Ever wonder or maybe observe how the occurrence of bad things, even wicked, debased things, can cause people to ask moral questions they’d never before asked?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #119 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
I remember when then President Bill Clinton got involved with a Whitehouse intern during the mid-1990s. Suddenly in our secularizing, morally relativistic culture, national news anchors like Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and Ted Koppel, started using terms like “adultery,” “morality,” “lying,” and “marital fidelity.”
Then, Sept 17, 2001, just days after the horrible 9/11 death and destruction that was visited upon New York City, Washington, DC, and a field in Pennsylvania,
I remember watching Dan Rather and David Letterman discussing this terrorist attack on Letterman’s late-night show. What struck me at the time was that these two celebrities, one known for his toughness, who’d been in war zones all over the world, and the other known for his irreverent take on life, were genuinely scared.
I’m not making this up. They admitted it on air and spoke in tones not typical of their demeanor. Dan Rather became overcome with emotion on air because this thing had gotten their attention like few other circumstances could have. 9/11 literally rocked their world.
Not long after this, Sept 23, 2001, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities helped organize a huge service in Yankee Stadium called “Prayer for America.”
This was a multi-faith program in which leaders from many different religious denominations prayed or spoke. Then country singer Lee Greenwood performed "God Bless the USA."
After 9/11, in some ways like the response to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, media elites suddenly talked non-stop—understandably—about betrayal, treachery, religion, and other moral categories.
The point is, both these very different national crises caused people to ask deep, existential questions that prior to these experiences, people pretty much ignored.
Since Oct 7, 2023, we are living in a post-Hamas-massacre world. Suddenly, with regularity I am seeing these phrases in articles or hear them intoned on air: moral clarity, moral equivalency, moral litmus test, moral pretzel logic, moral bankruptcy, moral hypocrisy, moral collapse, moral cowardice, moral reckoning, moral imperative.
Now, is it odd that these kinds of phrases are used? Depends on how you look at it.
If you think about the evil incarnate that rained down on innocent Israelis Oct 7, then no, these phrases are not odd or unexpected.
If you think about the dilemmas faced by the Israeli response, the commitment and the need to bring Hamas to justice and to eradicate forever their capacity to support terrorism, yet with a desire to minimize civilian noncombatant injury and death, then no, these phrases are not odd or unexpected.
If you think about the 242 innocent hostages from at least 27 countries, then no, these phrases are not odd or unexpected.
But if you think about American culture’s pell-mell rush into nihilism, its rejection of God in favor of Do-It-Yourself religion, its rejection of truth and moral absolutes by embracing moral relativism – with, ironically, an absolutist zeal – its celebration of all thing’s material, hedonistic, and vain at the expense of time-tested verities, its unfettered embrace of unfettered sexual dissolution, it’s utter disdain for any discussion of right and wrong, i.e., morality, then yes, these phrases incorporating moral considerations are indeed odd and unexpected.
People ask, why would God allow something like the Israel-Hamas war? I don’t know, for I am not God. But I do know something about God’s character and will, as he reveals them in the Bible.
God is not the source of evil, but he allows human beings to choose, and he knows our evil choices result in emotional and physical trauma that causes men and women to seek solace and to think about moral categories.
For example, one result of the evil work of ISIS in which Muslims killed muslims, in fact killed more Muslims than Christians, is that this suffering caused Muslims to ask questions like, what is this, Muslims killing Muslims in the name of our common god? This question, getting to the heart of their indoctrinated faith, allowed them to think new thoughts, to wonder about other faiths, and for some, to ask, to seek, and to find Christ in the Gospel.
This could be one providential result of the horrors of the Israel-Hamas war—severe adversity, then agonizing ethical considerations causing people to seek answers, including in the Christian faith.
Our current circumstances bring the ethical naivete of street protesters into bold relief. For example, I have trouble considering protesters calling for peace credible who harass uninvolved citizens, vandalize property, or destroy flags, threaten police, and turn violent. This happened Nov 15 in front of the Democrat National Headquarters in Washington, DC.
I have trouble with protesters who accuse Israel of holding Palestinians to a “collective responsibility,” i.e., collective punishment of the many for the wrongdoing of the few, who then turn around and harass, even physically and verbally accost American Jewish students heading to the dining hall, or a Jewish professor in his classroom, or a Jewish person walking the street, as if these American citizens who happen to be Jewish have anything whatsoever to do with the Israeli leadership and the IDF. Who’s assigning collective responsibility now? In racial overtones no less.
I have trouble with protesters who chant antisemitic slurs against Jews, and those who express hate of Palestinians, in American or in Europe, as if either the one or the other of these people are responsible for what’s happening in the Holy Land.
And what happened to the hostages? It’s as if they’ve been written off, out of sight, out of mind. I'd like to see a Pro-Hostages demonstration.
This did finally happen. Nov. 14, some 290,000 marched on the Washington, DC, Mall for Israel, for the hostages, and for peace, making this “one of the largest gatherings of Jews in U.S. history at a time when an ongoing war in Gaza has sharply divided public opinion around the world. An additional 250,000 people watched the event through a live stream.”
What we need in the USA is both a revival and an awakening.
“The words revival and awakening are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinction. An awakening takes place when God sovereignly pours out his Spirit and it impacts a culture. That is what happened during the Jesus Revolution (in the late 1960s, early 1970s), and it’s what happened in multiple spiritual awakenings in the history of the United States, predating its establishment as a nation. A revival, on the other hand, is what the church must experience. It’s when the church comes back to life, when the church becomes what it was always meant to be. It’s a return to passion.”
“Revival is when God releases a special work of grace that reveals His power and presence amongst Christians. The word “revive” means to bring back to life. Hence, it cannot be talking about reaching the lost because they were never alive to begin with.
Renewal is when committed Christians are worn out from laboring in the Lord, and God sends a spirit of refreshment that restores them to vibrancy. Awakening is when a revival spills over and begins affecting the surrounding communities.”
“R.A. Torrey, a friend of Dwight L. Moody, was a great preacher and evangelist in his own right. He gave this prescription for revival during a February 1917 address at Moody Bible Institute. He said to “1) Get right with God, 2) get together with other Christians and pray for revival, and 3) make yourself available to God, especially in winning souls.”
“Revivals don’t last forever. They have a beginning, a middle and an end…Someone once asked the evangelist Billy Sunday whether his revivals lasted. He replied, “No, neither does a bath. But it’s good to have one occasionally.” The American Church needs revival.
A “spiritual awakening, that outpouring of the Spirit, is up to God. We can’t organize it, but we can agonize for it in prayer and call upon God to send it.” America needs an awakening.
Pray to God that he will pour out his blessings upon our nation. We need his grace.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2023
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