Having spent two full days at the annual gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society, I've heard myriad comments from lecturers and participants along the following lines concerning where Evangelicals find themselves in contemporary American society:
“We live in a post-Christian culture.”
“We live in an era of great promise.”
“We are a minority and should ask for protected status.” (Yes, in a seminar I attended, this was seriously proposed.)
“The decline of our culture is inevitable.”
“The reasons for hope are great.”
As my friend Matt Anderson, founding editor of Mere Orthodoxy, said to me earlier today, in one profound sense, what difference does it make?
Of course, understanding the times gives us a map by which we can better communicate with the current generation, what the critical issues facing our country are, and how Christians can then persuade our contemporaries that the Gospel offers present and eternal hope and how God's standards for society afford great blessing to everyone in it.
With that said, endless pondering over our position in society has become a near-closet industry among the Evangelical intelligentsia. It is only natural that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s fiat dictum on same-sex marriage this past summer, the continuing horror of abortion, genuine and growing threats to the practice of religious liberty, and other concerns as diverse as sex trafficking and domestic terrorism, that trying to understand how we are perceived, where our opportunities lie, where the dangers lurk, and how we speak winsomely, wisely, truthfully, and convincingly to our increasingly diverse society is not just appropriate but necessary, even imperative.
Yet meticulous and repetitive analysis removes our focus from where it should be—Christ and His Good News—and fosters a surfeit of gloom in some and a general sense of ennui in many. We are in a race for the glory of God (Hebrews 12:1-2). That race will not be won by continuous chin-pulling or hand-wringing but by discipline, speed, and agility harnessed in pursuit of a longed-for goal. For Christians, that goal is “the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), a calling which includes reaching the lost, protecting the weak, and upholding human dignity.
So, by all means, let’s continue healthy reflection on the cultural canvas before us. But let us not become so immobilized that we don’t work to infuse it with the colors of life and joy offered by the living Savior. The “welfare of the city” (Jeremiah 29:7) and the souls of men require no less.