For almost 2,000 years, the Christian faith has enjoyed a steady and significant influence upon Europe, and consequently, America as well. Throughout the 20th century, however, public universities and schools began abandoning the theistic biblical worldview. Between 1960 and 2010, the wider culture completely discarded all semblance of a Christian morality in public. Then, the persecution of Christians began in the 2010s. Social observers witnessed Western culture shift from a positive view of Christian values and culture to a negative view sometime between 2011 and 2014. After centuries of general reception by the mainstream cultural institutions, Christians would henceforth be subjected to persecution at the hands of the zeitgeist.
The first major case emerged in 2006, when a Christian photographer in New Mexico was fined for refusing to participate in a homosexual “wedding” ceremony. The case was finally adjudicated in 2012, and the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the homosexual plaintiff—a ruling sustained by the US Supreme Court two years later. A Christian florist found herself in a similar situation in December of 2012, and a Christian family running a bakery shop in Oregon was similarly charged in January, 2013.
Persecution is on the rise all over the world, and American believers are beginning to experience more and more what it is like to be “pilgrims in a strange land.” The Cato Institute concluded that Christianity is the most persecuted religion, facing martyrdoms, imprisonment, and various forms of harassment in 145 countries now.
During the 1980s and 1990s, conservative or evangelical Christians still imagined they were “on a roll” in politics. They called themselves the “moral majority” and the “Christian coalition.” Cultural warrior, Dr. James Dobson was speaking to 220 million people on a daily basis, on over 7,000 radio stations. The “good doctor” was reduced to an audience of 300 radio stations in 2010.
The zeitgeist has shifted. The sooner we realize this, the better. The gauntlet was set down before the Christian population, and the majority of churchgoers would have nothing to do with it. Faced with a choice of accommodation or confrontation with the macro-culture, the majority chose to acquiesce and compromise the message or just leave the church completely. Unfortunately, pushing for big tent ecumenism by liberalizing Christian ethics and the Gospel, without a big tent revival, will inevitably result in more mass exits from the church. Median church attendance has dropped from 137 to 65 in America since 2000 - a 53% drop-off. Evangelical attendance dropped off 5.4% in 5 years, and that doesn’t include the Covid-crisis year. The most recent numbers from Lifeway indicate a 27% drop-off of church attendance in a single year. About half of Americans who attended church back in 2006 are not anymore. This represents the largest departure from the Christian church in American history.
Ready or not, Christians of real faith will have to adjust to this new cultural antagonism as society rushes ahead towards abolishing moral absolutes and marginalizing faith at every level. Compromise and assimilation won’t work, but neither will an imposition of the old Christian morality that held sway for a thousand years. How then do we respond to the changing tide?
1. Let’s be humble and realistic. Maintaining a pretense that Christian values have the upper hand or hold popular sway in the grass roots in England, Scotland, Germany, or the United States is of little use. Some conservatives wish to believe we are making more progress than we are, especially in politics. A humble realism will help us to make wise choices when we choose our political and cultural battles. Christians in other nations are familiar with political marginalization, and they learn to function in these contexts.
2. Let’s strategize, and identify institutions (nations) that may still be discipled, in accord with the command of Christ. He told us to disciple the nations, but which nations? Which families? Which institutions? How might we still defend the islands of freedom and culture, laid out for us — such as homeschooling, Christian medical sharing, caring for our own parents in their old age, family economies, etc. Our first priority is to disciple our children, and perhaps prepare them to make more progress gaining liberties and advocating righteous policies in the civil sphere.
3. Let’s take advantage of the multi-ethnic character of our respective nations, especially in the West. Opportunities to disciple the nations, especially among those who have never received the Gospel, still abound.
4. Let’s not compromise the message or kowtow to the zeitgeist. This is no time for giving way to ethical relativism, mealy-mouthed expressions of faithlessness, or synthesis with a suicidal mass culture. If there ever was a time for courageous plainspokenness, that would be now. While we must always speak the truth in love, we must also come to grips with the fact that we are facing hard times, requiring hard measures — but mostly, a willingness to confront the hard truths. Our Lord Jesus was strong towards those who were hardened to the truth, and gracious and approachable towards those who were broken over their own sin. All that to say, we may have to speak the truth in tough love. Now, more than ever, men and women need to see the bankruptcy of modern life and return to the answer that can only be found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
5. Let us be ready for persecution - death threats, vandalism, bodily injury, slander, and all the rest that makes up the every day experience of the followers of Jesus. The servant is not above his Master in any of this.
6. Let’s not abandon politics, but reconsider priorities, chief of which is the protection of certain religious liberties for the Christian minority. Local influence will often exceed anything that can be accomplished at the national level.
7. Let us seriously consider the degree to which we separate ourselves, and the degree to which we involve ourselves with the wider culture. The most positive contribution Christians will make in culture at this point will be in the fields of charity, business, medicine, science, and independent media.
The question of involvement has become increasingly difficult for Christians laboring in public institutions that are dedicated to utterly corrupting human civilization itself, undermining Christian culture, persecuting the faith, and opposing God’s law at every point. Should Christians teach in the public schools where the fear of God is disallowed and the teachers are immediately dismissed if they bring the gospel of Christ to the students? Should Christians put more effort into stopping abortion-promoting politics or should they engage other approaches to dealing with the problem of child killing? Should Christians be more concerned with reforming Hollywood, or would they do better to work outside of Hollywood with their filmmaking? Should Christian political groups and government officials focus more resources on religious liberty issues or pro-life issues? Or, put another way, should Christians remain in a defensive political posture and generally avoid the offensive posture on matters like abortion or homosexuality? Or, put more bluntly, should Christians let the ungodly kill their children while doing everything they can to preserve their own? Should the Christian church take a strong stance against the use of abortifacients for its membership (to the point of excommunication)? Should Christians support personhood legislation requiring legal sanctions for those who knowingly use abortifacient contraceptive devices?
This calls for heart-level honesty. In aggregate, has the salt lost its saltiness? Has compromise and synthesis resulted from involvement in the world’s systems? Does involvement in the public schools really aid in bringing a child up in the teaching and admonition of the Lord? Or are parents causing their children to stumble upon the bad worldviews and associated bad peer groups? Our Lord has severe warnings for those who cause children to stumble (Matt. 18:6).
Will Christians participate in the cultural corruption and then be swept up in the demise of the West? Or will they “come out from among them and be separate?” Will the church regain saltiness, and then salt the earth once more? Or will the Christian church reform itself, while producing little appreciable effect on the dying culture around her? It is at this point where one’s eschatology might be used to interpret present historical trends and set the agenda for the immediate future.
All in all, Christians everywhere will seek to bring all to the feet of Jesus, Lord and King. All Christians must engage in a full-orbed reformation and repentance as a way of life. This reformation must take place in education, science and technology, media, culture, family life, business, and church. Whether this reformation will be confined to cultural islands or not is in God’s hands. In the meantime, we will be thankful for all the gardens planted and every plant germinating out of the ashes of Western civilization.
“And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.” (Isaiah 58:12)
That’s the way I end my book, Epoch, the Rise and Fall of the West.I wrote the book for the men of Issachar, who, as we read in 1 Chronicles 12:32, “understood the times, so they would know what to do.” During these turbulent times, that’s what is needed more than anything. Where have we been? Where are we now? And where are we going? These are times that test our faith, but all will be for the benefit of Christ’s church.
The question of "How shall we now live?" should be of paramount concern to the Christian homeschool family in light of all that's going on around us in today's culture. That's why I hope you can join us this Thursday, November 11th at 9am Pacific for a special FREE live Q&A workshop titled How Should Homeschool Families Now Live? Responding to Government Tyranny, Social Tension, and an Anti-Christian Culture.
We'll be addressing some of today's toughest topics and answering your biggest questions regarding how we as Christian homeschool families should live in light of:
- The overextension of government
- Critical Race Theory
- Mandated vaccinations
- The censoring of "free speech"
- The marginalization of Christianity in today's culture
I'm excited to be opening up discussion surrounding these topics. Will you join us this week for our FREE ONLINE WORKSHOP?