Keep Being WEIRD
by David Dahl
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Ken Kuhn, our Church Council president, pointed me to a concern that’s been on my mind ever since. As we’ve trudged through COVID and social upset, church membership in the United States has dropped below 50 percent for the first time in 80 years, according to Gallup. Through the 20th century, membership in churches, synagogues, and mosques hovered around 70 percent. Beginning around 2000, however, membership began to drop rapidly, finally reaching 47 percent in 2020. The trend is continuing downward.
KEEP READING, as this is not the end of story. . .
I read an article that mentioned the work of Joseph Henrich, chair of the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University (With a title like that, he has to be smart!) He argues that Christianity has made whole sections of our planet WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. Here are some illustrations of “weirdness” that Henrich points out:
• Christians didn’t allow cousins to marry
• The Christian value of work fostered trade guilds and the freedom to sell one’s wares outside of the family clan.
• Christians continue to encourage people to read in order to encounter the Bible for themselves. This drive has caused literacy rates to rise across the globe.
• The concepts of universal human dignity and human rights have changed the face of justice and government.
Henrich makes a huge point: Our “modern” culture accords the above progress to the progress of human nature, and NOT the result of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. So here’s the question: Has our “WEIRDness” as the result of following Christ been our undoing?
The Devil has been hard at work convincing the world that Christian beliefs are somehow universal – that respect, mercy, education, social order, defense of human rights and the like is just something progressive human beings normally do – without God. I beg to differ.
Human beings are sinners. Without a connection with God, we quickly turn to the worship of power for it’s own sake. We see this repeated in recorded history. We see this in so many stories in the Bible.
Add to that, we Christians are now becoming identified as an obstacle to the very values we fostered as followers of Jesus. And the Devil is in the details. What is a Christian to do??
Keep following Jesus – even if it means being WEIRD.
There are a number of us who have fostered or adopted children. A number of you continue to support efforts like Compassion International. You work in hospitals. You read to kids. You’re teaching Sunday School and fostering their connection with God. You help distribute food and clothing. You’re helping combat homelessness and domestic violence. You’re committed to building businesses to provide a livelihood for you and others, and more and more. You are seeking the good of the whole community and not just your own interests.
Here’s some more profound things you do: You set another place at the table for a guest. You care and sacrifice for those who are suffering. You even dare to love your enemies. Jesus has made that much of a difference in your life!
BE ENCOURAGED! Paul writes, Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21). When we obey the truth of Jesus Christ risen from the dead, God continues to empower us to bring an amazing amount of change through very ordinary people in spite of the circumstances. We also begin to understand that the culture war is not won only by arguments but through Jesus-led acts of love.
Keep it up! Follow Jesus, even if it means being WEIRD. Let us all Keep and Live the Faith!
-Pr. David G. Dahl
August 19, 2022
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