Thursday, February 28, 2013

Homily Magnus: A Wild and Wonderful Romp (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"If any man loves God, he is known by Him." I Cor. 8:3

"Enlightenment" (aside from being a particular historical movement) is considered by almost all cultures to be the ultimate goal of humanity. It is an arrival at truth, the truth, the truth that unlocks all the mysteries of existence. In non-Christian circles, this is a kind of salvation: once enlightened, one finds peace with themselves and the world. This enlightening can come in many forms, but the two most common are also the most non-Christian.

One is a purely secular method. The scientific advancement of our understanding (and even our senses) can lead us to grasp the fundamental forces that unite the universe. The other (found in the Platonism of the west and the religions of the east) is a spiritual/intellectual ascension whereby the mind grasps the transcendent truth in its purest form, an ascension acquired by dialectic or meditation. In either case, the end result is a state of serenity: the mind has grasped ultimate truth, the solution to all problems, and we need fight and fret no more.

Non-Christian enlightenment, even if it is "spiritual," is still primarily intellectual: passions and desires must be purged so that the mind can dwell in a calm objectivity and thus grasp the truth. But Christianity makes one very important difference. Desire is not purged from the soul, but instead purged of its deficiencies. Our desires are not evil distractions but crooked affections, affections that must be set straight. Your desires must not be abandoned but perfected. Your "loves" must be put in order, for love is the key to Christian enlightenment.

It is true that there is an intellectual ascent towards God. After all, one must know Him as a true fact as well as understand the facts about Himself that He has revealed to us. Simply put, you cannot even begin to know Him unless you (1) know that He exists and (2) know, in part, who and what He is. That is not heavy philosophy but common sense. If you want to know anything (from parking meters to persons), then they must be both real and knowable. It is an existential "no duh".

But there is something else that is common sense, at least to the Christian: mere facts are not good enough. There is one step more that must be taken, a step that Bonaventure called "synderesis," which is a fancy Greek word meaning that you desire what you know. The object of enlightenment must not only be understood factually but also loved intimately, loved because of what you know about it. In other words, if the facts of a thing do not lead you to love that thing, then you do not really understand it at all. Hence comes the chasmic Christian distinction: true enlightenment only comes through love, viz., love of the highest truth.

This can all sound a bit ivory-towerish, but it's not. We know it is not; we know it is a practical truth of everyday life. The facts just aren't good enough to know something. It is not good enough to only know facts about your spouse (or significant other): their favorite color or music, the food they hate the most. These can create a helpful understanding of them, but it cannot stop there. If it does, then you will never truly know them until those facts move you in love for them. Then true knowledge begins.

I took piano lessons when I was younger. Took them for over ten years. I went to lessons weekly and had multiple recitals. I was (if I do say so myself) very good. I learned all the facts quite well: chord progression, reading sheet music, understanding all the different symbols, etc. I could play any piece put before me, and to this day I can enjoy music as good as any professional. But as soon as other things got in my way (college, work, writing and drawing), I dropped it almost too easily. Why? Because I only knew the facts about it. I didn't love it. I had no passion for it at all.

Of course, the reason I took piano lessons at all was because of my mother, and the reason she had me take them was because she loved the piano. She certainly knew all the facts: she was a college-trained church pianist. But she had something more, something I didn't have, and that was love for the thing itself. I knew this whenever I watched her play. There was a magic in her fingers that I just did not possess. Listening to me was like listening to a machine. Listening to her was like listening to a love affair. Naturally, of course, for the facts aren't good enough, and a thing is never really known until it is loved. As C.S. Lewis put it, "He who loves, sees."

This practical truth is the very heartbeat of Christianity. Our "enlightenment" is to know God, but that knowledge is not in facts alone but in launching from those facts into love. This is the constant theme of the Christian tradition, from Irenaeus to Maximus and Symeon. It is the point of Aquinas' Summa and Dante's Commedia. And (most importantly) it is the truth of the Bible: the highest goal is to love God (Matt. 22:37-38), which means to know God and His Christ in a manner intimate and total (John 17:3; Phil. 3:8-11) and reciprocal (I Cor. 3:23, 8:3, 13:12; Gal. 4:8-9). It is not a truth that we love but rather a Person who is true, and that is the distinction that makes all the difference, marking an insurmountable watershed between Christian enlightenment and the "enlightenment" of others, for ours is truly an ascent while theirs is more of a descent.

Enlightenment is not to fall deeper and deeper into an isolated intellectualism, one whose "peace" is only the silence of its own loneliness. On the contrary, that is the very essence of Hell. I answer that true enlightenment is to go higher and higher into an Other who is love: to know Him is to know love (I John 4:7-8) and to be love (I John 3:2). It is a joyous, rather than abstract, occasion. Our enlightenment, our salvation, of which we are presently part of, is not a study but a marriage, a wild and wonderful romp deeper into desire, for desire is the final door.

If you would know God, then love God. Love what you know about Him. If you know nothing, then go and learn something, anything that captures your mind, and then let it capture your heart, and then let that knowledge and love grow, taking you further up and further in to the God who made you to know and be known, to love and be loved. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Homily 48: A Work of Art (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else." Is. 45:22

One of the most common complaints leveled against God is the apparent absurdity of His actions. His ways may be mysterious, but they certainly seem ludicrous. Isaiah 45 gives us a good example of this. God is far removed from heathen peoples, so much so that they can only exclaim, "Truly, Thou are a God who hides Thyself" (vs. 15). To unbelieving Israel, however, He has given direct revelation, so that in His eyes they are without excuse: "I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth. I said not unto the seed of Jacob, 'Seek me in vain'" (vs. 19).

The reason He revealed Himself to Israel, to this one people group and not to others, is so they would be a "light" to those others (Is. 42:5-9; 49:1-6), an office later fulfilled by Christ (who was of Israel). In short, God hides from some, reveals Himself to others, so that those others may reveal Him to the some. A similar theme can be found in the New Testament (Rom. 11:25-32), and just like in the Old Testament the whole thing feels convoluted and counter-intuitive. Why all of this hopping about? Why all the looping and double-looping? Why can't God just work in a straight line?

The short (and sufficient) answer is that God is not a straight line. He is not a machine, nor a mere principle or equation. He is a person, a person who loves, and thus is necessarily full of surprises. The longer (and even more sufficient) answer is that this thing was done in this manner so that you and I and all would know (beyond any shadow or inkling or hint of doubt) that this thing was of God alone. To put it the other way around, it was done this way so that we would know it was not of us. We are far too simple-minded, and our well-made plans far too comprehensible and predictable. But if an incomprehensible God is at work, then why wouldn't His plans and actions be over our finite heads?

It is hubris that makes us question the Divine activity, and that is the point. That is the point of the whole of Isaiah. God uses what we would call foolishness (and uses it well) so that He might subvert and deconstruct our so-called wisdom (I Cor. 1:18-31), all so that we will find no room or cause to glory in our perceived cleverness but rather glory in His hidden brilliance alone. For not only does our cleverness fail, it is also dull and boring, as dull and boring as a straight line. It is false and ugly, as we are false and ugly without God, for He is Beautiful and True, and His brilliance never fails (though we can't see why), and it is as wild and wonderful as a work of art.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Unnecessary Divorces (an orthodox rebel responds to Frank Schaeffer)

I've mentioned before how there is a great swath of young Christians who feel the need to rebel against the perceived dead formalism of past generations and subsequently create a more vibrate, living Christian Faith. As I've listened to the "conversation" of these well-intended souls, I stumbled across this article by Frank Schaeffer (the son of Christian luminary Francis Schaeffer). I suggest you read it carefully, because he says some interesting things.

Now, I am glad that Mr. Schaeffer feels the loss of connection between modern Christianity and its ancient Faith and practice. I too think that a return to the liturgy, and the fundamental communion that it brings, would do a great amount of good in every Christian circle. It is a great shame that most modern, American Christians have been severed from their past, which (as I've demonstrated elsewhere) is full of a much wisdom and beauty.

However, just like every other so-called "progressive" Christian, Mr. Schaeffer can't seem to shake off one misguided mantra: solid theological content is ultimately irrelevant (because it is divisive); what really matters is just the ceremony itself and a sense of "[m]ystery and open-mindedness when it comes to theological content: uncertainty is good" (emphasis mine). The substance is unimportant. What is important is the show: grasp the rites and rituals with an iron grasp, but let things like doctrine and truth be fluid and in flux. This is the same old foolish idea that monkey-wrenches the whole operation.

As I've said before, I'm all for a return to humility in our doctrine. We need to recognize that God is so much bigger than our systems that we make for Him. It is a dangerous mistake to put God in a box, but it is an equally dangerous mistake to think that He has no sharp, distinct lines at all, lines that He Himself laid down for us, revealed to us in Scripture. True, He does not reveal all (for there are not enough books in the world to capture it all), but He has revealed some, and that some is fixed and immoveable. It cannot be erased without disastrous consequence.

Think about it: what is the liturgy without doctrine? What is all our Christian ceremony without those nasty creeds codified from the Scriptures (that nasty closed canon)? What does the Eucharist even mean without the hard doctrines of the Incarnation and the Resurrection, without the fixed, substantive idea that Christ was "conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary," etc.? What does worship mean without the hard doctrines of God's Holiness and Incomprehensible nature, without the idea of "God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth"? What does community and communion mean without the hard doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, without the idea that we "believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints," etc.?

I will tell you what they all mean: nothing. They mean absolutely nothing anymore, because they have no substance. The beliefs, the hard, doctrinal truths that we believe, are the substance. Lose them, and the whole thing evaporates, leaving behind the husk of dead formalism, the very thing that many in Mr. Schaeffer's camp are trying to escape. What they need to realize is that there is nothing without belief in solid, revealed truth, the truth of God's word, simultaneously simplified and expounded in creeds and dogmas and doctrines. There is no liturgy or community or worship or even Christianity itself without the certainty that certain things are true.

I will never understand the unnecessary divorces that we commit in the name of Christ. The old fundamentalists and evangelicals divorced Truth and Life, fell on the side of Truth, and received an impotent religiosity. But "progressive" Christians (from emergents to anarchists) are no better, for they too have divorced Truth from Life, but instead fell on the side of Life, and what have they gotten for it? An anti-formalism and fundamental skepticism that can find no place to rest, no identity to call its own, and not even the Faith they love so dearly can survive the corrosive chaos. The saddest thing about modern, American Christianity is how from generation to generation we always take a part of the picture rather than the whole, and the result is always worse than where we began.

Here is one true dogma, and I state it defiantly in the face of all modern Christian simplifiers, from radical fundys to radical pomos: it is not Truth or Life but rather Truth and Life: Certainty and Beauty, Light and Love, infinite solid ground beneath our feet and an infinite sky over our heads. They hold each other in a fierce and fiery paradox, and by their presence the whole edifice of the Christian Faith rises and rest stable and secure. But lose either of those elements, and you don't have Christianity anymore. In fact, you have nothing at all.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Gospel to the Postmoderns (A Philosophy of Potatoes, Part V)

"I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create [national] calamity. I, the Lord, do all these things. Drop down, ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness. Let the earth open, and let it bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together. I, the Lord, have created it." Is. 45:6-8

There are always gaps in our lives: gaps of knowledge, of understanding, of ability, of identity and purpose. The truth of things always seems just beyond our reach, lost in a cloud of contradictory witnesses, all shouting their personal preferences in a private language of their own making. The white noise created by their effusions and emanations drowns out the clear cadences of reality, and we despair of ever getting to the truth of things, of ourselves. Our only hope (and what a paltry hope!) is to make our best guess, our best approximation to a target we cannot even see clearly. It is no surprise, then, that we all fall short.

It is no surprise to God either. It is the biggest joke of our contemporary, postmodern world that it thinks itself the new thing when it is really the old thing. The same old thing. The same old unbelief, now writ large. The same old failures: failure to see, to hear, to understand, to believe. All of our newest thoughts are merely a shiny new wrapper on the same old junk. We say that the authorial origin is displaced from us by our excess of discursive derivatives. God put it much simpler: we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are separated from the Divine Origin of Being and Goodness by our primal deviation from His course. Consequently, we have all of us gone astray, even turning others to their own way, every man doing what is right in his own eyes because there is no king in the land. No authorial center to know and reference and be. We lost Him long ago. In our ignorance and arrogance we are lost, spiraling further down into the ever-widening yet ever-increasingly empty abyss of our lostness.

What can bridge this infinite gap? What can slice through all of the derivatives and find the Origin? What can retrace all the traces back to the Source? What can refill every absence with the presence of Meaning? What can reset all displacement and dispersion until the Whole is realized again? What can wash away our Sin? Nothing but the blood, the blood of God in Christ. Nothing but grace, the grace of God in Christ, for in Christ God became flesh and dwelt among us. The Origin became a derivative, the Source a trace, the Whole a discursive displacement, becoming one with the text, the conversation, the discursive field of play, the flesh and blood of men and the whoop and wharf of time. This was not an act of detached Reason, or cold Machine or mere Mind, nor another absurdism of fundamental Chaos. This was an act of grace, grace on the part of One greater than us, greater than all our noise, all our displacements, our mythologies and differances, greater than all our Sin.

Hear the Word speak into our present day delusion and crisis: grace alone is the bridge that spans the gulf of our mighty separation, the sword that slices through the jungle of our seemingly endless texts and myths and positions and postures and preferences and opinions and interpretations, cutting right through all of our jargon and gibberish, navigating the vacuity of our hyperspaces, deconstructing all of our simulations and simulacra, powering through every wall and obstacle that we have erected, crashing through with infinite, furious love and passion and purpose. His head is bleeding. His hands and feet and side are bleeding. His body has been demarcated by those in power. He was wounded for our dispersions, and by His stripes we are healed. By His resurrection, He defeated death and displacement and truth-to-power, so that at His name every knee shall bow and every discourse confess in one voice that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God most gracious. See what His grace has done. What only His grace could have done. It has brought us back to God. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Doubt Your Doubts (an orthodox rebel responds to David Dark)

In my previous post, I mentioned how there is a movement amongst many young Christians to break out of what they perceive to be the confining and dead systems that defined the Christianity of their parents' generation. Sometimes that's a good thing, leading you out of a cramped or shallow mock-Christianity and into the real fellowship of the real God and real Christ. Other times, however, and more often than not, it becomes an excuse to dissolve every central doctrine of the Faith and erect your own private edifice instead. Rebellion is a good thing when it leads to the truth, but a horrible evil when it becomes a cloak for your own will.

If you're wondering where this kind of thinking came from, rebellion's as old as Adam. If you want to know where the current kind of thinking amongst most young Christians came from, then go do some research (this is a blog, not an encyclopedia). However, if you want a starting point for understanding this kind of thinking, then I recommend reading this article (and maybe even the book advertized in it). Author David Dark, aside from having the coolest name ever, lays down what he believes to be the foundation for a true Christian faith: the sacred duty of doubting.

I'm not sure what you'll think of that article, but it absolutely frustrates me, for two reasons.

The first is because I actually agree with its surface assertions. God has not called us into a holy bubble. There is a place for mystery as well as a deep sense of the "incomprehensible" (as some church fathers put it) in God and His activities. There is no reason to simply discount something outside of our preconceived parameters (e.g., if Nietzsche says something legitimately true, then it is true regardless). As I've argued multiple times before, God regularly smashes our preconceived notions and parameters to pieces so that we may draw closer to the real Him. The foundation of all Christian thinking and living is humility, i.e., the recognition of my smallness before God's bigness. On these points, I am in agreement utterly and without question or qualification.


The second reason that it frustrates me is because of what's underneath all of those agreeable assertions. I cannot help put sense that they are simply a veneer hiding something, something that not even Mr. Dark may see. But I do see it, because I've seen and heard it plenty of times before: he attempts to convince us that doubt is not a "dirty word" by making "certainty" into a dirty word.

Yes, absolute certainty can be "corrosive" (as he says), but does Mr. Dark really not see that absolute skepticism is equally corrosive? If you claim to know everything, doubting nothing, then you cannot have community (except with those who agree exactly as you do). But if you "question everything," doubting all, then you cannot have community either, for community requires something around which we can unify. Much to Mr. Dark's chagrin, you cannot unify around doubt. It is impossible, because doubt is fundamentally fragmentary: it holds to nothing but its questions, and to question is to pull apart, to dissect the whole, to deconstruct the structure until it spills its secrets. In short, doubt can never build. It only destroys.

Sometimes such destruction is necessary. Take the Socratic Method, for example. The whole thing is based on questioning and questioning, on leaving no interrogative stone unturned. Yet the point of such questioning (and this is key) was to arrive at, or at least approximate, some kind of answer that would satisfy. It was destruction that was a precursor to construction. It was going somewhere, somewhere real and solid, somewhere that could be reached and not endlessly deferred. I find it odd that Mr. Dark would quote Chesterton to back up his claims, the same Chesterton who believed in "drawing the line somewhere," and who said, "I open my mind for the same reason that I open my mouth: to close it again on something solid."

Of course, the Bible is full of people who had "doubts and honest questions." Just look at the Psalms, right? But then again, really look at the Psalms. Every time God's goodness is questioned or His sovereignty doubted, it was always reasserted by the end. Every time honest doubt was expressed, there was always a return to the sacred certainty that God is who He says He is. That is real solid ground and not just a bubble. But if you elevate questioning to a "sacred duty," then there can be no solid ground, because there is no answer that ought not to be questioned and questioned and questioned and questioned and questioned and questioned and questioned....

If I could meet Mr. Dark, I would actually like to ask him a question:

"To where is your so-called sacred questioning leading us? Where can it go if it doesn't want an answer? Isn't endless questioning without desiring an answer merely babble? Isn't journeying without seeking a destination merely being lost? Are you not opening a void before us, one that can never be filled, not even with the infinite substance of God? You say you want to lead us closer to God, but how can that be possible when all there is is questioning? What's to keep God Himself from dissolving in your acidic doubts? Shall we doubt that He is love? That He is holy? That He came in the flesh? That He is even there at all? Why shouldn't we? After all, the only sacred thing is questioning, which means that the only sacred thing is that nothing is sacred."

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fatal Flaws (an orthodox rebel considers anarchism)

First, watch this video. It's a bit long (approx. 30 minutes), but you need to watch all of it if you're to do it any justice. Fair enough? Okay, here you go:

Now, I'm pretty sure that some of you are feeling the need to beat those kids senseless with an orthodoxy ugly stick. I would ask that you relax and consider something: these kids do have good intentions. Seriously. I don't doubt their sincerity at all. In fact, I greatly sympathize with their desire for real community. As I've said and argued many times before, community is at the heart of Christianity (right up to the trinitarian nature of God), and yet it is something that is sadly lacking from the Church today, at least the Church in the west, which has been diluted and mutated by a mega-church, culture-aping mentality for decades now. If you do not desire real community, then I question your understanding of the Christian Faith, for it is all community, esp. you with Christ and Christ with God (John 14:20).

Still, their choice of anarchism as a solution is...interesting. To be sure, it is not unheard of. There is a whole swath of young Christianity today that is in rebellion of (what they perceive to be) the dead formalism of their parents, regardless of when or where they came from (whether it be fundamentalism's contradictory quirks, evangelicalism's white-washed tombs, or reformed theology's ironic gracelessness). They want a less stuffy and stuffed Christian Faith, one that has elbowroom, one that has room for mysteries and beauty and surprises, for a God of mystery, beauty, and surprises. Again, I sympathize with such a desire, but anarchism (or as they have, not defined it) will not satisfy that desire. I fear their noble enterprise is doomed to failure because it is based on at least three false premises.

The first is that authority (of any kind or level) necessarily equals oppression. While it is certainly true that authority can be oppressive (and who would argue otherwise?), it is not necessarily true that it is de facto oppressive. For example: if you were lost in the woods, would a map be necessarily oppressive because it serves as an authoritative representation of the land? Of course not. On the contrary, you would thank God for the map. Authority can be a good thing (when it leads us in the right direction).

The second is that Christianity is reducible to anarchism. I would very easily grant the possibility that Christianity has room for anarchistic veins or movements. As the young lady in the video explained, there have been such things in the history of the church, and I cannot say that those people were not true Christians simply because they didn't believe in hierarchy or authority. However, for her or anyone else to claim that Christianity (in its truest form) is merely anarchism in disguise is simply being naive. Again, I will grant that Christianity is not less than anarchism, but I will not grant that it is not greater than it. It is a tapestry of many threads, a coat of many colors, and its paradoxical children are all a part of its beauty. The young lady referenced the Franciscans (incorrectly, I might add) as an example of true, anarchical Christianity. I cannot help but wonder why she failed to mention how St. Francis was summoned before the pope and the institutionalized church (a summons that he obeyed) so they could hear him explain his work, and how they approved of and validated that work. I also wonder why she failed to mention other monastic orders contemporary with St. Francis, like the Dominicans (of whom St. Thomas Aquinas was a member). They were certainly hierarchical (even militantly so). Would she say that there were no true Christians amongst their ranks?

The last one is that civilization is the root of all evil. Of all the false premises, this one is the worst because it is (to be frank) the dumbest. Ask yourself: who exactly built civilization? Humans. And who is typically in charge of all our civilizations? Humans. So where does the evil really lie? With humanity. We are all of us (king and anarchist alike) sinners. Sin taints everything that we do, whether it be building empires or starting communes. Yet it seems that these sincere young souls really believe that if you remove the authoritative trapping of civilization (with its evil police and stuff), then you will effectively be free from evil, from sin. It is the same fatal naivete of all utopists: all systems are fallible, except our system. What room is there for Christianity and its notion of grace in such a mindset? It is removed. We will not fail if we just stick to the program.

I would actually love to take this video point by point (i.e., the young man's internalized self-hate because of his inherent "white imperialism," the young lady's constant fumbling with calling God a "he" or "she"), but I will not inflict you with a barrage of my own verbiage. Instead, I would just end with this question, I question I would like to ask all so-called "Christian Anarchists": if authorities (bosses, kings, capitalists, the police, etc.) are all necessarily evil because they are all necessarily oppressive power structures, then what about God? Is He an authority? Our authority? If so, how is that even possible in the anarchist framework? If not, then what is He?

Food for thought.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The End of America, Part II (continued political contemplations by an orthodox rebel)

(Note: Please read "Part I" before proceeding.)

The genius of the founders is matched only by their gamble. Take the wild wonder that is "freedom" and try to cage it in a basic notion of "God". It may hold (and did hold) for a while, but the nagging question still lingers: what's to stop "freedom" from eroding "God" away as well? Honestly, there was nothing. Perhaps a sense of idealism could make one think that all men would all be Christians (or at least theists) at all times, but such a notion is a pipedream. If we are built on freedom, including religious freedom, then God has to be open to dissolve just like any boundaries must be. And make no mistake: He has been dissolved, not actually but virtually, in this nation.

How God has been dissolved is a matter of debate, but I would identify three main dissolvants, which I will list in ascending order. The first and lowest would be the volatile and vocal presence of the so-called "new atheism". Believing god doesn't exist is obviously a means of dissolvement/destruction, but they are not a significant enough presence in this country to be the main means. The second and middle one is what I call the "new deism," which sums up American spirituality. Every poll or survey under the sun may say that the vast majority of Americans "believe in God," but you're kidding yourself if you think they believe in any kind of substantial God, a God that matters in all areas of life, a God of blood and flesh; in short, the Christian God. The God of most Americans is some nebulous power in the sky whose presence is ultimately irrelevant to my life.

If He ever does become relevant, however, then we have the third and highest and (I believe) true dissolvant of God in America today: postmodernism. I know some may roll their eyes at that, but I am afraid that I must hold my ground on this. I seriously doubt any average American knows what that term means (or has even heard of it), but the facts still remain: if you are a child of the late 20th century in the West, then you are postmodern whether you know it or not. You believe (in some form or fashion) that you are free to forge your own fate, your own identity, and than all other notions or claims to truth are simply opinions that can either serve as tools to your own ends or as means of oppression by white males (or whomever your ire is currently directed towards). In short, postmodernism is simply a fact of our times, a fact that eye-rolling does not change.

Perhaps you see why postmodernism would catch fire in America: both are based on a notion of freedom, except that America had a unifying factor for its freedom, but postmodernism lives to destroy all unifying factors. And in postmodern America, our freedom has been unbound, and God has been deconstructed and dismembered. He has ceased to be an objective reference point and has been turned into a divine sounding-board that validates my personal preferences: "Gay marriage is wrong because God says so!" "That's a lie! God made me this way!" / "God is against the greed and tyranny of socialism!" "No! He's against the greed and tyranny of capitalism!" / "God wants you to live right!" "God wants me to be happy!" How can anything be accomplished in such a mess? What use is God in such a political climate as ours? He has because useless precisely because of His overuse: He has become anything to everyone, and thus He has become nothing at all, dissolving away in the acidity that is the postmodern "conversation". It is yet another tragic irony of our age.

This is why America as we know it is coming to an end. This is why the country is "dissolving," why it seems to lack unity and identity and purpose. It is not because of gay marriage or socialism or gun control or some other political bullet point. Rather, it is a combination of two things: (1) our lack of a center, and (2) our fundamentally fragmentary force. To put it another way, we lost God (by our free overabundance of Him) and without Him America will tear itself apart by itself. It needs no other stimulant, no other motive than its own forward momentum. The nature of America is freedom, and freedom cannot help but literally go awry, to fray outward and onward until it unravels everything, including itself. Therefore, God's place as its head was necessarily a short-term deal. It was never going to survive the very nature of the nation. America will end, and it will end because it is America. That is yet another, and perhaps the ultimate, irony of our age.

An addendum to this gloom is required, and I will close with it. In the face of America's intrinsic destruction, what must we do? Here are some things to consider: (1) This cannot happen in a night. The "end" may be generations away. The point is that it will come if we continue on without a unifying factor. (2) A new (or old) unifying factor could save us from our end, but it may be equally devastating (like socialism), and furthermore it will not survive either. If we dissolved God, then we can dissolve anything. (3) The end of America does not mean the end of the world or even our daily lives. The decentralized structure of America means that if America were to completely fray, it would fray into a myriad of new, individual states with their own unifying factors (or lack thereof). I am not saying that these states will be good or bad things. I am only saying that they are the most likely scenario and an intriguing one at that. (4) Remember what I said before: God was not actually "dissolved". A notion, an idea, a phantasmic consideration was dissolved, but the true Almighty remains and reigns. He has been and always will be bigger than any nation's use or abuse of Him.

In connection to that thought, let me add this: I said earlier that biblical arguments were "useless" in political debates. I fear some may think I am viewing the Scriptures in a weak light. On the contrary, I answer that I am viewing them in their truest, strongest light. Scripture is useless in political arguments in this nation, not because they are weak but because they are about things that are so much bigger and greater than any nation. By the very nature of their eternal value, they are necessarily "useless" to fundamentally temporal things. They are true; all else is lies, and lies have no use of the truth. The truth is too strong for them; it either breaks them or outlasts them, and the truth of God's word will outlast the small speck in the whirlwind that we call "America". And this is its truth, truth you would do well to heed, truth that I leave you with:

God is our refuge and strength
     a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth be removed,
     and though the mountains be carried into the midst
     of the sea;
though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
     though the mountains shake
     with the swelling thereof.


The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved;
     He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
     the God of Jacob is our refuge.

 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
     what desolations He has made on the earth.
He makes wars to cease unto the ends of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear asunder;
     He burns the chariot with fire.

Be still and know that I am God;
     I will be exalted among the heathen,
     I will be exalted on the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
     the God of Jacob is our refuge.

(Psalm 46)

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013