Our culture is changing and many say for the worse. Studies show that the general population is beginning to change its attitude towards organized religion and Evangelical Protestantism in particular. Unlike past generations, people are growing increasingly suspicious and even ambivalent towards Christians. In the mean time, our government and, in fact, all of our social institutions are becoming increasingly secularized. Organized prayer has been removed from schools, the Ten Commandments have been taken down from public spaces, and the push for same-sex marriage is growing stronger than ever.
Conservative Evangelicals look upon these changes, along with the atheism and skepticism pervasive among our universities and the rampant materialism and immorality propagated by the media, in horror. Filled with indignation and fueled by fear they have, for years, waged a ‘cultural war‘ in an effort to stem the rising tide of secularization. Through political maneuvering, legal battles, boycotts, public demonstrations, radio shows, and a host of other devices, Evangelicals have attempted to reclaim American culture for Christ. It seems, however, that no matter how loud they cry or how forcefully they push, the tide will not be pushed back.
Young Evangelicals are growing dissatisfied with the religion of their parents. Many are leaving the church and embracing the plethora of experimental, ‘post-modern’ expressions, of Christianity which are far more liberal and, therefore, less resistant to the political and ethical stances of secularism. Some are rejecting religion outright, joining the ever increasing ranks of the ‘New Atheists.’ On top of this, advocates for Gay-Rights are growing increasingly more powerful and influential. Mortified by this, Evangelicals are pushing back even harder–continuing to utilize the same political/social methods to “save America from moral decay” as they have for the past thirty years.
The tragedy in all of this is that these ‘Top-Down’ methods–the political maneuvering, the legal battles, the boycotts, the public demonstrations, the petitions-will never transform our culture. You simply can’t transform a culture from the top down. You can’t cultivate virtue, engender faith, or change hearts, through legislation; but these are precisely the things that need to happen in order for our culture to change. Cultures develop within communities which are, in turn, built upon individuals. When individuals change, the community will change, and eventually, so will the culture. Cultures are transformed from the bottom up.
Before his Ascension Jesus told his followers to, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This Great Commission is the key to real cultural transformation and is, coincidentally, the very mission of the Church. Until Evangelicals begin to take this seriously, they shall continue to wage a futile battle for our culture.