By Charlie Johnston
A little interregnum before I put up Part 2 of the “Whatcha Gonna Do…” post.
First, I have been flooded with invitations. I won’t get my inbox sorted out until next week, when I will also get all contact info sorted down into hard copy and then organized. I have tentatively planned out the first trip in late June, which will include stops in Ft. Lauderdale, Tallahassee, Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville. I will solidify those arrangements next week. In July, I will head out to Albany, NY, New Hampshire, Boston and Newark. I have a woman here in the Denver area who has volunteered to help me organize and coordinate these events with local contacts at each site.
I got a very heartfelt note from a man who is upset that his wife is getting fearful from reading this site; going overboard about preparation and laying devotion on top of devotion. From some of his comments, I suspect he has not read any but a very small piece of this site. But it touches on why I agonize on putting up such posts as the previous one – and the one to follow, which cover some bluntly fearful things. They are needed to correct misinformation that is floating around..course adjustments, as it were. But if they are taken as the heart of what I am trying to get across, they lead the wrong way.
Anyone today who maintains there is no institutional assault on Christianity in America, that economic problems are within the range of normalcy, or that there is little danger of wide-scale armed conflict in the world is in denial. I understand that…whenever serious crisis looms, people try to restore normalcy by mentally minimizing or justifying what are striking abuses. The gentleman who wrote is in some denial. Because religion is not under as vigorous attack in America as it is in Europe, he tells himself all is fine here. It’s the classic normalcy bias. It is rising even as the situation gets darker. That he speaks against consulting astrology and some other such things suggests he has not read much of the website. But, at the heart of his complaint, he says his wife constantly criticizes him for focusing on his work while spending all her time all day long with devotions and fearful preparations.
Now, I am not in their household and I have made no independent assessment. However, if what he says is anywhere near correct, even with a little denial, he is closer to the mark than his wife. I have repeatedly said that you should not pile devotion on top of devotion, but rather should choose a few you prefer, live them well, and make your home and life a joyful one, enjoying and relishing the little joys that are available in such abundance. If you have shrouded your home with gloom and fear, you have missed my point entirely. I have also emphasized that doing your ordinary work well and with love is a refined form of prayer…that there is a godliness in this that is noble. I know many men who are not big on religious stuff particularly, but are passionately devoted to caring for their families. I regard them as profoundly Christian men – and in some cases have privately noted them down as people who can be counted on to help many when things get ugly. Even when the Storm is fully engaged, if I need a wall repaired, I will look for the most competent tradesman, not the most ardent Christian. Living your work well and with competence IS an act of faith – and one that does not get the recognition it should.
First of all, I have not summoned forth the darkness. For decades I kept discussions of such things to myself. For about 80% of the last two decades, I kept it limited to the three priests who have vetted me and to a handful of very close friends. I only started speaking publicly about it when the darkness had become so obvious that people were already in fear – and then to assure people that this is NOT the end. God wins. Yes, I know it sometimes looks as fearsome as David versus Goliath…but David won. And he will again. I beg you, do not be weepy harbingers of doom. Rather, act RIGHT NOW as the confident builders of a renewed society that you are called to be. Yeah, there are some nervy times ahead, but if you are not suffused with joy that spreads to those around you, you still don’t get it yet – and you cannot be as useful in inspiring others to endure as you should be. It is why I emphasize the simple and the ordinary…acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you. You cannot take the next right step if you remain invincibly blind to serious problems that abound and are growing, but you cannot be a sign of hope if you weepily spend your time proclaiming woe or so desperately cling to a profusion of formal devotions that you ignore your daily work. Your daily work is the very heart of your faith: the devotions keep Christ at the center of that work, as a fountain of hope and joy that flow through everything you do. If that fountain has gone dry or dark, you may be engaged with a spirit, but it is not the spirit of the ever-triumphant Christ.
I have had dozens of notes from people telling me how this website has helped repair relations between spouses. The first big one came from a European couple, where the husband had come to consider his wife a religious obsessive…and they were on the verge of separation. She persuaded him to read a few pieces here (a few, I note) and he was eagerly enthused, specifically because of the simplicity of the message and what we are authentically called to do. It is straightforward and ordinary. To my surprise and immense pleasure, that scenario has been repeated quite a few times. This is the first letter I have gotten stating the opposite. Now it may be that there are other elements of division at work…but any advocate of this site who is driving people away from them because of a religious obsession has missed the point. To press to the point of division is to fail to trust God. Inform, then act and live your life with joy. If your spouse is hostile to any manifestation of faith, then that is a huge problem that you may not be able to overcome. But if your spouse is living his work well, you do an injustice not to recognize a godliness in it.
I long said I do not tell these things to people to try to convince them, but to inform them so that as they come to fruition, people will recall what I said and see the hand of God in back of some otherwise scary times – and take comfort in that. You do the same. If you frantically try to convince people of things you do not need to convince them of, you cannot possibly bear effective witness because you drive them away. Above all remember this: God wins. Act now as a generous victor, not as the fearful oppressed.