An intensive manhunt is underway at this hour for a gunman who opened fire at a bowling alley and a restaurant in Lewiston, Maine, last night. At least twenty-two people are dead and as many as fifty are injured in this mass shooting.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Otis became the strongest recorded hurricane to hit Mexico’s Pacific Coast when it made landfall yesterday, unleashing a “nightmare scenario” in Acapulco with massive flooding and devastation. Jakob Sauczak was staying at a beachfront hotel when Otis hit. “We laid down on the floor, and some between beds,” he said. “We prayed a lot.”
Prayer is not how some are responding to the tragedies of recent days, however.
“Imagine that there’s no heaven”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t believe God exists.” This is what Maayan Zin said after her daughters Dafna, age fifteen, and Ella, age eight, were kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. She explained: “If he does, why are my daughters in Gaza? Why all this murder along the Gaza border? Why did they bring families there to fill kibbutzim, with innocent children now going through what they are?”
Innocent suffering is just one reason many may be doubting God’s existence and relevance today. Horrific atrocities committed in his name are another.
Violence is surging in the West Bank, fueled by weapons smuggled into the area by Iran and its allies. The leader of Hezbollah met yesterday in Beirut with senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) figures, each a proxy of Iran, which trained hundreds of Hamas and PIJ fighters in the weeks leading up to the October 7 atrocities. Militant-led violence in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen threatens to spark an even wider war in the region.
Religion is the common denominator here. As I have written, Iran is motivated by the belief that attacking Israel will hasten the return of the Mahdi (their version of a messiah). Hamas is similarly motivated and is also convinced that Allah intends them to return the land to its rightful Palestinian owners. Violence in the West Bank, especially if it involves the Temple Mount, could draw Hezbollah even further into the conflict to “protect” these holy sites for Islam.
A skeptic might easily agree with John Lennon’s famous anthem for secularism: “Imagine there’s no heaven . . . Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion, too.” In such a world, he claimed, “All the people [would be] livin’ life in peace . . . And the world will be as one.”
“A modern de facto alliance of tyrannies”
Such secularism is understandable in a world as broken as ours. Here’s the problem, however: we’re well along the road Lennon imagined more than fifty years ago.
Churches across Europe are being repurposed for nightclubs and hotels as worship attendance continues to decline. Historic church buildings in America are being turned into homes as well. Church membership in the US has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in American history, declining from 76 percent after World War II to 47 percent today.
How is this working for us?
“Polycrisis” is a term in use today to describe the constellation of issues we are facing. While fallen humanity has confronted death and despair from Abel’s time to ours, the acceleration and conflation of challenges we are facing magnifies and compounds individual problems.
All the while, a secularized worldview that denies objective truth and morality has no tools for truly understanding these issues. Here’s one shocking example: according to a recent survey, a majority of eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-old Americans believe the killing of Israeli civilians “can be justified by the grievances of Palestinians.” But perhaps we should not be surprised, given the shameful endorsement of Hamas’s terrorists on college campuses across our land.
The Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker writes: “A modern de facto alliance of tyrannies—we might call it an axis of evil opportunism—advances across the globe.” He lists China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea as members of this “axis” and notes:
They see a weakened and declining West, an America at odds with itself over its identity and its leadership in the world, a nation enfeebled by deepening self-doubt, widening division, widespread mistrust, timid leadership, institutional paralysis, and soaring debt. They see, as we have seen this last week, a culture—in the media, educational institutions, public discourse—that increasingly does their work for them, willfully propagating falsehoods that advance their cause, always eager to attribute evil to us and not to our enemies.
“Finish then, Thy new creation”
While those suffering from the atrocities and brokenness of our world understandably wonder why religion is relevant to their pain, it is clear that secularism is insufficient to save us from ourselves and each other. Paul taught that those who have not experienced salvation in Christ are “slaves of sin” and asked, “What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death” (Romans 6:20–21).
By contrast, he could say to his fellow believers, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (v. 22). The apostle famously concluded: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 23).
That our fallen culture might experience this “gift,” let us pray with Charles Wesley:
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling;
All Thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.
Finish then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.