The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…. (from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Act I, Scene 3.)
We did it and we are to blame.
Christians are forever complaining about the increasing secularization of America. To listen to them in the year 2019 one would think the “old days”–say, some fifty years back–were the golden time of perennial revival.
The only problem is I lived through those days of the ’50s and 60s. I can tell you the preachers were constantly railing against the decline in religion, the weakening of the churches, the surrendering to the world.
There has never been a golden age of faith in this country or any other that I have heard of. Men have always loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. The narrow way is always trod by the few while “broad is the way that leads to destruction.”
Don’t be overly impressed–or too discouraged–by statistics and percentages showing the swings of church attendance, the number of Christians in Congress, and such.
The greatest mistake of the past generations of Christians in this country was trying to Christianize the culture without evangelizing the people. We put prayer in the schools, made the church the social life of the community, instituted blue laws so that no liquor could be sold on Sundays, and basically shut down secular life on the Lord’s Day. We protected the morality of the cities and towns. The citizens were no more Christian than previously, but we were making them behave like it.
It is indeed true that we managed to keep drugs out of our communities, kept a lot of bad movies from being aired in our small Bible-belt towns, and relegated bad sin to the back streets. But we were forcing Christian behavior on a world of lost people.
The result was we ended up with–
–people doing good works without knowing why.
–people not doing bad works and resenting the Christians for it.
–Christians encouraging hypocrisy and even demanding the behavior whether the individual believed in it or not
Then, when the community–what Scripture calls “the world”–began to throw off the shackles of imposed Christianity–the Sunday laws, the prayer in schools, etc–the churches went into overdrive bemoaning the increased secularization and unbelief of our society.
The American people are no more worldly than they have ever been. They’re just living up to what they believe, that’s all. They are living their unbelief.
Listen to God’s people: “Oh, we need prayer back in the schools. We didn’t have all these shootings back then.”
When, one wonders, will God’s people stop this ungodly business of imposing our standards on the community, then wailing to high heaven when the community rejects them?
When will we start believing Romans 1:16. “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
It’s time the people of God started doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way and quit trying to go Him one better. We tried to force Christian behavior from a lost community and they rejected it. Now, let’s tell them the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We start by earning the right to be heard by them–by loving them, living the Christ-life before them, showing ourselves to be people of compassion and faith, and living a consistent life of integrity.
Then, when we start sharing the good news, some will listen. Not all will, of course. We were never promised that.
You are a chosen generation. A royal priesthood. A holy nation. His own special people. That you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…. (I Peter 2:9)
“The greatest mistake of the past generations of Christians in this country was trying to Christianize the culture without evangelizing the people.” This pretty much says it all, Joe. It is not possible to get positive responses that result in societal change unless the people experience transformation that impacts the way they live, love, serve…Thanks for this article.
Spot on. Thank you.
I have often spoken the same thing. We did church but Jesus was optional. Without Him we are helpless to shine the light in the dark. Thank you.
My mother was a great example of being non-judgemental. Mom and dad retired to Alabama, where my mother was from originally, and lived in a little “wide spot in the road” community. Just down the road the local bootlegger ran a small gas and grocery. My dad and mom would shop there, even though some in the community would not because of who the owner was. My mother befriended the wife and God touched her life. Also, because my mother did not look down on this family, she earned the respect of a family who needed God. We as Christians, many of us, do fail miserably when it comes to the “untouchables” of our society.
Part of the reason I rejected church folks for the first 33 years of my life….