America’s Epitaph

T.S. Eliot wrote this epitaph over America: “And the wind shall say: ‘Here were decent godless people Their only monument the asphalt road And a thousand lost golf balls.”

I’m not ready to write off America, but I do see serious signs of cultural disintegration in our country. Like ancient Greece, we bow down to idols that can do nothing for us and yet those idols become a substitute for God. Money, sex and power are the big three. We bow and scrape at the feet of these and other gods. We have made God in our image.

The tragedy of worshiping idols is that we become like whatever god we serve. Impotent and weak and powerless. These sirens summon us to give our loyalty and devotion even though they are nothing but our own inventions. Ancient Greece went the way of other great civilizations because they elevated idols above the true and living God. Our culture risks doing the same.

This doesn’t mean that Christians are called to rant and rave against the culture. Shouting down a pagan culture doesn’t accomplish anything. When we are known principally for the things we are against, we don’t do the kingdom of God much good. We can be unapologetic about right and wrong without being harsh and strident. This means following Jesus’ counsel to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. We show genuine love to those who are pushing a dark and godless agenda, while maintaining our posture for the things that are noble and right. This is like walking a tight wire that takes enormous skill and wisdom—but the Holy Spirit will show us how to be in the world without being of the world.

There’s no need to become belligerent participants in the culture wars. Raising our voices usually results in verbal sparring that gets us nowhere. Still, we can and should speak out for the rights of the unborn. We should hold to the biblical position that homosexual behavior is ungodly. We should advocate for God-honoring men and women to be elected to office.

Let’s ask God to reverse the trend toward chasing after idols that is so evident in America. And let’s model to others what it is to worship the true and living God, not hollow substitutes.