There is a movie called “Frequency” that deals a little with communicating over a 30 year barrier. A son communicates with his father over an old ham radio, but the father had died as firefighter 30 years before. The son saves the dad’s life, but then endangers his mother because of a serial killer. (It’s a long story, so hopefully you’ve seen the movie or will rent it.)
One line I love is the son, now a cop, confronts the serial killer in the present. His plan is to get evidence to cops 30 years before so the serial killer is stopped before his mom is killed. As the son/cop gets ready to leave, he tells the serial killer, “You’re going down, pal. You just don’t know it yet.”
The serial killer had already been caught. He just didn’t realize it.
This may be the case for much of American Christianity. Stanley Hauerwas makes the case in this column.
The problem is that in many ways, especially in my denomination, things seem to be going well. We have some pretty huge churches. We are planting new churches all time time. (We’re ignoring the older ones, but who cares about the old ones? We’re a throw-away society anyway.) In many ways, there were would be a lot of ministers in my denomination who might read Hauerwas’s thoughts and think the guy is off his rocker.
The problem is, we’re dead. We just don’t know it yet. We have created a place that has become far more American than Christian and just because we have certain numbers in place doesn’t mean we have all the priorities right.
That is why in America hospitals have become our cathedrals and physicians are our priests. I’d even argue that America’s almost pathological reliance on medicine is but a domestic manifestation of its foreign policy. America is a culture of death because Americans cannot conceive of how life is possible in the face of death. And thus “freedom” comes to stand for the attempt to live as though we will not die.
The church must wake up. We have bought into the American god far too long.
We are now facing the end of Protestantism. America’s god is dying. Hopefully, that will leave the church in America in a position where it has nothing to lose. And when you have nothing to lose, all you have left is the truth. So I am hopeful that God may yet make the church faithful – even in America.