The last Bond film “Spectre” reduced everything Bond has ever faced to a family feud. If the teaser trailer for the next Bond film is any indication that will continue. Current box office behemoth, “Black Panther” is also a family feud. “Captain America: Civil War” – an internecine squabble. There is a trend in our heroes – it is no longer about saving the world, it is somehow personal. This trend is far more evident in the comic books than the movies, but as just shown, it is pretty evident in the movies as well.
This type of entertainment serves as a mirror of our predominant culture. In modern times we have come to view everything as personal. This extraordinarily left-leaning article I ran across, trying to establish a new movement brand “secular social justice,” is really just an effort to establish “my thing” alongside a lot of other things. The issues are the same as a lot of other lefty movements, but this guy wants it his way – it’s personal.
I am reflecting on this in the wake of the death of the single most significant religious figure of my lifetime – Rev. Dr. Billy Graham. Dr. Graham changed America’s religious landscape tremendously. The massive influx of the para-church came largely in the wake of his ministry, and that played a huge role in the on-going demise of the Protestant denomination in favor of the individual congregation.
I was never a huge Graham guy. Large scale ministry is not my calling; I am about the still, small voice and the relationship. However, that is a personal thing, I will not deny the sincerity of Dr. Graham’s faith, the effectiveness of his ministry, or his massive impact on the nation and the world. But that said Dr. Graham and his ministry, more than any other single individual, embodies a view of Christianity as all about personal salvation. And while I agree that Christianity starts with personal salvation, I cannot help but wonder if in emphasizing that we have lost much that accounts for the state of things we see today.
That said, I understand fully that Dr. Graham intended his mass rallies as starting, not end, points. I know he viewed the altar call that ended every meeting as a jumping off point, not an end unto itself. Yet such is what his ministry, and so many like it, became. I could write from now until I can write no more stories of people I know that said “Yes” to Jesus at a Graham meeting, or any of the countless analogs that have arisen in his wake, and consider themselves completed Christians at that juncture. They never sought more, learned more, tried more or did more. They had their salvation – they were done.
If the point of Christianity is personal salvation then making everything personal, as we have seen is so apparent in our culture, actually makes sense. And yet, making everything personal accounts for the division we see in our nation and the inability to to overcome that division. We now identify rather than convince, label rather than persuade, build fences to protect our personal space where we should have meeting places.
It is a mournful day for Christianity in America and the world – we have lost a giant. We long ago perverted that giant’s vision. I can think of no better way to honor the memory of that giant than by recapturing the whole of Christianity – than placing his ministry in the context he saw it in. Personal salvation starts a Christian’s journey – it is not the Christian journey.