On a Friday the 13th in 1307, Knights Templar were rounded up and arrested all over Europe. Many of them were later burned at the stake. Years later they were exonerated of all charges lodged against them. Some people say this is why we think a Friday that falls on the 13th is unlucky. It was certainly an unlucky day in France yesterday. Like our own 9/11, few of us will forget November 13, 2015. The western world reels once more from jihadists' brutal attacks, and reports of this atrocity consume the news cycle. From all reports, about 150 people are dead and 200 or more are injured. Last night France was under its version of marshall law, and its borders were closed. We don't yet know much about the jihadists who committed these acts. It is said that one of them had a Syrian passport. We don't know if they were all middle easterners or if some were western converts to jihad.
Peggy Noonan, who was a speech writer for Ronald Reagan, was on FOX News this morning. The discussion turned to the phenomenon of western youth turning against their own people and culture to join jihad. She said our leaders are puzzled about this because they do not understand the power of religious purpose. Her statement is profoundly accurate. America as a whole has abandoned the idea of religious purpose. Our culture has become so materialistic that anyone who believes anything that cannot be seen and touched and proven by science (or what passes for science) is viewed as backward and ignorant.
Our American colleges have taught our children that there is no God. The earth and its inhabitants came into being by accident - a fluke of nature. We have no purpose. Life is insignificant. There is no objective good and evil. There is no objective truth. We all live out our lives as aimless individuals whose only occupation is to seek pleasure. And when we die, it doesn't matter what kind of life we led because there is no such thing as eternity. Sadly, Europe abandoned God before we did. European culture is sophisticated, cosmopolitan, smart, and worldly - aloof from any idea of God, bored by religion.
The human spirit longs to have a purpose, to be a part of something larger than itself. No wonder some of our western youth are drawn to Islam and jihad where they are indeed part of something larger than themselves and have a purpose - even if it's blowing themselves up. What does this say about the condition of western Christian culture - that some of our young people long so desparately to be a part of something larger than themselves, that they are willing to commit suicide in its service?
I think this is symptomatic of the impoverished condition of Christianity - what's left of it - in western culture. Few churches tell us about the grand epic that we Christians are part of. Some churches reduce Christianity to a rigid list of dos and don'ts with little background as to the wisdom of the dos and don't or how they fit in the grand epic. Some churches are nothing but social clubs that indulge in as much pop culture as possible. Their services entertain rather than teach. Far from being a refuge from the world, they are a magnification of the world. And some Christians, in all churches, just go through the motions for an hour on Sunday, and resume their life of premeditated sin as soon as they leave the parking lot.
We Christians can moan about the world all we want to, but we are part of the problem. Many so-called Christians, including some of the clergy, have reduced Christianity to a myth - just one of many religions - no better or worse than any of the others. But Christianity is not a myth. It is a true story God is telling. Like Sam in Lord of the Rings, we should be asking "I wonder what sort of tale we've fallen into?"
If we Christians don't wake up and acknowledge the grand epic in which we live and teach it to our children, we will not only miss salvation in the hereafter, we will miss the most exciting, exhilarating purpose for existence in the here and now. And we will see our children abandon Christianity for empty, meaningless, materialistic lives. We might even see them blow themselves up in the service of Islam and its false god.