More and more, I am hearing that we live in post-Christian times. From national surveys to state referendums it seems that our nation has discarded its past affiliation with traditional Christianity in favor of post-modern secularism. As a Christian I am supposed to have a response to this shift. I don’t. I have two.
From my vantage the nation has made two (related but distinct) shifts. Firstly, it has abandoned the Judeo-Christian moral ethic for a more hedonistic alternative. I think this is a very, very bad thing and we are going to pay the price for it. Secondly, the country has distanced itself from identifying itself as a ‘de facto’ Christian nation. It may surprise many that I think this move has some advantages.
With regard to the changing ethic, I fear that the consequences of this move away from traditional values will be monstrous. We have yet to realize the impact of our choices, but the harvest is coming swiftly. Children raised in fatherless homes or in the homes of same-sex couples are struggling to integrate into society. The deficits in their upbringing make them confused, angry, and reckless. Trained to live impetuously, they are broken people who bruise and break others. It is no exaggeration to say that this is a tragedy.
This societal wreckage is not limited to ‘those’ people. As the media champions this nihilistic narcissism (meaningless selfishness) the impressionable are influenced to abandon goodness and take momentary pleasure in chaotic living. Even those who have been raised well are tempted to discard their upbringing and throw themselves into careless revelry. It seems that we have forgotten that God’s instructions on right living teaches us how to live well. Our humanity is best reflected when we live in obedience to His law. Unfortunately, our nation seems unwilling to listen and its flirtation with ungodliness is going to leave scars that will ache for generations to come.
With regard to the changing identity of the country, I see a silver lining. There was a time when the American people had some form of religious consensus and viewed themselves as being a ‘Christian’ nation. Whether this was ever entirely accurate is of little interest to me since it certainly isn’t the case today. Our country is militantly pluralistic and Christianity now competes in the market place of ideas. We can no longer presume that an American child will grow up thinking that they are a Christian, and for that I am grateful.
As it is, there are too many who have a counterfeit faith. They are Christians by association and not by choice. Their faith is a nominal affirmation that they hold onto as if it were some family keepsake. Stored in the attic of their hearts, their belief is a sentimental inheritance that has no impact on their lives. Never having called on Christ for salvation, these people think they are in God’s good graces on the basis of their heritage. They believe that they are Christians, when they are not, and this is an impediment to their salvation. They simply don’t know that they need to be saved. I fear for the souls of these people.
Those who have no affiliation with Jesus are easier to evangelize. They know that they don’t believe and so there is no need to deconstruct their nominal faith. Their unbelief allows for clearer communication. I see a real opportunity amongst these people. More than inviting them back to church we get to introduce our neighbors and coworkers to Jesus.
This post-Christian age is a mixed bag for those who love Jesus. Sadly, we will have to live in the midst of unfettered sin and deal with the inevitable sorrow that results. Fortunately, the contrast between the way of the world and the fruit of the Spirit can’t be more vivid.