Our nation has been more greatly blessed than any other nation in the history of the world, and this helps to explain why we consume such a gargantuan amount of antidepressants.
Now before you dismiss that as some kind of November snark line, allow me to repeat the point. Almost one in five American women are pill-coping. And the reason we are so wretched and miserable on the eve of yet another Thanksgiving is that we have more to be grateful for than just about anybody, and have flatly refused to render thanks to the Father of the Lord Jesus for all our blessings, which makes us the biggest ingrates ever.
And a characteristic of ingrates is one that you may have noticed before. Ingrates are simply wretched creatures.
Ingrates Fighting Greedsters
In the meantime, we conservatives are rallying the troops to fight the greedster commies—which could be one of the noblest activities ever—but most want to fight them out of sheer reactionary selfishness, clutching at things we were never really grateful for in the first place, and we are merely clutching at them because the commies want to snatch them. We are that whiney kid in the nursery who despises the toy he is holding, but who gets in a quarrel with another kid simply because the other kid grabbed at it.
We want to go back to the placid days of yore, when we had all this stuff, and the GDP was making this constant, roaring noise in the background, and official people let us take our stuff home so we could be miserable with it there, and mother’s little helper didn’t help, and the shrink didn’t help, and the snotty daughter at Bryn Mawr didn’t want to help, and that’s how rock and roll was born.
Everything is falling apart, and we are helplessly wishing that we could back to the time when we were thoughtlessly creating all the conditions that ensured that we would start falling apart now. In short, we want to make America an ingrate again.
We don’t like how the movie is turning out, and so we want to jump back to the beginning and try again.
Let Scripture Nail Our Sorry Hindquarters to the Wall
One of the first things that our nation should have done—when we started to become the recipient of enormous mountain of Deuteronomic blessings, which was, incidentally, in the 1700’s—was to have recourse to Deuteronomy for a few lessons on what to do and not do. And what Deuteronomy tells her sons and daughters not to do was exactly what we did do.
“Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.”
Deuteronomy 28:47–48 (KJV)
God instructs those who are the recipients of His blessings to serve Him, a named Deity, the Lord your God, with joyfulnes. We were to do this with gladness of heart, and to do it for the abundance of all our stuff. But no. We felt guilt for all our stuff while simultaneously making huge piles of it. In short, we became increasingly rich and increasingly secular at the same time and, land of Goshen, what a mess.
So then, let us discuss the three main culprits who brought us to this sorry state. Those three culprits are pietism, Darwinism, and egalitarianism—and when you combine the contributions of all three, what you get is an ungrateful and very hollow secularism.
And because professing Christians have led the way down this wormhole of ingratitude, we will start with the distinctively Christian contribution to this unholy mess.
The Impiety of Pietism
Evangelicals have concentrated so long and so hard on being spiritual, with “spiritual” being defined as an ethereal and other-worldly interest, that we have cultivated no theology of material blessings. Think about this—millions of Christians, heading into a cornucopia of material blessings, of a magnitude and on a scale that most of earth’s inhabitants throughout the history of the entire earth could scarcely even comprehend, and they did so without their preachers and teachers telling them how to behave while there.
To be sure, there were of course the guilt-mongers, who wanted to hector rich Christians in an age of hunger, but I am not primarily interested in what socialists in sheep’s clothing had to say. I am talking about the conservative pietists, who emphasized spiritual joys, and spiritual truths, and private devotion, and keeping one’s own personal nose clean, not to mention heavenly bliss, but who steadfastly refused to apply the Scriptures to a comprehensive account of how a wealthy society was obligated to serve Christ with that wealth.
And so our wealthy society refused to serve Christ, and turned instead to pornography, drugs, mammon, idol worship, and ultimately to violence. And it was multitudes of silent preachers who watched them go.
When Marx said that religion was the opiate of the masses, he was talking about the downtrodden underclasses being bought off with tales about pie in the sky by and by when you die. But it turns out that wealth has been the opiate of our masses, with a little church attendance on the side, with the pastor of that church steadfastly refusing to instruct the people in accordance with the Word of God. The wealth was the shot, and the little devotional sermon was the chaser.
To instruct the people biblically might incur the charge of theonomy. Someone might utter the dreaded word reconstructionist. Or they might call you a Kuyperian. They might think that you want a second Christendom. And even if it is touted as a mere Christendom, there is still too much of Christ in it. And if there is one thing that pietistic Christians cannot stand, it is too much of Christ in things. Keep it within the conference walls, friend. If you read too much Piper in your youth, and that phrase the supremacy of Christ in all things kind of went to your head, make sure to reel it in. Use it in such as way as to make your private devotional life soar like a bird. Sail around your bedroom, we don’t care.
But what has been implicit in all of this from the beginning is manifest and apparent now. In times like ours, pietism is ungodly.
The Randomness of Darwinism
By using the word plausible in the next sentence, I do not mean to lend any credence to the idea that Darwinism is in any way plausible.
But by presenting the world with a mechanism that would account for the plausible evolution of all the things we see around us—the eagle’s eye! the peacock’s tail! the baboon’s fanny! the snake’s vertebrae!—that mechanism being the much touted natural selection, Darwinism achieved its one and only real accomplishment. The theory made it unnecessary to acknowledge the majesty of God, or to render thanks to Him. Why are we no longer singing harvest home hymns as we bring in the sheaves? Well, science and smart guys at the university have put their imprimatur on our ingratitude.
Paul tells us that this is right at the beating heart of unbelief, right? This is the engine that drives the pagan car down the road.
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Romans 1:21 (KJV)
Notice the two glaring sins right there. They would not glorify God as God, and they refused to render thanksgiving to Him. They did not want God to be God, and they did not want to say thank you. And if materialistic evolution is true, then God is not God, and if materialistic evolution is true, then there is no one there to thank. I can be as ungrateful as I want to be, which turns out to be pretty ungrateful.
And this, incidentally, is where the apologetic mission of the Church should have been the entire time, but for some reason we quit the field. We Christians need to be, in the first place, exulting in the power, majesty, dominion, sovereignty, honor, glory of God, and doing the same with all His prerogatives. If this is one of the things that the unbelieving world wants to suppress, we should be making sure that there is an awful lot of it coming from us for them to suppress.
And the same goes for thanksgiving. Because the unbelieving heart does not want to thank God for anything, we should be making a point of thanking God for everything. Always and for everything giving thanks (Eph. 5:20). For what? For the way wheat turns into biscuits. For the noise of a lawnmower three houses away. For the size and taste of grapes, the purple ones. For the gracious lines of a woman’s neck, running up to her ear. For waves on the Oregon coast. For a wood fire in late autumn. For warm socks. For turkey and gravy, and all the trimmings. For the way intelligent design runs through absolutely everything.
But it is not all Norman Rockwell, although we are thankful for him too. For dragons to fight. For lies to resist. For towers to topple. For unbelief to persuade. For evangelicals to get saved. For Reformed churches and seminaries to reform.
And if we preach and declare the sovereignty of the great Designer of all things, and if we express our gratitude for all things to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, doing so exuberantly, we might live to see the day when Darwinism disappears in a hot, little grease fire.
The Incoherence of Egalitarianism
And so now the third co-morbidity, egalitarianism.
All of these problems actually go back to a rejection of the twin doctrines of creation and providence. Pagans reject them outright, while Christians reject them by means of intricate theological maneuvers.
But if God created the cosmos, and He did, and if God was not in any way lessened by that act of creation, and He was not, and the very first thing we should learn from the creation of heaven and earth is the fact that ultimate reality is not a zero sum game.
And zero sum thinking is at the very center of every form of egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is driven by envy, and envy is driven by the fear that anything “more for him” necessarily means “less for me.” The world around us is a giant pie, and it stands to reason that if he gets a bigger piece of pie then that means that less is available for the rest of us.
All the deadly isms depend upon this fatal mistake. There can be a limited range of situations where zero sum thinking is valid—more Olympic medals for him means less for his competitor—but the wealth of the world generally does not operate that way. God created a world in which graces and blessings multiply, which is another way of saying that the pie grows. When He created the world, that did not mean less for Him, or less of Him. He is self-sufficient, and open-handedness is not the way of depletion, but rather the way of abundance.
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
2 Corinthians 9:6 (KJV)
So someone else is rich, and you are not? He is not wronging you. Someone else is a man, and you are a woman? He is not wronging you. Someone else comes from a class that has had historic privileges? He is not wronging you. You can multiply examples, and it will always come out the same. Thanksgiving for what you actually have is the key that will release you from the dungeons of carping ingratitude.
All Three Together
So for us as American Christians, Thanksgiving needs to be season of repentance. We need to repent of the pietism that revs the engine of God-exalting worship, but with the clutch always in, carefully in. We need to repent of our solemn acceptance of Darwinian absurdities. And not only have we accepted Darwinian absurdities, we have actually done it in the name of intellectual rigor. In the name of not checking our brains in at the door of the church, we have checked our brains in at the door of the academy. Falcons are a random feathery biomass that learned how to fly and hunt because of random blind mutations down in their DNA started groping around? This is a joke, right? And we need to repent of our gnawing envy, our leveling envy. We need to stop envying those people who understand what a zero sum game is, and who know why that knowledge is so important.
But, as it turns out, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. That means that we have an opportunity to correct some things. Quite a few things actually.
Today’s NQN Giveaway
The giveaway today is Joy at the End of the Tether, my commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes. The link is here. The sermon series that led to this book was one of the more significant milestones in the history of our church.
The vanity of all things under the sun is actually a gift. It is a grace to be received, and to be received with joy. This is not a book of existentialist despair, somehow included in the Bible, but rather a handbook of joy, tailored for those who would be wise in a fallen world.