Thursday, November 03, 2005

Evangelical: A dirty word?

Kenny sent me a link to Philip Yancey's latest column, something I usually read anyway, but hadn't gotten around to yet. I don't have much to say about it, other than it was fairly thought provoking. I live in an area where evangelicals take the "culture wars" seriously: where Christians are urged to vote Republican, vote Bush, support the war, pray at football games, make sure gays know they're wrong and sinful, and generally beat back all the attempts by the left to secularize our great society.

I'll let you read the entire article, (which you can do right here.)but a couple paragraphs really stood out to me. One point regards how the church's responsibility to share the gospel has to change in a postmodern and post-christian society, which is hopefully what we're trying to do at The Portico. We live in a culture where most are familiar with the basic idea of the gospel, or they know what the church is about (accurately or not) and have largely rejected it:

Reflecting on our conversation, I remembered a remark by [C.S] Lewis, who drew a distinction between communicating with a society that hears the gospel for the first time and one that has embraced and then largely rejected it. A person must court a virgin differently than a divorcée, said Lewis. One welcomes the charming words; the other needs a demonstration of love to overcome inbuilt skepticism.

I thought, too, how tempting it can be—and how distracting from our primary mission—to devote so many efforts to rehabilitating society at large, especially when these efforts demonize the opposition. (After all, neither Jesus nor Paul showed much concern about cleaning up the degenerate Roman Empire.) As history has proven, especially in times when church and state closely mingle, it is possible for the church to gain a nation and in the process lose the kingdom.
What's more important, a City Councilman or Mayor who is an evangelical Christian, or a pagan one whose ideas about shaping the future of a city mirror your own? Is the most important role of our political leaders to keep our society in line with Christian morals and tenets, whether it wants to or not? Is it paramount that your Congressman vociferously support prayer in schools and faith-based initiatives, or that he supports limited government and a balanced budget or term limits to prevent career flunky politicians. Did we become Sodom and Gomorrah due to the presidency of Clinton?

There are legions of people like myself, I believe, who look at the active role the church has taken in trying to reshape society from the top down and feel that they've missed the point of the gospel. After all, what great reformation has begun with a piece of legislation or a decree by a president?

Maybe the church in America, and evangelicals at large, have some soul searching to do. Perhaps the gospel doesn't exist so that we can live in a safe Christian utopian world, but so that we as believers have some hope and light to share with a lost, wicked, and deplorable world. I guess we have too long believed the lie that we can make society upright and holy simply by becoming a moral majority, when all we've accomplished is to repaint a sinful world as a prettier-looking but still sinful world. The ship will always be sinking, but with the help of the gospel and our "salt", maybe it won't sink as fast. But don't be fooled. The ship IS sinking.

Maybe I'm wrong, but perhaps the church has been trying to court a virgin, when we should have been courting a divorceé?