“Godzilla Minus One” and our "spiritual but not religious" culture

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“Godzilla” breaks box office records: Signs of the times and the paradoxical path to spiritual peace

December 14, 2023 -

Marielle Larson, 3, looks over her father Derek's shoulder at an oversized Godzilla model on the convention floor during Preview Night at the 2019 Comic-Con International: San Diego, Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Marielle Larson, 3, looks over her father Derek's shoulder at an oversized Godzilla model on the convention floor during Preview Night at the 2019 Comic-Con International: San Diego, Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Marielle Larson, 3, looks over her father Derek's shoulder at an oversized Godzilla model on the convention floor during Preview Night at the 2019 Comic-Con International: San Diego, Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The latest Godzilla movie is getting rave reviews and shattering box office records after a massive opening weekend. Alex Fitzpatrick reports in Axios that the film is “set in postwar Japan . . . to explore the country’s struggles in grappling with its actions and the incredible devastation levied upon it.” In other words, it’s a sign of our war-torn times.

Here’s another: “Peach Fuzz” is the Pantone Color Institute’s “color of the year,” chosen because it conjures peace and serenity. A company spokesperson explained: “We’re going through a lot of turmoil in our lives, and we have a need for a color that’s nurturing.”

In a day some are calling the “Age of Unhingement,” perhaps we should not be surprised by such news. According to columnist Rick Newman, “If America had a national mood, it would be gloom.” Responding to surveys cataloging dismal consumer attitudes, he hypothesizes that “Americans are so overwhelmed with negative news that they’re more inclined than ever to think things are terrible.”

It’s not just the seasonal depression that often comes with winter; the CDC reports that our suicide rate is the highest ever recorded. It has been consistently climbing since 2001, up nearly 50 percent over the last two decades. Unsurprisingly, just 21 percent of us are confident that life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us.

If we’re so spiritual, why are we unhappy?

At the same time, Pew Research Center reports that seven in ten US adults describe themselves as spiritual in some way. If we’re so spiritual, why are we so unhappy?

Perhaps a clue is found in this part of the report: 22 percent of us say we are spiritual but not religious. Of this group, 71 percent believe that “parts of nature, like mountains, rivers, or trees can have spirits or spiritual energies.” Nearly half say the same about “certain objects, like crystals, jewels, or stones.”

While only 2 percent of spiritual but not religious people say they attend religious worship services weekly or more often, 78 percent say they spend time “looking inward or centering” themselves at least a few times a month.

Such self-centered, self-defining spirituality is the hallmark of our times. According to George Barna’s latest inventory, only 4 percent of Americans embrace a “biblical worldview,” meaning that “people’s ideas about all dimensions of life and eternity are based on biblical principles and commands.”

“Nearly all that we call human history”

If humans are created by a holy God for personal relationship with him, the fact that we are living in the “age of unhingement” should not surprise our secularized, post-Christian culture. C. S. Lewis observed in Mere Christianity:

What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could “be like gods”—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

He then explained why our independence from God doesn’t work:

God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

When Lewis wrote his book in 1952, these were the binary options: “religion” (meaning biblical Christianity) or irreligion “apart from God.” As we have seen today, however, millions of Americans are embracing a “spiritual but not religious” third option where they choose the parts they like and refuse the rest.

Beware the “most intimate souvenirs of hell”

At this point I am tempted to congratulate all of us who do embrace a biblical worldview, who attend church services regularly, study our Bibles and pray daily, and read (or write) resources like this Daily Article. But I sense the Spirit issuing this warning: you and I are just as tempted by cafeteria-style spirituality as the rest of our post-Christian culture.

Every time we choose to sin, we reject God’s word and will and grieve and quench his Spirit (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). To quote Lewis, we “invent some sort of happiness for [ourselves] outside of God.” But a holy God cannot bless unholiness and remain true to his holy character. To the contrary, he must withdraw his favor and, if we persist in unrepentance, invoke his judgment.

This is why this Advent week of peace is so relevant to our times. Scripture declares, “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). As a result, the prophet could testify to him, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). The psalmist prayed, “Great peace have those who love your law” (Psalm 119:165). Because “peace” is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22), “to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

Do you have such peace?

We’ll close with one more reflection from C. S. Lewis, this time in The Great Divorce: “If we accept heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of hell.”

Do you need to abandon such “souvenirs” today?

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