(Aberdeen American News--April 1998)
It had been in some ways the most successful society
the world had ever seen. A wealthy society, providing even its
average citizens luxuries undreamed of in most of human history. A free
society, with a centuries-old tradition of self-government. A
cosmopolitan society, combining the best of many cultures. And on
top of all this, a military power: the strongest in the history of the
Peace. Prosperity. Cultural
advance. Strength. But it didn't last.
The economic system began to function very
badly. The society was still rich--richer than ever. But
wealth was concentrated more and more in fewer and fewer hands.
Further, wealth was often accumulated in unsavory and corrupt ways, and
while some were making fabulous fortunes, thousands of citizens were
driven into the ranks of the poor, dependent on government handouts
just to stay alive.
The justice system, once the envy of the world, had
become a system of bureaucratized injustice. Criminals walked
free, while honest people could easily have their lives destroyed by
Morality was falling apart. The society had
once been known for its exceptionally high moral standards: for
honesty, piety, courage, and marital faithfulness. But morality
had all but disappeared. Divorce, once rare, had become the
rule. Sexual immorality of all types abounded.
And, as always when sex gets perverted is such ways,
children began to be viewed as a nuisance that gets in the way of
pleasure rather than as the greatest treasure men and women could
have. Babies were often disposed of as unwanted refuse.
Everywhere one looked, one saw signs of cultural
deterioration. Popular entertainments had become more and more
sordid, and more and more violent. Traditional religious beliefs
began to give way to the most irrational of superstitions. And
while the country had once produced an abundance of truly admirable
leaders, moral midgets now dominated the political scene.
Not long before, it had the best of everything human
beings can create, and yet is was a society about to die--and a society
that deserved to die.
America today? No. Rome at the time of
But in the midst of the all this darkness, just as
those who longed for justice and truth might have been tempted to
complete despair, a single, almost unnoticed event on the fringes of
the Empire offered, not just a glimmer of hope, but a complete
transformation. That event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It could be called the most important turning point
in all of history, and certainly it was a turning point for the Roman
Empire. But the Resurrection is something more than that: not
merely a turning point in history, but an escape from history.
James Joyce once called history a nightmare, and he
was certainly right. What else can one call life in world where
injustice so often reigns, when good is so often unrewarded, where
everything we value perishes, where, in the words of a popular song,
the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep? For no
matter how good and how pleasant a life we lead, the last scene is the
same for every one of us.
It is through the Resurrection we awake from the
nightmare of our lives in this world. Through the Resurrection
injustice begins to come undone. Through the Resurrection sin
begins to come undone. And through the Resurrection, death itself
begins to come undone.
Many Christians today hope for the great religious
revival that will save America, and, if historical patterns hold true,
we are due for such a revival within the next few years. But it
is important to remember that the Resurrection does not and cannot
preserve forever our hopes in this world. Belief in the
resurrected Jesus delayed, but did not prevent, the ultimate collapse
But what the Resurrection promises is a better and
more enduring hope than a revived nation. It opens the way to the
kingdom of life. "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" asked
the angel. The Resurrection calls us from the dead and dying
hopes of this nightmare world to a new and living hope. No wonder
the women went away rejoicing.