Top Stories of 2020 from a Spiritual Perspective
These stories are not in any particular order, but I think these are the most impactful stories of 2020.
10. The Fracturing of American Society. America broke into groups and bits over differing issues. No longer could someone be a part of a sewing group where people from all over the country and all walks of life could simply chat on social media about sewing. No, the groups demanded verbal allegiance to BLM or other political issues and proceeded to kick people out who just wanted to talk about sewing (or whatever the group). I witnessed several of these types of blow ups, and I’m sure it happened elsewhere. This was continued with anger over companies’ support (or lack thereof) of certain political positions. This year was a good one for Parler and MeWe as the divide resulted in many conservatives leaving Facebook and Twitter for these alternatives. How will this affect the church moving forward? How will it impact individual Christians? Is the church becoming more isolated? How will the church speak truth into the world, if we are all not speaking to each other? This impact will be big in the years to come.
9. Black Lives Matter. A seemingly simple phrase turned into a powerful organization, which turned into a large group of rioters, and the church had difficulty sorting through it. Several police-involved deaths were widely publicized (often without a hearing of both sides as Proverbs directs), and organized riots broke out all over the country. Seemingly separate and disperse towns all experienced destruction in the wake of these riots. Public pressure was increased for companies to respond and for the church to respond. Many churches responded poorly, joining protests and linking the gospel with Social Justice, releasing statements in support, and seldom giving any critical feedback. Many churches turned the gospel into a left-leaning political tool and even characterized the actual gospel as lacking and unhelpful. This happened not just in broadly evangelical churches like those in the Southern Baptist Convention, but also in reformed churches such as the PCA. As we come to 2021 and these denominations begin to have their annual meetings, will these Social Justice movements increase their sway over more reformed denominations?
8. Performative Righteousness. This is not exactly new, but 2020 did see it ratcheted up to 11. Humble brags and other such look-at-my-righteousness speech have been around since the beginning of social media. But this year, people took to social media to broadcast their righteousness by showing their outrage (look at ESPN’s reaction to players caught without masks like Justin Turner of the Dodgers), their fear (all the people who thought they were going to die because others didn’t wear a mask), their anti-racism (just spend some time on Twitter), or their victimhood (remember when Lebron James claimed he was hunted all the days of his life). Over-the-top sensationalism is now commonplace. When this happens, what often gets lost is a sense of what real fear, real racism, and real outrage ought to be. Everything is done for the benefit of the crowd. People are becoming like the Pharisee who prayed out loud so everyone could hear. Such people have received their reward: the praise of men.
7. Mental Unhealthiness. Studies have shown the COVID-19 lockdowns have done great damage to people’s mental health. Depression is up. Drunkenness is up. Suicides are up. Anxiety is up. This is true for people of all ages, including children. One statistic showed that more people in Japan committed suicide in one month than have died from COVID-19 all year. These problems may extend for the young well into adulthood. How are they going to learn to deal with these problems? When are we going to be able to gather together again to meet and help each other bear these burdens? With the promise of more masks and more lockdowns in 2021, relief does not appear to be in sight.
6. Hong Kong Crackdown. China took over Hong Kong’s court system and rolled back many freedoms. 12% of the citizens of Hong Kong are Christians, and their freedom to assemble and worship has now been severely compromised. Many expect an increase in persecution in China on Christians next year (India too, by the way). China appears to be setting the stage for a government crackdown across the country, with the elimination of freedom in Hong Kong merely the first step.
5. Acceptance of Violence. The riots that took place off and on all year were almost universally praised. It didn’t matter if they sought to burn down Minneapolis, take over portions of Seattle, or simply assault people on trains for not wearing masks. Violence is now an acceptable way to get what you want. At least for certain classes of people. Even when riots ended in arrests, usually the charges were all dropped and the rioters released (this happened in Lincoln, NE where I live). We even saw the soon-to-be Vice President raising money to post bail for rioters, many of whom returned to rioting. This lesson has not be missed by young people, who are increasingly likely to think violence is a culturally acceptable way of getting what you want.
4. Science as Religious Cult. There is no longer any doubt that science is simply a religion. The old definition of science being hypothesis-> test-> repeat-> theory-> test-> repeat-> law is now unknown in the world. Science is simply a word people use as a weapon. “I believe in science” is a sentence oft uttered. What does that mean, other than science is now a religion? Those people aren’t proclaiming trust in the scientific method. They are not willing to hear evidence that might disprove their pet theories. No, science is now about consensus rather than evidence. It is about authority rather than a search for understanding. Likewise, science also has its own priesthood that is not to be questioned. Remember when those two ER docs dared to disagree with Dr. Fauci and were shouted down and censored for their questioning of the reigning scientific orthodoxy?
3. Loss of Inalienable Rights. It is hard not to think of 2020 as the year we finally ditched the Declaration of Independence. Sure, it has probably been in the hypothetical trash can for years, but we emptied the trash this year. Those rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that are given by God are now viewed as things the government can take back at any time. Many of them are listed in the Bill of Rights. Ask yourself about them. Just go through the first amendment. Was your right to freely worship maintained this year? No. Was your right to peacefully assemble maintained? No. Was your right to print and publish maintained? No. (See #9 below). Was your right to free speech maintained? Probably not (Again, see #9 below). What about the right to petition the government? Okay, probably, but one out of five is pretty bad. What future does our country, and the Christians living in it, have when our rights now firmly rest in the whims of our political leaders?
2. Big Tech Censorship. Twitter and Facebook stand as the biggest offenders here. They censored a media outlet as large and mainstream as the New York Post, even though, after the election, it turned out everything they had censored as unverifiable has now been verified. The Big Tech Giants had a huge impact when they censored the President 583 times in 2020 and his political opponent not once. And this censorship was not limited to the political arena. Facebook has removed posts about original sin from Reformed discussion groups. Does anyone doubt that they will freeze accounts and “shadow ban” posts by people calling homosexuality a sin? This behavior is not limited to FB and Twitter. WordPress shut down a very popular conservative site for being “incompatible” with their world view. Instagram removed a post that proclaimed only men should be pastors. The world has become very dependent on Big Tech, using it everyday. Now they are clearly going to shape our speech and ban those who don’t conform.
1. Government Against Worship. Is there really anything more noteworthy than almost every state and many cities forbidding (or limiting) churches to gather in worship? This has never really happened in America before this year. Some churches have not met since before Easter! Often, churches were closed while strip clubs were allowed to operate (this happened here in Lincoln). The church’s response to this has been varied and disturbing. There were debates about on-line worship vs. in person worship. Is it truly worship if we are not physically gathered? Shouldn’t we obey the government according to Romans 13? Isn’t it better to love your neighbor rather than insist on gathering together? Should we love God and worship Him even if it means endangering others? Who gets to decide these things? The American church is now surrounded by a culture that does not value worship and could soon try to stamp it out. How will we prepare the next generation for living in a world where the government is against worship?
What are your thoughts? Any I missed. Let me know in the comments.