Here’s a question for you: which of the following two statistics, each indicative of the apostasy engulfing our nation, is more disturbing?
A) Over the last 14 years, 11% of Americans have abandoned Christianity — 35 million people in terms of the US population level in 2017.
B) 72% of the American people as of 2017 identify as Christians, yet 73% believe that divorce is morally acceptable, 69% believe that extramarital sex is morally acceptable, and 63% believe that homosexual relations are morally acceptable. (I could add that a staggering 91% believe that birth control is morally acceptable, but despite the seismic spiritual, cultural, and existential consequences of that fact, it would nevertheless shock precisely no one. In fact, I’m surprised that there are still 9% of Americans who question the idea at all.)
But despite the very grim picture of the apostasy painted by these statistics, and despite the profound co-suffering grief that all of us should feel for our fellow Americans, there is nonetheless a unique and salvific blessing hidden behind all the tragedy and absurdity of the modern world. In the words of Fr. Seraphim (Rose):
The true crisis is now, as it has ever been, within us; it is our acceptance or rejection of Christ. Christ is our crisis; He demands from us all or nothing, and this ‘problem’ He presents us is the only one that need be answered…. Do we choose God, Who alone IS, or ourselves, who without God are nothing?—this is our only choice. Our age would have us deny, forget, neglect the question; and this is to choose ourselves, nothingness, the abyss, Hell. Our age is founded on nothingness; but this nothingness, inexplicably to us, presents, for those who can still perceive, the crisis of all men in all ages most clearly and unmistakably. Our age tells us, if we can listen, to choose the living God.
Those whose hearts yearn for truth, goodness, and beauty — those whose hearts yearn for Christ — can no longer find any rest in the empty ruins of a shattered Christendom. The glittering facade of a false, comfortable and worldly pseudo-Christianity can no longer pretend to satisfy their souls. For many centuries the beauty of Christendom lingered on in the West even after men’s faith had died, but that beauty has long been hollow, and now is finally fading away. It has left behind a world of pain and emptiness — there is a reason why America, Canada and Western Europe consume 95% of the world’s opioid supply. As St. Augustine wrote many centuries ago in his Confessions: “For whithersoever the soul of man turns itself, unless toward Thee, it is riveted upon sorrows, yea though it is riveted on things beautiful.”
But glory be to God. Sorrow is not the end of the story. Our own worst sins are often the very things that bring us to repentance. Humanity’s crucifixion of God Himself opened the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven. And it is our very death that leads us into life everlasting. Truly ineffable is the mercy and the love of our God.
Be not foolish, O my soul, nor become deaf in the ear of thine heart with the tumult of thy folly. Hearken thou too.
The Word itself calleth thee to return: and there is the place of rest imperturbable, where love is not forsaken, if itself forsaketh not. Behold, these things pass away, that others may replace them… But do I depart any whither? saith the Word of God. There fix thy dwelling, trust there whatsoever thou hast thence, O my soul, at least now thou art tired out with vanities. Entrust Truth, whatsoever thou hast from the Truth, and thou shalt lose nothing; and thy decay shall bloom again, and all thy diseases be healed, and thy mortal parts be reformed and renewed, and bound around thee: nor shall they lay thee whither themselves descend; but they shall stand fast with thee, and abide for ever before God, Who abideth and standeth fast for ever.
Confessions of St. Augustine
May it be so. Amen.