Constant change points us to Advent

Please get a cup of coffee or tea and slowly read this article from Dr. Dan Scott. Dan is a great thinker on culture and Christianity, and his recent article to the Wilberforce Society was so insightful I want to share it with you. Dan is an impactful mentor and dear friend to me.


From Dr. Dan Scott
November 22, 2022

Dear Wilberforce friends, 

In 1970, Alvin Toffler wrote a bestseller, Future Shock. The book’s premise was an allegory about the challenge of dealing with rapid change.  Toffler begins the book talking about culture shock, the psychologically dislocating process through which human beings adapt to a change of culture. 

When one moves to another country, the first weeks are usually exciting. We feel like we are on an adventure. We are more than tourists, but not yet residents. We learn many new phrases in a new language. We eat new foods. We may even wear different clothing. For many of us, that is extremely exciting. 

After a couple of months, the adventure sours. We want to eat things from home we never even liked before. We realize that even if we are speaking the new language, we are engaging in glorified baby talk. We begin to meet people who do not want us in their country. If we cannot go home, we plunge into deep despair. 

If we persevere a year or two, we experience something else: we begin to feel at home. We have begun to adapt. Our language skills improve. We make new friends. We become a bicultural person. 

Now, were we to return home, we would find ourselves altered. The people of our home country will now notice some odd traits we have picked up. We may pronounce some words of our native language a bit differently. Some of them will not like the changes we have made. We will begin to feel “neither here nor there; neither this nor that.”

Toffler’s brilliant insight in 1970 was that soon, people who did not travel away from their native town would begin to move through a process very similar to culture shock. Only in this case, it would be one’s native culture that would change. Of course, cultures always change. The difference would be that change that once occurred over a century would happen in a decade. Then, the pace would pick up to radical change every five years. Then two years. 

People would experience “future shock,” the inability to adapt to one radical change before facing a new wave of change. Adaptation would become continuously incomplete. 

I think this book was one of the most prophetic pieces of all time. It accurately described a previously unheard-of societal condition to which nearly all of us can relate. 

At nearly every level – social, political, technological, and religious – future shock leaves many of us dazed, confused, and irritated. 

The answer is to ground ourselves in timeless things. That doesn’t mean we will not experience future shock. It just means that underneath all the change we will feel the solid foundation on which we stand. Of course, nothing in the universe is timeless. To find timeless things, one must transcend the visible, temporal plane. One must enter the company of God the judge of all and “the spirits of just people now made perfect.” 

Spiritual practice is the habit of routinely, habitually, turning our awareness to our eternal place and state.  Strangely enough, healthy spiritual practice does not make us irrelevant or weird. We still pay our bills and enjoy ballgames. We participate in the temporal world because that is where we are living now. However, we are aware that neither here nor now is the full picture. History is headed somewhere good – the Kingdom of God. The flow of life is guided by the wise and good Creator of all things. The tide of time moves us Godward. 

This past week, many of us lost another person known and loved by our community. Little by little, the community as we knew it shifts. We want at least our own little world to remain stable and unaltered. However, we look around and realize that so many have already moved into eternity. Piece by piece, our familiar world, like a great kaleidoscope keeps moving and we fear that soon we may not be able to discern the features of the familiar even there.   

It can be quite upsetting. We are tempted to become despondent, angry, even embittered.

Then we look ahead: Advent is coming. We will enter the joys of that past generation which in their own bleak midwinter had, like many of us, lost all hope. Then, a star and a baby revealed the glory of God that was about to break into the darkness. 

I founded Wilberforce to address some of the spiritual needs that I felt around me. Then, the world changed. And changed again. I have continually asked the Lord what to do. But all I get is the words of an old song: “Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God’s unchanging hand.”

As we met to thank God for Daniel Bell’s life (the member of the community to which I referred above), we told stories about the past. We touched one another and remembered good times. Finally, we gathered around that Table where past, present, and future all converge into timeless space. At the thin veil between here and there, now and then, we met God, holy angels, and the saints – including people we once knew that were not yet ‘saintly.’ 

Then, we walked back into a time and space that had, once again, changed. 

Alvin Toffler had no answer for future shock. He anticipated endless social unrest and irresolvable psychological dislocation. All of that has unfolded as he predicted for everyone who belongs only to their own time and space. 

For those of us who, amphibian-like, have become spiritually bicultural, future shock is only part of the picture. The other part preserves, heals, and completes everything we have ever known that has been true, good, and beautiful.  

So, lift up your hearts! Every morning and every evening. When the journey gets long and weary, look at the star that never fails to lead us home. 

Keeping touch with Eternity,

+Dan

China and the Liberated Spirit

Beijing, China, November 27, 2022
Photo by Thomas Peter/Reuters

In the last few days, protests have happened in China over COVID restrictions, among other things. It seems like things have settled with looser rules in the last few hours, but I greatly hope the protesters in China are the front end of a liberated spirit that will resist government overreach. If reports are accurate that children are taken from their parents to confine COVID, that is an assault against the most basic human instinct to care for one’s child.

In every culture, self-determination and family welfare cannot be repressed indefinitely because those qualities reflect the character of God. I pray for the Chinese people.

May politics lead us to prayer

Many of us are in different places in the political process. My youngest son voted for the first time yesterday, and he is engaged now with the process and results in an entirely new way. It’s refreshing to see him discover first-hand our unique system of government. Others disillusioned by the current political climate may have voted dutifully while wrestling with cynicism. Many did not vote at all.

Regardless of where you may be on the political process, here are some facts for consideration:

  1. Civic decisions will be made by those in power regardless of my posture towards politics.
  2. Since politicians will continue to make decisions regardless of my attitude towards them and their role, it is a good thing for quality Christian candidates to run for political office.
  3. We are called by Scripture to pray for all government leaders despite our posture towards them. So irritation we may feel towards a politician is an opportunity to pray for them. Any unhealthy adulation of a politician is also a call to put Jesus first through prayer. If we are too enamored with a politician, we need to seek the Lord for our potential idolatry.

Through these opportunities to pray, let politics lead you to spiritual formation.

The passing of Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth’s passing today reminds us that when used to serve, tradition adds stability and dignity to our human experience. While the monarchy is an outdated institution in our modern republics, its evolved, mostly symbolic role gives Americans a connection to our past. 

My Allison family branch came from England in 1658, so I take an ancestral interest in the story of this English throne. It will be an interesting few days of reflection for Americans as we have a variety of responses to this historic shift. 

The way of Jesus is the answer to violence

What is the answer to the violence of our culture? There are so many fronts to discuss you would not have time to read a lengthy post from me.

Earlier this week, I read about the Messiah, sent “to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79).” Jesus, you are more than our crutch to cope with evil. Jesus, your way will guide us to peace for this world.

May the work of Jesus destroy the iniquity in me and the wickedness in our world. His power is transformational to overcome violence heart by heart.

Lessons from the Mask

I hope that the era of the mask debate has ended in the United States. I appreciate people who choose to wear a mask out of concern for the potential spread of disease. I find it helpful when others use the mask as a physical symbol they are ill, and it may be good to continue these practices voluntarily.

However, it is not the government’s role constitutionally to require medical intervention or preventative acts. I hope the government mandates we experienced in 2020-2022 become a short-term learning experience of what not to do. The government can encourage, promote, urge, and provide medical masks. Our tax dollars pay for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the research and recommendations they offer, but it is not in their authority to create requirements.

Should you wear a medical mask in the future? Maybe, but it should be up to you.

___________________

Picture description: A passenger prepares to board a flight departing Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on March 15.
John Moore/Getty Images North America

Good news for America

For those who dare accept it, I have positive news. I recognize that media outlets and religious leaders are stoking fear, distrust, and hidden conspiracies. While that is one lens to see the world, there is another perspective I want to suggest. Good things are happening during our lifetime!

  • Diseases are being cured.
  • Life expectancy is increasing.
  • Roe vs. Wade is on the verge of being overturned.
  • Unemployment is at a record low.
  • Religious liberty has been widely upheld in the courts. 
  • The federal government supported churches and religious institutions with the PPP of 2020 and 2021. 
  • Home values are increasing.
  • Mass gatherings are occurring without required masks. 
  • So far, America is not being drawn into foreign wars. 

Now, there are many things I am concerned about – medical ethics, inflation, the value of the dollar, a porous southern border, affordable housing, health care access, the misuse of executive orders, and federal overreach – to name a few. There is much concern, but there are also reasons to give thanks.

The world is falling apart. The world is advancing. 

You can choose either tune to be the soundtrack of your life. Scripture teaches us that sin and evil are present in this world and increasing in many. Yet, Scripture teaches God’s victory over sin, and He is redeeming the world for His purposes through the church.  

Try positivity – you may like it! 

Gas prices are a big deal

Globalization can be our friend. Globalization can be our enemy.

The current record-high gas prices result from an economy of interdependent nations. There are many benefits to globalization; until a crazy dictator commands an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation. The energy supply from Russia, much of which traveled through Ukraine, is threatened by war and sanctions. Consequently, gas prices in the United States soared.

I have always believed that gas prices significantly impact a consumer economy. Gas prices should climb higher in the coming days, especially with President Biden’s announcement to embargo Russian oil. So, we will see how Americans respond to $5 / gallon gas, another component of inflation. Will our habits change, or will those who can adjust their personal budgets to the increase? Will higher gas prices reduce spending? If it does, how long will an economy based on spending function highly with limited revenue?

The next time you fill up on gas, say a prayer for our nation. The development of record-high gas prices may end up a significant story in our lives.