The University of Oklahoma women’s softball team made history recently when it became only the second team to win three national titles in a row. But that’s not why I’m beginning today’s Daily Article with their story.
According to OU head coach Patty Gasso, the Lord told her several years ago, “You’re not here to win games. You’re here to open the door—here to win souls.” Now God is honoring her Christian commitment to the Great Commission in remarkable ways.
Team captain Grace Lyons was asked by an ESPN reporter how she and her teammates handle the pressure of their competition and maintain their joy. The reporter might not have expected her answer: “The only way that you can have a joy that doesn’t fade away is from the Lord. Any other type of joy is actually happiness that comes from circumstances and outcomes.” (For more, see the remarkable “Letter to Softball” video below she recorded about her faith story.)
Lyons’ teammate Jayda Coleman shared how, after winning the Women’s College World Series her freshman year, she was happy but didn’t feel joy: “I didn’t know what to do the next day. I didn’t know what to do that following week. I didn’t feel fulfilled and I had to find Christ.”
She continued: “I think that is what makes our team so strong is that we’re not afraid to lose because it’s not the end of the world if we do lose—obviously we’ve worked our butts off to be here and we want to win—but it’s not the end of the world because our life is in Christ and that’s all that matters.”
The only true remedy for our fractured society
I am writing this Daily Article to convince you that Jayda Coleman’s worldview is crucial not only for her and her teammates but for the future of our society.
Yesterday, I claimed that the only true remedy for our fractured and politicized nation is seeing each person through the eyes of God’s grace. When we view our fellow Americans not as political allies or enemies but as individuals whom our Father loves as much as he loves us, we are empowered to accept them as unconditionally as he does.
Brothers and sisters will disagree with each other, but in a healthy family they know they are equally loved by the same father. So it can be for us when Christians model the grace of Christ in our broken world.
Such a worldview, however, presupposes a view of the world that has been in decline for five centuries. Understanding and reversing this decline is crucial to our collective future.
How science “replaced” religion
I consider Carl Trueman to be the most brilliant historical analyst of culture in the Christian world today. You can find our reviews of his monumental recent works, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self and Strange New World, on our website. Now Trueman has published a remarkable essay in Public Discourse that demands our attention yet again.
In it, he explains the central thesis of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, whose work on secularism has been so foundational in recent years. To summarize and simplify Trueman’s perceptive analysis: Western people before AD 1500 saw themselves as part of a unified spiritual/physical world. They believed that God made and makes all that is, from the universe to today’s sunrise to your next breath. It was therefore not possible to see oneself as separate from God’s holistic ongoing creation. Religious activities were not ends in themselves but expressions of the unifying reality that we are one with our Maker and his world.
Then came the crisis of the papacy in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and the Reformation in the sixteenth, all of which undermined the central authority of the Church in the world. The printing press led to a rise in literacy and private reading. Economies changed from dependence on the land and seasons to privatized production and trade.
The result was a shift in what Taylor calls the “social imaginary,” which Trueman defines as “the set of beliefs and practices that reflect and reinforce the intuitions of a given culture or society.” In this new “social imaginary,” the “self” is viewed as internal and spiritual and the “world” as external and material. Modern science affirmed this view of the material world as secular rather than spiritual.
Consequently, religion moved from being the default intuition of members of society to being optional or even marginal to society. Science “replaced” religion, not by disproving its basic teachings but by aligning with our new understanding of the world and the way it works.
“If our brothers are oppressed, then we are oppressed”
So long as we separate Sunday from Monday and the spiritual from the secular, we isolate ourselves from God’s power to transform us into Christlike disciples (Romans 8:29) who love others as we are loved (John 13:34–35). We privatize our faith into subjective belief with no relevance beyond our inner selves. We should not be surprised when others dismiss the relevance of such a personal hobby.
But when we reject the social imaginary that secularized the material world, serving God with a “whole heart” (Isaiah 38:3) and viewing every moment as a gift and every person as sacred, we agree with Abraham Kuyper: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
And we embrace our calling to assault the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18) by taking the holistic good news of God’s love to every need we face and every eternal soul we touch. In the face of such a movement, the world cannot remain the same.
Today is Flag Day, commemorating the adoption of the American flag by the Continental Congress on this day in 1777. In his Flag Day address to the nation in 1942. President Franklin D. Roosevelt closed with a prayer I invite you to share with me today:
Grant us that simple knowledge
If our brothers are oppressed, then we are oppressed.
If they hunger, we hunger.
If their freedom is taken away, our freedom is not secure.
Grant us a common faith,
That man shall know bread and peace,
That he shall know justice and righteousness,
Freedom and security, an equal opportunity,
And an equal chance to do his best,
Not only in our own lands, but throughout the world.