America in Decline

Yesterday I watched the new documentary, ‘Jesus Music,’ chronicling how these songs written relate to faith, God, and spiritual ups and downs. The genre and growth have radically changed over the years.

It begins with the ‘Jesus Movement’ that began in the early 70’s. Jesus people, also known as Jesus freaks, were disenchanted young people for the most part. They witnessed the emptiness and harm of the sixties sex, drugs, and rock and roll, of which Woodstock was probably the best example in terms of the Cri de Coeur of the 60’s.

Stumbling half-drunk out of a bar one rainy night in April 1972 I walked down a small side street and peered into a window. I saw several long-haired hippies strumming a guitar and singing. They looked happy and the scene was lit up and inviting. They beckoned me ‘come in’ and later that night I ended up praying to accept the Lord in that little coffeeshop in my small midwestern hometown.

Years later I found myself among the young barefoot, shirtless, long-haired men, some with vacant stares from years of LSD trips and drug experimentation. I sat at the feet of a man named Chuck Smith, at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. I was to spend the next 25 years learning from him, as he taught the Bible from cover to cover. He took many years to get from Genesis through Revelation, but his mission was singular and focused. He just taught. His mantra was “simply teach the Bible simply.”

Bands such as Love Song and artists like Phil Keaggy, Wickham, Chuck Girard, were invited to sing at the church. Chuck baptized Lonnie Frisbee, a spaced-out whack-job of a new Christian, to become a pastor to help him as the church was growing so fast people were sitting outside what was first a huge tent and later to become a large church. Maranatha Music was birthed in 1971 and began to record the rock and roll of holy rollers filled with the Holy Spirit. The bands were good, many of the songs came from their secular days when drugs were a part of their gigs.

When it came to baptisms, Pirate’s Cove in Newport Beach was filled with the faithful (including me). Over the years tens of thousands were baptized there by Chuck Smith and his fellow pastors. The ‘Jesus Music’ film shows Chuck Smith and the baptisms that occurred there. 

If 1972 could be symbolized as the left bookend, then 9-11 is the right bookend. Here we will discuss why these two dates were so important.

“The Christian Woodstock”

Expo ’72 was the most visible event of the 1970s Jesus movement.’ It was held in Dallas, Texas from June 12 to June 17, 1972, at the Cotton Bowl. The Cotton Bowl featured bands, well known preachers, and pro players from various sporting teams. Billy Graham spoke on six different occasions. The festival was held on a huge open swath of land just north of downtown Dallas that had been cleared for construction of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. People from 75 different countries attended the event. The event drew an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 mostly young people. Newsweek described the crowds as being “militant Christians.” Featured artists were Love Song, Larry Norman, Randy Matthews, The Archers, Children of the Day, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson.

Following this “Christian Woodstock,” Jesus Music came to be known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). A great many that attended the event went on to become ordained ministers or joined Christian organizations such as Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and Mercy Ships. When I was finishing up my 7-year tenure with Texas Instruments, rather than returning to Texas, I left the company, and they gave me a $5,000 bonus for the work I did in Southern California.  I prayed what to do with this unexpected money and ended up sending it to Mercy Ships in Florida.

Mercy Ships was docked in Florida in 1984, and though they had the people and the necessary gear, including medical supplies, they needed just exactly $5,000 to fuel the ship. Two women from Mercy Ships visited me in California later that same year. They told me the Lord answered their prayer and told them the money was on the way. They just wanted to meet in person the guy whom the Lord used to set their ship a‘sailing to Haiti.

The popularity of interdenominational (or non-denominational) churches exploded, even as the denominations began to suffer empty pews much as Europe had experienced earlier. The study of the Bible became not just paramount, but the primary objective of the Calvary Chapels and similar movements such as Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and ‘purpose-driven’ life. The young hippies who studied under Chuck Smith went on to build large churches of their own. People will recognize names such as Greg Laurie and a dozen others in America, but the Gospel continued to expand throughout the rest of the world and today almost 2,000 Calvary Chapel churches can be found throughout the world.

Somewhat strangely, Chuck Smith never asked for donations, never begged for money. He didn’t have members in the strict sense as he didn’t have a Christian denomination. After much study myself I have concluded that the teaching comes closest to that of John Calvin.

Calvary Chapel holds, somewhat loosely (or flexibly), the following views on the five points of Calvinism:

  1. Regarding total depravity, Calvary Chapel affirms that “apart from God’s grace, no one can be saved,” and that “mankind is clearly fallen and lost in sin.”
  2. Regarding unconditional election, Calvary Chapel affirms that God, “based on his foreknowledge, has predestined the believer,” and that “God clearly does choose, but man must also accept God’s invitation to salvation.”
  3. Regarding limited atonement, Calvary Chapel affirms that Jesus died “for the whole world” and that the “atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ was clearly sufficient to save the entire human race.”
  4. Regarding irresistible grace, Calvary Chapel affirms that “God’s grace can either be resisted or received by the exercise of human free will”.
  5. Calvary Chapels “believe in the perseverance of the saints (true believers) but are deeply concerned about sinful lifestyles and rebellious hearts among those who call themselves ‘Christians’.”

If 1972 was the left bookend, then September 11, 2001, is the right bookend. Following 9-11 another revival took place in America. Americans converged in churches across the country as another revival was unfolding, though this time the revival was short-lived. Michael W. Smith released a choir-assisted album, “Worship,” that interestingly came out on September 11, 2001. He stated that after the choir sang together, they all went to a back room to pray and cry.

Ten Years After this we are once again at a crossroads in America. What happens next will be anything but dull or life as usual. Those opposed to God are growing in numbers and their voices are increasingly angry and demanding we put a stop to Christianity. The remnant the Lord has have become mostly quiet. Social media no longer tolerates Christian posts and I have been thrown off these platforms twice, censored and censured for nothing more than trying to edify and expound on faith and encourage those who may be seeking.

As a nation America is weakening in direct proportion to its apostasy, and as it turns from God our national problems are growing worse and worse. The list of problems is getting longer and the nations who view us as their enemy are a growing number as well. Here are just a few examples that seemingly defy resolution, and are consistent with the history of failed nations that forget that God is our Creator and apart from him we can do nothing:

  1. Daily news has every sector of society shot through with rampant and pervasive corruption. Churches are hiding places for pedophiles and the perverse, and colleges and universities are selling student acceptance to the highest bidder. Businesses have become so corrupt that it is virtually impossible to compete if you choose to do so honestly and ethically. The stories of Boeing and Wells Fargo have become daily fare.
  2. Subject matter experts are becoming a despised group, doubted, and their expert opinions supplanted with conspiracy theories and those so enraged that they are willing to punch a disabled Walmart greeter who asks the customer to please mask up.

    Today groups have banded together and even go into hospital ICUs to urge those dying from Covid19 to leave the hospital as the virus is a hoax. Upwards of 3/4ths of a million people have died in America because we cannot get to herd immunity with so many misinformed and angry anti-vaxxer’s who believe they are smarter than infectious disease specialists, immunologists, and virologists.

    The mob would like to lynch the most recognized leader of the effort to stop the pandemic, Dr. Fauci, calling him evil while threatening him and his family.
  3. Each subsequent war results in increasing failure relative to our military goals and objectives. Today we have a startlingly large number of soldiers committing suicide. The soldiers know there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They know we cannot defeat an asymmetric enemy in places like the caves of Afghanistan.

    We left both Vietnam and Afghanistan humiliated, having lost these wars, and left our fellow soldier-partners who trusted in us, to be tortured and killed by the Viet Cong and Taliban.
  4. Get-rich-quick schemes from meme stocks and cryptocurrency have replaced any desire to find a job and work hard, so many jobs go unfilled. Today we have more open positions than we have unemployed people.

    The stock market has become a gambling casino, and social media facilitates large groups capable of moving any given stock price up or down simply due to the large number of willing and jubilant participants. Zero-commission trading platforms such as Robinhood have created a video-game atmosphere and venue to buy and sell stock as young people are using student loans and money borrowed from parents to bet in the stock market.
  5. Natural disasters are increasing. Drought, heat, hurricanes, fires, all increasing in frequency with disastrous consequences. People simply don’t know what they personally, individually might do as the climate change debate is filled with arcane data and inconsistent opinions, as well as false information and conspiracy theories.
  6. The wealth gap has never been greater as billionaires own most of the assets and over half the population doesn’t have $5,000 for an emergency.
  7. Crumbling infrastructure is evident in roads, bridges, utilities, as America not only doesn’t move forward with mass transportation such as mag-lev bullet trains, but increasingly appears to have the look and feel of a third-world country. Sleeping homeless are hit by trains, new high-tech cars burst into flames, the ubiquitous car keeps people driving from point A to point B hundreds of hours each year.
  8. We are becoming isolated in a world with strong nations such as Russia and China declaring that the U.S. is their enemy.

    Rather than be seen as the model of how democracy, capitalism and freedom can be adopted for the benefit of other nations seeking to become strong, we are today seen as a global bully, corrupt, dangerous with our freedom being used to be wretched rather than virtuous citizens.

    Politics have become divisive, extreme, and polarizing, as populism pushes people toward either socialism or fascism, to the extreme left or the extreme right, and the only product of this populism has been anger and rage, along with the eruption of violent protests.
  9. Our greatest influencers are the actors and billionaires, high-tech gurus, people who popularize hedonism, sex, money and power, fame and influence, as mainstream people are lonely and lost in a world where they see their own lives as so far removed from these influencers that they must be losers lost with no reason to love, as selfishness and narcissism increasingly replace empathy and compassion.

We don’t know how all this will end for America. Will we fail and fall like so many empires before us? Or will we turn back to God, have yet one more great revival, and allow him to heal our sick nation? Many nations of antiquity are nonexistent now, having brought God’s judgment upon themselves for their sin.

Edom (Jeremiah 49:17–22), Assyria (Zephaniah 2:13–15), Sodom (Genesis 18:20), and Babylon (Jeremiah 51) were all wiped out, according to the biblical prophets, for their evil in the sight of the Lord. There remain no representatives of the Hittites (Exodus 23:23), Moabites (Zephaniah 2:8–10), or Philistines (Zephaniah 2:5) due to their stubborn rebellion against God.

Romans (Chapter 1:18-32)

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

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