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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
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“
and senior pastor of Cornerstone in Prescott, Arizona. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter @JohnSDickerson.