It’s over. We lost the “culture war.” After centuries of the American culture largely sharing many of our values, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. The Christian worldview is decidedly the minority worldview in this country. People do not hold our values, mainly because they do not confess our Lord.
The bold anti-biblical messages from corporations are all you need to see to know how the tide has turned. Perhaps the most obvious example: There was a time where the threat of a Christian boycott kept businesses from supporting things like LGBT causes. Now they spend the month of June putting rainbows on all of their products. We simply don’t have the clout we used to.
As such, it’s time we start acting like it and stop operating with the strategies and expectations we’ve used for so long. It’s not working anymore. And, as we make that transition, we might find that the kingdom of God is better off for it. We might just begin to operate the way we were supposed to be operating all along.
Here’s the game plan for learning from our mistakes and changing our approach.
We misunderstood humanity.
The world can debate the philosophical question of man’s goodness all day long, but Christians, we have the answer: humans are not basically good. “There is none righteous… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). Ever since the fall we have known this. Why, then, are we surprised that fallen people hold fallen values? The question of the forbidden fruit is the same one we all face today – will you submit to God, or not?
Romans 1 shows us the progression of those who say they will not. They reject God for idols, so He gives them over to what they want. As they drift further, He gives them over to their lusts while they neglect Him, the Creator, to worship His creation instead. From there He continues to give them over to their increasingly depraved desires until the point where they not only practice all sorts of evil, they also give hearty approval to others who do so as well.
Any of that sound familiar? What we are seeing in our country is the natural progression of people who do not bow before Jesus as King of everything.
Our next step must reflect our new, proper understanding of humanity.
If people are basically bad apart from Christ, and grow worse as time goes on, that truth must be factored into our plans. We fool ourselves when we think we can make it so our Biblical values are honored by people who do not honor the authority behind the Biblical values.
It is humanism, not Christianity, that posits that mankind can think, work, and legislate themselves into goodness. Many (if not most) American Christians forgot this lesson long ago and are still seeking to “fix” the country by political means. We cannot fix that which instead needs to be saved. Jesus fixes all things, but not before He saves.
Knowing that mankind is basically bad and consistently pulled further away from God rather than toward Him, we must change our strategy. Victory through cultural and/or political dominance is not a viable strategy. We don’t have that kind of influence, and even if we did, any gain would only be temporary as mankind will continue their march away from God.
First of all, we have to start meaning it when we say, “this world is not my home” and “my citizenship is in heaven.” We may be American citizens, but ultimately, we belong to a different kingdom, and it’s imperative we start building a church culture that shows the world exactly how we’re different. The kingdoms of the world might see the powerful taking advantage of the weak, but we won’t. The kingdoms of this world might struggle with matters of race, but we won’t. The kingdoms of this world might see poverty and undernourishment, but we won’t. The kingdoms of this world might have difficulty agreeing on a standard of what is right and what is wrong, but we won’t. Rather than being surprised that they don’t hold our values, we are to stand separate from them and show a better way.
Second, we must change our strategy. The church was designed with an infiltrative structure, like “leaven hidden in three measures of meal” (Matthew 13:33). Leaven spreads within the system. It does not become the system. Since we’re already thinking of ourselves as citizens of a different kingdom, let’s run with that analogy.
If a foreign country set up a military base in America, they would be shot down. If they tried to take over the country’s political system by running their own candidates, they would be widely opposed. But what would happen if a few dedicated disciples of their ideology came in and quietly taught others their ideas? Within a few generations they could bring about all kinds of change.
That’s basically exactly how we got the wave of Marxism we see today. Where communism and (overt) socialism have failed at the polls for decades, they still wield an outsized influence because the means employed by their proponents went beyond just the political. They went into the universities, the press, and Hollywood and taught people to agree with them. In other words, they knew they couldn’t force their ideas on an unwilling public. So they began to convert people. They knew that, in the long run, values drive a country far more than laws do.
We have to stop being so short-sighted. We can’t save people by voting for the right person. If we want to make a difference we need to do the hard work of going beyond the polling place and instead competing for people’s hearts. In short, we do what Jesus told us to do all along: make disciples. Start praying for and seeking out like-minded Christians who are ready to wage war on the gates of Hades. Pray fervently and plan together as to how you’re going to make the name of Jesus known in your town – whether the people think they already know Him or not. Then start telling people about Him. Simple as that.
Once we realize how broken humanity is, we can stop expecting the government to enforce our morals by law, and we can stop expecting individuals and businesses to support our Biblical convictions. From there, we can get down to the serious business of carrying out our mission. For far too long we’ve been satisfied to live in a nation that outwardly held our values while ignoring the spiritual state of the individuals around us. Somehow we can get millions of Christian citizens to align on voting decisions and get countless Christian consumers to affect policy with their spending (Chick-fil-a, Ford, etc.), but have to beg people to evangelize.
“Why not both?” you might ask. “Why not political and spiritual engagement?” I suppose I’ll ask the same question to you. Maybe we can be both highly politically active and highly spiritually active, but social media and church attendance make it painfully clear that most Christians are far, far more interested in political change than spiritual change. What is your hope for the future? A return to Christian cultural domination, or an infiltrative spread of the kingdom? Do the paths to those two goals overlap?
I’ll close with one more question I anticipate I’ll receive, and one I too used to ask: “But what if every Christian did what you suggest and gave up on politics?” You mean to ask me what the results would be if hundreds of thousands of us threw ourselves whole-heartedly into prayer-driven evangelism and disciple-making as our form of activism?
I don’t know, but I sure would like to find out.