By Pete Riehm
Guest Writer 

The flame of faith is flickering


April 25, 2019

Gazing into a fire can be hypnotic. And so the world was captivated watching the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burning live on TV. It was a surreal spectacle. Built in 1160, Notre Dame has been an architectural marvel and an icon of Christian majesty for almost 900 years. It has always been with us. No one living knows life without it or without the vibrant Christian faith that built western civilization. To see this historic landmark gravely threatened was disturbing and sobering.

There is an old adage that no one wants to drink the water until the well runs dry. And so it seems few cared about Notre Dame or its embodiment of French Christendom until it was almost gone. It was certainly a terrific tourist attraction for throngs every year, but how many went to worship or just to gawk at the incredible opulent monument to God? The fire alarms apparently malfunctioned, but the devastating fire alarmed the French. The near catastrophe had a unifying effect. The people of France were shocked, but they rallied to restore their beloved Notre Dame. They realized they did love it and would miss it, so they raised nearly a billion dollars in just a couple days to restore the venerable cathedral.

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The devotion to Notre Dame is heartening, but would we act as swiftly to save our faith? Notre Dame after all is just a building, so isn’t the strength of our faith more important? The French efforts are commendable, but Christianity is waning in France and all of Europe with only about 22% attending church at least monthly. America is more religious with about 50% attending church at least monthly, but Christianity is also slipping on this side of the Atlantic.

Thankfully, Christianity is still the dominant force in America. According to a recent Gallup Survey comparing the periods of 1998-2000 to 2016-2018, Americans claiming a religious affiliation dropped from 90% to 77%. While more than three fourths of Americans is still a strong religious majority, a 13% drop in less than two decades is troublesome considering that number barely budged the previous two centuries. Perhaps more troubling, the number claiming no religion at all more than doubled from 8% to 19%. And equally troubling, church membership declined from 69% to 52%.

This is a distinct dilemma for Christianity, but it’s also a serious problem for America and the freedom we hold dear. As France was stunned watching Notre Dame burn, the people wondered “could Paris be Paris without Notre Dame?” The French view the great cathedral as the spiritual soul of Paris, so what is their city without its soul? Liberals will chafe at this question, but what is America without Christianity?

We are nowhere near losing Christianity in America, but as American Christendom weakens, this country also weakens with it. Christianity is indeed the soul of America and the author of our freedom. We are unique among nations because our founding document explicitly proclaims all our rights come from God, and let no man or government intervene.

Liberals will protest that America is a secular nation where no religion can be officially endorsed. It is true that no religion can or should be endorsed, but to remove God from the moral underpinnings of this country is to remove our only guarantee of basic rights. It would invite the government to get between each citizen and his Creator to adjudicate our rights.

Liberals will hide behind the misleading myth that America is not a Christian nation, but America can only be America if it is a nation of Christians! America has been blessed beyond measure with liberty and prosperity for our staunch faith in Almighty God.

Even in their weakened faith, France realized Notre Dame is vital to their national identity. Let us learn from this tragic episode. The timbers of American culture are aging and beginning to splinter. We are failing to teach our history and letting our youth flounder in their faith. Let’s not wait until our freedoms are being burned away in some dramatic disaster. Pass on to the next generation that America is only free by the strength of our faith.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17


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