Many claim we need to return to the religious values of our past to restore sanity to our decaying culture. But what if that isn’t enough? What if those values are not what they seem?
Lost and alone in the Maine woods, 66-year-old Geraldine Largay picked up her black notebook on August 6, 2013, and wrote her last entry: “When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me—no matter how many years from now.” Mrs. Largay’s body, zipped up in her sleeping bag, was found years later by a surveyor, her remains only two miles from the well-traveled Appalachian Trail. She was presumed to have tragically misread her maps, making more than one wrong turn (“Lost Hiker Was Two Miles from Appalachian Trail When She Died,” NBCNews.com, May 27, 2016). Every year, somewhere, a traveler’s wrong turn has disastrous results.
Many sense, too, that society itself has taken a wrong turn and lost its way. From how we organize our government, to how we practice our faith, we seem stuck in a continuing decline of standards and morals in many spheres of modern life. Where have we turned off the path?
Is our government inspired by God? Is America a “Christian nation”? Americans often think of it as such, just without a state-established creed. But is that a fair assessment? Consider that at least seven of America’s wars have been fought against professing Christian combatants. This includes the nation’s Civil War, wherein hundreds of thousands of those calling themselves Christians slaughtered other self-described Christians on the battlefield. Might the Jesus Christ of the Bible want something better from us (Luke 3:14, Modern English Version)?
Jesus pointed out that “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight” (John 18:36). Here, the Messiah distanced Himself from governments and wars of this world. Tellingly, Jesus Christ made no effort to reform humanly contrived governments during His earthly ministry. Regarding the plots, counsel, and alliances of governments, the psalmist says, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure” (Psalm 2:4–5). Daniel wrote of a time when “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which… shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms” (Daniel 2:44). In Revelation 11:15, Jesus Christ revealed to John a future time when all the “kingdoms of this world” will “have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” Far from being an “inside” reformer, God seems to prefer starting from scratch.
Why does God include every humanly devised form of government in these declarations, including, dare we say, democracy? The governments of man, including the heralded American republic, have failed. Today we are merely seeing the consequences of the slippery slope man embarked on long ago. The U.S. Constitution and all other human documents intended to guide in the development of just and equitable societies, no matter how praiseworthy their positive attributes, cannot replace the Holy Scriptures in directing human behavior and relationships. After all, “it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). As Solomon was inspired to record in two passages of Scripture, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).
Government is one matter, but are we willing to ask whether even our religion is inspired by God? Is religion at the heart of today’s moral decline? Many conservative pundits would have us reject postmodern influences and go back to the “faith of our fathers.” Others, however, see the problem as a harsh and judgmental spirit that they don’t believe Christ would have condoned.
In any case, we must admit that society’s wrong turn began long before the chaos of 2020, long before social media, and even long before the drug-laced counterculture of the 1960s. The roots of today’s religious breakdown were, in fact, planted long before Christianity ever reached the shores of North America.
How can this be? In the formative years of “Christianity,” dominant church organizations rejected tenet after tenet delivered by Christ and taught by the Apostles and instead adopted expedient teachings that appealed to pagans throughout the Roman Empire. This gave rise to a host of false “Christian” beliefs and doctrines. Christ and His Apostles did not teach a Christmas or Easter observance, an immortal soul, an eternity in hellfire for sinners, or a soul’s ascension to heaven at the time of death. Scholars and theologians admit that all of these beliefs have pre-Christian roots, and that what came to be called Christianity broadened its appeal by progressively incorporating non-Christian teachings and beliefs, as well as by using governments—from that of Roman emperor Constantine onward—to promote or even enforce observance.
Why does this matter? Because the Apostle John tells us that the whole world is deceived by Satan, the god of this world (Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4). If the whole world is deceived, that must include the third of the world’s population that professes Christian belief. Indeed, as Christianity is fractured into thousands of sects and denominations, each vigorously asserting its own interpretation of Scripture, how can they all be right?
And yet, Christ said that He does have a “little flock” on the earth (Luke 12:32). This little flock of true Christianity does not just profess Jesus’ name—it strives to abide by the divinely revealed code of moral behavior (Matthew 7:21–23).
The vast majority of humankind forgot God’s true identity long ago. The prophet Isaiah spoke in ancient times of the human tendency to forget our Creator: “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider” (Isaiah 1:2–4). Paul wrote of this tendency shortly after the resurrection of Christ, saying that while many in his day “knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21–22). As recorded in Genesis 3, at the beginning of human history, our first parents quickly and readily traded truth for a lie. Likewise, within a hundred years of Christ’s crucifixion, mainstream “Christianity” came to have more in common with paganism than with the Bible. As the culmination of that degradation, today’s society is merely sinking more overtly and abjectly into its pagan origins.
Utopia will not occur under our flawed, corrupt human governments. When we get past raw patriotic emotions, we see that human government is failing regardless of which party is in power. Christians as ambassadors and citizens of the heavenly country must “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) and that Kingdom will only come at Christ’s return, announced by the last of seven trumpets (Revelation 11:15).
Geraldine Largay and many others of today’s “lost travelers” will yet awaken from the grave to a bright, wonderful world. There will be a truly “golden era” of peace, prosperity, harmony, and justice. It will only occur one way—under the rule of the returning “King of kings,” the all-powerful, Spirit-glorified Jesus Christ. God has given us a magnificent guidebook in the Bible, much like a map, and He promises that He will yet lead mankind “in the paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3).