Saturday, 19 May 2018

A Second Great Awakening?

The Coming of the Lord

Most are familiar with the historical Great Awakening.  It was a remarkable revival of true Christianity that occurred in the eighteenth century, primarily in the United Kingdom and in the eastern United States.

Now there is talk of the United States being on the verge of another awakening, another Christian revival.  Of course, it's too early to tell.  Moreover, as one church historian observed, such broad and deep movements of the Spirit of God are often difficult to discern at the time.  They are more clearly seen in hindsight.  For example, Western Europe was totally unaware of the thunderstorm which cracked overhead whilst a solitary lawyer trembled in fright in the early sixteenth century.  Yet it was that prosaic weather event which set in train the conversion of one Martin Luther whose subsequent preaching and teaching shook the foundations of a rotting church.  Out of this came the Reformation, one of the greatest revivals of true, biblical religion since the time of the apostles.

Some are claiming to see signs of a genuine revival in the United States.  Once again, it's probably too early to be definitive on such things.  So, we should take the following with a sprinkling of caution.  Nevertheless, there is room for encouragement here.

In the commencement address at Hillsdale College in Michigan on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence told the Class of 2018 they were joining the workforce amid "opportunity and optimism" due to growing faith in America.

"The America that awaits your energies and ambitions is experiencing a new era of opportunity and optimism," Pence told the graduates, according to "You are now uniquely suited, and I believe you are uniquely called, to renew the fabric of our national life with your character and with your ideals."

Pence also tweeted several statements from his address.  "The percentage of Americans who live out their religion on a weekly basis – by praying, going to church, and reading and believing in the Bible – has remained remarkably consistent over the decades, even as the population of the United States has grown by leaps and bounds," he wrote.

"We live in a time when traditional values, even religious conviction, are increasingly marginalized by a secular popular culture – a time when it's become acceptable, even fashionable, to malign religious belief. I still believe with all my heart that FAITH in America is rising," he continued. "Religion in America isn't receding – just the opposite. Faith is gaining new life with every passing day."  He added, "Faith has always been the wellspring of hope for millions of Americans, and from our Founding, faith has been the foundation of our freedom, and religion essential to our republic."

He encouraged the graduates to take their "deepest-held convictions into every facet of your life – and add your voices, and your values, to this new American awakening.  Your education in the liberal arts has empowered you to conserve the foundations of our freedom… and you are now uniquely suited – and I believe you are uniquely called – to renew the fabric of our national life," he said.  [The Christian Post]
What do academics and church historians say?
Responding to the vice president's statement that faith in America is rising, Ryan Burge, an instructor of Political Science at Eastern Illinois University who specializes in religion and politics, wrote on Twitter, "He's not completely wrong. While the number of 'nones' have increased, the percentage of the population who believe in a literal Bible and attend church weekly has stayed relatively steady for the last 25 years," with charts showing General Social Survey data on religious group identification and church attendance. 
And what do the polls tell us?
A poll by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation last year showed that about half of all Americans say a prayer over their food at least a few times a week.  Rural and urban Americans, Northerners and Southerners, Catholics and Protestants, Democrats and Republicans, all say grace, though to varying degrees, revealed the poll of 1,686 American adults.
As noted above, it's far too early to tell whether we are on the cusp of a second Great Awakening.  It was fear for his life that drove Luther to repentance and faith.  As militant atheism and a tsunami of narcissistic self-indulgence sweep over the West, it is possible that many will see only death ahead, and then, like Luther, they will hear the call of God upon their lives:  "Choose you this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." [Joshua 24:15]

When the darkness has been at its thickest, it has pleased the Lord in the past to stretch forth His hand in judgement and mercy.  Maranatha.

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