We live in dark, perilous times. We turn on the television and our computers each day and see young men and women violently killed by police and cops assassinated on the streets. The religious “nones” have taken a ram to traditional mores, furiously denouncing those who don’t agree with them. Presidential candidates are not trusted and have created social division. Peace and unity have become foreign terms. There is no question that there is a great deal at stake.
In a recent report, Pew Research revealed an interesting trend in attitudes towards religion. A growing share (34 percent) of self-identified “evangelical or born-again” Christians identify with the statement that it is more difficult to be a member of their religious group in recent years. Some of this feeling was attributed to the fact that the country is becoming more secular, with our nation’s attitudes and activities having no religious basis. Alternatively, 31 percent of religious “nones” say it has become easier. Additionally, Pew found that many surveyed believed Christianity was losing its influence in America. Almost 72 percent of survey responders believed that religion’s influence in American life is waning. Those who identified with this statement also indicated that this downturn was not a good thing. In a country founded upon principles that are undeniably Christian, these statistics are shocking. They mark a departure from the attitudes of our parents’ generation. Despite America’s Judeo-Christian roots and heritage, and the beliefs of its founders, the United States today is a nation that follows other gods, and lives a lifestyle that does not reflect Christian values.
R.R. Reno, editor of First Things and one of America’s leading scholars of religion and politics believes our society is one step away from chaos and that Americans do not recognize their own country anymore. In his book, "Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society" he warns, without a restoration of America as a Christian society, our culture will rapidly descend into an unhappy, shallow, lawless, and brutal place, divided more than ever between rich and poor and vulnerable to elite demagogues. Reno shows why a renewal of Christian ideas is fundamental in preventing the complete collapse of our country. Yet, there is hope. While the post-Christian culture is failing, there is a solution that can save us all: a renewal of Christian ideals such as compassion, integrity, hard work and love. If we want to resort a Christian society, Christianity’s public influence must be restored.
Many Christians are finding themselves in the 34 percent of evangelicals who experience greater difficulty at work as a member of the body of Christ, but we should not be discouraged from embracing the opportunity that this data reveals. Unfortunately, the term “religious” has come to have uncomfortable connotations. In our contemporary context, people are suspicious of “religion” both because they have seen the damage that religious extremism can cause and because they have become disillusioned from belief systems they found overbearing and restricting. Even though some are not comfortable with all that Christianity entails, the absence of Christianity in the public sphere is missed. Christian values have an impact. In the workplace, school settings, or the public sphere, we have daily opportunities to demonstrate justice, extend love and promote flourishing. Christianity is about a relationship, not a religion. It’s important that we bear witness to this relationship as well.
As Christians, we are called to put on the “whole armor of God,” and contend “against the principalities, against the world rulers of this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:11-12). We can’t simply step aside. We owe our neighbors, Christian or not, a faithful witness to the truth, even if it provokes controversy. We follow a Lord who said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). This is all true! But the armor of God includes “the equipment of the Gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Christians are called not to win debates and elections but to build a civilization of love, which is not an easy task, especially in our nation today, but a necessary one. There is no greater One we can turn to if we want to reflect love than God because He is love.
There is no denying that Christianity has been unseated as America’s moral centerpoint and that we’ve paid a terrible price for it. Despite this, a Christian society is not only possible, but also desirable and we have the power to change this. In order for a Christianity society to be possible, it requires a restoration of Christian values in the private and public sphere. We must ask ourselves: to what is God calling each of us? How well are we responding to His call? It also requires us to make an important decision: Will we seek to live in accord with the idea of a Christian society, or will we accept the instruction of a pagan society? We should not underestimate the dangers we face. In this time and in this place, a relatively small number of Christians can inspire and reinvigorate the public imaginations of the disoriented majority. We can renew our society by restoring our voices as Christian citizens. We have an active God, and we are called to show His love actively to those around us as we go out as Disciples of Christ. When light stands next to darkness, light always wins. While we may live in dark times, we have hope, because God, who is the Light, always wins.