AS WE ENTER THIS NEW YEAR, many are cheering what a few like me lament. I confess that, in the past, I chastised those who were pessimistic about the future of this great country. But it is time for me to acknowledge the obvious; the times they are changing and as far as I can see, not for the better.
In the weeks and months after Hurricane Ivan a few years back nature proved it is ruthlessly efficient at making formally hidden flaws painfully obvious. Long-standing buildings that appeared structurally sound could no longer mask poor and under-code design. Once seemingly invulnerable oaks betrayed by their hidden secrets of internal disease and rot joined their less noble pine brethren in a common grave of burning debris. The relentless winds simply hastened the inevitable.
Mike Duran, in the aptly titled In Which I Throw in the Towel, was one step ahead of me when he wrote:
“My conservative friends, we are fighting a tide that has turned … We’ve reached the tipping point. The liberal intelligentsia’s control of academic institutions, state-run education, the courts, the entertainment industry, and the mainstream media has become insurmountable. We may nurture a strong remnant, but be advised, we will never, ever, control the national conversation. Again. We are the minority. We are the dissidents…”
Storm winds of cultural and societal change have indeed revealed fractures and flaws some of us didn’t want to admit existed beneath our very feet. Those of us of Biblical faith are indeed the loyal minority, but is that really a new thing? Is it really the surprise so many within the faith community feign it to be?
John S. Dickerson in his soon to be released The Great Evangelical Recession makes a convincing case that orthodox Christianity had become a minority position in American culture long before Roe v. Wade, Same Sex Marriage laws, and free condoms in public schools. Through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, even as the Jesus movement gained steam and mega churches sprang up across the land, disease had already introduced itself deep within the root system of our churches, society, and government.
Like many in the late 70s, I listened to and admired Cal Thomas. And now, like him, I confess my starry eyed foolishness in believing there ever was any such thing as a Moral Majority. Once a central figure in that movement, Thomas sees things far differently now. Looking back on that era he writes:
“We were going through organizing like-minded people to ‘return’ American to a time of greater morality. Of course, this was to be done through politicians who had a difficult time imposing morality on themselves.” Thomas then notes what I and too many others failed to embrace at that time. “No country can be truly Christian. Only people can.”
Neither liberal nor theological coward, John MacArthur tackles head on the church’s foolish attempt to change culture either through legislation or supposed majority rule. Consider MacArthur’s words from Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism:
“Rather than demanding our rights and creating for ourselves a world where we feel safe and accepted, we need to see the deep spiritual needs of the world and concern ourselves with offering people hope through Jesus Christ … Above all, the believer’s political involvement should never displace the priority of … the gospel because the morality … that God sees is the result of salvation and sanctification.”
Does this mean I no longer have opinions about what should be happening in Washington or the local mayor’s office? Not at all. But it does mean I have found a certain peace in embracing my minority status. There’s just too much to do and too little time to do it to lose sleep over what Augustine called “the city of the world.”
I know there are those who read these ramblings of mine who are not followers of Christ. Even some of you who are believers don’t have my misgivings about the direction of our culture. Others, deeply troubled by the state of current affairs, are determined to fight the good fight of changing the public conversation. I wish them well but wonder if that energy couldn’t be used in better ways.
As for me the gloaming time is past. I am quite certain that night has fallen on the Baby Boomer fantasy of spirituality by legislation and the supposed redeeming influence of the institutional church. Now is the time to shine my light in the darkness rather than curse or rail against it.
And … there is a strange and wonderful peace about accepting this place of dissidence. I still want to see the city of this world a better place. But even when it appears to be at its best, I know it is ultimately what D.A. Carson calls a “brutal illusion”. At its best, this world is still at its worst.
In this city of the world those who follow Christ will always be in the minority, a band of holy rebels raising weapons of truth like firebrands in the darkness. Help me Lord, to embrace this noble calling to go outside the camp where Christ is. To be nothing that He might be everything.