Why the Church is AWOL in the Culture War

Why the Church is AWOL in the Culture War

man-534751_1280My last post described how the evangelical church in the United States to a great extent functions as if the cultural challenges surrounding us in this country and the persecution of Christians in other countries do not exist. Not only does the church fail to seek to deal with these problems, for the most part it does not even include them in its Sunday morning prayers. Passing through the doors of the church is like passing through the doors of the wardrobe and entering Narnia.

I might understand how the church could refrain from praying about, preach about, and develop programs to confront these problems if they were not church –related political issues such as farm subsidies or the Keystone pipeline. But issues such as abortion, persecuted Christians, same-sex marriage, and similar items with spiritual connotations fall squarely within the domain of the church.

Why then does the church not engage in these issues?

A major contributing factor finds its roots in the modernist/fundamentalist controversy, a liberal/evangelical type battle that occurred in America during the late 1800s and throughout the 1900s.

Liberal churches of that day taught that the world was going to be saved through human improvement. As education advanced, human beings would be able to resolve their economic, psychological, sociological, and physical problems through their own capacities, bringing in a new world order. Of course, government would play a large role in organizing and advancing that agenda. Therefore, modernists believed that they should become involved in politics in order to help bring in this brave new world.

The fundamentalists, that evangelicals of the day, reacted with the assertion that the modernist program was strictly a humanistic theory that was unbiblical and would not work. In response they labeled all church political involvement as humanistic, insisting that the rightful role of the church as well as individual Christians was restricted to sharing the gospel and discipling believers.

This resulted in liberals energetically engaging in politics and related issues while evangelicals withdrew from the public square except for evangelistic outreach. This led to a great extent to the liberal takeover of almost all of the major segments of secular society such as government (including the judiciary), media, public and higher education, etc.

This was the case for most of the 1900s up until the 1970s. At that time, Jerry Falwell, recognizing the disastrous consequences of this policy, initiated the Moral Majority, which contributed significantly to the ushering in of the Reagan years.

However, with the election of President Clinton many evangelicals concluded that the evangelical church needed revert to its previous apolitical approach, confining its activities to its “spiritual calling.”

Therefore, except for the brief excursion by the Moral Majority into politics, and some tangential political involvement by some evangelicals, for the most part since the early to mid-1900s political involvement has not been a part of American evangelical culture. Liberal church culture calls for political engagement while evangelical church culture calls for political non-involvement.

Previously I have written about the power of culture. Beliefs, values, interests, attitudes, behaviors, institutions, and every other aspect of a societal life is determined predominantly by culture. For the most part, a person raised in a Muslim society will adopt the related beliefs, values, interests, attitudes, and behaviors advanced by Muslim culture. If that same person had been raised by an atheistic college professor in New Haven Connecticut whose relatives and social connections were all of the same persuasion, he would have adopted that cultural orientation.

Likewise, evangelical pastors and other evangelical leaders do not engage in politics in large measure because it is not a part of the evangelical cultural DNA. It is just not us. It is not what we do. And most evangelicals are okay with that because they have been shaped by the same culture.

Only one major problem exists with this arrangement. Scripture calls the church function as salt and light, which mandates political engagement. As a result of the failure of the American evangelical church to function effectively as salt and light, America is suffering from serious societal decay, which is leading to its destruction.

One comment on “Why the Church is AWOL in the Culture War
  1. paul ort says:

    Right on as usual Dr Brownback. I lost a few people over preaching on politics but knew that it is something that as a pastor I must do foe my flock. Thanks for your timely words.

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