Whenever there is a fifth Wednesday in a month, I have an article for the local newspaper. Here is this month’s offering:
For the most part, the church likes to keep a low profile. Jesus said not to parade our good works before men. A sandwich given to a hungry beggar, a little help with a rent check or medical bill, and you can fly under the radar. But the church has been around for a long time now. Those individual acts of charity get gathered together, and become organizations to help those in need.
When the church first spread across the world, the idea of helping others just because they needed it was a new one. Even when the church was persecuted, her enemies had to admit that the church cared for widows and orphans in a way society did not. When the leaders (governors, emperors) would persecute the church, the church responded by praying for the leaders. This was strange behavior indeed!
Over the centuries, the church has founded hospitals to care for the sick and dying, orphanages to care for those who have no parents, food banks to feed the hungry, schools to provide education for all children etc. The idea that every person has a unique value, that every life has an inherent dignity, and that everyone has a responsibility to help his neighbor is a uniquely Christian idea. And while there is a debate today between those who believe it would be better done by private organizations, and those who believe it falls to the government, no one argues that we should abandon the poor and the helpless. Today we debate whether there should be this or that system to educate – some are quite radical reforms – but no one argues that we should stop educating.
What would it look like if the church went away? Would it be a time of glorious scientific progress as many claim? It turns out, science itself is a product of the church. The idea that we live in an ordered universe, that we can figure out how it functions, and then apply that knowledge to make the lives of our fellow man better – it all requires an ordered (not random) universe. There is a reason that the ancient world did not pursue scientific inquiry. The gods were unpredictable. You never knew what they might do. It is in the church that scientific discovery becomes possible. God is a god of order, he cares for us, he created an ordered world to be our home, and gave us the ability to learn more about creation. Newton, Galileo, Pascal, and almost all early scientists were Christian.
The new model says that we will move into a glorious new future once our society puts away childish things like church. But a look at some of our most secular and “environmentally friendly” states shows this to be a lie. California suffers massive droughts and raging fires because the needs of wildlife are placed above human needs. Ironically, the habitat for many animals has been destroyed by these fires.
It turns out that modern secular environmentalism is only a re-branded form of ancient paganism. The world is alive (mother earth). Humans are a parasite – they are the problem. Our local schools have a chart in the biology textbook that calls modern agriculture a “man caused disaster”. Such thoughts do not lead to a glorious new future – they lead to totalitarian nightmares.
The church continues her work, whether she is a guiding light in society, or a hated sect that is out of touch with the spirit of the age. We preach the Gospel of forgiveness through Jesus sacrifice on the cross, and then live out that forgiveness as we help those among us who are most vulnerable. And we pray for our neighbors, and for our leaders. We don’t need to be front and center. We don’t need to be the power-brokers of this era. We are content living quietly in our communities, receiving Christ’s forgiveness in faith, and then quietly showing Christ’s love to those around us.