A Case For Looking On The Bright Side

Over the last year or so, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern when I talk to older people. If we’re talking about current events, the future, or even the recent past, I usually get some variant of the line ‘I’d hate to be your age today’. It’s an interesting inversion of what one would expect; usually something along the lines of ‘oh, to be young again’, but older folks seem pretty pessimistic about the future. I get it; I follow the news. Instead of gold, our money is backed by ‘because I said so’, and our monetary policy is ‘money printer go brrr’, so the economy’s in serious trouble. Houses are expensive to the point of being unaffordable without going into debt, on top of the crippling student debt that Millenials had to take out for an allegedly necessary college degree. I know I’ll never benefit from Social Security, but I still have to pay for it. People aren’t getting married until their 30s, and then aren’t having kids. People say ‘defund the police’ and mean it, while defending riots by people on their political side. The media and politicians are lighting their hair on fire over the latest strain of COVID in a blatant attempt to keep everyone scared and compliant (notice how they track cases, not deaths), to grab more power. All the while, inflation is getting out of control and the West Coast is literally on fire. In short, I’m getting some serious Barry McGuire vibes here.

As bleak as things look, we have reason to hope. In fact, I think we have a great opportunity to glorify God in the impending unpleasantness.

For some time now, there has been an unacknowledged false god in American society: the government. This may sound like an outlandish claim, since there aren’t any churches of ‘governmentism’, nobody’s setting up altars to Joe Biden, and nobody sings hymns to Congress. At first blush, it seems overwrought at best to say that people worship the government, Anthony Fauci votive candles notwithstanding. It would seem that way, until you consider human nature.

In times of crisis, when they come to the end of their rope, people turn to their gods for help. The Romans made special, and very costly, sacrifices to their assorted gods during crises, in addition to regular sacrifices to keep the gods appeased. In medieval Europe, people assumed the Black Death was judgement from God and turned to prayer and penance. Now, when faced with a crisis, our first question is ‘what is the government’s response?’

When the ‘Rona first started, we looked to the CDC for guidance and dutifully obeyed its dictates. When ‘14 days to slow the spread’ morphed into months of lockdowns, we looked to the government to get us through, and they answered with stimulus checks. Now that we are (temporarily at least) out of lockdown, we look to the government to save us from the economic consequences through money pri- er, I mean ‘quantitative easing’, interest rate manipulation, and other forms of ‘benevolent’ intervention. When thousands of people who haven’t paid their rent in almost a year were due to be evicted for that nonpayment, they lifted their voices and cried unto the government to save them with another eviction moratorium. As another strain of the Big Rona spreads through the populace, infecting thousands and killing very very few, we turn again to the CDC to protect us from the Turbo Sniffles in interviews that may as well begin with ‘Hail Fauci full of grace…’ In short, we turn to the government to save us from our woes.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, in fact it goes back at least to the government’s terrible response to the 1929 stock market crash, which caused the Great Depression. Since then, we continue to count on the government to keep agriculture prices from falling below a set price, ensure that we make a ‘living wage’ at our jobs, and pay us welfare if we don’t have a job. And when we get old, we rely on the government for our daily bread in the form of Social Security. Yes, I went there. Our dependence on the government to provide for us and protect us from shocks and difficulties that come from living in a sin-cursed world is really just a form of idolatry.

The private sector isn’t much better, where people put so much faith in the stock market going up forever that the market is now the most over-leveraged it has ever been. Much the same thing is happening in the housing market. The thought of house prices dropping scares us to the point that the Federal Reserve (there’s the government again) buys massive amounts of mortgage backed securities to keep mortgage rates low, because higher mortgage rates mean fewer buyers, which means home prices have to fall, because of the law of supply and demand. Perpetual asset appreciation is just as much an idol as government welfare.

The impending financial crisis looks like it will be too big for the government to fix, especially given that there is a very real risk that it will default on its loans. The Federal Reserve has already run out of tricks to stimulate the economy, and inflation is already making itself felt. House prices are already starting to drop, and it’s just a matter of time until the stock market crashes. The latest fad version of COVID-19 continues to spread in spite of government efforts, while not actually proving to be as dangerous as they say. Social Security is expected to go bankrupt by 2035. If Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the government will default on its debts in October, or possibly November if they really tighten the belt. Prices for everyday goods are climbing as lockdown-induced shortages ripple through the economy, and gas prices are headed to the moon. One thing we can be sure of: our elites and government officials will be very careful to look out for their own financial and political interests as the economy melts down around them.

What does this mean for the average person who depends on the government to take care of them? It means their god will be shown to be powerless and uncaring. That’s not very fun for them, but it’s an opportunity for the church; if we will hold true to our mission. The church needs to be committed to spreading the gospel to people who are disillusioned with their god, no matter what. That means not replacing the gospel with social work, although helping the poor is a good thing. It means not changing the message to sound good to ‘seekers’ who just want someone to make them feel happy without putting any demand on them to repent. It means staying open if the government locks us all down again to ‘protect’ us from whatever version of the Big Rona is in vogue at the time. Above all, it is a chance for believers to exercise faith in the God who is powerful and does care, even as the world screams for us to be hopeless.It’s also a chance for us all to restructure our lives and focus on what’s really important. It’s a time to remember Proverbs 15:17, and be grateful for friends and family. It’s a chance to build families and communities, as suffering together tends to do. It’s not going to be fun or easy times ahead, but it is the time and place that God has put us in, for His own good purposes, just as He did with Esther. This is an opportunity to glorify God by trusting him and not giving in to the fear. It’s an opportunity to spread the gospel. It’s an opportunity to, like Esther, bring about a better future by obeying God and trusting Him for the results. That’s why we have reason to be optimistic; God is still in control, and He still takes care of His people, even when times are tough.

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