We begin today on the terrorism front: A New York City resident has been arrested and accused of sympathizing with the Islamic State. He is one of nearly 400 Americans identified in a recent report as supporters of ISIS. Some seek to join the terror group overseas, but others plan attacks within the U.S. The report’s author calls this “a growing and disturbing phenomenon.”
On the economic front: For the first time in more than 130 years, young adults between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four are more likely to live at home with their parents than in any other living situation. This is a major change from 1960, when sixty-two percent of young adults were living with a spouse or partner in their own home, while only twenty percent lived with their parents. Financial challenges have contributed significantly to this shift.
On the political front: Most supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton say their choice is more about opposing the rival candidate than supporting their own. As the presidential campaign continues, voter dissatisfaction with the two-party system continues to escalate.
On the religious front: A recent report shows that atheists now outnumber Christians in England. They have doubled from twenty-five percent in 2011 to 48.5 percent today; Christians make up 43.8 percent of the British population.
What do these stories have in common?
Writing for Stratfor, former Yale philosophy professor Jay Ogilvy offers a fascinating explanation for the seismic cultural shifts we are witnessing today. In his view, Western society moved from the religious era to the political era in the sixteenth century. The Reformation separated church from state, empowering national governments as the leading authorities in our culture.
The state was charged with protecting us from our enemies and providing economic security. The American political system provided parties that represented our views and goals. The power and relevance of the institutional church declined as the power and relevance of the state escalated.
But now we are shifting again, from the political era to the economic era. We have seen the inability of our governments to provide physical and financial security. Many no longer believe that the two political parties represent us. Meanwhile, the credibility and relevance of multinational corporations and free markets continue to rise. We are forming affinity groups around shared ideologies, economic needs, and spiritual beliefs.
Here’s the good news: the gospel is just as relevant in an economic era as it was in the religious and political eras. We made a drastic mistake in AD 313 when Constantine legalized the church: we had been a spiritual army, but we became an institution. We were a movement, but we became a building. Jesus founded his church to assault the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18). When we take light to dark, the light always wins (John 1:5).
Every person you meet today is an eternal soul. Our greatest need is for restored relationship with the Father who made and loves all his children. We should separate church from state, but never faith from state. God calls us to worship him “day by day” (Numbers 28:3) and to take his word to our culture wherever we can, however we can.