Transforming Our Culture From the Bottom Up (Part Two)


In my last post I critiqued what I call ‘Top-Down’ approaches to cultural transformation.  Such approaches can be summed up in one phrase: political activism.  Any attempt to transform the culture through legislation and political cajoling–such as court battles, petitions, electing certain individuals into office, etc–will ultimately be unsuccessful because at the heart of every culture is . . . the human heart.  Thus, true cultural transformation, I argued, could only come from the bottom up.  Because, when individuals are transformed, the culture will be too.

In light of this reasoning, I challenged Evangelical Christians to stop funneling the majority of their time, energy, and money into futile ‘Top-Down‘ methods and to start focusing on making true disciples of Jesus Christ.

This is not to say we should be totally silent in the public square or that Christians should not be involved in politics at all.  It is especially not to say Christians should stop utilizing political approaches when it comes to issues regarding the sanctity of human life or social justice.  Certainly, we must do everything within our power to stop the daily slaughter of innocent children through abortion or to put an end to human sex trafficking.  These issues, almost by necessity, will include political and legal interaction.

It is to say, however, that a ‘total’  or ‘big picture’ approach to cultural transformation should primarily focus on discipleship and not political activism.

The idea here is simple: the more Churches invest time and energy cultivating virtue among their parishioners, engendering and strengthening the faith of their children, helping people grow in the knowledge and understanding of God, engaging in acts of service, and inviting the Holy Spirit to transform the hearts of the lonely and the lost through both the preaching and daily living of the word of God, the more our culture will be renewed.  As individual lives are transformed, individual people will bring their faith to bear on important decisions at the office, or in the laboratory, or at the film studio, or on election day, or walking in the park . . .

After all, true disciples are called to live out their faith, to bear good fruit, in whatever circumstance they find themselves in: whether they are a doctor, a lawyer, an educator, an artist, a filmmaker, a shoemaker, a scientist, a soldier, a plumber, a scrap metal worker, or even homeless.  Whether slave or free or Jew or Gentile, we are all called to view our world through the truth of God’s Word.  We are all called to good works–as St. James states, “faith without works is dead.”  The more we behave like disciples, and the more disciples we make, the greater long term impact we will have on our culture and, indeed, the world.

Transforming Our Culture From the Bottom Up (Part One)


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.