NEWS FROM THE CENTER FRIDAY DIGEST December 24, 2021 - Money, Jobs, Family, NOT FAITH – the Key to Happiness?

A few years ago there was a PEW research study that reported sobering results concerning the sources of peoples’ happiness. It seems that more and more Americans are listing things other than religion and/or faith as keys to happiness and fulfillment in life. (See http://www.pewforum.org/2018/11/20/where-americans-find-meaning-in-life/ for the study). That’s not unusual in this highly secularizing time in our history. Authentic expressions of faith are virtually absent in our culture whether in the news, in media, or in entertainment. We live in a culture that rarely references the unique significance or distinctiveness of the Bible’s message or the Judeo/Christian worldview, even during the Christmas or Easter holidays. Today, it is rarely noted that people actually, yes actually, go to a Christian church on these days. If you were to watch our movies, read our newspapers, or attend our plays and concerts during these times, you are likely to leave such activities without knowing anything about the real message of these “holy” days (holidays) and why they have been so impactful in this culture down through the years. Though many still profess faith in God, our culture has decided that such things are publicly meaningless or even publicly detrimental, reserved for private opinion if at all.

But this isn’t a devotion; it’s a Friday reflection piece. This isn’t an evangelistic call to learning the art of dialoguing with the challenges of modern culture in sharing the Gospel (that goes without saying). This is an Advent/Christmas wake-up call that there are movements in our culture that would happily silence the moral teachings of the Bible, even the Bible’s “Good News” of the Gospel itself. There are principalities and powers that would like to silence the message of the God’s Law and Gospel so that no one can hear of God’s love and grace (See Rev. 12, Eph. 6:10-20).

In fact, there is an increasingly brazen tendency for Christians to be prevented from sharing the moral truths of the Bible, even the true meaning of Christmas or Easter publicly today. Whether it’s the lawsuits of the not-to-distant past, be they Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. v. Comer, or Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, or Obergefell, or Bostock, et. al, each demonstrate a litigating (not dialoguing) hostility to the message of the Christian Church, especially if it publicly practiced. And (even during the holy days of the year) with a virtual “message blackout” at best in our media and education, or a caricature of the message at worst, one rarely gets to understand message of the Bible on its terms and its fundamental relationship to the notions of liberty, virtue, even happiness, whether temporal or eternal. When the distinctiveness of God’s good news of grace is lost, when even Christmas becomes just another thing “we do,” it stands to reason that many would begin to look for other keys to happiness in life.

Christians know that God engages the world, sinful as it is, to preserve it and to save it as only He can. In fact, Christians know that even religion (our best efforts) itself won’t save us in the end. Rather, this world’s only hope is God’s engagement of the world, preserving it and calling it to repentance through His Law, and saving it through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus ALONE. So, to be faithful to God’s preserving and saving work, we must differentiate them. When the Herods of the world respond to the things of God by abusing their calling (Herod literally killed all children under the age of two as his bloody, power-controlling response to the news of Christ’s birth), we have the responsibility of speaking God’s moral truth to our leaders and our culture as part of God’s preserving work. (In America, we can even put such abuses of power back in their place because of God’s gift of citizenship under the Constitution.) When our culture dismisses the moral truths of God or even denies the created beauty of male/female in His image, we can raise our voice in His name for the sake of all. And thankfully, in a country that honors religious liberty, we can assert our rights and protections to fulfill our responsibility of sharing the whole counsel of God with all who will hear without threats of violence or coercion to the contrary. Two-Kingdom citizens know that we have the responsibility of participating in God’s two-kingdom works of preserving the world so that all might hear of His saving work for all. Why? Because we know that our best efforts (religious and non), even when they result in money, fame, power, or prestige, are faulty foundations for purpose and joy, and, truthfully, they are in adequate “keys for happiness” compared to God’s preserving and saving work for all, present temptations to the contrary.

This Christmas, the LCRL commits itself anew to protecting the Christian Church’s constitutional right to proclaim its message publicly. We are committed also to helping the Church take up its charge to be engaged in the issues of the day for the sake of the culture and for its ultimate purpose of proclaiming the Gospel. For, if the tension of church and state, or the underlying tensions between money and faith as keys to life, are suddenly gone— becoming merely State, relationships, and money – devoid of faith as the trend the research suggests— the freedoms and opportunities that undergird so much of the goodness of this life won’t be far behind. During this Christmas week, we are reminded that the message about Jesus that we so cherish, the one that gives such meaning to life, is increasingly becoming lost in the ever-present-noise of modern life. While protecting our public voice is essential, speaking and living that good news for others is finally what life is all about (PEW or no PEW). A blessed Christmas season, Christmas life to you all!

The Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz is the executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty.

Be Informed

And while we’re on the topic of Jesus being born as a baby for us, stay up to date on the Texas Fetal Heartbeat law.

Be Equipped

Did someone say babies? If you’re wondering where your elected leaders stay on sanctity of life issues, click here to check out their scorecard.

Be Encouraged

 “Where are your eyes today? … Gaze at the baby Jesus in the manger—born into humanity for you. Watch as Jesus teaches, heals, comforts, and calls lost people to Himself. Fix your eyes on Him as He hangs on that cross for you. And look joyfully at Him as He meets you after the resurrection—loving you, forgiving you, and sending you out into His world to share His love with others … Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus!” --Dr. Kari Vo, Lutheran Hour Ministries

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