Most Americans celebrate ten holidays each year, beginning with New Year’s Day and ending with Christmas. Now it seems we’ve added an eleventh to the list.
Amazon Prime Day began yesterday to national fanfare. The day began in 2015 as a celebration of Amazon’s twentieth anniversary. Research firms expect the two-day event to generate more than $5 billion in sales, up by 50 percent over last year.
Who invented the fortune cookie?
Amazon is not the only technology phenomenon in the news: Twitter celebrated its thirteenth anniversary yesterday. As massive as Twitter’s impact is, the social media giant ranks twelfth among platforms for monthly users. Facebook is first, with 2.23 billion monthly active users; YouTube is second, with 1.9 billion.
Reflecting on the technology revolution that is changing the world, the question occurred to me: How many of these advances were made by Americans?
Scanning a Wikipedia list of “American inventions,” I found more than two hundred entries. On the list are such ubiquitous creations as the internet, the airplane, the alarm clock, the paper clip, the fire hydrant, the fortune cookie (surprisingly), the personal computer, the crayon, dental floss, the dishwasher, the ballpoint pen, the polio vaccine, the microwave oven, the television, the telephone, the electric guitar, and the supermarket.
What does our country’s technological prowess say about us?
Is shopping our religion?
Americans, of course, have no monopoly on inventions. Chinese culture and creativity predate ours by millennia. The medieval Arab world, sometimes called the Islamic Golden Age, was an era of remarkable scientific advancement. Every nation has its inventors and pioneers.
But it is a fact of history that entrepreneurial ingenuity has been at the heart of the American experience. The first immigrants to these shores were forced to adapt to this new world. Explorers pushed the western boundary of the nation all the way to the Pacific. The pioneer spirit still infuses much of our culture.
A single sentence in our Declaration of Independence explains this spirit: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As I noted on July 4, these were truly revolutionary words. They have empowered generations of Americans to embrace a future as bright as their dreams.
Why irreligious people are irreligious
As our country becomes increasingly secularized, Christians need entrepreneurial ways to engage our entrepreneurial culture.
Surprisingly, among American adults who have no religious preference, only 21 percent cite the statement, “I don’t believe in God,” as an explanation for why they are unaffiliated. Far more say “I question a lot of religious teachings” (51 percent) and “I don’t like the positions churches take on social/political issues” (47 percent).
It seems that we should not expect most of these people to come to church next Sunday. But it’s also true that if the church comes to them, explaining biblical truth with relational grace, we can gain a hearing for the gospel.
This is my story. If someone had asked me at the age of fifteen why I did not attend church, I would have cited the reasons given in the survey. I believed in God, but I didn’t understand why the Bible was uniquely true or Jesus was the only way to heaven. And I didn’t understand why the church seemed so out of touch with the culture. (This was in 1973. Think how much more countercultural biblical truth is today.)
I would not have gone to church, so the church came to me. When friends invited me to experience their faith, I saw something in them I did not have in my life. It was the relevance and joy of Jesus I encountered that led me to trust him for myself.
Saving 16,000 babies
It’s a biblical fact that the Bible is still “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). When God’s people find creative ways to share God’s truth in love, lives change. People who might seem beyond the reach of grace respond to his hope. And a secular, consumeristic culture is drawn to Jesus, one soul at a time.
Consider Shawn Carney.
If you’ve seen the movie Unplanned (and I hope you will if you haven’t), you’ll remember Shawn as the pro-life minister who helped Abby Johnson turn from directing a Planned Parenthood clinic to becoming one of the best-known pro-life activists in America.
However, Abby’s story is just the tip of the iceberg.
Shawn’s organization, 40 Days for Life, has a simple approach: “We show up at these abortion facilities and peacefully pray.” They do this around the clock for forty days. And the results have been miraculous.
Their ministry has helped save more than 16,000 unborn children. They have helped 190 abortion facility workers leave their jobs and have seen one hundred abortion clinics close their doors in locations where 40 Days for Life events have been held.
Some of the women who choose life even join vigils later. Local leaders have become the godparents of the babies they helped save.
What creative way will you find to share the life-changing gospel today?