A Southwest Airlines flight from Orlando to Washington was delayed for three hours last Thursday. That’s not surprising news in the world of air travel. What was surprising was how the gate agent responded.
He played games with the passengers as they waited, from a paper airplane competition to a contest for “worst driver’s license picture.” Winners were awarded $25 vouchers and Southwest merchandise.
One passenger called the experience “awesome.” Her social media posts made headlines on CNN.
“The emerging generation that calls the shots”
If you want to gain a following today, emphasize community and tolerance. That’s the message of a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.
Here’s the good news: a survey revealed that Americans believe strongly in the principles of hard work, patriotism, commitment to religion, and the goal of having children. Here’s the bad news: that survey was taken twenty-one years ago.
When the same survey was conducted recently, it found that “religion, belief in God” was valued by 67 percent of older adults (ages fifty-five to ninety-one) but only 30 percent of young adults (ages eighteen to thirty-eight). Patriotism values ranged from 79 percent for older adults to 42 percent for young adults. Having children ranged from 54 percent for older adults to 32 percent for young adults.
However, a higher percentage of young adults than older adults value community involvement (61 percent vs. 58 percent) and tolerance for others (83 percent vs. 79 percent).
One of the pollsters who conducted the report noted: “There’s an emerging America where issues like children, religion and patriotism are far less important. And in America, it’s the emerging generation that calls the shots about where the country is headed.”
“An idea lives on”
John F. Kennedy observed, “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”
America’s young adults inherited a worldview that considers all truth claims to be personal and subjective. We no longer have a moral consensus on the definition of marriage or gender, the value of life from conception to natural death, or the importance of religion to the common good.
Community and tolerance are the highest values left to such a culture. Since all truth is “my truth,” we’re told that we should embrace everyone and tolerate everything that does not harm others.
In response, let’s note first that such a worldview is clearly illogical. To claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth is to make an absolute truth claim.
Second, it’s impractical. If all truth is subjective, what is our objective basis for condemning horrific ideologies such as anti-Semitism and white supremacy?
We can—and should—reject them as harmful to others. But their proponents will counter that our rejection is harmful to them and those they represent. Radical jihadists justified 9/11 by claiming that the West had been attacking Islam for centuries.
It turns out, an ethic that can go no further than community and tolerance is harmful to both.
“All things in common”
Christians have a third way to advance the gospel in these post-Christian days.
Jesus championed community and tolerance on a level that shocked and changed the world. He welcomed Gentiles, Samaritans, tax collectors, and former lepers and prostitutes into his movement. He was tolerant of their failures and challenges, offering healing power and forgiving grace to all who would receive his love.
His first followers continued his example. They “had all things in common” (Acts 2:44), “selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (v. 45). They welcomed Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, male and female (Galatians 3:28).
As a result, heaven will be filled with “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9).
“The deepest longings of our heart”
Biblical Christians cannot tolerate what biblical truth forbids. But even our stands on issues such as same-sex relationships and abortion are fueled not by hatred but by love.
It would be far easier for us to bow to cultural pressure on such divisive subjects. But we know that God’s word is always best for us. Scripture forbids same-gender sexual relations, for instance, because God knows that such relations are harmful to those who engage in them. Abortion threatens mothers and obviously kills babies.
The challenge is for us to speak truth to a “post-truth” culture in a way that explains our biblical beliefs while modeling biblical compassion.
Tomorrow we’ll discuss practical ways to relate to those who disagree with biblical morality. For today, let’s decide that we want to build such relationships. You and I have found what so many seek. Our culture longs for the kind of community and tolerant grace that is available only in Christ.
Geoffrey Tristam of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist: “The deepest longings of our heart were placed there by a loving God, to find their fulfillment only in relationship with God.”
Do you agree?
NOTE: Today’s the last day to request your copy of my latest book, Blessed: Eight Ways Christians Change Culture.
Within its pages, I look at the Beatitudes and how Jesus provided a simple, yet profound framework for being a culture-changing Christian.
Then as now, his words challenge us, but they all begin with an assured promise: “Blessed are . . . .”