Why Christians Have Lost the Culture War
Why have Christians seemingly lost the culture war in America? Why does the evangelical church in America have so little influence in shaping the current culture? With more Christians than ever homeschooling, with Christians using media and producing movies, and with unprecedented capability to proclaim our message, why are we not having a significant impact culturally?
Maybe you are of the opinion that Christians are having a major cultural impact. Maybe you are one who would hold to a perspective that Christianity is merely to prepare people for the afterlife, and shaping the culture is irrelevant and outside of the scope of its mission. If you hold either of these opinions, I probably have little to say to you in this article.
But if you believe that the assignment of the Church is greater than getting people ready to go to heaven when they die. If you believe that we, as believers, are to be “salt and light.” If you believe we have been tasked with “discipling the nations.” You must ask the question, at least as it applies to our nation, “Why have we failed?”
Let me first say that I do not pretend to have all the answers. I am certain that my brief analysis will invariably fall short of answering that question totally. Nevertheless, with those shortcomings in mind, allow me to precede to offer what I see as possible reasons.
Number 1: We are answering questions that the culture is not asking.
We, in the Church, talk about many important things. Things of eternal value. We talk about the forgiveness of sin, about having a relationship with the Creator, about the divinity of Christ, about the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, and a host of other things that are exceedingly important. We must never cease to proclaim, teach, and grow in our understanding of these things.
Its not what we talk about that is so much the issue. Its what we do not talk about that makes the Church seem irrelevant to the culture. The culture is asking questions about justice, about poverty, about the role of government, taxation, education, immigration, health care, national defense, property rights, crime and law enforcement, and a lot of other things that are seldom if ever addressed in the average evangelical, Bible believing church. It is not as if these things are not addressed in the Bible, because they are. But the Church has, for the most part, opted to either ignore these issues, or accepted the counsel of political pundits, so-called “experts,” and the “intellectual elites.” Our message is “spiritual”, and the Bible teaches us how to think about spiritual things, but Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and a variety of other sources teach us how to think about these “earthly” things.
The Church in America “parrots” Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or the Republican party on the conservative side of the political spectrum, or Nancy Pelosi, Al Sharpton, and the Democratic party on the liberal side. Evangelicalism is an “echo” rather than a “voice.”
Our worldview on economics, government, taxation, trade, immigration, justice, and all of life should be shaped by the Word of God. The Bible addresses these things and provides answers on all the questions that the “earth people” are asking. When was the last time you heard about the Biblical view of government, economics, or crime and punishment addressed from the pulpit in your Bible preaching church?
We must take the authority of God’s whole word (both Old and New Testaments) seriously. It does provide the answers for a hurting world on all of these so-called “secular” things. But we must “dig out the treasure” that is hidden in God’s Word to reap the benefits. The Puritans, who were the true “founding fathers” of our nation, were a people who sought to know and align their lives with the Scriptures. They sought to apply the Bible’s truth to every area of life. We need to apply ourselves to studying the Scriptures in the same way or else we have no true answers to give, only the “re-hashed” ideas of our favorite pundit.
Number 2: We have lost too many of our children to the other side.
The sad fact is that many who were raised in Christian homes have left the faith and are opponents of their parent’s values. The world system has “evangelized” them. They were sent away to a university, and because they were not thoroughly grounded in Biblical truth, a professor destroyed their faith. Or their parent’s harsh “legalism” turned them away and the “wolves” took them in. Maybe they saw the hypocrisy in the home growing up. Maybe they were lost due to addictions, following the crowd, or simply rebellion. All these things are tragic. But for whatever reason we have lost far too many to the “enemies camp.” You cannot win a culture war this way.
I am grateful to God that all my adult children are walking with the Lord and share my Biblical values. The credit goes to Him (and secondarily to my faithful wife). I certainly recognize that little can be done to remedy what has already been done, but I pray that future generations do a better job than mine has in this regard.
Kevin DeYoung in his blog entitled, “It’s Time for a New Culture War Strategy” proposes this:
“Here’s a culture war strategy conservative Christians should get behind: have more children and disciple them like crazy. Strongly consider having more children than you think you can handle. You don’t have to be a fertility maximalist to recognize that children are always lauded as a blessing in the Bible. Maybe on another occasion I’ll write about the triumph of birth control in the 20th century and how it happened with little theological reflection from the church, but for now let me at least nudge you in the direction of John Frame: ‘It seems to me that birth control is permissible in many situations, but it bears a high burden of proof. It can be a responsible choice, but is probably overused’.
As I’ve said before, in the not-too-distant future, the only couples replacing themselves in America will be religious couples. Although there are many good reasons to have a baby, at the end of the day, as Jonathan Last maintains, “there’s only one good reason to go through the trouble a second time: Because you believe, in some sense, that God wants you to” . The basic reason countries stop having children is because they’ve come to see offspring as a liability rather than a source of hope. As Christians, we know better.
Do you want to rebel against the status quo? Do you want people to ask you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)? Tote your brood of children through Target. There is almost nothing more counter-cultural than having more children. And once we have those children, there is almost nothing more important than catechizing them in the faith, developing their moral framework, and preparing them to be deeply compassionate lovers of God and lovers of people and relentlessly biblical lovers of truth.
I understand that being a good parent does not guarantee believing children. I understand that many couples will be unable to have all the children they want to have. We have to allow for God to work in mysterious ways that we would not have planned. And yet, in so far as we are able, let us welcome new life and give our children that best opportunity for new birth. Presidents and Supreme Court justices will come and go. A child’s soul will last forever.
The future belongs to the fecund. It’s time for happy warriors who seek to “renew the city” and “win the culture war” by investing in their local church, focusing on the family, and bringing the kingdom to bear on the world, one baby at a time.”
Number 3: We need to repent of our lukewarmness.
Let us be honest about ourselves as the Church in America. Most of us have little zeal for the things of God. That may sound harsh, but I am afraid it is the reality. It is evidenced in a variety of ways. Church attendance, giving, prayerlessness, ignorance of the Bible, and a general lack of enthusiasm about Christ and His Kingdom. Maybe you and your church are the exception, but in my observation the Church has lost its intensity for the things of God. Many of my friends, who were once zealous Christians, are now more focused on the “cares of this world.”
We are in desperate need of a “re-awakening.” As Jesus said, “If the salt has lost its savor it is good for nothing, but to be thrown out and trampled under the feet of men” (Matt. 5:13). We find ourselves today being trampled under the feet of our adversaries because of lack of “saltiness.”
It may take persecution to awaken the Church. It seems that when the Church is persecuted the old “leaven” is purged out. To quote Leonard Ravenhill: “The early church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.”
Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). But this message of the cross and self-denial has been lost and replaced with a message of self-fulfillment. Go into a Christian bookstore (which I have not done lately) and see what sells. I dare say it is not books on the cross, or prayer, or discipleship. These topics are not of interest to many believers today. But books on having a more prosperous, successful, and happy life are.
Number 4: We have had an escapist attitude.
For the past 50 years, or longer, we have heard that Jesus is coming soon. Every world crisis increases the anticipation of some that the return of Christ is right around the corner. Soon we will get out of here and leave this old world behind. As some have said, “Why polish the brass on a sinking ship.”
This emphasis on the soon return of the Lord has hampered the Church. It has made many to simply hope in Jesus “rescuing” us before thing get too bad. Due to this over-emphasis on the return of Christ, the Church has for the most part lost its ability to think long-term. We are plagued with a “short-timers” mentality that says, “we are getting out of here soon.” This has hindered the Church from building generationally. We seem to be only able to function in what is called in football a “hurry-up offense.”
This form of escapism is widespread in the Church today, and it is a major hindrance to having a long-range vision on which to build the culture.
In conclusion, let me say that this brief survey and diagnosis is undoubtedly incomplete. I did not intend it to be comprehensive, nor am I capable of such a task. These are simply my observations. I ask that you take them into consideration and ask yourself as to what you can do to serve your generation well. We all have a part to play in accomplishing God’s purpose for this time in history.