Wake up evangelicals: It’s time to change the culture, not politics

Anti-gay marriage protesters lost in Maryland in 2012. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press) A law that evangelicals invested millions of dollars into … Continued


Anti-gay marriage protesters lost in Maryland in 2012. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

A law that evangelicals invested millions of dollars into was yesterday declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act marks another mile in the rapid decline of Christian influence in America.

Some politically involved evangelicals are already crying that the court is forcing its will on the American people, but the reality is that the American people are also in favor of same-sex marriage. In 2011, for the first time, the majority of Americans favored same-sex marriage in a Gallup survey (53 percent). That was a reversal from 15 years prior, when the majority of Americans opposed it.

The reality—whether Bible believing Christians like me enjoy it or not—is that culture is rapidly changing before our eyes. In December I wrote in the book, “
The Great Evangelical Recession
,
” that:

Pastor Mark Driscoll and other influencers have noted the importance of the book’s findings about cultural change. But some evangelical leaders still seem blind to the changing values of Americans—as if closing our eyes or shouting louder will make the culture stop changing.

In November we all witnessed an evangelical political fail—the failed push to unseat Barack Obama from the presidency.

Months prior, we saw the mayors of Boston and Chicago threaten to evict a private restaurant chain (Chic Fil A) because of the owner’s private evangelical beliefs.

Then, in January Pastor Louie Giglio was indirectly forced out of praying at the Presidential Inauguration simply because he holds a historic belief about homosexuality—a belief that would have been a norm with the clergy who have prayed at inaugurations since 1789.

Some leaders and many working-class Christians are accepting the obvious: That the influence of Christianity in America is rapidly shrinking, that historic foundations are shifting.

What saddens me is that some evangelical leaders in formal positions of influence are refusing to consider that the movement is challenged and losing ground. Some seem so insulated in the bubble of career, groupthink, retirement planning and routine—that they are missing the massive shift of an entire nation during their lifetimes. They have closed their eyes to the swaying of the very souls they are called to reach.

I spoke recently with a leader at one of the nation’s large evangelical groups. As I broached our need to re-assess what we’re doing to reach a changing generation, he countered that things aren’t all that bad for the American church. He said, more or less, that there have always been passionate young men like me, boys who cry wolf about the church’s decline.

During the 1980′s and 90′s monthly cries of wolf accompanied calls for political activism and donations. So it’s understandable that leaders who survived those decades and are now sitting comfortable are numb to any cry of decline.

My hope in drawing attention to the church’s struggle is not to discourage, nor to spur political activism. My hope is that we would wake up–that we would understand our new position as a minority in the culture and adapt our posture so we can better represent Christ.

My hope is that, like Christians in the book of Acts, we would see how desperate we are—for Christ alone. Only He can change lives. And only he can build his church in the United States. My hope is that we would admit we are failing to influence the majority of souls in our culture.

The repeal of DOMA proves that political involvement–useful as it may have once been—cannot stop the change of culture. It is a straw thrust into the churning wheel of the people’s will. We can raise funds, lobby, place politicians. We can even pass laws like DOMA. But a democratic republic is designed to execute the will of the people. And—as imperfect as this democracy may be—if Americans want same-sex marriage, they will have same-sex marriage.

Our divine calling is not to constrain unbelievers with human laws, but to free them from “the law of sin and death,” by proclaiming Christ. The fall of DOMA demonstrates the end of investing too much into political involvement. More importantly, it proclaims to even the deafest of ears that the church is failing to influence ordinary Americans at-large.

Rapid cultural change—like we have seen this week—should motivate us all the more to be a spiritual movement, for that’s where our power lies. It should motivate us individually to be “poured out as a drink offering” (2 Timothy 4:6) in proclaiming Christ. It should motivate us to “make disciples” with urgency and zeal.


John S. Dickerson is author of the book “The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors that Will Crash the American Church and How to Prepare
[vii]
and senior pastor of Cornerstone in Prescott, Arizona. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter @JohnSDickerson.





  • Gracefulboomer

    “The Episcopal Church has an ancient tradition of attempting to hold divergent views together for the sake of deeper truth. All are beloved of God, and the flourishing of each is what we believe God intended from the beginning of creation. May we help to build a beloved community in which each and every person is treated with dignity, knowing that each and every one reflects the image of God.” –

    The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
    Presiding Bishop and Primate
    The Episcopal Church

    Office of Public Affairs
    Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    http://www.episcopalchurch.org

    Think we are richer in character as a nation when all voices are heard.
    Sometimes it seems like only the shouters get a seat at the table of public opinion, and I think it’s important to at least have access to differing points of view.

  • Rongoklunk

    The trend generally is away from ancient superstitions and towards science and commonsense.
    We are being educated beyond religion. We have science now and the changes in what we know have grown enormously. In Christendom nobody could have known that homosexuality was a choice. They probably thought the devil made them do it, or something like that. But we have DNA and it shows that homosexuality is a genetic condition not too different from left-handedness. Imagine punishing left-handedness. Or insisting that everyone be right-handed. Homosexuals can’t change, unless medicine comes up with something. Left-handedness too.
    The Bible has lost its power which thrived on ignorance. Science is revealing this.

  • damannion

    “The repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act marks another mile in the rapid decline of Christian influence in America.” WRONG. It is merely a sign of decline in one type of Christian influence.

  • Albert So

    Cannot think of any public figure ever, who proclaimed to be a Christian, or wanted to give that impression, who acted even remotely like Jesus or was anything close to a living example of His teachings.

  • Albert So

    Religion is self-imposed intellectual poverty. It figuratively enriches nothing.

  • shellye.winters

    The church has forgotten their primary reason to be: 2 Chronicles 7:14…People pray.

  • Kimble Cookson

    Many won’t get this comment, yet…..I make this statement. I am against adultery in any form.
    1. Adultery was a cultural taboo in almost every culture on almost every continent.
    2. Adultery was the exception to divorce held also under years of cultural norm.
    3. Having sex outside of marriage (adultery) had early beginnings in every culture even before Soap
    Operas in America.
    4. One cannot get divorced in America under any Adultery Law.
    5. Adultery has and always will be a choice that God lists as a sin against His nature.
    6. Adultery is no longer an issue in American culture because we accept its inevitability.
    7. Our culture of Family has been permanently damaged because of our acceptance of Adultery

    Now…..Homosexuality IS a choice. I suggest we consider at all the previous statements and see how homosexuality measures up.

  • Jeff Walton

    This piece is entirely about Evangelical Christian response to cultural change, but the photo depicts members of Tradition-Family-Property (TFP) a Roman Catholic fraternal order. Not the same thing.

  • leibowde84

    We figured out, thru cultural evolution, that sex outside of marriage in not intrinsically wrong (not everyone, of course, but most people). Likewise, we have figured out that homosexual actions aren’t intrinsically wrong either. I think as a culture, we have figured out that, unless something causes direct harm to someone else, our government shouldn’t act to dictate against it. This is also the reason why so many people are pushing for the legalization of marijuana.

    But, Christianity is having less and less of an impact on our laws and culture, which is a very good thing. People accepting the differences and moral choices of others is called tolerance. When you preach directly against those actions it is intolerant. It’s funny when people claim that the Bible must be followed, yet they completely disregard Jesus’ most important demand: to give up all of their possessions and follow him.

  • Hildy J

    People are finally beginning to realize the the moral positions of a religion stemming from a the beliefs of an illiterate, primitive, nomadic, desert tribe are as likely to be wrong as to be right.

  • Hildy J

    Adultery is specifically permitted in the bible. Solomon had 300 concubines to go with his 700 wives.

  • cdjwalker

    Traditional marriage will return without evangelicals doing anything.

    Ask yourself a very simple question: If there are two groups in a society, one supporting contraception, abortion and homosexuality and the other rejecting these positions which is going to have the higher reproduction rate and which, in the end, will have the overwhelming population numbers to decide society’s policies in this area?

    The total fertility rate of population in the U.S. (and even more so, Europe) is well below replacement and has been so for many decades. But this population consists of two groups, one that is not in the least concerned with replacing its numbers and a second that is. By promoting contraception, abortion and homosexuality at a time of when its fertility is low and falling, the first group promotes its demographic demise. By emphasizing natality and family formation, the second group promotes its demographic ascendency. The mathematics is certain and so is the eventual return of DOMA, in one form or another.

    A factor that may accelerate the return of family friendly policies are the problems stemming from an ageing population, family breakdown and disease prone lifestyles. Simply stated, if the United States and Europe are to have a future, they must reverse these trends.

    While the worsening problems brought about by barrenness and negative lifestyles will not in and of themselves strengthen the role of faith, evangelicals can rest in the knowledge that their faith shields them from these problems and provides an example to others.

  • An-Toan

    Note: At SCOTUSblog, check out the brief of the Episcopal Church et al. This logically sound and beautifully written document speaks truth to power with grace.

  • twmatthews

    A small decline in the world’s population might be of benefit to the world.

  • cdjwalker

    I agree.

    A slow and steady decline persisting for several centuries across all world regions would be welcome.

    But given present demographic and economic attributes and trends it will not be a small decline, and the decline will differ greatly across the globe. Areas of high economic productivity will suffer substantial and continuing losses in population numbers and areas of low productivity will face rising numbers checked only by the available food supply. Tightening world food supplies, produced mainly in relatively high income countries, will mean less for export, even assuming poorer areas could afford to pay for it.

    On the topic discussed here, whatever any one of us might think about the morality of non-Biblical family formation policies, they are not demographically viable over the long-run. Either you reproduce and perpetuate your views, traditions and customs in the next generation or your views die out, to be replaced by those of the people that do produce the next generation. This is why Europe as a civilization will end in less than a century, replaced by an Islamic culture that abhores abortion and homosexuality.

    It’s as simple as that.

  • jarandeh

    ed-

    Reproduction means making new people, not carbon-copies of the original. Plenty of LGBT people, and plenty of secular folks, had ‘faithful’ parents.

    And what is a “non-Biblical family formation” policy, anyway? I know plenty of nuclear families (mine included) that are not guided by Biblical devotion.

    To assume that non-believers don’t want to raise their children in a stable two-parent household is to be guilty of smug ignorance.

  • djnesq

    “… the influence of Christianity in America is rapidly shrinking.” Not quite. The influence of Christians who believe as Mr. Dickerson believes is probably shrinking, but plenty of other Christians are out there spreading the gospel. If he truly wants to win converts or, in his words, “make disciples”, he may want to pay more attention to what those other Christians have to say rather than doubling down on the message that he’s been peddling up until now.

  • cdjwalker

    LGBT people, as you put it, have an extremely low reproduction rate because, taken as a group, they generally do not desire to incur the costs and troubles of raising the next generation. They have simply shifted these costs and troubles onto others, and in doing so greatly limited their input in shaping future generations and the future of the country.

    Nowhere have I said or even implied that non-believers do not want to raise their children in a stable two-parent household. I’m sure they do. I am certain that every parent, whether in an intact two-parent or single parent household, wants the best for their children. The head of these households, let me add, could be heterosexual or homosexual. The love and caring of children and whether the parents are “faithful” to their particular religion, whatever that might be, is not the issue here.

    What is at issue is the fact that the supreme problem before any society is perpetuating its culture, tradition and numbers. Right now the United States and Europe are failing in all regards.

    The fertility rate of the native-born U.S. population is around 1.8 children per woman and now shows signs of falling. The average fertility rate of all Americans is about 2.0 because immigrants have higher fertility than those born in this country. Replacement fertility is of course 2.1 children per woman.

    Depending on the death rate and other factors, a fertility rate is 1.8 children per woman implies the population will halve in about 45 years. These countries are marching to demographic and social extinction and if present trends prevail Europe in the historical sense will disappear by the end of the century.

    The public policy question of gay marriage and to what degree to recognize the gay lifestyle is not the question of whether certain people or groups benefit from it. It is a question of whether society as a whole benefits from it.

  • DCFanOutWest

    Please don’t disguise efforts to make disciples with urgency and zeal as the offering of a drink. How rude. That’s not a drink, that’s “bait.”

  • Patrick28

    I read most of the comments below. Funny how many of them profess knowledge of Christ, but are devoid of understanding of Biblical Principles. Pastor Dickerson is spot on. No amount of politics is going to change the hearts of a nation that has turned its back on God, Biblical truths, and Christ. People, like most of the posters below, are utterly ignorant of Biblical truths, and yet, claim to know the truth. Satan comes as an angel of light, and so many people are willingly deceived. Because of our sinful nature, people choose to believe in a lie, at the expense of eternity.

    The truth is this:
    1. The Bible is inerrant. It is accurate. It is true. It is the word of God from cover to cover.
    2. God’s love for each of us is shown in this: Yet all of us being sinner’s, Christ died for us!
    3. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ.
    4. Jesus made a claim of exclusivity. He is the way, the truth and life. No one can come to the Father except through him. There are no other ways to salvation except through Christ, accepting Him and Him alone as LORD and SAVIOR.
    5. Sin separates from God and His will for our lives. God wants us to live life abundantly, through Christ, and submitting to his pleasing and perfect will!
    6. People choose to live life on their terms, and not on God’s terms. Therefore, they attempt to change God into their image, living a lifestyle inconsistent with God’s plan and design. Homosexual conduct is just one example of this. The problem with the sin of homosexuality is that those who engage in it begin to make it a god in their life. They view things through their sexual choices, demanding that their sinfulness be recognized not as evil, but as good. This deceit has eternal consequences.
    7. God is in total control. All of us will die. All of us will stand before Christ and give an account. Every knee will bow and proclaim Christ as LORD!

  • Patrick28

    In the end, those who have accepted Christ as Lord and savior, will stand with Him in eternity. God is in control, and everything that is happening has a purpose, that will result in Christ being glorified. But Satan, for a short time, is in control of this fallen world, until Christ returns. As Christ warned those who follow him….since they hated Him, and crucified Him, those who love Him will be hated as well. So be it. Let it come. But in the end, Christ wins, Satan, and those who follow him and reject Christ, and God’s will, lose. God does not want to see anyone to perish, and I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.

    The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

    For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.

  • melborg

    I used to be an Orange County Evangelical, and I was there, at the very epicenter of where the combined pro-corporate/pro-Jesus movement got started. I know the people, by name. I saw it bloom and spread outward. Recall that both the ministers and the politicians, and the corporate defense contractors, all came from Southern California. I know this whole business-politics-religion partnership, and it’s motivational roots, like the inside of my own apartment.

    The last sermon I ever heard my late, and still beloved, Pastor David Brostrum, preach was this: “I just got back from the Baptist Convention, and all I saw there was an obsession with politics. don’t let our Jesus movement be drawn into politics, or it will ruin everything. I’m warning you!” I can still see him, in my mind’s eye, like it was yesterday; and I knew, deep down, that he’d had a vision, and that he’d seen something dangerous in the future, though the full impact of it would not be evident till a decade later.

    Sure enough, the Evangelicals and the Republicans, whom they married, were hit with a double-irony. Republicans sold out their Libertarian values for a Theocratic view which is not natural to them, in order to secure “a permanent majority.” Meanwhile, the Evangelicals became so political that I noticed they stopped spending time trying to convert me back to Christianity; but rather, they spent more time talking about how angry they were at paying their taxes. Anyone contextually familiar with the Gospel of Matthew can see this scenario for the joke that it is. Jesus obsessed with taxes? Jesus obsessed with winning a Governorship or a Senate seat, in order to pass worldly legislation?

    Paul once condemned laziness, and in one passage said non-workers should not eat. Evangelicals cling to that one verse at the expense of the vast body of Biblical writing which says that we’re to aid the poor, whether or not they’re lazy.

    Evangelicals are too myopic to see how laughably greedy they look.

  • nkri401

    mel,

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. Moreover, it seems now evangelicals are calling themselves patriots simply because they consider themselves the true Christians.

  • nkri401

    cd,

    Where do you think the first LGBT came from? You don’t think they came from an LGBT parent, do you?

  • ken2246

    Change the culture? That is arrogance. The Christian religion, like all religions, is a premise, an assumption that your religion is not only true but the only truth. If one wants to believe for himself that is fine, this is a free country. But others are free to not believe. What Evangelicals seem to not accept is that they can not, should not try to force those beliefs, whatever they may be, on others. There is no “war on Christians”. There is a fight against religionists forcing their beliefs on the rest of society. If two people of the same sex want to get married it is no one else’s business. None believers are just as moral, loving, generous as anyone else. They just don’t believe in a god. Get over yourselves.

  • netprophet

    “That is arrogance. The Christian religion, like all religions, is a premise, an assumption that your religion is not only true but the only truth”.

    Two questions:

    Is YOUR statement true? If so, then you are engaging in the very arrogance you condemn.

    Second, if you don’t like allowing people to advance their beliefs, then why don’t you delete your own post?

  • netprophet

    And because of item 7 on your list, God is providential in all affairs and no institution including the government is outside his domain. As Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ “. And yes, that includes the political arena as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce both provide outstanding examples of such faith turned to action. But alas, I agree that the reason we have the cultural slide is not because of a Christian failure in politics but because there are thousands of preachers who will not preach the whole gospel, the whole Word but only what makes their congregants ears tickle. The are millions of Christians who completely disagree with point 4. In fact a so-called Christian journalist in the LA Times wrote an article commanding Christians to stop saying that Jesus was the only way.

  • netprophet

    to underscore cdjwalker comment, Jonathan Last has written a book, “What to expect When no one is expecting”. In it he cites 40 years of empirical data to show that 97% of the world’s countries are not replacing their own people because of abortion, etc. The US is one of those. A biblical perspective on human life starts with Genesis 1:28 which puts human beings at the pinnacle of God’s creation. There is nothing biblical or “Christian” about wishing for a decline in human population. For one thing, such a trend does not allow for the elderly to be taken care of properly by the young as Europe has discovered over the last 20 years.

  • netprophet

    Please read the Westminster shorter Cathecism: Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
    A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God,[1] and to enjoy him forever.

    2 Chronicles 7:14 is a verse directed toward a specific situation in Israel.

    While prayer is essential part of the Christian life, it is not the only part. Most evangelicals are not able to share the gospel with a non-believer because they don’t know the scriptures. And if they don’t know the scriptures, they adopt non-biblical worldviews like calling EPA reductions in CO2 emissions “pro-life” and supporting gay marriage etc. etc. We have forgotten our first love and the Christian church in America is like the Israelites in the book of Malachi.

  • netprophet

    How about William Wilberforce?

  • netprophet

    Science was developed by people largely who held to a belief in God and the supernatural. Further, science cannot answer the questions of why we are here, what our purpose is or what our mission is. Without God, there is simply no grounding for morality; we are left with mere preferences. The fine-tuning of the universe, the improbability of life coming from nothing the evidence for a beginning to the universe all point to a supernatural event beyond inductive reasoning of science. Read John Lennox, Jay Richards, Stephen Meyer and other leading thinkers. Further, there is ZERO evidence of some sort of DNA coding that is linked to homosexuality. If there is cite your evidence please. While it is extremely difficult to give up any addiction, thousands of homosexuals have left the lifestyle refuting your claim.

  • Richard A Brown

    “Our divine calling is not to constrain unbelievers with human laws, but to free them from “the law of sin and death,” by proclaiming Christ. The fall of DOMA demonstrates the end of investing too much into political involvement. More importantly, it proclaims to even the deafest of ears that the church is failing to influence ordinary Americans at-large.”

    Amen Amen and Amen.
    It is worst that that , go into any evangelical mega Church and one is lucky to hear the gospel, one is more liked to hear the latest narcissistic, therapeutic faddish preaching like on the movie Man of Steel rather than how Christ died for our sin and calling us to repentance and forgiveness of sin. I was very sympathetic to the Religious right in the 1990′s, not once I heard the Gospel of Christ proclaimed; not even a call humbly pray but to political action. We were doom to failure from the start without the Cross.

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