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A Pilgrim Thanksgiving

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[H]ere we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:15

Holidays and hardship 
The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us, a time when we are called to think back over the events of the previous year and give thanks for the many blessings we’ve received.

For some it will be a time of unalloyed joy, but not everyone finds it so easy to count their blessings. The past year may have been one of personal hardship and tragedy, a time marked by the experience of sickness or death of loved ones. All are not thriving in the present economy, and many experience anxiety about the political status quo and fear about the future. You can be sure the media will be reminding us that depression strikes many especially hard during the holiday season, and we can understand why this is the case. There can be a deep sense of disconnection between the bitterness of daily life in a fallen world and the saccharine sweetness of seasonal pomp.

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Keeping Our Faith Alive (3)

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[G]uard the deposit entrusted to you….
1 Timothy 6:20a

An action plan
For the past two weeks, we have been looking at what Christians in America need to do in order to bring revival to our shores. We started with a look at a bleak prediction by British poet (and agnostic) Philip Larkin in his 1955 poem, “Church Going,” in which he imagined a future when his fellow citizens would abandon the Christian faith. In his mind, the Church in Britain was a “going” institution, as in going away – fading into disbelief and disuse, a process he viewed an inevitable.

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Keeping Our Faith Alive (2)

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[G]uard the deposit entrusted to you…. 1 Timothy 6:20a

A recipe for revival

Last week, we looked at “Church Going,” a poem written in 1955 by the British writer Philip Larkin, who predicted a bleak future for Christianity in his homeland. He imagined a time when his fellow citizens would set aside their superstitions and leave church buildings empty and ready to be re-purposed or left to fall into ruins. In other words, he envisioned a post-Christian culture like the one we see across much of Western Europe today. The problem is not limited to Britain’s shores, however. That is why, as I explained, I read Larkin’s poem as a warning for Christians everywhere to get serious about their faith in order to prevent the spiritual decline he reflects upon.

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Keeping Our Faith Alive (1)

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[G]uard the deposit entrusted to you…. 1 Timothy 6:20a

Not worth it

In his 1955 poem “Church Going,” British poet – and agnostic – Philip Larkin (1922-1985) tells the story of an impromptu stop at an English church which he made while on a bicycle tour. The first stanza offers his initial impressions of the place, followed by his musings on the future of similar church buildings and, by extension, of Christianity itself. In the process, Larkin represents the skeptical, secular worldview which eventually undermined Britain’s spiritual heritage, creating the post-Christian culture we observe there today.

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Edmund Burke and the Necessity of Good Manners (2)

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Between law and freedom

In part 1 of this series, we saw that a central aspect of Burke’s critique of the French Revolution was his concern that terror had been allowed to flourish because there had first been a prior loss in good manners. Burke believed that manners are absolutely essential for the preservation of civilization.

I think Burke was right. Society, like nature itself, abhors a vacuum. Consequently when a society abandons good manners, the vacuum tends to be filled by either totalitarian tyranny or anarchical chaos.  The social modus operandi which highly developed cultures observe dictates a broad range of behaviors which mere law can never cover. When these mannerly modes of operating are neglected, law attempts to fill the void as an alternative to complete anarchy.

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Our Heart’s Desire

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“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

An unhappy business

In 1749, the English poet Samuel Johnson penned a scathing satire of human life entitled “The Vanity of Human Wishes.” 

In the poem, Johnson sets out to “survey mankind” (l. 2), only to come to the dismaying conclusion that many of the tangible goods men seek to make them happy – money, political power, intellectual achievements, military honors, beauty, and long life – ultimately fail to deliver. The rich live in fear of losing their wealth; the powerful too often become corrupt in their insatiable quest for more power; and scholars often labor hard for little reward, or find themselves the object of jealousy and scorn by less gifted individuals. Military honors are eclipsed; beauty fades over time; and a long life often brings “protracted woe” (l. 258) as our bodies and senses decay, causing us to lose the ability to enjoy even life’s simplest pleasures.

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