Christianity may face extinction but music and film hint at the love of a new generation

I've heard it said that Christianity, at any given moment, is a generation from extinction.

We pass our beliefs to succeeding generations. That's how it works.


For extinction to take place in the foreseeable future our grandkids would have to repudiate the faith.

That would send remnants of Christendom to the ragged edges of civilized consciousness. And it would happen not out of malevolence, I think, but by self-indulgence and a narcissistic preoccupation with social media.

Humanity, I believe, is in peril.

Not that things were all that winsome when I first came on the scene seven decades ago. At that time, World War II had just slaughtered 60 million mostly innocent souls.

More people died in 20th century warfare than in all conflicts during the prior 19 centuries.

I don't know about you, but it feels to me as if the wheels are coming off society's axles. Many observant beings are wringing their hands.

"We are unavoidably, irreducibly hope-based creatures," observes Christian author Timothy Keller.

Hope in this culture sits on a slippery slope.

What — if anything — can be done? Frankly, nothing short of supernatural intervention, I think.

We recently lost a cultural icon in the Rev. Billy Graham. Is a competent replacement waiting in the wings? I don't know. I'm not privy to God's intentions.

He, of course, doesn't need a Billy Graham redux. The Lord is sovereign and capable of handling all exigencies. He thunders with authority from the rafters of eternity. No being commands our attention like that.

Could an evangelist like Billy Graham even be effective in 2040? The days of massive crusades in packed arenas might be over. Those in greatest need of a touch from the transcendent Lord are likely to be found alone in dank basements or empty tenements rather than at crowded stadiums.

And what will stanch their need for electronic stimulus?

Further, does the coming generation even care about things substantial?

I suspect that God's not sweating the small stuff and, for him, everything is small stuff. Jesus said, "With God all things are possible."

Yet to this humble follower of the resurrected savior, the things of this world seem somewhat sketchy at best. In my lifetime I've witnessed immense moral decay. Who hasn't? My point exactly.

I came to faith during the Jesus Movement of the 1970s, and I fail to see another such awakening in the offing. But who am I to offer such bleak analysis? God has his ways, and I'm most likely dead wrong.

Things are not all doom and gloom. A movie is now out that advances a refreshing narrative. Hope.

"I Can Only Imagine" was inspired by the 1999 chart-topping, crossover worship song by the contemporary Christian band MercyMe. It's the biggest-selling single in the history of Christian music.

The song, written by lead vocalist Bart Millard, imagines the day when he'll join in heaven his earthly father and come face to face with Jesus Christ.

Lyrics include the following: "Surrounded by your glory / What will my heart feel? / Will I dance for you Jesus / Or in awe of you be still? / Will I stand in your presence / Or to my knees will I fall / Will I sing hallelujah / Will I be able to speak at all / I can only imagine."

The film is based on Millard's book of the same title.

Millard experienced a terror-stricken childhood due to his father's physical and emotional abuse. The two later reconciled, and Millard's father was transformed. Their relationship was healed as Millard's father lay dying of cancer.

Hope can be realized.

The movie stars Dennis Quaid, Cloris Leachman, J. Michael Finley, Priscilla Shirer and Trace Adkins.

Formed in 1994 in Greenville, Texas, MercyMe today is internationally renowned and has won many Dove Awards and Grammy Award nominations.

MercyMe is a favorite of mine. My wife, Hedy, and I have attended two live concerts, and both were sensational.

The film reminds viewers of the power of forgiveness and hope.

We can use more of both.

JIM CARNETT, who lives in Costa Mesa, worked for Orange Coast College for 37 years.