To be clear, I reject the idea that we’re living in a post-Christian America. I think the premise of this idea is fundamentally false as it requires one to subscribe to the notion that America was once a Christian nation. While I do believe that the beliefs of our founding fathers (Christian and non-Christian, theist and atheist) were woven into the fabric of our great nation – and yes, for much of its history a majority of its citizens have self-identified as Christian – history books have shown that America was expressly founded with the intent of being a democracy and not a theocracy. However, this does not discredit the fact that one of the strongest threads that ties this “more perfect union” together is its promise of religious liberty for all.
So what does this mean for Christian leaders?
Well, first, let’s stop playing the “victim” card. Yes, lots of things are changing. Culture is changing. Laws are changing. And yes, we should and must advocate that as things change around us, they should not limit Christians’ right to pursue their faith and live by the values they believe based on the Scriptures. However, our loudest fight must be that which portrays God’s love to a world that is telling us in so many ways, they can’t see it in us. When people know us more for what we’re against than what we’re actually for, there is a problem both in how we’re communicating, AND how we’re living.
Second, we must lean in to the discomfort and hurt that exists within our communities. Whether it be stepping out of our comfort zones to meet others where they are – seeking to understand the perspectives and experiences of those who might be foreign to us, or actually coming alongside others to walk through their pain and hurt with them, this will require us to develop new skills like compassionate empathy. As Daniel Goleman explains, this kind of empathy helps us not just to understand another’s plight. It also motivates and prods us to actually help them through it.
Finally, third, we must ACTIVELY ENGAGE culture. We cannot shy away. We must not isolate ourselves. Though the tension of “living in, but not of” is real, we must not take the easy way out by retreating to the four-walls of our Christian institutions, limiting our engagement with art and pop-culture to our sub-genre Christian entertainment and platforms, or restricting our friendships/relationships to only those who are Christian. As Ed Stetzer explains, we must “engage culture for the cause of Christ, not run from it because people are worldly.” To do so, we must know and understand the people around us. We must be in relationship with them. Not for the sake of “saving” them. But to truly know and love them just as Christ loved us, seeing them not as the “other,” but as much God’s creation as we are ourselves. Only then can we meaningfully engage them in ways that Christ’s love might work in them and on us.
This is our task. Though it may be easier to cry-out against a seemingly “post-Christian” America, this doesn’t negate the reality that Christ declared to His disciples – “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;…” Like Kenda Creasy Dean explained in her work Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church: “The church’s job is to till the soil, prepare the heart, ready the mind, still the soul, and stay awake so we notice where God is on the move, and follow.” Let’s get to work…