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Telling Secrets

faith, fatherhood, and culture

THE TWILIGHT OF THE SAINTS

Thursday, August 17, 2006

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Last week, Newsweek did a cover story on Billy Graham. I thought it was an excellent treatment of one of the most influential men in the last 2000 years. You can read the full article here.

I came away from the story with two thoughts. The first thing that struck me was the arc of Billy's story. The picture above shows his youthful fire. He was friend and confidante to presidents and world business leaders. He was on a nickname basis with Martin Luther King, Jr., "Mike" to Billy. He got involved in the political scene and became a type of spokesman for political figureheads - a career move that got him written off by most of the press and social critics, something that he eventually was able to reverse. He preached the gospel to more people in the world than anyone else in the history of Christianity.

Now, he is consistently lionized by the press. Time did a story about him 13 years ago:

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Then he made the top 100 most influential people of the 20th Century list. Now it's Newsweek's turn. "When's he going to die?" seems to be the underlying question. And the one that is even deeper is, "Is there anyone in the current generations who can fill the void he will leave?" That is the second thought I had and the one that leaves me troubled.

Compare the two pictures. Look at the eyes. He's been tempered over the years. That gives me some hope for our present. There are lots of firey young folk (by young I mean 50 years and younger) around who are in the process of being tempered. But I'm not sure I see any really cut from the same stock as Billy or Mother Theresa. Most likely there are a lot of saints like them - perhaps they're just diluted in the over publicized era we live in. Perhaps they aren't recognized as such because of our post-Christian society.

But the case doesn't seem much different in other religions. We are witnessing the twilight of other "saints" - His Holiness The Dalai Lama is no young buck, Thich Nhat Hanh is also in his latter years. Have there been any recent Buddhas? Not to my knowledge. Certainly Imams and Clerics all have black marks by their names, whether they deserve it or not. Maybe what we're really living in is not just a post-Christian society, but a post-religious world - a world of "spirituality" and secularism. A world where atheism is passe, if not anachronistic.

And yet, it is a world that still loves a good redemption story. The romance of healing, peace, and love still grips the hearts of most everyone. Humans still long to "be complete," to be at peace with ourselves, each other, and the material world. Now that "Man is dead," as Foucault declared, now that the idol of human potential and accomplishment has been consumed in a mushroom cloud, maybe now we see that there is still hope in something more. We can almost glimpse the "white shores" and the "far green land" that Tolkein talks about. Will there be anyone in the present and near-future generations who can serve as beacons for the rest of us? Will all God's children please stand up?

  1. Blogger petra said:

    Interesting observation. Do you think that this is a sign of the coming "one world religion" that will usher in the End? Overall, we are definately destined to move into a blacker world, not a brighter one. That doesn't mean that the 'twilight'isn't a concern, though. Scripture tells us to keep working out our faith until Christ returns. We should prepare the Church as best we can for His arrival. Who will lead us?

  1. Blogger Petronia said:

    My new favorite blog to read these days is Glory to God for All Things. Today I read his post entitled Silent Sentinels and the Saints Among Us, and I remembered your post. (I had to search your blog for it. I can't believe it's been 2 years since you started it! I remember you creating it while the 3 of us sat in the Barnes and Noble in Provo...)

    Fr Stephan (blog author) recalls a certain boy from his school years who was particularly kind and says of him: "I do not know that his kindness approached that category [of saints]- but it is a reminder to me that we are not all alike. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we meet those who are singular in their kindness, their goodness, their generosity, their compassion, and the presence of the good God is made somewhat tangible."

    After quoting a really beautiful portion of Prayers by the Lake, written by a modern Orthodox saint, Saint Nikolai of Zicha, he concludes: "I believe that without the presence of saints the world could not continue to exist. They cannot be seen as a great political force, but I believe that the goodness that dwells within them and the kindness that flows from them, by God’s grace, hold back the approaching darkness that will come before the Light of God sweeps all darkness aside."

    This turned out sounding like a blog review...but I thought it might be interesting to share since it is along the same lines as your post.

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