It is becoming more and more clear that there are rather large contingents in America who are not even aware that this coming Sunday is Easter Sunday for most Christians here in the West. And yet, any good pastor has to get up this coming Sunday and declare victory, a victory that seems dubious to anyone with sense, anyone looking at the current conditions. We are a wasteland, and I am not just talking about those who do not know it is Easter- I am talking about those of us who let it get this bad in the first place.
In order to build- and arguably we are at a condition where we must build, not rebuild- we must understand the nature and extent of the devastation. A foundation of rubble holds no better than sand.
One reason the day is not known is that the meaning of it has been obfuscated by the relentless de-deification of Jesus. If Jesus is merely a man, then the Ressurection is that thing that happened that one time, to that one guy, who supposedly loves us. And we are not sure what it means to be loved by some guy- imagine being in a parking lot at 3am in the morning, trying to open your door, and some guy shows up and tells you he really loves you.
The pagans to whom the message of the Gospels were told were used to human-like gods, and the pagans had desires to become gods themselves. A side effect of such a drive is an understanding of the limits of self-discipline. The pagans knew they could make great gains in improving themselves, yet they knew perfection was impossible under their own power.
The Apostles and subsequent preachers in pagan lands gave a message that resonated with pagans. They put away their old gods and old ways of seeking to attain higher things for a new way. Jesus had two natures, both God and Man, and this God was not similar to the gods they had known; rather this God was perfection. Jesus was the incarnation of this perfection. Instead of living according to the nature of man, Jesus lived according to the nature of perfection.
The pagans saw, in this Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that they could become perfect too- that through Christ their struggle could be made valid via this mystery of the Trinity.
But now we have this personal relationship with Jesus stuff, the Father as an old man with a beard, and the Holy Spirit supposedly responsible for a variety of strange emotional outbursts. We have confusion in our own houses. The failure in leadership, which should be seen rather obviously by everyone now in the political arena, is also in the churches. Notice a left/right dichotomy exists, in which one side evangelizes others to a touchy feely nothingness, and the other has a tendency to eschew anything that the neighbor next door might be able to relate to. This is all failing miserably.
And yet triumph is still the message this coming Sunday. And it will make less and less sense among a people no longer determined to become perfect.
So, what would be helpful for these pastors to do? I suppose this is the first of April and I should play the fool and give advice to those who never take it.
Resign yourselves to smaller churches, possibly losing it all. If you have a small congregation made up mostly of women, you likely have no church at all. Women will go to church to network long past there being any actual life in your church.
Emphasize that we seek to be perfect. We don't just want to be good and get to heaven- our goal is God. The point of Jesus being man is not so that we can relate to Him, but so that we can become perfect.
Drop pretenses of a global unity if you don't have local unity. Work on local unity. If two spouses are divorcing and they won't reconcile, you can't have both of them making a mockery of communion. Sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions.
Look to develop a local economy. Yes, I know this isn't supposed to be your responsibility, but the Christian authorities who would have done it have all been chased out. Now you've got to figure out what could be done to repair it. Where does your bread and wine come from? Getting that produced locally would be a place to start, and that would help avoid a multitude of troubling problems lurking in the modern supply chain.
Understand that there are stages of growth. A culture is easily overwhelmed at the beginning stages, so evangelization is often not only pointless but detrimental- especially if you are at a stage where you need intelligent and perhaps technical people.
Point the women to first Timothy and admonish them they shouldn't try to get around the whole 'women being saved through motherhood' bit.
Stop compromising with the state. For example, the 'marriage license' is what the state uses to sunder what God supposedly put together.
Mysteriously, this advice appears to be about building a culture strong enough to survive and overcome the mainstream one.