Our New Old Religion

So, here we are, on the eve of history, and I’m just tired. The ads never stop, and – at this late date – they never help. It’s tempting to measure the importance of the election by my dwindling enthusiasm.

But that’s the wrong measure. I was reminded of the right measure this morning while reading about a wise king. This man’s intelligence was recognized across the world; his wealth and power and accomplishments seemed unshakeable. And I suppose they were until he made one choice – which is, coincidentally, the very choice we face tomorrow.

Our nation’s wealth and power and accomplishment seem unshakeable and it’s hard to believe that one choice could sink so large a ship. It’s easier to believe there’s not so much difference between our candidates after all.

But what if there is? And what if, in our exhaustion with this angry election and this dreary year, we begin to forget the one thing we must not forget?

You won’t find his name on the ballot, but this election is about Moloch – the same Moloch whom Solomon invited into Israel. The same Moloch whose glowing hands, still smoking with the skin of the last baby, received another child for sacrifice.

America has changed and our political divisions have changed. The Democratic party has grown far more religious than the Republican party, but it has changed religions. Every single candidate for the Democrats’ presidential nomination swore unqualified support for aborting kids. Every single candidate also voted against (or, in Biden’s case, publicly opposed) the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act of 2020, demonstrating their support for killing kids even after they are born. The Democrats have grown increasingly religious, and it is the religion of Moloch.

The destruction of kids, the rejection of the masculine and the feminine, the normalization of homosexuality – these are not the relaxing of national standards from an earlier Christian consensus. These are sacraments in a new religion that is trying to push Christianity from the public square.

Unlike Solomon, I hope we do not forget. I hope we remember the God who formed us in our mothers’ wombs and preserved our nation these many years. I pray that we push back.

The Sacrament of Remembrance

“Do this,” Jesus said, “in remembrance of me”, and his friends thought he was talking about bread.  But then, they already understood the more important part of the formula – the part that never seemed controversial until today.

Remembrance is the sacrament behind all sacraments, a mechanism by which God does for every man what he did only once, for all mankind.  Israel was led out of captivity in Egypt just once, but the event is remembered in scripture more than 100 times, over many generations.  Jesus was crucified once, but the event is remembered dozens of times throughout the New Testament. 

Remembrance is at the heart of all human experience.  We don’t leap off buildings, for example, and not merely because our previous flight ended badly.  We don’t start the barbeque with dynamite just because that experiment had not yet been attempted in our neighborhood.  We all know what will happen, even if it has never happened to us.  We participate in a network of knowledge that spans continents and centuries. 

And thus, two practices critical to humanity:  First, that we remember things we have not experienced. Second, that we hand those memories on to those who come after us. 

In our generation, both of these practices have come under attack, even inside the Church.  We question the memories handed down by our fathers, though they have been preserved in scripture through 100 generations.  We think orthodoxy a sign of weakness.  Our views of sex and ethics and even scripture have evolved to harmonize with culture.  We cull and retranslate and reinterpret, handing on what we think and not what we have been given.

Our nation is bent and perhaps broken because we have let fall the memories handed down through a mere 10 generations.  We are quick to surrender what our fathers revered, bullied by those who despise what our fathers revered.  Heroes whose images our grandfathers lifted into the sky are, in our generation, pulled down and shattered to rubble in the street.

When we choose to lay aside history or scripture, we do it in the name of progress, because we think the brightest light is still ahead.  But – as the founders of this nation knew – the brightest light is not ahead.  If we are to walk in the light, it will be light we have conserved through remembrance.  The dispute between progressives and conservatives is always so.  It’s not a question of optimism or political party.  It’s a question of where to find light.

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of prayer and fasting for a nation torn by civil war.  “We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us… we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”

And we – even in the Church – are forgetting God, neglecting the sacrament of remembrance.  Our forgetting is a sacrilege, eroding our common ground and crippling those who come after.  It is a moving of the boundary stone, a theft of the light God intended for each generation.

– – –

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you…”
-I Corinthians 11:23

“My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from now and forever.”
-Isaiah 59:21

“Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.”
-Deuteronomy 4:9

The Antifa Bible

I heard a rumor that – just in time for Christmas – a noted Christian publisher will be releasing its new Antifa Study Bible.  Informed by current social themes, the gift Bible includes a flammable, tear-out section containing passages offensive to modern readers.  The remaining eight pages of scriptural quotations, handsomely bound in Corinthian leather, include several words from Jesus, the lyrics to “Imagine”, and a tribute to Moloch’s visionary nexus of fire and birth control.

The editor I reached for comment apparently misunderstood my concern.  “I know, I know,” he said, “Jesus had his racial blind spots regarding ‘Gentiles’, and bought into the misogyny of the whole Judaic tradition, but he did knock over some tables and threaten to tear down the temple.  In the end, I’d say he’s one of us.”

“B-but,” I stammered, “that’s not right!  Jesus didn’t come to ‘abolish the law and prophets, but to fulfill them’.” 

“Oh, I know,” he chuckled, “and we put that passage in the flammable section, of course, but one must make allowances.  I can’t very well sell a Bible with no Jesus in it, can I?”

“But why sell a Bible at all, if the historic Jesus is offensive to your audience?”

“Ah, well,” he said soothingly.  “I can see you don’t understand marketing, my boy.  The churches are full of people who are offended by the historic Jesus – or would be if they knew who he was.  But Jesus is bigger than history.  Nicer, you know.  More symbolic.  His ideals transcend those dodgy old Bible stories and hard-nosed moral platitudes.  It’s like he said, there’s ‘nothing to kill or die for’.  We’re ‘a brotherhood of man’ and all that.”

“Uh, no, that was John Lennon,” I said.

“Same difference,” he said, brightly.  “Look, people really like Jesus, so let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  We can get rid of religion but keep Jesus.  Better still, Jesus will get rid of religion for us, once we cut him loose from all that dogma, which nobody cares about anyway.”

“But he cared about it.  He said none of it should be changed.”

“Ah, well, don’t be too hard on him.  And I admit, his statues may have to come down, too, but let’s give it a year.  Long enough, at least, to get us through this election.”

“What’s the election have to do with it?”

“Those churches full of people I mentioned?  Well, lots of ‘em will be on our side if we do this right, and after that, it won’t matter.  Just remember: Jesus Is Nice.  And that can mean just about anything.”

“Even the opposite of what Jesus taught, you mean…”

“It doesn’t matter what he taught.  They’re not looking for instruction, they’re looking for comfort.”

I hung up, shaking my head and wondering if he was right or if this was all just a bad dream.

* * *

(Note: This story is fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, businesses, or products is purely coincidental.)

The Broken Airplane

I lean over the broken airplane, twisted metal reflecting dim lights from distant hangars. The engine clinks as it cools. My friend, Luke, shakes his head.


Five minutes ago, all was well. And then, as we left the ground, we heard a sharp thump and the airplane darted sideways, away from the runway, its propeller desperately clawing at the night sky. Somehow, she held onto the sky, limping sidelong and tremulous as we circled back to earth, and here we stand in the dark, shaking our heads, taking photos of an airplane that may never fly again.

The thump was a deer, sprinting across the runway. If she had arrived half a second later, we would not have met. But we did meet, and the deer, like the airplane, picked herself up and stumbled a few steps further, finally dragged herself off the runway to die.

As the shock of the moment passes, I begin to ask myself what this means, if it means anything at all. For now, it means I’m largely out of a job because most of my teaching was done in this airplane. It means the loss of a good machine and days of paperwork and email and phone calls. Bad luck, I suppose, yet here we stand, shaken but uninjured. Not dead. Not worse than dead, demolished in some hospital bed.

How many steps do you have to go back to measure your luck? Is it worse to wreck an airplane than to never have an airplane, maybe never to fly at all? Could I even count the hundreds of good things I have received that made this bad thing possible? The thousands of hours airborne in which bad things might have happened but didn’t; the dangers I didn’t even notice; the deer that crossed just after I passed…

I don’t know the moral of this story, but I believe my days are numbered, and that’s a good thing because they are numbered by the one who gave me those days.

* * *

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways…

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

– Psalm 139

– Note: The middle photo is from a flight a couple of days later, showing how little fear deer have of airplanes. The deer that struck our airplane twisted the entire tail section (thus, her insistence on flying sideways) and partially separated the elevator and horizontal stabilizer.