical stability.