[the] conflicts of interest involving the [New York] Times
” and then, finally to “devise an effective system of apologetics that will enable your belief system to prevail in disputes with those who follow the Times gospel” (75). But as if this is not enough the same author suggests that conservative Christians “take over the Times
” as their end goal. But how? Stockpile a “huge war chest” of money and turn minority stockholders against the parent organization. He says we should “harass and snipe away at the parent organization and its worldview through lawsuits” (76). I’m not making this up folks. And this particular book, as Merritt opines, was released by the publishing division of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000!
At the same time the book I’ve just mentioned was published (2000) Merritt rightly notes that Americans were already growing tired of “the overly politicized Christian church, which now felt angry, reactionary, and triumphalistic” (77). Now Merritt believes that we are suffering from a “second aftershock,” a kind of backlash against the previous backlash. The church feels the vibrations of this period in at least two ways:
1. The church is hemorrhaging from the inside. While anger rose, and Christians engaged the culture wars, attendance began to decline inside the church. When Gallup asked Americans to explain the decline in religious attendance a frequent response was that the church was too involved in current social and political battles. Young people are “running away as fast as they can” (77).
2. The church is also repelling people from outside. “The perceptions of non-believers about Christians in America have soured like unrefrigerated milk” (78). Among young non-Christians only 16% had a favorable impression of Christianity and when the questions was narrowed to “evangelical” Christians it was only 3%. Read that number again.
Non-Christians do not like our entrenched thinking, our empire building and the us-versus-them mentality that we’ve created. They dislike our “swagger” and our “attack mode” as well (78). 91% of young adults believe Christians are “anti-gay” and 70% say we are “insensitive to others,” while 87% say we are “judgmental” and 75% say “we’re too involved in politics” (78, quoted from Kinnaman and Lyons, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity, 2007).
Yet some will argue that non-Christians will always reject Christians. This is part and parcel of our being faithful to Christ they argue. There is, of course, an element of truth in this but that element is quite small when contrasted with the times and places where Christians have seized the day and changed both people and cultures. What has happened in America is not so much that Christians have lived such good and noble lives that savages hate them as they have become less and less consequential because we are, more or less, part of a special interest group seeking power. Merritt wisely drove this point home when he spoke to a group of older Christian leaders, who retain power inside their group, and said, “We’re a part of the larger story. It’s a story of a faith that felt the culture coming apart at the moral seams and mobilized itself to mend it. But in our frenzied effort to recover the past, I wonder if we’ve lost sight of the goal: Jesus Himself” (80). Amen.
When Christians recognize that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world they will then realize once again that our struggle is not “with flesh and blood” (81). Our battle is not with pornographers, humanists, socialists, religious extremists, racists or even terrorists. Do you believe this or are you still stuck in the culture-war mode of the last thirty years in American church history?