Culturally, we've see this happen a lot throughout history. When those in power begin to lose their authority, their voice, their influence, they can pitch quite a fit. This is happening right now in America. To be honest, I believe this is a good thing for the church. Losing cultural influence is a necessary corrective to arrogant christian witness with political and cultural dominance.
It’s interesting to look back and see how our country got to where we are today. America began as the brave new world that welcomed all. Posted symbolically on the Statue of Liberty are the words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . .” So every tribe and tongue has been coming to America ever since. They accepted our invite. But what if those masses of people arrive with different religions and worldviews? And what if they bring their own cultures and start influencing American culture? What if they don’t look like us? What if they don’t think or act like us? What if white Christian America is no longer the majority? What if this so-called “Christian nation” eventually dies out and a new post-Christian world emerges? Well, people will start freakin’ out. Those who were once in the majority begin using words like “us” and “them". The culture wars have begun.
This is what’s happening in our nation right now, currently, at this very minute—whether or not you admit it or see it. Post-Christianity is in full swing, and it’s growing. The day where Christianity is the dominant way of thinking and perceiving is long gone. The bigger problem is the fact that the church saw this coming for a long time, but it didn’t respond well. It all started happening during the nineteenth century when atheism began its rise and Darwinism was gaining steam. The churches response: we appeared angry, unintelligent, and backward to those on the outside. Instead of joining the conversation, we started preaching to the choir, turned inward, and lost our voice in the world. And now the church just can’t get over it. When there is a power struggle or, more accurately, when the ones who have had the power begin to lose it they can kind of throw a temper tantrum. This is what seems to be happening in America today.
In the late 1970's and into the 80's the christian right partnered with the republican party and the rise of American political christianity was born. This, for a while, gave the religious right power again. But now we see another shift happening and the church isn't happy about it. We see christians fighting for America to stay Christian or return to its "Christian roots."
10 commandments at the capitol battle
Prayer in school battle
Red cup battle
It's very interesting to watch and a bit disturbing. Just this week we see the infamous Starbuck red cups (I can hardly talk about it because its just so ridiculous and hopefully mostly made up) - but there we see a post-Christian world baffled that Christians would have the audacity to push such an agenda. Trying to force a company to print our religious beliefs onto a paper cup. Ugh!
I remember sitting in a room of elders with one of my best friends. He asked me to join him because he knew it could be a tough meeting. He couldn't have been more correct. They spoke with overwhelming arrogance, critiquing his speaking, his leadership, his personality - and all of this with an overwhelming air of disrespect toward a guy who had given them his time, energy, love, and gifts... I sat there quietly appalled. But my friend did what I had always seen him do. He gave them what he was not receiving from them. He gave respect and honor and responded with warmth and loving kindness. He was extremely patient. I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing. I wanted to stand up and curse them all out or maybe start a fight. Ha! I've obviously got some growing to do. But this man showed grace.
Now let's talk about this very controversial word, Tolerance. We are living in a different world than it was in the 80's. We struggle to acclimate to a culture that is no longer sympathetic to our faith. How to respond? Do we get louder? Maybe if I yell, they will understand the words coming out of my mouth! Do we push our weight around and throw a temper tantrum until we get our way? Maybe we should be full of fear about what is happening right now and create a holy huddle - a christian bubble secluded from the world? OR, like my friend, we become thoughtful and do what James said to do, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." Maybe we should be tolerant of the world and those different than us. Here's a good definition of tolerance, so you know what I'm meaning: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry. I like that.
If you are in the lives of students I can tell you, responding with tolerance is attractive. Not fear, not hate, not yelling, not those natural responses that are common for those who are losing their influence. What if we became the most grace filled, loving, and accepting people on the planet? What if the church was the safest place on earth?
Lets keep talking about this. See you tomorrow!
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