Wedding venues are forced to cease hosting weddings. Companies are compelled to jettison whole segments of business. Small business owners are at risk of losing not only their companies but also their homes and savings.
An aggressive hostility toward Biblical truth has taken hold of North American culture, and it is forcing followers of Christ to decide where they will stand, much as the Israelites had to decide in response to Joshua’s challenge: “Choose this day whom you will serve. … But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).
What’s behind this pervasive, deep-seated hostility toward faith and Biblical truth? Decision recently spoke with several evangelical observers about the causes and also the way forward.
The Fabric of Animosity
Although it may seem that this oppressive environment has materialized very recently, it is the result of many strands being woven together over more than a century. And as these cases typically are decided in the courts, one of the strands originated in the nation’s law schools.
Rena Lindevaldsen, professor of law at Liberty University School of Law, points to a revolution in the teaching of law that began with Christopher Langdell, dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895. Langdell’s “casebook method” emphasizes the study of judicial opinions rather than the Constitution or the laws passed by Congress. This method soon became the standard in law schools across the nation, and as a result, most law school graduates today have never had to study the nation’s Biblical foundation or what the framers of the Constitution intended.
In addition, the emphasis on studying judicial opinions has led to a mindset among lawyers and judges that essentially discounts the legislative branch. “You can go back to around the 1940s and really see the law starting to change,” Lindevaldsen said, “because judges were starting to change the law rather than just interpret it.”
Janet Parshall, host of the radio program In the Market with Janet Parshall, describes the cultural atmosphere as the result of a perfect storm. “First,” she said, “we’ve had a series of very bad legal decisions, from the Supreme Court on down, that have served to exorcise God out of the culture in almost every venue: in business, in education and in law, and the list continues. That has served to create a kind of hostility against Christianity by censoring God out.”
Combine the removal of God with the philosophy of postmodernism and you’ve got a cultural hurricane. “There is no longer a general, universal belief in the transcendent moral code that applies to all people in all times and in all places,” Parshall said. “Once upon a time, when we shared the Good News, someone would often say, ‘That is the truth I was looking for.’ Now, more often than not, we will hear, ‘That’s your truth; it’s not my truth.’”
Parshall likened the current situation to that in the Book of Judges, where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). As a result, many people rebel against any moral outlook—such as that of the Bible—that might restrict their freedom to do what they wish.
Court rulings and government policies of recent decades have sent a subtle but clear message, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
“Look at what’s happened in our schools,” he said. “It started with a court decision back in 1962, but it has taken time for that to filter down. People have gotten the message [and say] ‘I’m not going to touch religion. It’s bad. The authority figures say it’s bad.’ So, if someone says that faith is the reason they are making a decision to do or not to do something, it’s increasingly holding little sway over the minds of people.”
At the most basic level, Perkins said, we are seeing a collision of worldviews. People will either live according to what God says is true or according to what man says is true.
Attacks upon believers, then, should not surprise us, Parshall noted. “The world is doing what the world does. Without Jesus, we can’t demand of the world a certain deportment. That only happens when we’ve been powerfully transformed because of the cross.”
To a large degree, Western culture is experiencing the frightening truth of Romans 1.
“Eventually,” Lindevaldsen said, “God gives people over to their sinful desires, and you see truth being suppressed. Darkness and light don’t go together well; darkness will always want to try to put out the light. And I think that’s really what’s taking place in our culture: There is evil. We are engaging in sinful conduct, and sinfulness does not want to have truth alongside of it. That’s the clash that’s taking place.”
The success—and failure—of the church
The Bible warns that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). So, when Christian business owners suffer for taking a Biblical stand, are they simply experiencing the expected backlash from a godless culture? Or have we as believers failed to demonstrate the beauty of Christ, to let our light shine before others in a way that they may see our good works and glorify God in Heaven? (Cf. Matthew 5:16).
“I think it’s a combination of the two,” Lindevaldsen said. “What we’ve seen is that the church is willing to compromise, first of all—to pick and choose from the Bible what it wants to believe. And once you’re picking and choosing, that is no longer an objective truth that nonbelievers look at. They see it as relativistic. Second, we don’t live as if we’re the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. Hearts are changed one person at a time. Yes, we want the laws to be good, but people are often attracted to Christ through one-on-one experiences. I remember when I became a Christian. I had noticed a co-worker and thought, That person is different. I want to know what they have, and I want it too. But there’s also the truth of Scripture that says persecution will come.”
Many believers, Perkins said, have not been paying attention. “Where were we when prayer was taken out of the schools? There were some who raised those issues, but did we ensure that we have prayer in our homes? When the Ten Commandments were taken out, we raised a little bit of a fuss, but have we taught our children the moral law of God?”
The way forward
So how should believers respond in a culture that seems bent on silencing or punishing them?
In the judicial realm, a few U.S. law schools—not even a handful, Lindevaldsen says—are teaching students about documents such as the Federalist papers and the Declaration of Independence. As graduates have now gone out from some of these schools for a decade or more, some are being put in places of influence.
Whether or not that eventually changes the balance of how most judges understand their role, Lindevaldsen says change must begin with the church, teaching the whole truth of Scripture and helping members understand how to build caring relationships and become involved in the lives of others.
Perkins, Lindevaldsen and Parshall all emphasize that believers must understand the truth of Ephesians 4:15, which tells us to speak the truth in love. “What that means,” Perkins said, “is that when we speak the truth, it’s not to win a debate. It’s not to prevail. It is to speak with a redemptive heart. … we want people to come to know that truth.”
We must not have a “Jesus chip” on our shoulder, he added, as if we are daring somebody to knock it off so that we can get into a confrontation. But neither does it mean we should be silent.
“This is not something that is happening to somebody else,” he said. “It’s coming to an occupation near you, and you don’t want to wait until it’s upon you to decide what you would do. You need to be prayerful about it now.”
During Parshall’s 30 years in Washington, she has learned some hard lessons about speaking the truth in love. In the early days, equipped with facts, figures and white paper reports, she was convinced that her job was to win the debates. But over time, God helped her to see that the person with the opposing view was not the enemy but rather someone for whom Christ died.
“I have had to learn to redefine victory,” she said. “Every time you show up and speak the truth in love, you are victorious. You leave the outcome to the King.”
It won’t be easy. Sometimes, believers will suffer greatly for remaining faithful to the Gospel. Standing strong will require diligent preparation and an intimate relationship with God.
“I can get instant popcorn, instant money from a machine and an instant divorce if I wanted it, but I cannot grow up instantly in the Lord,” Parshall said. “The old-fashioned idea of rolling up my sleeves and spending time in the quietude of His presence, in His Word, is a mandate.”
And spending time with God will mean less time partaking of media, Perkins said: “I can tell you in one word what’s happening in the world around us: Bad. We don’t need to spend 12 hours a day watching cable news to find out what the situation is in the world.
It’s bad. I’m not saying that we bury our heads in the sand. I’m just saying we don’t need to saturate our spirits and our souls with the problems. Our hearts need to be saturated with the Word of God because it is from there we gain our hope and we can think through these issues from and through a Biblical lens.”
“It’s time for us to really grow up,” Parshall said. “To get off that diet of milk, to really get some spiritual meat, to get some muscle on our bones spiritually and to understand that we’d better suit up, put on the armor and get ready. The courageous Christian is going to be the descriptor, I think, in the decades ahead. That’s not the same as being obnoxious or intrusive. But we’re going to have to be courageous Christians who so care about a lost culture that we’re willing to go in, no matter what the cost.”
And we mustn’t forget that speaking the truth in love requires, well, speaking. “The statistical data say that over 90 percent of us, once we come to faith in Jesus Christ, have never told another person about what Jesus has done for us,” Parshall said. “No wonder the culture is stumbling in the dark. Until your worldview is changed, your politics aren’t going to change. Your perspective on these transcendent moral issues isn’t going to change. It’s a heart change that changes everything else in your life.”
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.