I was listening to a podcast featuring a Canadian evangelist named Carl Teichrib. He was interviewed about his specialty, the changes in culture regarding religion. We have gone in one generation, from a society where all the kids were lined up on a driveway on a Sunday morning waiting to go to Church, to a free-for-all.
Rod Dreher has voiced as much in his book The Benedict Option. It is the question of just what Christians are to do with themselves as we become strangers in strange times. The reality is that we live in a post-Christian era. We are in a rapid descent into paganism as if Christianity never even existed. Young people now know practically nothing by way of Christian religious instruction.
It is not just that people are disinterested in religion, there is a cultural animus against Christianity. Give people a Shaman or a Yoga pose, and they will get all wet in the pants, but hand them a Bible and you will get called names. It should be reassuring therefore, that just as Solomon advised, there is nothing new under the sun. It might be time for some unapologetic apologetics. You know, that exercise where you say what you believe, and why.
Carl Teichrib talks about Oneness Festivals. They occur all over the world and they are a hot ticket item - an odd confluence of technology, music, psychedelics, and a general lack of direction. They are the home of all that vast chapter of humanity who prefers to call themselves “Spiritual but not religious” and does so, religiously.
We should not be surprised. Saint Paul warned Timothy about this in 2 Timothy 4:3. “The time will come when people will not heed sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and collect for themselves teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” In other words people want religion that suits their own purposes and flatters their egos. That is about as much truth as many can handle.
Some modern church movements even cater to this, with the idea that we are all just having ‘conversations’ instead of seeking real answers. For them any old hodge-podge of fuzzy ideas will do, because it’s all a matter of preference, right? Well, until you come to the end of yourself. Then the idea of verities - those foundational truths that do not fall apart when the world does - starts to matter very much.
It is easy to find yourself in the camp of fuzzy religion because it is a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of exercise. The unifying tenet, is that we are all one. The idea is that there is some kind of holy essence floating around in the ether, and you can find it by taking a pill, beating a drum, and listening to some music, kind of like a big cosmic rave.
Sorry kids, this has all been done before. It happened when Saint Paul visited Athens for the first time. He looked around and saw all those cosmopolitan people coming from everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. The one thing Athenians loved, was new ideas. They just loved to hear about the latest and greatest thing. And so Paul obliged them. He stood on the speaker’s mound known as the Areopagus, the place where people who had new and cool ideas could get a hearing.
Paul looked around and saw monuments to every conceivable god that man could dream up. Then he saw a monument to “the unknown god” just in case they might have missed some diety somewhere. “Men (and women) of Athens… Let me tell you about this unknown god, the one in whom we live and breathe and have our being….” Suddenly they were interested, to hear about something new they had never heard before.
And so it is with Burning Man Festival and Carl Teichrib. Rather than hang out a particular flag for his booth, he just made a sign “Camp of the Unknown God”. People flocked in, eager to hear about the latest new thing.
It is astonishing to imagine that people are astonished about the Gospel. It is God’s oldest story going. We are still living it, somewhere on the big timeline. You can get acquainted with it if you crack a Bible. Any old place will do, if you want to do a bit of King James roulette. You can even dive in online. Bible Gateway might be a good place to start. The Gideons International is another ministry dedicated to helping with some of life’s greatest questions.
Let me tell you an old, old story. It all started in the beginning. Its object and subject is Jesus Christ, born as a man, and eternal God. It is a story that could give you some traction after all you have used all the other stories up.
Come over to the camp of the Unknown God. I hear they had to get extra lawn chairs just to keep up with the crowd.