These days, many American seem to have great trouble with authority of any kind whether it be religious, familial, educational, governmental, etc. Some educational leaders and civil servants have supported this tendency of disrespect. The result of this erosion of respect for authority is increased public disorder, crime, and contempt for others. Those in authority have encouraged this distress because of their own bad behavior. Almost daily in the news are instances of the irresponsibility and hypocrisy of the elite. Rather than encouraging order, they have become factors in the general malaise.
Added to this is the rise of the despisers of Western, and specifically American, culture. While some of culture deserves criticism, the modern critique seeks the dissolution of much that is worthy of our attention and respect. Like the nihilists of Russia in the late 19th century, they would dispense with the past in favor of their own cultural preferences whatever they may be (see John Strickland, The Age of Nihilism). This contempt invites chaos.
The fundamental problem is the growing nihilism and godlessness in our society. Many of us have accepted the idea that life has no meaning. Without God we venture into chaos, moral and otherwise.
How do we witness in this cultural environment? We witness with commitment to bring people to Christ. No challenge is to prevent us from loyalty to Christ’s commission to baptize the people of all nations. The early Christians also lived in a hostile cultural environment. Despite this hostility, they witnessed to Christ, eventually producing an empire officially Christian and a population with a Christian majority. Are there any special ways we should witness in this difficult situation. Yes. Show gentleness and respect. Listen carefully, trying to understand the intellectual and spiritual fixes people have gotten themselves into and provide help appropriate to the specific situation.
How will order return to our society? The church’s part is to call the people to follow Christ. It may be that this will take much time to work out, if Christ doesn’t return before then.
Michael G. Tavella