God & First Things

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AS we come to the end of another year it would do you well to pick up the December 2005 issue of “First Things,” and allow it to guide you to an answer to the question, “What’s wrong with American Culture?” You’ll stroll through the sciences, sociology and ecclesiology, take a look at Joan Didion’s reflections on death and dying, and you’ll find the capstone in the 1975 “Hartford Appeal Affirmation,” which declared the “loss of transcendence” to be at the heart of the debilitation of Christianity in America,”

Michael Behe’s piece on “Scientific Orthodoxies” is summed up in G.K. Chesterton’s observation, “The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.”

Richard John Neuhaus shows how God has been displaced in America quoting Richard Rorty, the grandson of Walter Rauschenbusch (who famously wanted to “Christianize America and Americanize Christianity”), who reports that John Dewey and Walt Whitman “wanted their utopian America to replace God as the unconditional object of desire.”

John Wilson touchingly summarizes Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” this way, “At the book’s core is a recurring motif, a credo, a statement of anti-faith: ‘No eye was on the sparrow.’ Against this I set the memory of my mother and grandmother in church, singing in duet, ‘His eye is no the sparrow.’ As Pascal says, we make our wager.”

At the end, as I mentioned earlier, Neuhaus reminds us of the 1975 “Hartford Appeal Affirmation,” which declared the “loss of transcendence” to be at the heart of the debilitation of Christianity in America.”

Having displaced God in our society, it is but a short step to displacing God in our individual life, and in a short time we will begin to see in our impoverished life and culture, it is truly from God that all blessings flow.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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