I’m a band mom. If you are one too, you know that means coughing up a lot of money so that your child can participate. It also requires a lot of personal involvement. Marching band camp, Gatorade, sore feet, sweaty laundry that smells like goat, and extensive complaining hog up summers that were supposed to be idyllic and spent by the pool. Fund raisers for outrageously expensive cookie dough, car washes, candles, butter braids, and march-athons are subsidized by parents who are too horrified to ask friends and family for money when we know it’s tight right now for everyone. There is no way to limit band from controlling the first semester of each year. Oh, and there are concerts, lots of them!
At Christmas, I mean Kwanzanukahmadon (also known as ‘Festivus for the restofus if you’re a Seinfeld fan), I was irritated to be sitting in yet another concert and insulted to have been charged $20 to finally see what all of our family money has been going towards. It was hot, the seats were uncomfortable, and I was praying (yes in a public building no less) that it would be over sooner rather than later. For two hours, my ears were assaulted by a band that has a very high opinion of itself. However, I can report that on more than one occasion, it sounded more like a cow was dying somewhere rather than a practiced symphonic band. So I fixed a polite, “I am thrilled to be here” look on my face, gritted my teeth, and willed myself through the two hour long event.
I was saddened. We heard music from the Sioux tradition which was a song called “Make Peace, Not War” and had a theme that was far more 1960’s hippie than Sioux (who were known for being one of the fiercest, fightingest tribes). We heard music based on ancient Hebrew and there was some animated movement with little finger symbols. Students performed non religious Santa oriented songs. I hoped to hear about the birth of Christ! My soul was longing for Christmas not to be diluted in a sea of tolerance. Finally, a senior stood up to deliver her performance, her final senior project. The choir director took the microphone and issued the only disclaimer I heard the entire evening. “This song entitled Mary Did You Know was chosen by this student as her personal senior project.” Finally, the audience heard a song about Jesus!
A few days later, I was reading in Acts 17. Paul had been to Thessalonica, Berea, and finally Athens. As Paul was waiting on his friends, the Bible says ‘his spirit was provoked within him because he saw that the city was given over to idols.” (v16) Then Paul did what he always did. He went to the Synagogue and to the marketplace. He reasoned with people of the faith community and with others as they happened to be there. At some point, he caught the attention of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. During that time in history, these two schools of thought were the predominant philosophies. Epicureans did not necessarily believe in an afterlife although they did believe in gods. They sought to achieve happiness in the ‘here and now’ through contentment, friendship, and pleasure. Stoics were pantheistic and believed in living a virtuous life but that sin was the result of ignorance not evil or ill will.
Paul, being the extremely well educated man that he was, evidently impressed them and so he received an invitation to the Aeropagus, which was the earliest aristocratic council of Athens. Men sat and exchanged ideas with one another; this forum was where men of intellect, status, and learning went to see and be seen. It is apparent that Paul jumped in with both feet: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious, for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” Then and there, Paul preached to them about this God of whom they had never heard. My favorite part is when Paul says, “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…” From that moment on, Athens had knowledge it had never before possessed and the match of faith, the light of Christ, was ignited in that region.
Upon reading this passage, reality slammed into me. We in America have been told about the Great I Am. We have cut our teeth on the song “Jesus Loves Me!” As a rule, Christ is not unknown to us. Instead of having an altar to an unknown god, our society is busily demolishing altars, crosses, and monuments to the one true God. The God we already know! And simultaneously, we are erecting altars to gods whom we do not know and embracing philosophies whose costs will not be estimable until we reach eternity.
There’s a proverbial saying, “better the devil you know than the one you don’t.” I look at how as a nation we are apologizing for our belief in Christ and our history of Christianity. I can only wonder, why would we pick and/or prefer another? Matthew 11 promises,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Why would we apologize for a faithful God who loves us so dearly and who longs for us to find rest for our souls?
I always tell my children, “There are two ways you can do this. You can pick the easy way or the hard way.” In America, it seems that we are, in fact, picking the hard way. Attrition, which is the act or process of weakening and gradually defeating an enemy through constant attacks and continued pressure over a long period of time, is eroding the identity and history we had as a God fearing nation. It saddens me to see our country rolling over in defeat as though godlessness or pantheism is somehow a foregone conclusion. What a tragic shift of sinful paradigms brought us from Athens, where God was introduced to a society that thought of itself as illuminated and forward leaning, to America where any reference and commitment to Jesus Christ immediately marginalizes the believer to a shallow gene pool occupied by less evolved, under educated ingrates.
Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever He has not changed. It is you and I and our society who have changed. As a whole, we are religious. The name of our new church is ‘tolerance,’ which doesn’t mean treating each other as people who are equal, have equal value, and are made in God’s image. Instead tolerance means that all ideas and faiths (with the exception of Christianity because that is politically incorrect and passe) are equally valid and have equal merit, even when they don’t. And building a house on that sand is not a house that I want to live in.