Fresh out of college in the mid-1970s, I envisioned a more enlightened world in the not-too-distant future, a world in which political divisiveness would be minimal.
Why the optimism? For almost three years, 40 hours a week, I sat in front of a computer that symbolized to me a coming wired world in which vast amounts of knowledge would be readily accessible to everyone, knowledge that would bring widespread consensus on issues and challenges facing humanity.
I was right about the knowledge thing, but I sure messed up on consensus.
Instead of cyberspace bringing us together, we have grown increasingly divided. Many Americans use the internet not to find greater truth but merely to dig up support for whatever they wish to believe. It doesn’t matter that the best-informed among us (scholars, scientists, doctors, other trained professionals, etc.) may hold a definitive view on a given topic; those who choose to believe otherwise can readily reinforce their opinions by cherry-picking boatloads of information dispensed by biased charlatans who take an ounce of truth, mix it with pounds of half-truth and falsehood, and offer it as whole truth in their online echo chambers. Voila! Half-wits looking like the wise men.
Alas, my fellow Christians seem to be front and center in embracing such bilge. For example, when it comes to half-baked nonsense, conspiracy theories and demonstrable lies trotted out by President Donald Trump and his enablers, Christians’ strong five-year backing of Trump suggests that it is Christians themselves about whom the Apostle Paul wrote: “After their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3,4.)
Closer to home, with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among Trump’s biggest supporters, it is hardly surprising that the Trump era has not been good for our LDS numbers. The church’s annual growth rates have fallen to their lowest levels in eight decades. This was unexpected, as it has occurred at a time when the church’s missionary force is much larger than in the past.
Question: Does the Lord have an opinion about professed disciples who support immoral, lying crooks like Trump?
So how do we reverse this divisive trend that has been so bad for America and organized religion? There seems to be virtually no hope that politicians will do anything. Perhaps the answer lies with religion itself.
Historically, religion has gone through periods of faith alternating with periods of apostasy. The current Christian embrace of a corrupt, fascist gasbag points to apostasy. What shall Christian leaders do? They could do what Christ and past prophets did: Demand repentance and living the gospel. The gospel? That would be love one another, peace on earth and truth (not fables). Plus, give up the us vs. them mentality.
With the time for New Year’s resolutions fast approaching, it’s high time for churches to resolve to embrace the true gospel. Otherwise, the drop-off of Christianity is well-deserved, just beginning and worth praying for.