A Conversation About Churches and Cultural Ignorance
The Christian church has been the backbone of American life since our forefathers escaped from religious persecution in Europe. The Anglicans, and Catholics before them, engaged in an extreme example of the dangers of theocracy. When a church and state combine, it historically results in corruption with no escape. The stories of persecution of Protestants after the Reformation is filled with the blood of martyrs. The Catholic Church slaughtered thousands of “heretics” during their Inquisitions.
Because the United States’ Founders wanted to avoid religious persecution, they advocated for a separation of Church and State — this is a commonly misunderstood idea that is often taken to mean we should not have any religion in any statehouse, but it really means that government should not establish a particular religion. Even so, the Founders understood and appreciated Christian principles, and many of them inspired our founding documents. The U.S. is viewed as “a Christian nation” because of its Constitutional basis on Christianity, not because it is doctrinally simpatico.
The Bible used to be a textbook in public schools. The Ten Commandments were found in courthouses. The “golden rule” was taught to our children by parents and teachers alike. Prayer was allowed on public property and in government buildings. Christianity was positively represented on television and in film. Christians were heavily influential from the founding of the nation until around the 1960s when courts started to push back. How did Christians respond?
Poor Battle Strategy
There are several Bible verses that tell Christians that we are not supposed to be “of the world” (John 17:16) or “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). Many Christians seem to take this as a command to completely separate from the things of this world. I know several good, respectable churchgoers who refuse to watch any movie or television show that is not Christian. I know some who will not celebrate Christmas because the date is linked with pagan influence. I know some who refuse to be on social media, eat at a restaurant that serves alcohol, or even walk into a movie theater.
These are well-meaning believers, and I absolutely appreciate their dedication to Christ in abstaining from “all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). I agree that we must be careful to not cause a brother to stumble (Rom. 14:13).
We are not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2), but we are supposed to be IN the world (John 17:18). The biggest danger about retreating from the culture we live in, is that we lose our ability to reach the lost. We have no frame of reference to help them overcome their sins.
If we abandon the culture, we abandon those who are lost to it. No battle can be won without surveillance. We must understand the tools and tactics of the enemy if we are to mount a successful offense.
The Church in Culture, or the Culture in Church?
Christians MUST realize that we are to be a light in the darkness. That means we must be in the darkness in order to let our light shine. When a missionary travels to a foreign land, do they avoid reading up on the local culture, or do they familiarize themselves with customs, food, music, art, and all the other cultural markers?
The answer is obvious. They learn about culture in order to save people from it.
Christians in the United States must do the same of our own culture. How can we tell people the dangers of certain television shows, but not know anything about those shows? How can a Christian explain the dangers of sexual perversion if they do not understand what the Bible says about sex and types of perversion that pervade our culture?
Part of the problem is this odd reciprocal relationship. Some churches a pulling out of the culture entirely, while others embrace it too much. There are significant dangers in both cases.
The Impact of a Silent Pulpit
I have been in churches for nearly 40 years, and I can count on one hand the number of sermons I have heard about sex — and NEVER has there been an open and honest discussion of the topic in a youth group I was in.
We know that God destroyed humanity with a Great Flood due to sexual perversion (Genesis 6). The downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah was due to sexual perversion (Genesis 19). We know that sexual perversion will be rampant before the Lord returns (Matt. 24:37–39).
Our culture right now is being dominated by sex — whether it be separation from gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or varieties of sexual intercourse. The LGBTQ+ movement seems to be holding all the social cards. They are the most protected group in our society, and any “offense” toward them results in the loss of careers and opportunities for anyone who dare be critical (just ask Kevin Hart and the Colorado bakers who refused to bake for a gay wedding).
They are winning court battles across the nation and have been very successful in marginalizing traditional Christian beliefs about marriage. Equality is the name of the game, and Christianity is the biggest loser in this era.
Sexuality is on tv. It’s in movies. It has become the number one church killer as pastors commit adultery and other leaders are raping children. Infidelity ruins marriages. Unprotected sex leads to teen pregnancy and oftentimes ends in abortion.
Meanwhile, our pulpits are silent. Our youth groups would not dare broach the subject. Even if Christian parents discuss sex with their kids, it is usually one awkward conversation. The rest of the matter is left up to peers, teachers, schools, movies, tv shows, magazines, commercials, billboards, music, and every cultural weapon that the Devil can throw at our children.
If Christians are not learning about sex in church, they will learn it from the world.
Our pulpits are silent. Our youth groups would not dare broach the subject. Even if Christian parents discuss sex with their kids, it is usually one awkward conversation. The rest of the matter is left up to peers, teachers, schools, movies, tv shows, magazines, commercials, billboards, music, and every cultural weapon that the Devil can throw at our children.
Hiding in the shadows while the wicked principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world are launching fiery darts us from every angle is folly.
We must remain vigilant, not ignorant.
Ignorance is Not Bliss
Regardless of what the old idiom says, in the case of Christianity, ignorance is NOT bliss. The “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), so hiding in the shadows literally results in souls spending eternity in the Lake of Fire.
I am not advocating for anyone to run out and watch a bunch of R-rated films tonight. Some of us can handle more than others. If you are easily influenced by media, then this might not be a path you should take. If watching suggestive content will cause you to stumble, please do not engage.
However, some of us can watch media analytically. There are Christians who can study media and the culture without “going native” and engaging in the acts that are depicted. Those Christians need to make others aware, and ALL Christians need to be made aware of what is happening in our schools and media.
Christians need to not hide their heads in the sand, but be open to hearing about uncomfortable topics from other believers AND FROM THE PULPITS!
I cannot stress that enough. If you are a church leader, you MUST preach about culture from the pulpit before the culture BECOMES the pulpit from which our children hear preaching.
Our church fathers addressed culture. References are made to local culture all throughout The Bible. Preachers like Billy Sunday went out into the streets and preached about alcohol in such a powerful manner than bars shut their doors without government intervention.
Revival is possible only when men (and women) of God stand up firm against the Devil and his culture. The fear of doing so is leading the lost toward the path of destruction.
Is that price for ignoring culture worth it to you so your sensibilities will not be challenged?
If you agree that we must engage with and wage war against our culture, please share this with your family, friends, church members, and pastors.
If you disagree, I would be happy to discuss our differences.
The Church is starving for a real conversation about difficult topics. Let’s have one.