|As I was preparing for Doug McDonald’s funeral service, the family told me they had made arrangements for a military honor-guard to perform a brief flag ceremony to commemorate Doug’s Navy service during the Korean War. I was approached by a very nice man in a Navy dress uniform and we discussed the logistics of the service. He then produced a folded American flag and asked where he could put it on display. He pointed to the front of the sanctuary and asked, “Should I put it next to that book?” |
“That book” he was pointing to was the Bible.
I am not criticizing the young man. Just because he did not know that a large book prominently displayed on a brass stand in a church building was a Bible does not mean he is a bad person.
His words, however, were a prime example of what Anthony Robinson and others have called the “death of American Christendom.” There was a time when we assumed that American culture was basically Christian. Though separation of church and state was the legal standard, the cultural standard was one of amalgamation.
Customs and mores took for granted a basic understanding of Christianity. Even non-Christians could be expected to recognize a Bible in a church sanctuary.
|Because society kept the church propped up, and we in the church gave our children lessons in the foundations of faith, many of us felt free to pursue more eclectic spiritual endeavors. |
Those days are long gone. We could no more recapture that era than we could find a live Dodo bird. Space does not allow me to explore what happened. If you are my age or older, you know this to be true.
Nor does space allow me to examine all the ways we should respond. Suffice it say this: the best response is for the church to go back to being the church. We must re-discover those counter-cultural beliefs and practices which once turned the world upside down.
And those beliefs and practices start with a thorough knowledge of, and interaction with, the words of “that book” — the Bible. We need to engage it honestly as well as reverently. It must be so woven into our souls that it is transformed from “that book” into “our Book.”
Doug and Ellen McDonald were on that transformative road when they recited the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 51:10, and Psalm 19:4 every night before going to bed. Others are on that road when they begin a ministry or committee meeting at FCC with a few minutes of Bible study.
And I am sure I am hearing that transformative process on Sunday mornings when the reader announces the texts for the day and I hear pages rustling as many of you open the Bible to follow along.