Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Redeeming the Culture

   Today the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its long awaited decisions involving two same sex marriage cases. In one case the court struck down provisions in a federal law that restricted marriage, for purposes of federal benefits, to heterosexual couples. In the other case, involving a referendum in California ("Proposition 8") that outlawed same sex marriage, they dismissed the case on technical grounds – the appellants had no "legal standing," i.e. they were not entitled to bring the case before the Court because they had not been injured by the lower court ruling overturning the proposition. Thus homosexuals will soon be able legally to wed in California. The decisions are lamented by the conservative religious community. It is hard to see how the institution of marriage can remain viable if virtually any sexual behavior is tolerated by society.
    As it so happens, hundreds of thousands are determined to do something about the moral decline of our country. On this coming Sunday, June 30, 2013, over a million and a half Christians are planning on participating in a mass event called "Call 2 Fall," in which believers in churches all across America will literally fall on their knees "in repentant prayer to reshape our lives and renew our land." The "Call 2 Fall" purports to be based on the familiar passage found in II Chron. 7:14: ". . . if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (NKJV). The sincerity of these believers can hardly be questioned, but it remains to be seen whether a brief gesture during a church service will be sufficient to arrest the moral and social decline of the nation.
    Conservative American Christians have been concerned about the direction of the country for quite some time now. As early as the 1960's there were Christian thinkers such as Francis A. Schaeffer, Rousas J. Rushdoony, and C. Gregg Singer who were warning about the direction of western culture. Encroaching secularism was already having a corrosive effect on morals and manners, undermining the core values of Western Civilization. But the dramatic turning point in American culture came in 1973 when the Supreme Court handed down its infamous decision in Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion throughout the entire nation. The conservative religious community reacted with alarm.
    A host of books appeared urging Christians to organize and take action. One book in particular provided some insightful analysis of the legal aspect of the problem. It was The Second American Revolution (1982) by noted attorney John W. Whitehead. He demonstrated the ways in which our constitutional rights and liberties were slowly eroding as society in general gave up belief in God and in moral absolutes.
    But the question was, what can we, as evangelical Christians, do about it? Whitehead criticized the church for being too "Pietistic" – for being too narrowly focused on personal salvation while ignoring the culture at large. His solution was for Christians to become politically active, and he goes so far as to say, "Getting involved in local politics will eventually mean Christians running for office. This will include attending and eventually taking control of party conventions where grass-roots decisions are made" (p. 166).
    But it is precisely here where the trouble begins. Winning elections requires forming broad-based coalitions, and broad-based coalitions are bound to include non-Christian elements as well as Christian ones. The inevitable result is that the Christian message is compromised. It is one thing to bear witness to society at large, to preach and to teach, to publish and to broadcast; it is quite another thing to get involved in the hurly-burly of electoral politics.
    In retrospect the attempt to take over the culture has been a dismal failure. We have tried for forty years to reverse Roe v. Wade, and what we got instead was same sex marriage. The culture is clearly moving away from Christianity, not closer to it.
    The problem with the attempt to use the political process to reverse the country's moral decline is that it badly misconstrues the mission of the church. It is perfectly fine to want to influence the culture in a positive direction, but how do we do this?
    The first thing that we must understand is that the central task assigned to the church is contained in the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. . ." (Matt. 28:19,20). The reference to baptism clearly indicates that what is in view here is winning converts to Christ, i.e., personal salvation.
    When we look at the contemporary scene in America, however, we do not see this happening. Why? Because the church has gone about it the wrong way. It is not that we haven't tried – we have tried every strategy, method and technique imaginable. But all of it failed. It failed because the blessing of God was not upon it.
    Nowhere in the New Testament do we see Christians trying to Christianize the Roman Empire through politics, law or the arts. Rather, the primary means of advancing the Kingdom of God is the preaching of the gospel. But in order for preaching to get results the blessing of God must be upon it. "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power . . .," the apostle Paul could declare (I Cor. 2:4).
    And why don't we experience that today? It is because we have failed to pray. We are disunited. We are careless and indifferent about our own relationship with God. We have grown carnal and worldly. Our "worship" is little more than entertainment. And we have substituted human organization, psychology, and marketing for the work of the Holy Spirit. The results speak for themselves.
    Yes, we need to fall on our knees and cry out to God. But it will require more than just a brief pro forma prayer one Sunday morning. It will require real repentance, and real confession. The sad part about it is that the average Christian today probably does not realize what the church is doing wrong, and scarcely knows what he should confess.
    We need to pray that God would open our eyes, especially the eyes of our pastors and "spiritual leaders." Only then will real reformation and revival come.

Articles in which you may also be interested:
Was the "Relgious Right" a Mistake? 
Christianity and Politics 
William Jennings Bryan: A Lesson in Faith and Politics 
The Real Issue in Gay Marriage Debate 
The Legacy of the Counterculture 
The Future of Playboy America 


  1. It is hard to see how the institution of marriage can remain viable if virtually any sexual behavior is tolerated by society.

    Do you want to talk about marriage or do you want to talk about sexual behaviour? Make up your mind.

    It failed because the blessing of God was not upon it.

    It must be handy to be able to read your god's Twitter account. I can see how that would save a lot of bickering amongst the faithful.

    And why don't we experience that today? It is because we have failed to pray.

    Well, that's one possible explanation.
    Of course, there more than one.

  2. Well, I was sort of under the impression that marriage involved sexual behavior - "to have and to hold," and all that. But I could be wrong.

  3. People can be married and not have sex.
    People can have sex and not be married.
    They are two different things.

    There is no good reason to sniff the bedsheets. What consenting adults (black. white, gay or hetro) do or do not in the privacy of their own home is none of your business or mine.

    It's too similar to the "having children" argument.
    It's the one that goes "Gay people shouldn't get married because they can't have children".
    Spot the problem with the logic of that one.

    Gay people are not hated or feared any more. It's not workable to demonize them in the popular media. Those that do come across as ugly and cringe-worthy.
    The zeitgeist has shifted and we are all the better for it.

  4. "There is no good reason to sniff the bedsheets. What consenting adults (black. white, gay or hetro) do or do not in the privacy of their own home is none of your business or mine."
    That being the case, what is the point to having marriage as a legal institution at all? Why not just simply abolish it?

  5. I don't get it.
    How does a refusal to sniff bedsheets somehow lead to the abolition of marriage?

    Bob, if you want to talk about gay marriage then, sooner or later, you are going to have to talk marriage.
    Not gay people.
    Not sex.
    Not your bible.
    Not the End Times and the bunker in your backyard.
    Gay marriage.
    If that's the topic then you have to focus on the topic.

    This whole "I think the real question is...." or "Hey what about this other thing" gets old quickly.
    Pick a topic. Put it up there front and center in your headline. Make sure that it's the real question right from the get-go and then discuss it.