I have such fond memories of growing up in Miami, Florida. Many of my memories involve trips to the beach. My parents would pack a cooler with sandwiches (the Cuban kind, of course—bocaditos) and drinks, pack our shovels and buckets and head to the famed (or infamous) South Beach. Vanilla Ice had not yet discovered A1A Beachfront Avenue. So we had no thought of yelling for ice, ice, baby, if we got too hot. We, instead, yelled, “¡Mama! ¡Estoy sudando! Tráigame un Ironbeer!” (It’s a Cuban thing. You wouldn’t understand. And no, it’s not really beer. Think Dr. Pepper, only fruitier.)
When we arrived, my mom would lather me up with sun-block. (There was no way I was wearing a stinkin’ t-shirt to the beach. I was way too macho for that. I would prefer that the sun scorch my skin.) My sister and I would then grab our things and head to the shore, intent on building the biggest sandcastle imaginable. When we got there, we commenced. Sand began flying, dirt was shoved into pales, and a castle began to take shape. We were consumed with building our master piece—and so were many other children on the beach.
Sometimes, in our enthusiasm, we were oblivious to anything around us. This was normally a good thing. It allowed us to build with fierce concentration. So fierce that we would forget to eat—except to yell for Ironbeer, of course, because we could not stop sudando.
Other times our intense focus had devastating effects. While building, we would notice, to our chagrin, that dark clouds had rolled in and the waves were beginning to pound the shore, threatening our masterpiece. When we realized what was happening, often it was too late. ¡Ay! ¡Mama y papa, ayúdanos! There was no time to build a large mote around our castle to absorb the water from the waves, or grab an umbrella to shelter it from the rain. Our castle came crumbling down. All we could do was watch.
These memories have been flooding my mind recently as I consider the political and social events unraveling around us. Why, you ask? What is the (allegorical) connection? Here it is. Christians have been too busy building their own castles, neglecting the rising tide of secularism. Secularism is the idea that God has no place in our day-to-day lives. So we put ourselves in his position, instituting laws and redefining ethical standards according to our own liking. Secularism threatens to destroy our castles, that is to say, our Christian entities.
Since the early twentieth-century, Christians (for the most part) have turned a blind eye toward this rising tide, turning inward toward their own castles, and even creating new ones. All the while the progressives saw the vacuum left in the universities and media, and decided to capture these bastions of indoctrination. By seizing them, they knew they could fundamentally change a people. So they executed their plan almost to perfection. While evangelicalism was busy building castles, the liberals took the universities and media outlets—and other similar institutions—and successfully indoctrinated an entire culture.
Yes. They indoctrinated, something which Christians should have been doing. You may say, “Doctrine is a nasty word. Who needs it? What relevance does it have for my life? People don’t need doctrine.” I despise this line of thinking. Let me put it this way: If evangelicals don’t indoctrinate (to teach people what to believe, to think Christianly), then culture will indoctrinate this and all coming generations. And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s doing a pretty good job. Have you taken a look at our courts lately? Better yet, have you had a conversation with the average teenager? Don’t get me started.
So do we continue building our castles? Or do we build some motes and put up umbrellas? We do both. That’s what Nehemiah did. Thousands of years ago Nehemiah and his fellow Jews were trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. But they faced fierce opposition, the kind that would keep most people up at night.
Opposition did not faze Nehemiah. Not a bit. He did not panic. He, instead, got smart. He called men to work and to be prepared to defend themselves. Here’s a picture of what it looked like: “Those who carried the burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon in the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built” (Neh 4:17-18).
We are called to be like Nehemiah. We build our castles, such as churches, academic institutions, mercy ministries, but also defend ourselves. But how do we do that? What is our weapon? Your mind—that center of intelligence God gave you; that which allows you to think, reason, and provide valid arguments for what you believe; that which stirs our passions to serve God and his people. After all, orthodoxy drives orthopraxy.
So strengthen your intellect. Use it for crying out loud! For too long evangelicals have ignored its importance. But now the waves are crashing, threating our castles. Will you still neglect its importance? Will you still encourage other to do the same?
In the School of Christian Ministries at the University of Mobile, we teach you how to use your mind, so that you may know what you believe and how to shelter yourself and others from the waves and pouring rain. In courses such as Christian Worldview, we teach you about secularism and all its fallacies. We teach you to think Christianly and how to defend what you believe. In other words, we indoctrinate you, countering the doctrines and creeds of the secular universities and media—that garbage they want you to accept uncritically, desiring for you to be close minded. We also teach you to sift through the garbage, capturing what is redeemable, and throwing the rest away. We even teach you how to build some castles along the way.
But what about those who say, “We don’t really need all that intellectual stuff, all that doctrine.” Jiggery-pokery! “We only need to focus on building our castles.” Pure applesauce! “People don’t really want all that deep stuff. Just give them something practical.” Balderdash! Think. Teach your friends to think. Read difficult books. Learn words like orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Encourage your friends to do the same. When they notice the seas are rough and the skies are turning black, they will thank you. They will not stand by idly, but they will know how to provide a defense for what they believe. They will even be able to push back the waves and roll away the clouds, turning defense into offensive gain, recapturing the courtrooms and universities, those bastions of culture shaping.
The University of Mobile will equip you for the task, the task of being like Nehemiah. We will teach you how to build castles and provide a sound defense, preserving and at the same time advancing the Kingdom of God.
See you in class.