The Obligatory New Year's Blog or Is Ed Rendell On To Something?

01.06.11 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[3]

As we cross the threshold into a new year, there is a tendency to become introspective.  To ask ourselves where we’ve been; where we’re going.  Who we are.  And what we are. 

I love people who speak their mind.  Whether or not I agree with them, I appreciate a person who tells it like it is.  That’s why I had a good laugh last week when Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell said, “We’ve become a nation of wusses”, referring to the NFL’s cancellation of the Eagles-Vikings game in Philadelphia.  Wow.  A nation of wusses.

In some ways I agree with Rendell’s assessment.  We’ve become so concerned about being politically-correct that we’ve backed away from defined roles of gender and social norms.  We’re so afraid of offending someone’s sensibilities that we remain silent when we should respectfully speak our mind.  Our role in this changing world is being redefined daily and one can no longer assume that we’re perceived as the guys wearing the white hats riding into town to save the day.  We force fast food restaurants to post nutrition information in their stores in an attempt to help consumers be more aware of what they eat; at the same time McDonalds and Burger King sell about seven million hamburgers a day and their profits are up double-digits.  We don’t even let our kids ride a bicycle without protective pads and helmets that make them look like professional hockey players. 

I never wore a helmet when I was growing up.  I took a few spills.  It’s called life.  (Of course, some would argue that I hit my head one too many times but that’s another blog…)

I was watching Chief Justice John Roberts being interviewed on C-SPAN the other night and a questioner from the audience asked if he, as the top lawyer in the country, could make sense out of all the fine-print disclaimers found on virtually every product these days.  Roberts admitted he couldn’t and went on to say that we’ve gotten to the point in this country where people are so litigious and companies are so paranoid about being sued that the result is 1,700 word liability disclaimers in 4 pt. type.  It’s like the license agreement screen that pops up when you’re loading new software.  You have to click “I accept” to do the install; but does anyone actually read all 38 paragraphs of legalese just to download a screensaver?    

We often hear people complain about the emasculation of the modern evangelical male; how the church today is being sissified and men aren’t MEN anymore; that we need more burly guys with beards and Carhartts and fewer with Twiggy waistlines and Dolce & Gabbana glasses.  I haven’t seen that personally but a lot of people say that it’s happening.  Plus I read something about it on the internet so it must be true. 

Thus we begin 2011.  Oprah has her ‘OWN’ network now, no pun intended.  Justin Bieber says he sometimes suffers from insomnia.  Poor kid, he’s only 16. What’s it going to be like when he hits middle age?  I don’t even know who the Kardashians are, let alone keep up with them.  Starbucks just announced a new logo design that removes the words “Starbucks Coffee” from their cups.  What?  And if that’s not enough, I hope you’ve crammed your vacation plans into the first half of the year because, according to Bible teacher Harold Camping, the Rapture is going to occur on May 21st.  Better use up those frequent flyer miles.    

A nation of wusses?  Maybe.  A nation that is drifting without direction, easily influenced by the superficial and motivated by self-interest?  Absolutely.  So what are we to do as people who follow Jesus yet live in the middle of all this stuff?  People who want their faith to make a difference and their lives to help bring good news and hope to the world?  We’d better think about it now because we’re only six days into the new year as I write this and trust me, things are going to get a lot weirder the further we go.   

A lot of pastors, theologians and commentators would answer the question differently; everything from defiant triumphalism to the soft-sell “Let’s all get along” mentality.  I don’t know what to make of a lot of it.  But I do know that a correct understanding of who we are in Christ is essential to forming a proper spiritual and world view.  And the passage that the Lord laid on my heart in the last few days is 2 Chronicles 7:14:  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

While that was God’s specific response to Solomon’s request in the previous chapter, I believe that as a promise made by God it is still in effect for God’s people today.  For those of us who claim the name of Christ, we have a calling that transcends our individuality, whether expressed through political allegiance, economic interest or fascination with pop culture.  The calling is to be the people who are called by his name, not our own.

I don’t make a big deal about New Year’s resolutions.  I mean, if they work for you, fine.  Me?  I’ve never indulged.  But it was a little disheartening to read the latest Barna Group survey which focused on New Year’s resolutions and people’s personal growth priorities for 2011.  Only 9 out of more than 1,000 survey respondents – not quite 1 percent – mentioned that one of their objectives for the new year was getting closer to God in some way. 

“If my people…..”

Ed Rendell, with some justification, pointed the finger of guilt at America, calling us wusses.  I think the more important question is, if someone pointed the finger at us, how guilty would we be of being the people called by his name? 


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 01.07.11 Bill Kamberg commented

Profound, Cecil, which is your usual style. Thanks for thought-provoking words.

on 01.07.11 Stephanie R. commented

I really like this, how you point out all the things that we let distract us. I know I'm guilty but it's hard because it seemsm like fewer things around us make sense and what people spend their life on is trivial. I didn't know Oprah had her own tv network - serious? It's like a cult. You're funny but you make some really good points.

on 01.10.11 Sarah Goode commented

You're so right. The irony in modern life is amazing and the church goes right along with it. So silly. And preachers who try and predict the Rapture are just wrong. What about the verse that says no man knoweth the hour? Your blog is very funny but sad too because so many Christians are caught up in idle things.