My head is spinning. As a Christian reading the news, I can hardly keep up with the rapid change that seems to have overtaken the country. Fast-Food Companies being demonized for the beliefs of their CEOs, Louie Giglio asked not to pray because of a sermon he preached 15 years prior, a president that went from denying the validity of homosexual marriage, to approving of it (using Scripture to boot), to using it as a platform issue of civil rights for his upcoming term in office, women now being allowed to serve on the front lines of combat, and the celebratory nature of many in this country over the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade. And most of that has happened in only the last few days and weeks. What is a Christian supposed to make of all of this?
I would like to try to flesh out where my thoughts have gone as I try to digest all of this and what I feel like, we as Christians, should do about it.
The Post-Christian America
The Post-Christian America is on us whether we like it or not. Ready or not it is here and as Christian we have to be ready to deal with it. What I mean by post-Christian is that from the founding of this county America has always been built on a Judeo-Christian ethos that guarded and guided much of what we did in this country from politics, to the free-market, to education, and so on. We may have had our differences of opinions on how that ethos worked itself out in the certain arenas of politics, representative government, education, welfare, business, etc but by-in-large there was always a guiding principle of a nation based on Judeo-Christian beliefs that held it all together. But slowly over time those principles were stretched, redefined, until the point they have finally snapped and our compass, as a country, is no longer pointing to “that city on a hill”. We have enlarged our tent more and more as a country to allow for competing ideas until there is no longer room for anyone under the tent. We have thrown off its protection all together. We’ve moved from “One Nation Under God”, to One Nation with many gods, to One Nation, all beliefs being equal, lets exclude god, to One Nation of gods. We’ve replaced transcendent Truth as a governing principle with translucent tolerance. And if the Greek myths teach us anything, it is that in a society of many gods, the most powerful gods get to make the rules.
Yet, we have still remained a democracy. Which means that “We the People” get what we deserve and what we want out of our government. Barack Obama isn’t doing damage to our country as an evil dictator having his will. We voted him into office. We the people elected him to represent our values and ideas. He is only the personification of a population that believe his leadership is what this country needs.
I realized this after the last election. After four years of Obama, I was certain that the American people would see the mistake we had made in electing him as President. I believed that there was still enough Judeo-Christian ethos running through our American veins to see that the agenda that this president acted upon was not in the best interest of America going further. I was confident that we would elect Mitt Romney who, I thought, embodied more of a traditional, conservative approach to governing and leading this country. I believed that the contrast between the candidates could not be more stark. Obama was not trying to hide (maybe reword and redefine), but not trying to hide his liberal agenda. I believed people would see, that even if they were somewhat liberal-leaning, Obama’s politics were a stronger cup of coffee than they wanted to swallow.
I woke up the day after the election sobered. Obama had won. And while it was not with as much support as he did the first time, he still won. The apathy on the right is as telling to the state of the nation as the support on the left. This was a turn-out election and those who might hold a more conservative view of politics were not energized enough to see that their vote would really matter. Apathy and inaction are just as telling barometers of sentiment as is focused action. America wanted Obama, either through their voting or their lack of voting. They spoke that day.
So for me the election of Obama wasn’t the problem it was a symptom of a post-christian worldview that had spread en-masse to the electorate. Mitt Romney wasn’t a savior. The election of Obama, given his record of leadership or lack thereof, his divisiveness, and the ego-centric tone of his speeches, numerous TV appearances, and general tone, was simply a sign post to me showing me the direction that the country was headed.
My desire to engage in political debate changed that day as well. Poking holes in people’s logic or worldview wasn’t going to solve our problems. What good does it do to debate someone about massive debt that we are burying our grandchildren under if that same person holds to a view that it is legal and even a virtue to be able to kill those grandchildren in utero? If they don’t first protect a child’s right to life, whether wanted by their mother or not, than why would they care about how much debt their government is handing them, supposing they make it to “personhood” in the first place. Their logic and mine are at odds. My worldview and theirs share little to nothing in common. My worldview was formed through a transformed life of the Gospels of Jesus Christ, the Scriptures, and understanding that I am responsible to God to glorify him through my actions to be more like His Son. Their worldview, many times, is created on the spot, not as a way to inform their actions, but many times as a way to insulate their actions from any moral intended or unintended consequences. How else do you coalesce a worldview that allows for the killing of an innocent child, while desiring that we take aways guns, or spend more money on education, or give health care to protect children? If your worldview doesn’t first protect a child’s right to life, than how can it have any moral basis to try to protect them from poverty, rising health care costs, violence in school, or national debt? This is just one example of many.
All that to say, the problem isn’t education, its salvation. The problem isn’t debate, its discipleship. The problem isn’t that they understand my logic, it that they understand the Logos.
How then shall we live?
This is a tough question. I think Christians in America are in an “in-between” generation. We still remember when most of America had some shared values at their core and yet we see this rapid change. We remember when the cultural shift wasn’t so seismic and wasn’t so fast. I say all this and I am only 33 years old. If it feels fast to me, I can’t imagine what it feels like to older Christians.
I suspect many people will leave the church. Those that have been hanging on to the church by its fringes will see no advantage of associating with a organization/religion that is so maligned by the culture. Some people will just find more sanitized version of church. The will look for themselves a church that less and less talks about anything that would shake the cultural apple cart. They will be Christian in name only.
I also think we will see more and more Christians realize that America is slowly becoming a mission field. We have always been cozy here in America, that is not becoming the case. Sure we’ve talked about missional living before, but more and more it will become a reality. Faithful Christians will have to ask hard questions about their lifestyles and begin to reorder their lives around a more robust view of living as if this place is not your home. If things are to change, it won’t be because of a charismatic political leader, it will be because the Gospel is shared from person to person. The Gospel is witnessed to, suffered for, and spoken of in all that we do. This is a macro-problem with a micro-solution.
This is already happening. People are leaving the church, people are carving out their own brand of sanitized church, and faithful Christians are reordering their life around the Gospels. It will only intensify in the coming years. In all this our great hope is that Christ will never leave us or forsake us. He is with us always and that should give us great comfort, no matter the America we wake up to tomorrow.
What are your thoughts? Do you see the same rapid change in America and How as a Christian do you think we should respond?