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Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Seduction of America


18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
(1 Corinthians 1 NIV)


I just heard the other day that the church I grew up in as a youth was forced to close its doors after damage to the property inflicted during the recent hurricane. I remember an active, thriving church during the late 50s and early 60s. But now the congregation has grown so small that the financial burden for repair was simply too great despite insurance coverage.

I think now of my fellow youth at the time and wonder if their travels through life have been similar in any way to my own. Too often the most acclaimed music, books, movies, and other cultural events have denigrated those values we learned in Sunday school and experienced in the Methodist Youth Fellowship. Religion which had once been the genesis of great educational institutions in America, now found itself to be seen as foolish, unsophisticated, and very uncool--something to be dismissed and ignore as beneath the truly intelligent. The ultimate putdown for those with Sunday school still circulating in their blood was the sad observation that the faithful were notoriously naïve as to the real ways of the world --despite the fact that a major part of religious training is to cultivate an appreciation for the vulnerabilities and limitations of human nature.

overtrusting and unworldly
With natural or unaffected simplicity, esp in thought, manners or speech

(Chambers Dictionary 13th Edition)

Of course, a major allegation by Donald Trump in the presidential campaign was that Pres. Obama had been ridiculously naïve six ways to Sunday. His basic problem apparently was that he was a wimp-- and what we needed was a strong man, a man with big hands and a hammer willing to smash heads and never ask questions.

 Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have had Donald Trump as a peer in our local church youth group in Bowling Green. Someone who would come to MYF always bragging that he had the very best of everything, who took himself to be the final judge and jury on everything, pronounced that we were all losers compared to his towering macho intellect, never felt remorse, laughed at those with handicaps, and saturated the air we breathed with a torrent of lies. I have no doubt that the self-confident among us would have put him in his place and thereby may actually have helped him. As for me, I would have cowardly smiled at some of his smears, and felt troubled by his nagging sense of worthlessness.

Of course, no one would wish for a naïve president except our enemies. What would be the alternative to naïveté? I think of Pres. Lincoln. He was someone who valued basic spiritual values – the better angels of our nature. In this sense one may say that even to the end there was a childlike Sunday school simplicity within a very complex and calculating man. Who else could write? “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Call it Sunday school naïveté if you will – it’s a naïveté we desperately need at this very hour.

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