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FEBRUARY 20, 2024

Triumph of Progressivism As 1940 began, the French were confident. They were at war with Nazi Germany but they had a large navy, army and air force, they sheltered behind the impregnable Maginot Line, and their allies the British had sent troops. France felt secure. On May 10 Germany invaded and Paris fell on June 14. France was either under Nazi occupation or run by the collaborationist Vichy regime. The swastika, the emblem of the conqueror, flew over Paris.

Today the Pride flag flies outside many churches, sometimes even draped on the altar inside. Symbols matter, and this symbol denies God's established order as revealed in Scripture and all that the church has taught concerning human sexuality for two thousand years. Instead it flaunts the great lie, that we can be as gods rejecting His having created us man and woman. Flying this flag is not a way of saying that LGBT people are welcome in the church: it is a way of saying that Christians holding to the truth of Scripture are not welcome. The only people attracted to the church by such a display are those who want to transform, even destroy, the church.

We Lost -- Move On The Pride flag declares the triumph of progressivism over the institutional church. The church has been conquered and is held by the invader and by those who share the conqueror's views. The members must be prepared to submit or remain silent for the sake of peace.

Despite some ongoing skirmishes, the culture war has been fought and lost. No matter how hard we fight or vociferously comment from the sidelines, there is no going back. Thinking we can halt the juggernaut is delusional. Today it is increasingly difficult for Christians; tomorrow there will be no Christian safe spaces, not in society, not in the churches. Our main task today is not to try to halt the tide of progressivism but to focus on building the people, networks and practices we are going to need tomorrow.

This does not mean abandoning the world entirely to its own devices. That would be to reject Christ's description of his people as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Where we see corruption, we are duty bound to be the disinfectant, when we encounter darkness we are to shine a light. This is faithfulness. However, we cannot afford to waste time and creative energy attempting to prop up an inevitably failing social order. Our energies and creativity are needed elsewhere: in working out a way of surviving the unavoidable collapse of the old West. Our priority is always to be the good of Christ's people (Galatians 6:10). The greatest good we can do for the world today is ready the church for tomorrow.

It Begins With Us How can we who are not willing to 'go along to get along' prepare for the long work of strengthening the faith and building on it? Any answers we come up with at this stage are bound to be simplistic. Our task today is to begin at the beginning, with ourselves and our own spiritual stance. If we are to be of any use in the world we must begin by spending more time apart from the world in prayer and spiritual training.

Our world is a world of the instant: instant food, instant communication, instant results. If we have to wait at traffic lights we get impatient; our computers must respond immediately. Our daily prayer could well be: 'Lord God, give me patience. Now!' We should slow down and consider. J C Ryle, first Anglican bishop of Liverpool, advised: 'Beware of perpetual hurried prayers, hurried Bible reading, hurried church-going, hurried communions.'

If we face a determined onslaught against the people and things of God, to suggest that slowing down is the first thing we should do may seem counter-intuitive. It does make sense: if we always hurry we never find time to consider, we encounter events, experiences, even people, without real thought.

Without taking time to consider, our prayers slip into a shopping list of requests, our Bible reading becomes a matter of words floating past our eyes without impact in our mind or soul, our church-going a Sunday morning duty leaving the afternoons free for our own pursuits, and our communion that part of the service before we go and have 'fellowship' over a cup of coffee. It is important to recover an understanding that these are momentous events in our lives, activities which bring us into contact with the living God, actions of foundational importance for the shape of our present and future.

The greatest danger we face in the future is not the opposition of the world but the shallowness of our faith. I have a covenanting ancestor who was martyred for his faith in Christ; I seriously doubt whether I could face persecution with the steadfastness with which he and his family faced their oppressors. It need not be a life and death situation. If we were told by our company that we had to be an 'ally' of the LGBT movement, would we risk our promotion chances by refusing? How often in casual conversation do we fall victim to the world's most potent weapon, self-censorship?

We too easily fall into the worldly trap of admiring the 'superstars' of the church, be they the 'saints' of Rome or the popular preachers, the missionary heroes or the theologians of note. Many are to be admired, learned from and emulated, but not put on a pedestal. If we do this, we too easily create in our minds a separation between the 'real' Christians and ordinary believers like ourselves. It is 'ordinary' Christians such as ourselves who will have to preserve the faith in the days ahead. The future begins with us.

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