Storm Chaser Network

Chaplain’s Corner: Christians, It’s Time to Wake Up!

It’s a strange practice to ask people who don’t hold the same beliefs as you to conform to your morals because you quoted a book they don’t read.

Benjamin Sledge

Evangelical Christians have not enjoyed their long, cruel march from the corridors of cultural and political power. Seemingly overnight, the national consensus regarding traditional marriage eroded and there is no indication that the erosion will stop anytime soon. Those who hold to traditional views of marriage and do not want to use their businesses to endorse homosexual marriages (like, say, baking a cake for such ceremonies) risk being put out of business by government non-discrimination enforcement agencies.

At least these Christians are safe in their political shell, the Republican Party, right? The new GOP president is a populist, not a conservative, and is largely ambivalent about many of the issues that evangelical Christians care about. If the recent debate over Vice President Pence’s marital practices is any indication, mainstream America has very little understanding of the beliefs or practices of evangelical Christians.

Time to wake up, Christians. You are not the majority in America. You are not the majority of the Republican Party. Heck, you may not even be the majority among self-identified conservatives. The cultural consensus that largely coincided with your beliefs throughout American history is gone. All that is left is a marginal, largely-misunderstood movement with sharply declining influence on society-at-large.

Here are a couple of realities that Christians need to adjust to in short order:

This is just the beginning. Politics imitates culture, and popular culture has drifted a great distance away from its former coziness with the cultural trappings of Christianity. Christian views on truth, authority, commitment, marriage, sexuality, etc. (not to mention views of Jesus!) are increasingly foreign to every segment of American society. It is not simply that people are hostile to these views (though they often are), but that they are utterly unfamiliar with these views and the worldview behind them.

Christians must justify their beliefs before asserting them, and ask others to do the same. Don’t assume that there is any shared meaning or understanding. Christians are speaking an entirely different language from the culture-at-large. They might as well be speaking to a remote tribe that has no previous background in Christianity. This means that proof-texting from the Bible in order to make an argument to others is foolish. Christians must justify their belief in the Bible, as well as its inherent truthfulness, beauty, and power, before they can have any hope of sharing it effectively.

Likewise, they should ask others to justify their beliefs as well. We live in an anti-intellectualistic age where casual clichés are treated as authoritative axioms. Very few people—regardless of religious belief—are particularly capable of explaining why they believe what they believe. With the rise of linguistic relativism, we cannot even assume common definitions of basic terms like freedom, rights, equality, justice, and love. We need to start at this level—at the metaphorical drawing board—in our discussions with those who hold a fundamentally different worldview from us.

Disagreement, opposition, and even animosity do not make enemies. People of all stripes need to discard this silly warfare rhetoric that paints people on opposing sides of a zero-sum conflict. No, Christians are not waging war on women or gays. No, non-Christians are not waging war on marriage. Christians, stop treating those who don’t hold your worldview as a more-enlightened manifestation of ISIS. Many of them are ignorant of why you believe what you believe and are genuinely perplexed by the practical manifestations of your worldview.

America is now a cross-cultural mission field (which is why many other countries are sending Christian missionaries here). Instead of bemoaning the loss of a cultural consensus or viewing opposition as attacks, Christians should work at translating timeless truths into the foreign dialect of our culture. Their goal should not be winning a culture or even an argument, but in winning people to the hope and joy found in Jesus Christ, by the grace of God.

Christians, it’s time to wake up!

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About the author

Stephen Roberts

Hi! I'm an evangelist and Army Reserve chaplain in the Milwaukee area. Look forward to the exchange and weighing of our collective ideas!