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Christendom in America: Should We Be Pacifists or Activists in Light of the Nation’s Cultural Decline?

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There are polar opposite sentiments in the American church today, both reasonably rooted in disappointment.

First, about that disappointment: It’s indisputable among people of faith that the U.S. has devolved into a cultural sewer or wasteland, whichever imagery you prefer. Anyone who denies the depraved state of our society has either been in a coma for 40 years, or is completely divorced from Christian precepts.

The basics have been perverted until love means getting whatever you lust for, rather than sacrificing everything for another’s benefit. Tolerance has been inverted to mean acceptance and endorsement of any and everything, rather than putting up with what we disagree with.

Clearly, a culture that exalts the murder of babies by their mothers while in the child’s most vulnerable condition is antithetical to Christian precepts.

As we read in Job: “Did not He who made me in the womb make him, and the same one fashion us in the womb?”

Similarly, the elevation of sexual sin, not just homosexual practices, but also the juggernaut of unchecked sexual appetites run amok since the 1960s, should be an affront to anyone who takes Jesus and the Bible seriously.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” Jesus said.

We find two extremes within the church telling us how now to live in the midst of such a depraved world where evil is considered good, and vice versa.

One faction, let’s call it the “activists,” is a remnant of the well-intentioned but ultimately failed Moral Majority, which to put it mildly tried to shove Christianity down society’s throat. With love, of course. Not only was the moralizing offensive even to many highly moral people, it was doomed to fail as hypocrisies by the bucketful were revealed. Gee, who could have expected to find fallen sinners among the holier-than-thou crowd?

The other faction, let’s call it the “pacifists,” is an equally well-intentioned group that looks a lot like the survivalist crowd known for digging bomb shelters, stocking pantry shelves with nonperishables, huddling together to prayerfully await Armageddon.

In full-disclosure, yours truly has – and often still does – identify with both extremes. My evangelical approach more often than not resembles holding down an unbeliever while pounding him on the head with a Bible. And at the opposite end of my theological mood swings, I admit to stocking more than one shelf and finding the future in the here and now unpromising and full of gloom.

All of that aside, here’s a confession: I’m as Calvinistic as you’ll find in the pews today, and wholeheartedly believe God is in charge, predestining the outcome from the beginning of time eternal. This, I know, is good news, not bad. But I also realize He will not be mocked – or ignored.

While both the pacifist and activist extremes are counterproductive, both have enough truth in them to warrant further consideration.

To those pacifists who lament that the trends in our society should only be combatted with prayer, patience and tolerance, let this sink in: The turmoil and depravity in our land may well be our righteous God’s judgment on our nation for its past and present sins. But the idea that we should consequently retreat from the culture in order to dutifully and prayerfully await final judgment misses an important point.

If our worsening condition is indeed judgment by God who has turned over our culture to its perverse lusts, as the apostle tells us in Romans 1, we must not lose sight that it is what we have done that brought judgment. And if that’s the case, as I firmly believe it is, then what we do next should have some bearing on that judgment’s severity, or perhaps even its recension. If God is telling us this is what we get for doing what we’ve done, it follows logically that if we do the opposite, blessings rather than curses should flow.

Many in what I’ve perhaps unfairly labeled the “pacifist” crowd properly remind us that we are to die to our sinful selves. Unfortunately, they sometimes jump to the illogical conclusion that therefore we also should be willing to be put to death literally in our physical lives, rather than actively oppose evil, as if there’s nothing we can do about it.

But the point isn’t dying for dying’s sake. The point is to die to those things that are unholy. We earn no credit for throwing ourselves on a grenade unless that self-sacrifice saves someone else. Simply submitting to death isn’t laudable. It’s suicide. Christianity has a multitude of martyrs. But none, to my knowledge, were labeled as such for merely being suicidal.

A missionary whom I deeply respect has spent a lifetime taking the Gospel to far-flung people groups that have never heard of Jesus. Among them, was a group of cannibals. When the cannibals decided to kill him, this missionary didn’t passively submit to become their dinner. He fled.

Similarly, a devout band of evangelists from our church regularly visits convicts in the maximum security ward of a local prison to share with them the Gospel. But these evangelists, sharing God’s love as the Bible tells us to, exercise similar wisdom. They don’t give their last names or telephone numbers to these once- and very likely still-dangerous men.

There’s a reason God spent so much effort through His prophets imparting Wisdom literature in the Bible. We are, as Jesus said, to be wise as serpents. That’s because the world is full of wolves. While we were made to glorify God even unto death, we weren’t made to be wolf food.

At the other end of the spectrum, are those figurative Bible thumpers who demand the laws of the land be made to conform to God’s law. Perhaps unsurprisingly we find these types disproportionately represented on the political campaign trail.

Don’t misread my intention here. I firmly believe any manmade law that conflicts with God’s law and natural order is sinful, and should be abolished. But no amount of ranting or thumping is going to change the hearts necessary to conform the laws of the land to the law of our Lord.

Here, the activist crowd too often gets the cart before the horse. It is a fact that until Christianity wins the hearts as well as the minds of unbelievers in this culture, voting is going to reflect hearts that seek personal aggrandizement, rather than conformance with God’s will.

If this seemed like a rant or a lecture, my apologies. There’s much of that activist spirit in yours truly. But on the other hand, if this has seemed fatalistic and resigned to a bad outcome, my apologies as well. There are plenty of times when what’s going on in our land beats down this humble soul to the point I’d like to retreat to prayer and await the end. Too often I resort to, “Come quickly Jesus” as a plea for relief rather than prayer for fulfillment.

Without presuming too much, could it be that a healthy dose of winsome pacifist prayerfulness might find God more willing to save us from consequences of our sinful failings if we were more activist-oriented in sharing the Gospel to change enough hearts that the culture would more closely resemble that city on a hill than Sodom and Gomorrah? Just askin’.



 

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