Many Christians feel completely flummoxed by daily developments in the USA. Having grown up believing that the USA was a country where Christian values predominated, many Christians are mystified by evidence that those values do not predominate in the culture today. When employees are told not to wish anyone a “Merry Christmas,” when government does an end run around parents by asserting that children will have sex and must have Plan B medications, when the idea that a homosexual union could be called a marriage is even discussed publicly – in the midst of such events, many Christians feel that they must be having a waking nightmare. What became of the USA governed by the Constitution? What causes voters to elect people with no apparent principle except “What’s in it for me?” US currency still bears the phrase, “In God We Trust,” but it doesn’t appear that the majority of the US population has any connection with God at all. What happened?
Christians have not yet come to grips with the fact that people with Christian principles are not the most numerous component of the US population or the US voter rolls. It is still statistically true that more people self-identify as Christians than any other religion, but close examination reveals that many of those who consider themselves to be Christian do not hold a Christian worldview. Since politics is fundamentally the enactment of a worldview into law, the worldview held by voters is extremely important. If most people do not hold a Christian worldview, then how shall Christians protect the culture from changes that feel at least uncomfortable and at most threatening?
The answer isn’t simple or satisfying. Every law represents a majority of the people who had a chance to vote on it. Every cultural trend must be satisfactory to more people than not, or it would not be a trend. If the culture or the government takes on traits that don’t feel right to Christians, some sort of majority choice is, nevertheless, at work. Perhaps the most honest thing to say about it is that even a lot of people who call themselves Christians don’t actually want a Christian world. Christians must remember that Jesus said, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14) Later he said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (John 15:18)
In other words, Jesus warned Christians not to think that being Christian would be the popular thing. Christians in the USA can be grateful they don’t live in some of the other countries around the world.
In Uzbekistan, government authorities recently broke into the home of an elderly Christian woman. They found her Bible and some other Christian literature, all of which they declared to be unauthorized religious material. They confiscated all of it, took her to court, and fined her ten months’ pay.
In China, the widow of the pastor of a house church is daily pressured by the Chinese government to merge her church into the Chinese Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the authorized Christian church in China. TSPM reports the names and addresses of all members to the government, uses only government-printed materials such as Bibles and study guides in the activities of the church, and allows only pastors authorized by the government-appointed national bishop of the TSPM. This widow knows that most of her church’s members will simply disappear and may or may not join other house churches if she signs this document.
In Laos, church members watched in dismay as government officials brought earth-moving equipment to their church site and demolished the building before their eyes. The building was alleged to be an unregistered church meeting in an unauthorized building, despite the fact that church members have submitted required documents several times, only to have them returned for alleged errors and omissions. Recent submission of new documents were at the time being processed, but the local officials refused to allow the church to exist any longer.
In Egypt, many long-standing Coptic Christian congregations have been shattered by violence in the country’s ongoing unrest since former president Mubarak stepped down. Buildings and individuals are attacked and abused while police stand by and let it happen.
How do Christians remain strong and faithful while under such pressure? Can the persecuted church teach American Christians anything about thriving under cultural and governmental restrictions? The answer is unequivocally YES.
Christians have survived and thrived for more than two thousand years, not because of political power, but rather, because of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They have trusted God and acted in obedience to him, and God has blessed that faithful commitment. Christians in persecuted countries know that they are targets, but they also know that the real target is Christ. They cling to Christ’s promise “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:24)
If you want to learn more about the weapons Christians have available in the culture wars and in the conflict with Satan and Satan’s people, read Ephesians 6:10-18. There you will find a clear statement of the problem Christians face in the US and the real solution to this problem. It is both comforting and disconcerting. People hope to find an answer that puts an end to the problems, but God doesn’t give us that option. In Ephesians you will find an answer to the question, How can I deal with this situation? But you won’t find an answer than ends the situation. You need to go to Revelation for that answer, and that will be part of some future post. For now, take the time to read Ephesians 6:10-18. Then pray for insight to understand how you can take up these weapons and use them every day. God has not left us destitute, but he hasn’t made it easy for us, either.
It is impossible to predict when, or if, the Christian worldview will again prevail at the ballot box. Don’t let the ballot box be the focus of your hope for the future. Rather, put your hope in God, and start learning to use the weapons he provides for your protection and victory in daily life. Leave a comment if you have suggestions for others from your own experience.