Book Review: Our Place in the Order of Creation

To join in the conversation about The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good, or to find a link to buy a copy, go here. 


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We are the clay. God is the potter.

We are the created. God is the creator.

Our dominion over this Earth is ours by designation, not because we made it or because we can keep it. We have dominion over the Earth because God assigned it to us as a trust.  It is the same with our lives. We did not earn them. We do not merit through our own actions either life or love. We are here because God breathed the breathe of life into us and we became living souls. When that days comes that our souls are required of us, these bodies we inhabit will die and return to the dust from which they came. 

We exist as a thought in the mind of the God Who made us.

That is our place in the order of creation. We are free because God made us free. We have life because God gave us life. We are able to choose and decide and act out of our will because God gave us minds and hearts and the freedom to use them as we wish. 

But this world, this sinful fallen world with all its prevarications and cruelties can not be saved by our actions. There is nothing we can do to redeem humanity from its own willful sinfulness. Nothing we can offer that will turn back the tide of original sin that blights each of us and the whole of creation. 

What this means is that we can not play God. When we try, we fail. When we try continuously, we become weary with a Sisyphean weariness that leaves us defeated and bitter if we do not face the reality of who we are in the order of creation. 

Christians, in particular, are easy prey to the peculiar hubris of trying to save the world from itself. In my work as an elected official, I encounter people on a daily basis who profess Christ but behave as if He doesn’t exist. They battle for what they think is His cause with an angry fanaticism. But they do not have the faith to trust Him with the outcome. The less they trust, the angrier they become.

They work and worry and experience each defeat as a personal failure, until they are ready to fall over from emotional, physical and moral exhaustion. They take on the whole problem themselves. They forget that their might is nothing against the evil of a fallen world, and, more importantly, they forget that it is not, never was, never will be, up to them. 

All any of us has to do is our part. In the final analysis, all any of us has to do is what God tells us to do. In my experience, God doesn’t share His plans in detail. He just tells you what you are to do. Then, He tells someone else what they are to do. But He doesn’t tell either of you about the other. You part is to do what God wants and let Him unfold the plan.

Which He will. 

In His time and in His way, He will bring all the disparate parts of His plan together. You are a thread in the fabric He is weaving, nothing more. You may have to wait a long time to see it. You may not see it in this life. But the whole pattern will come together and when it does, it will be glorious beyond anything you could have thought of. It is not your job to see the whole of it. Your job is to trust and obey. 

You are free to enjoy the wonderful life He has given you, safe in the knowledge that He makes all things work to the good and whether or not you can see it doesn’t change that. 

As Tyler Wigg-Stevenson put it in the title of his book, The World is Not Ours to Save.

The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good is basically a meditation on Micah 4. Micah 4 is a prophecy of Christ and the conversion of the Gentiles, as well as the coming Kingdom of God. It contains the beautiful verses They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. 

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson has obviously thought a great deal about these prophecies. He shares his interpretation of their meaning and applies them to the work of every person who feels called to engage in the social justice battlefield on the side of the Gospels. 

The World is Not Ours to Save is a wise book with excellent advice for those who are worn slick from trying to do God’s job of saving the world rather than focusing on simply doing their part. I recommend it. 

Number of Unchurched in USA Increases to One in Five

According to a recent Pew Forum poll, one in five American adults say they do not have a religious affiliation. This is up from 15% of those polled five years ago and reflects a strong trend in religious affiliation in the United States.

I think this trend is at least in part a result of the increasingly aggressive evangelism by secularists and atheists in our society.

This secularist/atheist evangelism is probably most effective in the enclosed environments of  our college campuses.

Late adolescents who yearn to hear their professors say they are brilliant are easy marks for lecture hall propaganda. The atheist pose becomes even more wish-fulfilling when the other students adopt it, giving them the chance to use it to fit in. It also fits neatly with the late adolescent’s need to find to stage a cost-free rebellion. In short, going atheist gives them the cachet of brilliance they want, the acceptance from their peers they need and the pose of being a rebel in a trendy and safe way. It’s a social win-win-win for them.

Evidently, insulting Christians and verbally harassing them and then bragging about it to one another is part of the social culture of their newfound unbelief. I read a lot of blogs, including a few atheist blogs. One thing that impresses me is the derivative quality of the thinking on the atheist blogs.

They quote from very popular books as if the thought was their own and advance arguments that are at least a hundred years old and then high-five one another for their cleverness. There is such a lot of bragging on these blogs, including obvious lying, about verbal jousts they claim to have had with “faith heads”

This might be funny. It is funny. But when this adolescent boorishness is multiplied by thousands of individuals, all trying to outdo one another in insulting and verbally assaulting a group of people, it becomes verbal harassment, hate speech and the fuel that can run the engine of legal and social discrimination.

Verbal attacks on people of faith are ubiquitous in our society. You see them very time you turn on the tv or listen to the radio. I’ve had to delete and ban to keep this blog from being overrun by them.

It doesn’t surprise me that the number of people who do not chose to identify themselves as part of any particular church is climbing at a time when verbal attacks on people of faith and faith itself are so rampant in our society. People are running away from religious affiliation to keep from being labeled and harassed. They are avoiding any consideration of faith so that they can appear cool and trendy.

I’ve been aware of this trend for some time. My work as an elected official has made me the target of the verbal harassment and hate speech unbelievers feel free to dump on people of faith. I not only saw the harbingers of what was coming, I lived through some of them.

I knew there was a constant agitation through the courts to limit the freedom of speech and expression of religious people, as well as remove any vestiges of Christianity from our public monuments and art. But the HHS Mandate took even me by surprise. I did not expect legal discrimination against people of faith to move so far, so fast.

These things are why I began Public Catholic. Christians must take their blinders off and allow themselves to see this. We need to stop running away from these bullies and begin standing up for Jesus.

The Pew Report underlines that we also need to do a much better job of talking about the wonderful things that Christianity has given and continues to give civilization. The attacks on Christianity that I’ve seen and read are based on biased, bogus scholarship that is basically propaganda used to justify hate speech. All we have to do to counter that is stop letting them badger us into silence and begin telling the truth.

As Bob Dylan said, the times, they are achangin’. It’s up to us to decide what part we’ll play in shaping those changes.

The Pew Forum article describing their report says in part:

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).3

No religious affiliation in America has grown to 19.6%

This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.

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The growth in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans – sometimes called the rise of the “nones” – is largely driven by generational replacement, the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones.4 A third of adults under 30 have no religious affiliation (32%), compared with just one-in-ten who are 65 and older (9%). And young adults today are much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives.

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These generational differences are consistent with other signs of a gradual softening of religious commitment among some (though by no means all) Americans in recent decades. Pew Research Center surveys conducted over the last 10 years, for example, find modest growth in the number of people who say they seldom or never attend religious services, as well as a declining number who say they never doubt the existence of God. (Read more here.)

The Global Religious Landscape

A new survey from The Pew Forum, indicates that eight in ten of the world’s people identify themselves with a religion. Of these, 32% are Christian, 23% Muslim, 15% Hindu, 17% Buddhist, and 0.2% Jewish.

This information is important for those of us who are Christians to understand. The world is in need of conversion, and articles like this give us the information to know, in the words of Lincoln, whither we are tending as we go forward in this Year of Faith and the New Evangelization.

A Pew Forum article summarizing the data, says in part:

The Global Religious Landscape

A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010

ANALYSIS December 18, 2012

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Executive Summary

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Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

grl-exec-1The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.1

At the same time, the new study by the Pew Forum also finds that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) have no religious affiliation. This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs (such as belief in God or a universal spirit) even though they do not identify with a particular faith. (SeeReligiously Unaffiliated.) (Read the entire article here.)

 

 

 

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