Quick recommendations for a couple things I’ve read lately that are worth a few minutes of your time:

Diana Butler Bass’s most recent newsletter essay On Statues, History, Politics, and Division. In discussing the removal of Confederate statues across the South, she hits on a resonant phrase.

Not long after the Richmond bronzes and marbles had been removed, I was in the city speaking at a church. The pastor, a religious leader who agreed with their removal, asked me: “Have you driven down Monument Avenue yet?”

“No,” I replied, “I’ve haven’t been there recently.”

“It is stark, emotionally powerful in a different way,” he said. “You look down the road and the statues are all gone. There are empty altars everywhere.”

Empty altars everywhere. That captures the spirit of the age, doesn’t it?

Second: Andrew Osenga’s latest, American Christianity is a CyberTruck. He looks at the sad scandal of Robert Morris and some online discussion of a modern worship song that says “praise is the water my enemies drown in” and pulls the threads together this way:

The commercialization of Christian culture has led us to sacrifice wisdom for influence, and thus we are losing both.

These songs and leaders (and books and conferences, etc etc) might get us where we want to go - a big church, a #1 single, a senate seat - but to anybody outside our little circle, it just looks ridiculous.

They don’t take our faith seriously, because we have not taken our faith seriously.

The CyberTruck might get you to Target, but people are going to roll their eyes when you get there.

I don’t know what kind of car Jesus would drive, but I do know that He has asked me to love my enemies, to pray for those who persecute me, to give what I can to the poor, and to pick up my cross and follow Him.

What if the world saw a young pastor turn himself in for his sexual abuse, offer his guilty plea, do his jail time and then live the rest of his life quietly doing good and serving others? What fruit might grow from that true repentance?

What if, rather than weapons or drowning, our big sing-along songs were about loving those who persecute us? How might that change the nature of our cultural conversations?

In many ways it feels like the sun is setting on a particular era of American Christian empire. Its leaders are crumbling like pillars of sand and the institutions feel like empty shopping malls.

In the grief and pain of so much damage, may our tears water new fruits of kindness and humility, thoughtfulness and wisdom. The world doesn’t need Jesus-brand products, it needs to see Jesus in our eyes, hear Him in our language, and feel Him in our actions.

Yes and amen.