The church is the only answer
As we have considered the issues related to the government shutdown and the American political and cultural scene in general, we have concluded that the church and a third great awakening is the only answer. In the past even secular scholars have come to that conclusion, and with each passing day the evidence becomes more compelling.
The good news is that conclusion focuses our attention and efforts. I believe we have a responsibility as believers and as citizens to engage politically. However, at this point in history we must recognize that ultimately political answers are insufficient. Therefore, the predominance of our energy, time, and other resources needs to be invested in the spiritual front.
Problem with the church: infiltrated with secular culture
At this time in our nation’s history when only a spiritual solution will be effective, the church in America is too sickly to engage in the battle effectively. Imagine a boxer who has had dysentery for the past month trying to get into the ring with a daunting opponent. He would not stand a chance. Likewise, the contemporary American church has failed to stem the tide of godless culture because of its sickly condition.
It is my contention that church pathologies result from infiltration by the secular culture.
This is not a new phenomenon. In the previous century the Mainline Denominations were infiltrated by the predominant secular culture of its time, which consisted of the view that a scientific view of the world disproved the existence of God. In response leaders of Mainline Denominations made all sorts of unbiblical concessions in an attempt to fit in with that culture.
Across the past half-century the evangelical church has made a similar error, squeezing its belief system to fit the mold of today’s American mindset.
The need to describe secular culture and its problems
However, current secular culture is more difficult to diagnose, being far more elusive, most Americans at best having only a vague sense of what they believe. Therefore, diagnosing the disease that is infecting the church requires first gaining an understanding of our secular culture and the problems with it.
This has been our goal across the past several months. In short, we have concluded that America is still in the grip of the 60s culture built on the two clichés, “I have a right to do my own thing,” and “If it feels good, do it.” Combining these 60s perspectives leaves us with a culture guided by the assertion that the individual has a right to do whatever feels good.
Any rational analysis reveals that no individual or society can long survive living according to this concept, which we referred to as American mania. However, Americans received assurance from psychologist Carl Rogers that this philosophy of life would work because accepting people unconditionally, i.e. allowing them to do their own thing, to do what feels good to them, constitutes a psychological change agent that empowers the individual to become a fully functioning person. The person who is accepted unconditionally, can accept himself unconditionally (that is, enjoy non-performance based self-esteem), which frees him to grow into a healthy productive person.
Consequently, unconditional acceptance has become the foundation stone of contemporary American culture. To accept is good, and to fail to accept is bad. This perspective embodies contemporary American morality and provides the compass that guides societal attitudes, policies, and behaviors.
On Monday I plan to begin our discussion on how this secular mindset has infiltrated evangelical Christianity. Many factors have contributed to its infiltration and influence over the evangelical community. The plan is to discuss each of these, show the unbiblical nature of this orientation, and present the biblical alternatives.
Three exceptions to unconditional acceptance
However, to wrap up our discussion of our secular cultural cornerstone of unconditional acceptance requires that we identify three exceptions to this concept. We can only understand contemporary culture by recognizing these exceptions and the reason for them.
A major problem with unconditional acceptance is that at least generally speaking all of us want to be accepted and none of us want to do the accepting, at least not all the time. I want you to accept me regardless of my mood, attitudes, and demands, but doing so probably doesn’t fit into your program. How then does unconditional acceptance work in our culture if people want to be accepted but are not as excited about doing the accepting?
We find the answer in the expectation that those previously recognized as authorities in society are now called upon to do the accepting. Parents are called to accept the behavior of the children unconditionally, likewise teachers with students, therapists with clients, the government with people on welfare, and so forth. The rationale, of course, is that those who are more mature and established have a responsibility to be accepting of those less so. It is of special note that apart from parents all others required to do the accepting get paid for doing so. Now we know why Americans are having fewer children.
Note the implications of this arrangement regarding authority. Unconditional acceptance in effect invests authority in those being accepted. Accepting me unconditionally assigns me the authority to live as I please. By way of contrast, the person granting the unconditional acceptance has no rights. Their desires can be ignored. They can be mistreated. Yet, the only legitimate response on their part is to accept.
This arrangement results in role reversal. Those who previously had been in charge are now under the authority of those previously under their charge. Children are in charge in their homes, and students in schools. Or to use the old cliché, we have put the inmates in charge of the asylum. In other words, the old order of secular society, one that worked quite well and brought success to America, has now been stood on its head, an arrangement that does not work well at all.
Christians are unacceptable
Evangelicals comprise a group that has not only been excluded from receiving unconditional acceptance but beyond that has been categorized as being unacceptable. So while we are to celebrate diversity racially, sexually, and spiritually, with great care taken that Muslims feel accepted even though it is those of the Muslim faith that have murdered numbers of Americans, Christians do not fit into the scope of those designated as recipients of unconditional acceptance.
The reason for this seems to be that historically in our society most of the non-acceptance found its source in Christianity. Christian teaching identified homosexuality and other sexual promiscuity as sin. Evangelicals constitute the contemporary heirs of that tradition, and therefore are targeted as the enemies of unconditional acceptance. Consequently, they are not to be accepted.
The fact that Muslims, who take a substantially harsher approach toward homosexuality and other behaviors, are given a pass reveals that an underlying motivator for the hostility toward Christians resides in hatred toward the God of the Bible.
The government as enforcer of unconditional acceptance
The federal government comprises one group that is not called to accept because it has been designated as the enforcer of unconditional acceptance. I previously noted that people want acceptance but frequently are not inclined to do the accepting. One role of the government in contemporary America is to bring those who fail to accept into line.
The prime example of this governmental role is seen in an increasing body of legislation designed to impose acceptance of homosexuality on Americans. If current trends continue, it will not be long before acceptance of homosexuals is not sufficient, but also celebration of homosexuality will be required to escape persecution in the United States. In fact, The Daily Caller reports: “Los Angeles public schools are encouraging teachers and staff to wear badges that identify them as ‘LGBT allies’ and supporters of the pro-gay movement.” The article indicates that substantial pressure is being put on teachers to comply with this initiative.
This sums up who gets accepted, who does the accepting, who is not accepted, and who enforces acceptance.
How has the secular concept of unconditional acceptance infiltrated evangelical thinking? Is this perspective supported by Scripture? These are some of the topics to be considered next.