Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The less God, the more troubled times in our country

After singing ”White Christmas” at the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in New York City earlier this month, Darius Rucker was accused of racism. Apparently a black person mentioning anything white showed profound insensitivity to black people following recent grand jury decisions on the police-involved deaths of two black men. It doesn’t matter that the word “white” in the title refers to snow, not skin color. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if instead of looking for evil where it doesn’t exist, we would begin putting more focus on the other word in the song’s title – Christmas, particularly how God showed His great love for us by sending His Son into the world for our salvation? If we did this, maybe we could begin eliminating some problems facing our country, from actual racism to other forms of immorality. As it stands, though, it seems the more we lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas – especially the root of that word, Christ, the worse things get in our country.

For instance, as we all know, in many ways the word “Christmas” has been largely reduced to a tool for generating profits in the marketplace. Of course that’s when it’s even referred to as Christmas, instead of as “holiday” or some other ambiguous term designed to mean nothing and offend no one, except practicing Christians, maybe. Each year stores open earlier and close later – and are even open on days like Thanksgiving now -- so that material-focused consumers can get their shopping done, while stress levels only seem to skyrocket.

And do people even know why they’re putting themselves through all of this? I recently overheard a young mother explaining to her little boy that Christmas means “presents, and hot chocolate, and snowflakes, warm mittens and love.” She got one part right. And while it’s true and good that this time of year brings out the love in many, say through extra donations to charities and families in need, for instance, if we truly knew the “Reason for the Season”, wouldn’t charities be well-funded all year round?

It doesn’t stop there, though. What used to be called “Christmas Vacation” by most public schools is now “Winter Break.” This is an unsurprising outcome of the precedent set when official prayer was stopped in public schools. Prior to 1962, prayer in school was used in school districts all over the US in many varieties. Some teachers used ad hoc prayers; others implemented structured prayers, such as the Lord's Prayer or Psalm 23. And in New York, students prayed each day: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee and beg Thy blessing over us, our parents, our teachers, and our nation.”

It was this simple, loving prayer which came under fire and went to the Supreme Court for the landmark decision to stop school prayer.  Since then there have been increased calls to remove all references to God not only from public schools, but from the public square in general under the deeply misunderstood concept of “separation of Church and State”.  The examples of this misunderstanding get more alarming every day.

For instance, the US Army recently disciplined a Christian military chaplain for making references to the Bible during a suicide prevention seminar Nov. 20. What does it tell us about where our country is heading when a Christian minister gest reprimanded for citing Scripture? And does the removal of God really help our society?

Since removing official school prayer in 1962, criminal arrests, teen suicides, illegal drug activity, child abuse cases, and divorce have all increased exponentially according to statistics from the US Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the US Department of Commerce, respectively. Is this all just a coincidence?

When God was removed from school, sex education was brought in – with some school districts now targeting children as young as five years old about activities that seem perverse even to adults. Consequently, as the school’s involvement in sex education has increased -- without any firm foundation to discourage sexual experimentation -- promiscuity, premarital sex, and unplanned pregnancies have exploded. In addition, while God has been shunned, moral relativism has been celebrated, and, not surprisingly, when right or wrong becomes relative to the individual, a natural consequence is to self-approve immoral behavior.

Please don't anyone freak out. I'm not calling for mandatory school prayer or a theocracy. But asking if there is a correlation between removing God from schools and the decline in our culture is a valid question that I believe warrants thought.

This country grew to be the greatest country in the world when it operated under Judeo-Christian principles. What’s so beautiful about the Christmas Season is that it reminds us that we are loved by our Creator, and in that love, there is hope – not only the hope of our redemption and salvation, but the hope that we can all come to see each other as members of the same family in God. Maybe for the New Year we can resolve to concentrate on that love of God inherent in Christmas and work toward bringing Him back into our public square, which is sorely in need of His presence. Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a happy, peaceful New Year.

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