Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 02/23/22

The Coming Tsunami: Why Christians Are Labeled Intolerant, Irrelevant, Oppressive, and Dangerous―and How We Can Turn the Tide: Denison, Jim: 9781637630471: Amazon.com: Books

Between LGBTQ and CRT, it sometimes seems that nearly the entire alphabet has a bone to pick with white Christians. In his new book The Coming Tsunami: Why Christians Are Labeled Intolerant, Irrelevant, Oppressive, and Dangerous―and How We Can Turn the Tide Christian podcaster Dr. Jim Denison offers the perspective of and advice to a community that feels under siege just for being who they are. Where have we heard that before? In our Q&A, the author suggests the solution lies in, as Jesus suggested, all of us treating others as we would like to be treated. The ideal, I gather, is for all of us to respectfully coexist with those with whom we may have disagreements while letting love, reasoned dialogue and lives of positive example make our cases for us. If you have to resort to coercion, you’re not winning hearts and minds and are tilting toward totalitarianism.

JWK: What is The Coming Tsunami you refer to in your book title?

Dr. Jim Denson: Tsunamis are produced when earthquakes or volcanic eruptions far beneath the oceans surface produce giant waves that devastate those in their path. In the same way, the moral and spiritual tsunamis we are experiencing have their origins in events and ideas that are less apparent to us. Four cultural earthquakes have seismically shifted our world through the rise of  a post-truth” culture, the sexual revolution, Critical Theory and secular religion.

The cultural acceptance of these ideologies has seismically shifted our world. These tidal waves are threatening to submerge evangelical Christians in America and the biblical morality we proclaim. But heres the good news: unlike tsunamis in nature, which cannot be stopped once they have been created, its not too late to stop the moral tsunamis of our day.

JWK: In the book you talk about a rise of a “post-truth” culture. What do you mean by that?

JD: By post-truth” culture, we mean that the cultures understanding of absolute truth is mostly gone. Thats especially the case with morality. For instance, we say a particular religion can be true for you” or true for me.” This rejection also rings true of moral beliefs. Unless youre infringing on someone elses freedom, it doesn’t really matter what you do or believe, as long as youre living your authentic self.” This cultural belief comes from philosophers like Immanuel Kant and postmodernists like Jacques Derrida.

According to recent polling, most Americans think that sincerity of faith is more important than what you believe. You can be a Buddhist, Christian, or atheist—whatever works best for you—so long as you sincerely believe.

George Barna at the Cultural Research Center is doing excellent research into the worldview shift into the post-truth culture. A recent survey of millennials showed that 74 percent believe that all religious faiths are of equal value and that two-thirds don’t believe in absolute truth.

This post-truth belief has widespread implications. The news has focused much less on facts and more on telling a narrative” that its viewers want to hear. This fact has led to declining trust in mainstream media. That we live in a post-truth” culture is one of the most alarming earthquakes.”

JWK: You suggest that changing sexual morality has knocked Christians – and society in general – off balance, especially regarding the presentation of LGBTQ views upon children. How?

JD: To understand the ways in which changes to the standards of sexual morality have impacted Christians and the culture requires first acknowledging the path that our culture has taken to reach this point.

While circumstances have escalated at an alarming rate in recent years, it’s taken decades to lay the groundwork for recent changes to occur. The efforts to normalize LGBTQ lifestyles began long ago. For example, popular shows like Will and Grace, as well as prominent media personalities like Ellen DeGeneres, helped people become more accustomed to a lifestyle they might not encounter in their personal lives. From there, Pride Month and other events encouraged the culture to see the LGBTQ movement as a struggle worthy of their support. That swell of support eventually led to the legalization of same-sex relationships that culminated in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court ruled that states must license and recognize same-sex marriages.

Now we are in the era of stigmatizing those who disagree.

Christians who advocate for biblical morality are caricatured as homophobic, prejudiced, and discriminatory. As a result, the societal approval of those labels has allowed proponents of the LGBTQ movement to push the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable faster and farther than they could before. The results have been especially profound when it comes to children.

Last summer, for example, Kellogg‘s cereal unveiled products celebrating the fact that “no matter who you are, who you love, or what pronouns you use, you’re too awesome to fit into a (cereal) box.” Not to be outdone, Nickelodeon released a video by its kids’ program Blue’s Clues & You! that takes place at a Pride parade narrated by an animated version of drag performer and activist Nina West.

If people can be conditioned to view such lifestyles as normal while they’re children, then that perspective is far less likely to change as they grow older. As a result, proponents of LGBTQ rights have a lot to gain by targeting the youngest generations, and their recent actions demonstrate a clear awareness of that reality.

That is also why it is so important for Christians to accord that same level of importance and effort to help children understand and embrace God’s perspective on these issues. They are likely to follow whomever has the greatest amount of influence in their lives. Parents, please make sure that is you and that you wield that influence to help them know Jesus.

JWK: What are your thoughts on Critical Race Theory?

JD: Critical Race Theory, as you can imagine, is complex. Were releasing more content soon on this subject, but for now, Ill cover a bit from the book. Basically, it says that America is infected with hidden racism thats difficult to see. Racism is in how we define what is normal,” it’s in the criminal justice system, in our laws, in all levels of education, etc.

Critical Race Theory is a bag of ideas, some good, some bad. Though there is research that shows systemic racism exists in America, some ideas within Critical Race Theory are against the biblical worldview.

For instance, Critical Race Theory says that racism is primarily a cultural, systemic problem instead of an issue within an individuals heart. According to the Bible, racism is first and foremost a movement of an individual’s will to prejudice. We each have to be very careful about this sin in our own lives, examining our hearts for that prejudice, and not assuming were immune to the sin.

Additionally, one of CRTs biggest problems is that it casts white Christians as oppressors simply by the fact of their being white and Christian because Christians and white people are in the majority.

Finally, CRT finds ultimate salvation in liberation here on earth. While we should strive for freedom and justice, we shouldnt put our faith in a present-day, earthbound utopia.

We should reject CRT as an overarching system of thought because it sees the world through the lens of Marxism (that all of life is lived in two categories: oppressed and oppressor). Instead, God sees people primarily as saved or unsaved, as his children or as children of wrath.

I sympathize with those who hold to Critical Race Theory. Its true that we are sinful, that prejudice can exist under the surface, that justice is extremely important, and even that some level of systemic oppression exists in America today. However, the Bible primarily sees our sins as individual problems of the heart that need grace and fixing from Jesus.

So we should respond by using our influence to combat racism and injustice where we are, continuing to examine our own hearts for racism, bringing those sins in confession, and breaking bread with people different than us.

JWK: What is “secular religion” and do you see it as hostile to religious freedom?

JD: Secular religion” can be difficult to define.

First, it is a designation that most of its proponents would likely reject. Those who want to replace a religious perspective on life with a more humanist version often prefer to distance themselves from the term religion altogether. When Richard Dawkins, for example, describes religion as “the root of all evil” and a “virus” in the software of humanity, it is understandable that he would be hesitant to follow that claim by espousing a different form of religion to take its place. We must understand, though, that what the majority of those who oppose Christianity and other religions hope to accomplish does amount to the formation of a new religion.

That fact, in turn, leads to the second reason why secular religion can be difficult to define: it is known more by what it is against than what it is for.

For example, critics often reject religion by arguing that it is irrational. Reason, they claim, has replaced religion as the world has become more enlightened. Relatedly, they contend that humanity has evolved beyond the need for superstition and mythology, two terms often seen as synonymous with religion among those who oppose it.

Our understanding of science has now become sufficiently advanced to explain many of the mysteries that were once relegated to the realm of myth. Philosophy and advancements in human morality, moreover, have brought humanity to the place that we no longer need the threat of some omnipotent and omniscient being to ensure that people behave rightly toward one another. And the purpose of behaving rightly is to make this life and this world the best it can be because, ultimately, it is the only thing we can know exists.

But while proponents of such thinking may not want to call their system of belief a religion, when it seeks to replace rather than just remove the various roles that religion plays in a person’s life, then it inevitably becomes a religion itself. The human impulse to find meaning and purpose from a source beyond ourselves cannot be satisfied apart from a system of belief that is inherently religious in nature. That is why the secular impulse to rise above religion will inevitably result in the creation of a secular religion to take its place. And history has shown that when two religions come into conflict, the results are often hostile.

As Christians, though, we must never reach the point where we see people who espouse such beliefs as the enemy. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul writes that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” As a result, unbelievers and others who oppose biblical truth are deceived. They are not the enemy—Satan is.

At the same time, we should not expect the culture to accord us the same grace. When the lost have been deceived into believing that their ideal society can only be built when the aspects of our faith they deem unacceptable have been replaced, conflict is largely unavoidable. That is why secular religion is often hostile toward us and the religious freedoms that would otherwise prevent the replacement of our beliefs.

JWK: You oppose the Equality Act which is a bill that is before Congress that, if passed, would forbid discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in matters of employment, housing, public accommodations, education, federally funded programs, credit and jury service. Most people would say banning discrimination is a good thing – but you see it as a threat to religious liberty. Why?

JD: Great question. First of all, as believers, we should never act out of prejudice against others, regardless of their appearance, their sexual orientation, or sin of any kind. Instead, were told that we are to love the least of these.” Were all sinners. Im just as tempted heterosexually as someone else may be homosexually. As Christians, were just beggars leading beggars to Christ, right?

So, using religious freedom as an excuse to disengage from and not love LGBTQ people is not our intention at all. In our view, the Equality Act removes our ability to love others well.

The Equality act adds SOGI” (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) to the Civil Rights Act. Sounds harmless enough, right? But it also removes religious exemptions in important areas of non-discrimination, and it greatly broadens the definition for what the Civil Rights Act would apply to.

So, for instance, if a biological woman who was transgender came to a Catholic hospital asking for a transition surgery, they would be forced to comply in a positive sense. If a Christian university refused a student entrance because of their active homosexual lifestyle, they would be violating the Equality Act. If a church didnt hire someone based on the same thing, that would be violating the law.

Technically, even though violating the Equality Act wouldnt be a criminal offense, if the judge gives you an injunction, you would be forced to comply by law. So you would have to let that person into your university, or do the transition surgery, etc. If you didnt, you could technically go to jail.

In the case of gender transition, we dont believe that its loving to provide gender transition surgery to those with gender dysmorphia, nor is it morally right based on biblical conviction. Forcing institutions, even churches, to do something against their religious beliefs in a positive sense certainly violates religious liberty.

JWK: Much of this seems to come from the framing of issues in a way that seems to put people of traditional faith at odds with their professed beliefs in tolerance and kindness – to make Christians appear, as you suggest in your book’s subtitle, “Intolerant, Irrelevant, Oppressive and Dangerous.” How can Christians – and others of traditional beliefs – respond to these hot button issues in a way that is compassionate but also pushes back where that seems necessary?

JD: In a postmodern culture, your most powerful argument is your changed life.

When people see the difference Jesus makes in your life, they may be drawn to seek such a difference in their lives. Your story will touch hearts whose minds may be closed to truth.

Christians are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), standing boldly but graciously for our Lord and his people. When we respond to attacks with compassion and to hate with love, we show a skeptical culture Christlike civility and grace at work. John S. Dickerson is right: We are not here to attack or fight our neighbors when they disagree with us; we are here to be diplomats and ambassadors to them.”

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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