Ever heard of Eric Honecker? He was the East German leader (yes dear Y Gen readers, there used to be an East Germany – Ed) who, in January 1989 predicted that the Berlin Wall – that hated symbol of Communist Cold War oppression – would remain standing for “50 or 100 years or more”. It was a time of turbulence across Eastern Europe and Honecker was determined that East Germany would not go the same way as some of the other Communist Bloc nations, such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia. By November of that same year, however, Honecker was gone, and so was the wall, falling less than 300 days after Honecker’s prediction. Which demonstrates that when such things happen they happen quickly. The snowball effect swept Honecker, the wall and communism away in one fell swoop. Who would have thunk eh?
Actually, Honecker may well have “thunk”, because the above quote, whilst a beautiful case of Schadenfraude – a German word certainly perfected in a German experience – is incomplete. Here is Honecker’s full statement:
The wall will stand for 50 or 100 more years if the conditions that caused its construction do not change.
Honecker was no fool. He wasn’t saying that the wall would never fall, but that unless the political situation changed – and he and the Russians were not about to let that happen – then the wall would remain. The conditions, however, did change, and at such a rapid rate that most Germans in their wildest dreams – or nightmares – could not have predicted its demise that very year.
Christianity in the West is experiencing its Berlin Wall moment. From what everyone considered to be a solid base it has crumbled so rapidly that its opponents are delighted, whilst those who based their world on it are either in despair or becoming angry. Many have believed that Christendom would wither slowly, much like an ageing empire that wanes, column by crumbling column, buried gradually by the advancing sand dunes. This has clearly not been the case. At the same time that severe persecution on an unprecedented scale is enervating and dismaying the Church in the Middle East, “soft” persecution and general disinterest is taking its toll in the West. Whilst the mid-twentieth century had its Lesslie Newbigin, the latter part of the 20th has had the likes of Alan Hirsch, one of the more prescient observers of what has been going on. Ten years ago he was saying that the church is about to go through a future that is more roller coaster ride than downhill slide. Rapid discontinuous change would be the order of the day for the church, as much as for the rest of the culture.
Alan has been proved right. And the roller coaster is on a large downward bender at this moment. In all the culture wars of the past 40 years the likes of the Moral Majority and the Religious Right in that most religious of countries – the US – have stated that the judiciary has taken the moral decision making out of the hands of the people. It has blamed government appointees for shifting the culture into a post-Christian setting, especially in regards to sexual ethics; matter such as abortion and same-sex marriage. The Christian nation is being held hostage by the ruling elites.
But folks, 57 million abortions since Roe v Wade can’t be wrong, can they? By that I don’t mean morally wrong, I mean wrong as in as an indicator of the desire of the culture. Supreme Court justices don’t make decisions that go against the grain of where the culture is headed – they simply reflect the future – today! Such elites sniff the winds of change, and then open the door. If no one wants to run through that open door, they won’t, but time and time again thousands have, just as thousands and thousands streamed through the rubble of the Berlin Wall from East to West. The average Supreme Court justice in the US didn’t get to be where they are because they had their head in the sand and couldn’t pick what the average person on the street wanted, despite what their protagonists say.
Notice what I said? People streamed through the wall from East to West. The flow was all one way. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not spell the end of both ideologies in the Cold War, just the one. And so it is with Christendom. Sure you can look at old photos of the Wall, keep a piece of in in your bedroom, re-enact its existence one day per week, and campaign to have it rebuilt, but as we say in Oz, there are two chances of it being re-erected; Buckley’s and none.
Getting the point? Honecker’s statement rings true; the conditions that caused the construction of Christendom has changed, so the demise will be more rapid than we might have first thought. Once again the breath-taking speed at which same-sex marriage is being introduced across the West, and not only introduced, but celebrated across soft cultural power – movies/TV shows etc – at the same time that traditional marriage has been portrayed as deficient, demonstrates that the Christendom Wall has nothing like fifty years left. Conditions have changed – now we need to get used to it.
So, going into yet another year of rapid discontinuous change, how do traditional Christians strap themselves in and hang tight?
Well, the primary thing to remember is that there is one who does not change. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8, c.f. Malachi 3:6). Conditions can change all they like, but our God is constant. That is a terrific comfort.
This is also a timely challenge. It is a challenge to some among the broader evangelical culture not to simply go with the flow. Everyone else is charging in one direction,; many Christian leaders are giving up on traditionally held, historical biblical doctrines for the sake of keeping in step with the times; whilst others are getting angry and obnoxious, like a losing cricket team (the Poms this time thankfully – cricket-tragic Ed) whose only weapon left to them is sledging and trash talk. The challenge is to remain faithful to Jesus because, as we are reminded in 2Timothy2, he is faithful and cannot deny himself. And when he was reviled, guess what? He didn’t snap back. St Peter tells us that Jesus entrusted himself to the True Judge, not the Supreme Court Judge , and that Judge vindicated him. Will some deny him? They have done, are doing and will do (yep- put a hand up St Peter). Will others become faithless? They have done, are doing and will do (take a bow Judas). I’ve mentioned celebrity Christian names on this blog before, so no need to go there again, but the more you are feted around the talk shows as the next best thing, and “the future of Christianity in the West”, the less likely that is to be the case. Jesus IS the future of Christianity and he got crucified, reminding his followers that if it happened to him – and he was absolute love, absolute wisdom, absolute truth, absolutely beyond reproach – then be prepared to take a bath in the public sphere, cos your love-wisdom-truth -beyond reproach-ometer doesn’t quite match.
And lastly, a note for my friends who are not Christians and who often are bemused/offended/angry in varying degrees at my blog posts. I love you! The reason I say what I do say is not to try and take back the culture or put you in your place. It’s because I actually believe that one day Jesus will return to judge the planet, ushering in the true age of Christ that will make Christendom look the shadowy replica and parody it has ended up being in these latter centuries. I want you to be part of the good, peaceable and satisfying reign of King Jesus. Conditions will change! You may not think they will, but they will, so please don’t misread my intensity as arrogance. Don’t be like Eric Honecker who put his trust in the status quo, never realising that within that very year his understanding of the world, the foundations on which he built his life, and the reason he had for living, were swept away for good.