It is no secret that Western civilization is changing, especially as it pertains to religious views. Christendom is losing its pervasiveness over Western culture. Secular humanism is quickly replacing religious views. Moral absolutism has been replaced by moral relativism. The internet is changing the definition of social interactions. People are more connected and more isolated than ever before. No one uses a Motorola Razr any more. Needless to say, things are changing quickly.
For many in the church this change produces a mix of anxiety and fear. What has been known is not what will be known. Many Christians are holding on to a past where, by and large, Christianity was normative. Even if Christianity wasn’t normative in the past at least the Judeo-Christian worldview was.
But that is changing. Like it or not. Whether we admit it or not, everyone knows it.
The fear and anxiety experienced by those in the church is evident by how we have responded to society’s rejection of Christian (especially traditional/conservative Christian) values. When Chick-fil-a CEO Dan Cathy makes a statement about traditional marriage being between a man and woman he receives criticism from the culture. What once was a normative worldview is no more in our society. Society pushes back against the idea, which shocks the church, so we start our own campaign to support Chick-fil-a all the while crying, “Persecution!”
And when Louie Giglio steps down from giving the benediction at the Presidential inauguration because of a sermon that he gave 20 years ago about homosexuality, the Christian subculture rises up and cries, “Persecution!”
When contraceptives, some of which go against Christian beliefs regarding abortion, are included in health care mandates, “Persecution!”
When prayers are removed from graduations, “Persecution!”
In consideration to Christians around the world who are imprisoned, beaten, forced out of their homes, and killed for their confession of “Jesus is Lord,” can we not cry “persecution” when the social standing American Christians have enjoyed has been exchanged by the fulfillment of Jesus promise that the world would hate his followers?
I realize some people will take issue with my stance. I realize some people believe Christians are persecuted in America. But I do not believe American Christians are experiencing persecution.
I believe we are experiencing increasing marginalization.
Marginalization is the process by which an individual or group is placed in a position of marginal importance, influence, or power. This, I believe, is what American Christians are experiencing. For years, Christian values shaped the values of our society. Christian leaders influenced societal leaders and were invited into the decision-making process. It could be assumed that if someone wasn’t a Christian, they at least held Christian values and morals. But all that has changed.
And here is where it may get tough. I believe the increasing marginalization of the American Church is due to the church’s ineffectiveness at being who we are supposed to be. We are to be stewards of the land, who take responsibility for the condition of the world around us. We are to be ministers of reconciliation. We are to live peaceably, as much as it depends upon us, with all people. We are to love our neighbors. I can’t help but wonder, “If we were who we are supposed to be, would we be irrelevant and marginalized?”
Wouldn’t our cities seek us out to help reconcile people together?
Wouldn’t our communities look to us to increase their condition?
Wouldn’t our neighbors come to us because they know they would be loved well?
Maybe, maybe the brushing aside of Christians by culture isn’t so much about the moral degradation and godlessness of a society. Maybe it is about the failure of Christians to be Christ-followers. Please do not hear me bashing Christians. That is not my intent. Rather, we must acknowledge our culture’s changing values, and Christianity’s changing place in culture. In light of that, I long for Christians, who are the church, to be the agents of transformation we are called to be. I mourn that instead of living into our calling, we often bemoan position or political influence or power that was lost. I don’t mourn the loss of those things. Position, political influence, and power were never something to be sought. Christ’s example is of one who gave up those things in order to be a servant (Philippians 2:5-11). Power, for the Christian, comes not from a political majority or a favorable legislation, but rather from the Spirit of Christ who dwells in us. It is the power to forgive those who wrong us, pray for our enemies, and to do good to those who wrong us.
Which may mean we need to acknowledge and repent of holding on to things we should never have been holding on to. It may mean that we as Christians can no longer fail to act because we assume everyone shares our beliefs, but that we must act out our faith in a way that makes us relevant to the world. And acting in that role produces a different type of anxiety.
At least the Holy Spirit was sent for that anxiety.
So what do you think? Are Christians in America persecuted or marginalized? And perhaps most important, how should we respond?