Bible-believing Christians in America and much of the West are rapidly waking up to the reality that they truly do live in a post-Christian culture.
It has become increasingly clear that ideological social justice has supplanted the Judeo-Christian worldview as the established belief-system, not only in our universities and systems of education, but also in our federal bureaucracy and legal system. It dominates Wall Street, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley, as well as mainstream media.
In stunning ways, these centers of cultural influence are now working in tandem to impose their belief-system, values, policies, and practices on everyone else.
This became crystal clear in the weeks following the January 6 protests and riot at the U.S. capitol in Washington D.C. In a shocking move described by Rachel Bovard, we witnessed an all-out effort by “Big Tech and woke corporations to punish, de-platform, delegitimize, marginalize, and silence the millions of Americans who hold viewpoints and beliefs that differ from the alliance” of big business, corporate media, the new Biden administration, and “the lords of Silicon Valley.”
Judeo-Christian beliefs are not only unwelcome by those holding the reins of cultural, economic, and political power, they are seen as a threat, leaving Bible-believing Christians increasingly feeling like exiles in their own country. It is worth reflecting on how we got to this point, and where we go from here.
The loss of the legacy of a Judeo-Christian worldview
The Judeo-Christian worldview has shaped and influenced Western culture for more than a millennium, particularly in the decades following the Protestant Reformation and the First Great Awakening. But beginning in the 1700s, this influence began to wane with the rise of Enlightenment rationalism, modernism, and Darwinian atheism.
The terrible split between the fundamentalists and mainline denominations that occurred in reaction to the rise of secularism and modernism in the late 1800s and early 1900s further marginalized the church and Christian influence in the broader culture. In a tragically mistaken effort to conform to increasingly secular culture, the mainline church rapidly secularized, as did the once-proud social institutions they maintained, including virtually all the Ivy League universities. Others followed their lead.
The fundamentalists (precursors to today’s evangelicals) preserved the “fundamentals” of the faith, such as original sin, the atonement, and biblical authority, but erred by separating faith from culture. Orthodox Christianity, they held, should prioritize evangelism, personal salvation, and church growth. Everything else was deemed secular and worldly. Christian cultural engagement was viewed with suspicion.
Of course, it is impossible for Christians not to be engaged in the culture. But more and more, fundamentalists and evangelicals separated their faith from cultural matters, and slowly began to adapt themselves to the norms, practices, and customs of an increasingly secular culture.
Faith was to be lived out in one’s personal devotional life, and in church, but not in business, the arts, or any other so-called “secular” sphere of life.
As a result, for nearly a century, the Western church no longer discipled the nations with the truths of a biblical worldview. Instead, the secular ideas and beliefs of the culture began to disciple the church. The Christian disengagement from an increasingly secular culture created an open space for a hostile worldview to fill the void.
Where did “critical theory” come from?
In the years immediately following World War II, the Frankfurt School social theorists, following the lead of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, were ready to make their move to disciple the West based on an entirely different belief system. They called their worldview (a fusion of postmodernism and cultural Marxist presuppositions) “critical theory.” It took root in American institutions of higher education, starting at Columbia University in New York, in the 1950s. From that foothold, it spread to other universities across the country, and eventually infused all academia, impacting nearly every discipline, particularly those in the humanities and social sciences.
This worldview spawned much of the 1960s counterculture, including the sexual revolution. In the 1980s through the early 2000s, it went somewhat dormant in terms of its influence in the broader culture. But about ten years ago, it reemerged with a vengeance, rapidly spreading its clout throughout the culture as graduates of elite universities began to take up positions of leadership in the arts, government, media, big tech, and big business.
Because Christianity had lost so much of its influence in the culture–the fruit of the mainstream-fundamentalist (and later evangelical) split–ideological social justice quickly filled the vacuum.
Today, as we look out at the culture, there is no doubt that ideological social justice is the new “cult,” or dominant worldview shaping virtually all our major institutions. It has even made deep inroads into the evangelical church. This is the subject of my recent book Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice: An Urgent Appeal to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social Crisis.
This new reigning ideology is characterized by its:
- Obsession with power, oppression, and victimization. The world is divided between oppressors and victims; nothing exists outside these two categories.
- Rejection of absolute truth or absolute morality. By jettisoning truth, all that remains is a zero-sum quest for raw power.
- Fixation on class, race, gender, or sexual orientation as paramount in defining one’s personal identity.
- Uniformly negative view of American and Western history, and its drive to rewrite history to conform with its negative view.
- Hostility toward Judeo-Christian belief, particularly with reference to family and sexuality. The new religion and the sexual revolution are deeply intertwined, giving it an uncanny resemblance to ancient paganism.
- Fixation on “equity,” or equality of outcome. Virtually all social disparities are seen as the result of systemic or structural racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. It is utterly blind to the role of personal choice, behavioral differences, or cultural differences in explaining social disparities. Its favored solutions are all forms of compelled social engineering aimed at forcing equality of outcome.
- Antipathy toward the natural family, specifically the authority of parents over children and the authority of the husband and father in the home.
- “Ends justify the means” approach to getting what it wants. Here you will find no “live-and-let-live” toleration, no grace, no forgiveness, no commitment to honesty or truth telling, no “first get the log out of your own eye” introspection. Frighteningly, it achieves its aims through the use of propaganda, false narratives, compelled indoctrination, silencing of opposition, peer pressure, bullying, intimidation, and even riots, looting, and violence. No tactic, no matter how vicious, is off the table.
Raging against God
Os Guinness rightly says that the new religion is animated by a desire to be “liberated from God.” The ideological roots, whether postmodern or Marxist, are ultimately atheistic. Its assault on Western civilization is really an indirect way of attacking Judeo-Christian beliefs, which
ultimately is a kind of rage and rebellion against God and His created order.
When the Judeo-Christian roots of Western civilization are rejected, the result inevitably will be a loss of human freedom, along with increased tyranny.
With this dawning awareness, Christians are increasingly wondering how to respond to the cultural moment we find ourselves in. Many are feeling a sense of hopelessness, frustration, and loss. This is understandable. The years ahead could prove to be very challenging. But they can also provide a unique opportunity for the church to recover her purpose and mission.
So, where do we go from here?
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing many of our ideas in answer to this question, beginning with how we ought not to respond.