Copyright 2005, Joshua Wood
*Celebrating the Cultural Assault on Christianity*
Since 1962, many in the Church have felt like they were drowning: the culture has come down like a torrent against the expression of Christianity in any and all public settings. The cultural unrest associated with the Vietnam War, along with the restlessness of a generation ready to shed the morality-and inhibition-of their parents' generation, among-I'm sure-many other societal factors, began to give a voice to the self-proclaimed "oppressed" (in a religious sense) minority.
The flood started when parents of 10 students questioned the constitutionality of a New York school district's policy of starting the school day with an innocuous, non-denominational prayer.
The United States Supreme Court overturned the New York Supreme Court and agreed that prayer had no place in school.
And the rain continued to fall...
The anti-war movement during the 60's and 70's, accompanied by rapidly changing sexual mores and overwhelmingly widespread drug use was reshaping the face of American culture. And it was hitting the church hardest of all.
Perhaps the most devastating blow to the Christian society-in terms of its lingering effect-was the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision, in the landmark Roe v Wade case, to legalize abortion. Even today, more than 20 years later, this is one of the most divisive issues in political, religious and social discussions.
Since then, we've seen many such decisions by lower courts, most upheld by the country's highest court, which chip away at the Christian presence and influence in society. The 10 Commandments are being removed from the majority of courtrooms by the legal challenges of an ever-vigilant ACLU (Their motto: "Protecting America from the Christians!" but politics aside-for now). Public nativity scenes-not anymore. The objective teaching of Christianity beside other world religions in school-not so much.
Etc, etc, etc.
The "oppressed" (in a religious sense) are finally breathing the free air of an increasingly God-less society.
And the Church is treading water. Air is harder and harder to come by the waves of cultural change wash over it.
They've tried television. They've tried, more successfully, radio. If a writer wants to sell books, the surest way is to write a book lamenting America's growing immorality while citing the outrage that our Founding Fathers would certainly express were they alive to experience America today.
(And maybe there's a case to be made in defense of this country's Christian underpinnings. There is certainly no lack of evidence to demonstrate that these men, these visionaries, sought biblical principles in their own lives. But, as we evaluate the church, we've got to ask honestly: "Would the church be better-that is, more effective-if our beliefs and values were legislated?")
Enter Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. John Hagee: "The sky is falling, the sky is falling."
Many in the Church, and a majority of its activists, seem to have found greater comfort in molding an understanding of America's history to justify their legitimacy as America's (rightful) dominant social institution, and, when that fails, pronouncing the imminent doom and destruction for the God-less playmates who picked them last-the religious equivalent of I'll take my ball and go home.
The church devotes millions of dollars a year, and countless man-hours, to addressing symptoms. These cultural, political and legal attacks against Christianity are NOT the real problem. They are but indications of a deeper problem. The Church is treating a cancer with Aspirin.
The reflex desire to instill God's principles into society makes sense. As Christians, we are to be passionate about the teachings of God. And it is an understandable desire to live in a decent, moral (at least-Christian at best) society. But in creating a "Christian" society we wouldn't expand the kingdom of God; we would create a disguise for the godless to hide behind and avoid accountability.
Like lighting a candle outside at noon, it's hard to tell the difference.
The "oppressed" (in a religious sense) celebrate what they believe is the sunset of Christianity as a force in this world. But if each Christian would put down their protest signs and petitions and light their candle (this "little light," we sang as children), the night will reveal-and our entire God-less society would be unable to avoid-the true impact of the Light in a dark world.
Far too many Christians expect the culture to mirror the Church, when it is the Church that should be modeling Christianity to the culture. Christ didn't found a political movement. Christ didn't found a social movement. Christ called individuals to know him, to worship him, and to proclaim him to anyone that would listen.
The blood of the martyrs...
We live in an increasingly hostile society. There is no longer such thing as common morality. Our society has no respect for the religious traditions it so easily discards. The institution is crumbling. Finally! The American Church is beginning to experience persecution. History shows us that the Church is never more alive, more potent, than when it's persecuted. This is our greatest opportunity. Brothers and Sisters, don't mourn the death of the Christian society; celebrate the birth of the new Church.
...is the seed of the Church
This new Church is opening its eyes to a landscape of need and opportunity. As inhibitions are stripped away by an increasingly permissive culture, we are finally able to see our neighbors as they really are. That "I've got it all together" fašade is slowly chipping away to reveal the frightened, desperate soul beneath. Psychology is the new quickest way to wealth. Drugs and alcohol are less stigmatized-after all, the stress of life is overwhelming. Comfort is "found" in the arms of random, nameless lovers. Society is getting desperate.
And we've got the answers.
The contrast must be stark. The old Church, when presented with moral dilemma (drugs, homosexuality, promiscuity, violence, etc) was likely to lobby congress while their doors were locked tight to keep the culture out. The new Church must throw open wide the doors... or better yet, go to the desperate. Not to compromise Christianity, but to strengthen it by living it.
We must be part of the healing. A healing that will not come easy. It's a healing that requires confrontation and pain. But it's a very real healing when the healer is Christ.
In living out our faith in this way we too will suffer; we will stand out against the God-less backdrop. But in this we will become that which Christ intended-we will be the bitter taste of salt to a thirsty world-before they can taste the sweet forgiveness of Christ they must acknowledge the bitterness of their sin. We will be the blinding light that stings their eyes-before they can see the glory of knowing Christ they must realize they are blind.
We must be part of the healing.
No, we are not living at the end. We're on the front lines of the beginning. Christ is as alive now as he's ever been. He's as active now as he's ever been. We would miss our calling if we continued to mourn the death of our "Christian" society. Instead of continuing to looking back to a "better" time, let's look around to the great opportunities surrounding us.
Now is the time Christ has called us to.
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