We humans are capable of imagining and believing almost anything. If there is a limit I think it is safe to say that we have yet to find it. One recurring interest for all peoples everywhere at all times seems to be a preoccupation if not obsession with time. What comes before and what comes after. The Christian worldview answered these questions for the Westerner for an age, but today many Americans do not consider this religion at all and many have never spent even a single hour at Sunday school as a child. Creation, the fall, redemption, and the Pearly Gates simply do not ring a bell, much less resonate, much less animate.
Yet the craving to know how the story begins and ends remains, and in the absence of an established belief system, new ones will emerge. And the young mother, whether she means to or not, will lay the foundation of what her babe will believe when he is hobbling around with a cane.
Our ancestors possessed a wild variety of beliefs, but if you are a Westerner, at some point many centuries ago, yours came to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, God Himself, and all that comes along with that leap, including what this Man and then his disciples said about this, that, and everything.
Besides answering the questions of beginning and end, He also gave us a philosophical system that at its core requires of its adherents self-denial and self-sacrifice. Common sense can tell anyone that this is a recipe for surviving and for the survival of ones offspring in this world of want, danger, and decay.
Since so many have abandoned this old philosophy, my two questions are: what may our descendants come to believe, and what internal voice will stay their hand or compel them to act for others contrary to their own best interest or natural inclination?
It seems unlikely that our descendants will ever believe in or be animated by a possum overlord who lives in a lacquered cabin on Rocky Top, vomiting forth Whiskey River, that stream of forgetfulness and bliss.
“All hail Our Lord Possum! May he alone be remembered.”
But what we do know from history is that man can come to believe just about anything.
The problem, or concern, or issue arises for the descendants of the man today who is not rooted in his Christianity, or Islam, or Progressivism for that matter.
Consider the recently released Disney movie Soul. What follows is an edited overview drawn from Wikipedia:
Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher from New York City, dreams of a career in jazz, even though his mother Libba objects to it, fearing for his financial security. One day, Joe learns of an opening in the band of jazz legend Dorothea Williams and auditions for it. Impressed with Joe’s piano playing, Dorothea offers him a chance to perform later that night. As Joe happily heads off to prepare for the show, he falls down a manhole.
Joe finds himself as a soul heading into the “Great Beyond”. Unwilling to die before his big break, he tries to escape but ends up in the “Great Before”, where soul counselors—all named Jerry—prepare unborn souls for life. Each soul has a badge which, once filled out with traits, grants passage to Earth.
Wikipedia, Soul (2020 film)
Now, it goes without saying that this is all made up. Obviously, right? It is only a source of fun for the kids with plenty of substance and entertainment value for the adults. And no Christian rooted in whatever doctrine he subscribes to will have his faith so much as dented. If anything the story will cause him to reflect on what he professes to believe, and this can be a good exercise.
If Soul can still be viewed 100 years from now, it will not likely be thought of by any other than historians or movie buffs. But Soul is representative of two major trends in post-1960’s popular American society or culture today. The first is an absence of reference to our Christian heritage and the second is alternative existence myths or accounts e.g. comic books, Star Wars, Star Trek, and a host of others.
If you can control public discourse, is 100 years long enough to cause a people to so forget their own past that they could come to believe in something as fanciful as Soul or Lord Possum? How about 200 years?
Setting aside for a moment whether or not there is in fact a God and that Jesus the man was in fact this God, Western civilisation grew and prospered in as much as His teachings on self-denial and putting others first permeated (or salted) the cultures of its various peoples over the centuries. It seasoned both our civilised and barbarous ancestors acting as an internal brake on their worst instincts as humans. To do good, and not do bad, even when no one was watching or there was nothing to be gained because we ought to and because He was watching, keeping notes, and ready to hand out rewards or dreadful punishment after death. And because He, God Himself, loved you.
These ideas have acted as a powerful brake for 2,000 years, and in a life so full of misery have been profoundly comforting.
The modern religion of Progressivism with its faith in Freedom, Equality, and Individuality offers no such brake or comfort. What it does offer is Bread and Circuses, and methinks that it will continue to fail to fill the vacuum that its war on Christianity has produced. Man needs more than security and fun, and higher civilisation cannot be sustained where all men seek nothing but their own.
My question is, what curious new faiths may emerge in the centuries to come?
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