Asteroid 2015 TB145 passed our planet three years ago. It missed us by just 300,000 miles and was visible to those with good telescopes. Eerily, it visited us on Halloween and looked very much like a skull.
This time around, however, the asteroid will not be in a Halloween mood. It will be twenty-five million miles away and will appear as a "dot of light," according to NASA. Its shape may have changed due to collisions with other celestial objects. And it won't be at its closest to us until November 11, well after Halloween.
A neighborhood our Founders envisioned
While the asteroid won't be celebrating Halloween, my neighbors will. One already has "ghosts" hanging from their trees and a giant inflatable dragon breathing fire at those who pass by. If history holds, there will soon be dozens of houses in our area displaying a variety of goblins, ghosts, and ghouls.
It's apparently not too early for Thanksgiving, either. A home in our neighborhood is displaying the word Thankful for passersby to see. Personally, I prefer their decoration to the lawn dragon.
As the November elections draw closer, we're seeing more and more homes with yard signs supporting one or the other of our senatorial candidates. Campaign signs for state offices are proliferating as well.
While our Founders may not have imagined lawn dragons, this kind of opinionated diversity is just what they intended.
A parable made of bricks
In a monarchy such as the English system our Founders rejected, the king retains authority because his subjects fear his power and hope he will serve their interests. Governments in China, North Korea, Cuba, and Russia stay in power through the same means.
It is different in a republic like America, a system built on consensual self-interest. We elect those leaders we believe will best meet our needs. We support our country and trust that our country will serve us.
How is that working for us these days?
I was walking in our neighborhood yesterday and came upon a brick mailbox that appeared to be intact from the front but was falling apart in the back. Bricks were lying on the lawn, victims of decaying mortar.
I wondered if the mailbox is a parable for our day.
The mortar that holds us together
The mortar that holds our democracy together is trust in democracy. Are we seeing an erosion in such trust?
Curated news feeds expose us only to the reports and opinions we choose. I know people who only listen to Fox News or CNN and would never consider changing.
In addition, our 24/7 news cycle is starved for content and has given more people a platform than ever before. The more strident their voices, the more profitable their shows.
And support for the institutions that bind our nation together has been declining for decades. The Vietnam War and Watergate undermined trust in our government. Corporate corruption such as the Enron scandal has damaged trust in business. Moral failures by clergy members have eroded confidence in denominational and religious leaders.
It's not surprising that trust in our government, once at nearly 80 percent, is now below 20 percent, a historic low. Fifty percent of Americans were members of a Protestant church in 2003; the number has fallen to 36 percent today while the number with no religion has nearly doubled from 12 percent to 21 percent.
Our unique contribution to culture
I don't know if Americans can or will regain the trust in institutions that has historically held us together. But I do know that Christians must not be identified primarily with these institutions.
Perhaps we're seeing a decline in religious affiliation today because we're offering the wrong value proposition. Too many people think we're inviting them to join and support just another institution, political party, or social cause.
Our only unique contribution to culture is our invitation to a personal relationship with our Lord. Nothing else we do matters as much. Everything else we do, others can imitate.
For people to believe that they need a personal relationship with Jesus, however, they must first see that such a relationship has been transforming for us. They will know we are Christians by the "fruit of the Spirit" we display (Galatians 5:22-23). They will be attracted to Jesus when they see Jesus making a difference in us.
I became a Christian because I wanted what I saw in Christians. Forty-five years later, I remain grateful for believers who lived so authentically and joyfully that their faith was contagious.
Julian of Norwich: "The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love."
Will your life and influence honor God today?