Secular Culture vs. Christianity: An “Intense Battle We Need To Win”
By David Metcalfe
June 19, 2019
Christianity In The Direct Line Of Fire
Core Christian values- heterosexuality, gender norms, society’s allegiance to God, hard work, parental authority, and Judeo-Christian supremacy- are all under attack by secular culture, or “the left”.
These “left wing people” want to promote things like equal treatment for all people regardless of sexuality or gender, tolerance for religious diversity, welfare for unemployed people, educational standards and rights for children, and equitable treatment for Muslims and atheists.
Because of this opposition, there is a “culture war” between Christians and secular culture, leading to Franklin Graham saying things like,
“We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized—and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn’t allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now?”
Or Phil Robertson to say things like,
“The ungodly put the ungodly in office. And now we’re expecting them to be godly and treat us with love and kindness? It is impossible for the ungodly to elect the ungodly and then expect godliness to come from them. The corrupt elect the corrupt and the corruption continues. The depraved elect the depraved and the depravity continues. If you want kindness, love, peace, patience, goodness, and faithfulness—the characteristics you will find in godly men and women—you better get godly in a hurry and elect as many godly politicians as you can.”
Or Jerry Falwell to say things like,
“AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”
Or Pat Robertson to say things like,
“Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
You might think these to be merely the ramblings of some small, insane group of people that don’t represent Christians at all- but that’s not the case. Each of the people I mentioned have in the millions of book sales, social media followers, television views, and sell out crowds at speaking engagements across America. The evangelical Christians, of which all these men are members, comprises nearly a quarter of America’s population!
What Does Christianity Really Mean?
Atheists often cite these issues in Christianity as reason to think that Christianity is based in insane and impractical superstition, with damaging effects to individuals and society. I agree with those atheists, that is, if we’re defining “Christianity” by how these particular evangelicals would describe it.
At the start, I mentioned that core Christian values include things like heterosexuality, gender norms, society’s allegiance to God, hard work, parental authority, and Judeo-Christian supremacy. However, those don’t seem to be of primary importance (or present at all) to Paul, Peter, James, John and most importantly, Jesus himself.
What you’ll find in the New Testament is a Messiah who didn’t condemn the sexually immoral woman who had been caught in adultery, but upheld her dignity by showing mercy to her. You’ll find a Messiah who defied gender norms by being discovered in his resurrected form by women, and allowing them to have important roles in his ministry, and equal opportunity to achieve salvation. You’ll find a Messiah who paid his taxes to the government and confidently said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” A Messiah who healed lepers and blind people without regard to their nationality, religion, righteousness, or contributions to society- who met the needs of people simply because they were people. A Messiah who explained what it means to love people by sharing a story about a “Good Samaritan”- a group that was considered an enemy to the Jews.
You’ll find that Paul, Peter, James, and John were focused on one essential thing: a personal conversion to accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior- apart from works of the law. They were not interested in forcing secular people to follow certain rules. They were interested in sharing their understanding of Jesus, and inviting others into that relationship.
But that’s not to say these men were not interested in morality- in many ways, they were obsessed with it. After Jesus shows mercy to the women caught in adultery, he admonishes her to “go and sin no more”. Jesus makes many strong and divisive moral claims, like in Matthew chapter 12,
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
That “good fruit” is well defined by Paul in his letter to the Galatians, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
These moral ideals for Christians are not expressed as things to force on people, but to invite others into, if they so choose. The virtue ethics presented in Christianity is one predicated on the individual’s agency. But if this agency is not used in the “correct way”, that does not change how a Christian should act towards someone: loving others is not exclusive to those who meet certain standards of belief.
Where Is The Common Ground?
If we understand the core values of actual Christianity, we understand that Christianity is supportive of personal agency, virtue ethics, and serving others. Christians know that there is evil and suffering in the world through war, poverty, violence, natural disasters, etc. Their answer to the world’s problems is found in a God who cares about humans and wants to stop evil and suffering. This is ultimately achieved in heaven, but God grants each one of us the ability to use our gifts and abilities to make the world a better place here on earth.
The secular culture in America sees these same problems of evil and suffering in the world. They don’t necessarily believe in God, but they do believe in the value of humans and the importance of alleviating suffering. While there may be no “perfect, ultimate solution”, there are better solutions. Democracy, social equality, respecting the rights of others, and economic production and effective resource allocation are all important concepts that secular humanists in America have taken a strong belief in. None of these are, in any way, contradictory or oppositional to Christianity (they should be complimentary to it).
The scientific method has shown incredible results for developing technologies and ideas of the material world. It is as objective as humans can possibly be, and it is true or false completely irrespective of religious belief (an object won’t fall at a different speed when dropped by an atheist than a Christian, for example). Economics is a matter of numbers and the theories surrounding them. Social concepts of respecting the rights of all people and meeting essential needs have proven incredibly beneficial in improving quality of life for people everywhere. All these can be mutually understood and appreciated, irrespective of religious belief.
Self-asserted superiority may take hold of secular or Christian people in America, as we’ve commonly seen. But what they don’t sufficiently realize is how much they have in common, and the good they could do if they stopped thinking of themselves as inherently opposed, but rather fighting for similar causes- against evil and suffering, and for goodness and well-being of all people.
Where there is evil or stupidity, it should be criticized, and that exists on both sides. Debate on important matters, like the existence of God or absolute morality, can be healthy, interesting, and productive to the advancement of thought. But ultimately, there is incredible good and incredible intelligence on both sides. America, and the rest of the world, are going to do best by not only tolerating one another’s differences, but by finding common ground on the issues most important to all of us. Education, exposure, and good will in regard to one another are going to be important factors in developing this solidarity.
There is an “intense battle we need to win”, but it’s not between Christians and atheists or Muslims or any other group. It is between goodness in the world against evil and destructive forces, and it’s a battle that all good people, of whichever belief system, can get behind- intellectually, morally, and emotionally.