The last few decades have been marked by a special cultivation of the romance of the future. We seem to have made up our minds to misunderstand what has happened–which is (apparently) much easier. The modern man no longer preserves the memoirs of his great-grandfather; but he is engaged in writing a detailed and authoritative biography of his great-grandson. Instead of trembling before the specters of the dead, we shudder abjectly under the shadow of the babe unborn. This spirit is apparent everywhere, even to the creation of a form of futurist romance. . . I shall not hesitate to maintain here that this cult of the future is not only a weakness but a cowardice of the age. G.K. Chesterton
I flew out of DIA exactly one week after it opened (yes, I did get my bag on time and in one piece). Everything is new, modern and fresh and I enjoyed exploring all the gadgets, trains, tunnels and cookie stores. Along with the futuristic architecture are prominent, and nowadays all too common, tributes to the multi-culturalism of our society. Especially prominent at DIA is the appeasement of the American Indian ancestral spirits which were said to be disturbed during construction. This is all artistically mixed with the modernity of the jet age and the necessary forward movement of technology (the symbolism was made but nothing of substance changed). We Americans seem to be happiest when we have sufficiently convinced ourselves that everything anyone ever believed is true and nothing anyone ever believed is false. It’s a kind of ‘‘multi-everythingism.’’ Last Christmas, for example, the city of San Jose, removed the creche from a city park and erected an eight-foot statue of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl because it was a “multi-cultural” symbol. Gene Veith wrote, “Whereas modernism emphasized unity, postmodernism favors diversity. Postmodernism embraces multi-culturalism and continually invokes pluralism. The principle of diversity as a governing value manifests itself stylistically.” As the day of multi-everythingism dawns brighter in America, Christianity’s unique claim on April gets pushed increasingly into the shadows. The doctrine of Christ’s bodily resurrection is, of course, welcome to join the multi-religious banner but its claim of uniqueness must be abandoned or be labeled bigotry–which is anathema in enlightened America. These days Christianity must not exalt itself or its beliefs over any other belief. It must settle for a blurry past of religious ideals that look no more threatening than reincarnation, yoga or other suppositions.
In 1910 G.K. Chesterton wrote a treatise on his disintegrating English generation called What’s Wrong With the World. A point he made fits well today in America (the opening quote gives some of the idea). That is, men are more afraid of the past than of the future. The future can be manipulated, dreamed about and portrayed in any Unrealistic way one wants. Every man is brave, noble and successful in the future. Thomas Sowell said, “Everything is new and unparalleled if you are sufficiently ignorant of history.”
The past holds facts that no one can change and ideas that worked or did not. Chesterton suggested that a weak society is one which ignores the rigors of historical study and spends all of its time living in a future that doesn’t and probably can’t exist. In such a society (which he saw his becoming) nothing can be proclaimed as absolute, nothing can be forbidden and any desire of the flesh or belief of the mind can be fantasized or written as fact. Today’s literature, video arcades and film industry is enough to convince me that he was right.
Is the contemporary Christian generation confronting or capitulating to such a fearful culture? Look at the Christian fiction (an oxymoron?) section of your local Bible book store compared to the Christian history section, or the words of Christian choruses compared to historic hymns, or today’s messages on success compared to great preachers of the past century. My point is that when Christianity takes on this characteristic, its claim on a unique historical event will be concealed and its message of accepting this historical event as fact will seldom be taken seriously. We see this trend happening with encouraged fanfare such as ‘‘The 1993 Chicago Parliament of the World’s Religions’’ in which 125 religions gathered together to give ‘‘a declaration of Global Ethic’’ and ‘‘a vision of co-operation in the 21st century.’’ Along with those who professed Christianity were leaders of Baha’i, Buddhism, Mormons, Zoroastrians and even Wiccan. Charles Colson was honored as representative of simply another religious alternative. This is the future religious scenario of America and eventually the world.
So once again we are faced with the Christian challenge of April. In a multi-everything culture we are being asked to put the resurrection doctrine on the same shelf with every other religion and merely look to a future with societal harmony of beliefs and ideals. C.S. Lewis observed that no other religion depends on the miraculous for its existence. If you took every miracle out of every other religion, they would not change in any basic tenet. But if you take the miraculous out of Christianity you have nothing left.
So Christianity alone will look back into the past and insist that our society face the facts. We will invite them to surrender their future fantasies of meaningless religion because a past fact has a claim on their lives. There is no escaping, changing or dreaming about the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and his ascension back into heaven. It happened. It is the truth.