The recent malaise in Rowan County, Kentucky with the defiant County clerk Kim Davis is a signpost signaling a new era in the culture of America. Biblical, traditional family values are out; unorthodox, non-traditional values are the new normal.
I’ve been following the news on Kim Davis very closely. (Maybe a little too closely!) If you aren’t aware by now, she is the Kentucky county clerk who dared to defy the recent ruling by the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage, and then was jailed for it. She has put a name and a face to the incendiary cultural clash of traditional Judeo-Christian values and post-modern secular atheism. Never before in America has a government worker been jailed for simply following their Christian belief.
After the Court’s ruling in June, I felt like I was watching a football game and my team lost. And when Kim Davis was jailed, that was the dagger! But now, she has been released and it remains to be seen if she will continue in her courageous rejection of an unjust law (which is really no law at all).
I and many Christians around the nation prayed for her to be set free, and that she would strand strong in the face of severe opposition. I’m glad she didn’t give in to the pressure to conform. Somehow though, her release from jail seems like a hollow victory, especially with the strict warnings the judge imposed on her to no longer interfere with the signing of certificates. It feels like we just scored a touchdown, but we’re down 41-10 with 2:00 minutes remaining in the game.
The whole Kim Davis scenario has set a precedent of what will happen if anyone dares to oppose this new intolerant regime by standing up for traditional marriage. And not only the government is caustic towards people like Kim Davis, but if you look at the comments after the news articles and tirades in social media you get the idea that a good majority of Americans would hang her if they could.
In the wake of all of this, many Christians wonder, how should we then live?
Of course, we’ve been hurtling down this path for quite some time now. It has not been a seismic shift. Instead, it has been a gradual decline in morality. But for those of us who hold fast to what the Bible teaches and are old enough to remember an America that upheld traditional common-sense definitions of what constitutes marriage and family, this incident is like a mile-marker delineating how far we have come. How far we have gone off-track. This story burns in our mind as a daunting image of the New Anti-Christian America.
Since America is now clearly opposed to Biblical Christianity, how then shall Christians live? I see four options:
1. If we can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
We can begin to agree with the increasingly immoral culture and accommodate our Christian beliefs to the rapidly changing social norms around us.
We can interpret the Bible according to 21st century American society and make it more relevant to our hearers. After all, we want to be able to fit in enough to share Jesus with those around us, don’t we? Jesus didn’t get mad at anyone or judge anyone, did He?
When we actually read our Bibles, we discover a Jesus who was indignant at sin, although He showed amazing mercy to those trapped in it.
I am amazed at how many Christians (perhaps self-professing) defend the homosexual lifestyle and equate their demand for rights with the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King, Jr. However, homosexuality is a behavior, not an inherent characteristic such as skin color or gender. While homosexuals are often vilified, treated by many Christians as if they were the only sinners worthy of judgment, the behavior is still a sin, because it is a perversion of God’s original design for men and women. But it is also a sin that can be forgiven and a behavior that can be changed by the grace of God.
2. If we can’t join ’em, beat ’em.
We can become militant ourselves, waging a counter-offensive in the culture war and demand that America returns to its Judeo-Christian cultural roots by aggressive political efforts, picketing, petitions, lobbying, calling representatives, even preparing militarily to fight against a possible government subjugation of its citizens. Now I am not saying that we shouldn’t vote or contact our representatives. We are fortunate enough to live in a Constitutional Republic, where we have many rights that are still the envy of the world. With those rights come the responsibility to be involved in the political process of electing leaders that most closely represent our values. However, we are do not wage war as the world does. As the Bible says, our weapons are spiritual.
“Victory in Surrender” 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, by Matt Philleo.
I don’t think fighting the culture war politically is the way to go.
3. If we can’t join ’em or beat ’em, forget ’em.
We can bury our head in the sand and believe things are not that bad, or will get better with time.
Maybe if we get a Republican president, things will turn around. Not a chance. Remember Roe vs. Wade? Over 40 years later, all we have managed to do–even with several Republican administrations–is enact a few slight restrictions on abortion. But for the most part, that industry is going full steam ahead. We’ve gotten a few hits, but we have definitely not tackled the issue.
4. If we can’t beat ’em, join ’em, or forget ’em, we can…help them!
We can do what Paul the Apostle did: reach out to others in a wicked and pagan culture with the pure, unadulterated, transformative message of the Gospel, one person at a time.
We are not trying to save the culture.
The culture in America is clearly pagan.
President Obama was right: this is not a Christian nation.
In fact, it never was. Rather, in its inception, it was a secular nation that highly esteemed a Judeo-Christian worldview, and accordingly, governmental laws and policies reflected that. But now, America’s worldview, at large, is no longer Christian. That is why the laws and policies passed no longer favor Christians, but instead threaten us. It is easy then, to become reactionary and want to steer our culture back to its godly heritage. It would be good if this happens, but only if indirectly, as a byproduct of reaching people with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Many postmodernists, especially generation Xers and millenials, believe fundamentalist Christians want to take over the government and I don’t think they are completely off the mark in feeling that way. However, Jesus said: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Our goal should not be to establish a theocracy.
Instead, let’s aspire to do what Paul did. He preached the gospel and people got saved. How many? Probably a relatively small percentage of the Western world’s population. But the fact is, souls were saved. In the same way, Peter the Apostle urged his fellow Jewish countrymen, “Be saved out of this wicked and perverse generation.” Recently, the associate pastor at my church wisely remarked in one of his sermons that “we should not curse the darkness but rather light a candle in it.” I wholeheartedly agree. And the darker the darkness, the brighter the light shines by contrast. The thrust of our efforts should not be trying to save the culture, but to save people out of the culture.
So, do we stand up for the traditional view of marriage? Yes, absolutely! The best way we can do that as Christians is to live in such a way that we are above reproach. In other words, we want the world to see that we are different, and the difference maker is Jesus. Our marriages and families should be rock solid, a visible testimony of the solid Rock, our Lord Jesus Christ. Then when we speak to others about Christ, we will actually have something to say, not just the usual Christian rhetoric that only confirms the world’s perception of us as hypocrites.
Ben and Amber Portrait 11 x 14, acrylic on canvas
Should we give up on the idea of America turning around? No, of course not! This is a nation of people. And people can repent and turn to God. So if Christians got serious about their faith, repented of their sins and many unbelievers were born again, certainly we’d have a revival on our hands. It has happened before in our nation’s history in the late 1700’s and it could happen again. In fact, we should be praying that it will. God does not want anyone to perish, but wants all to repent.
The illustration shown at the top of the post is a painting I did for a baby gate manufacturer. They wanted an illustration that shows a happy family from 1950’s era. The beaming young parents joyfully watch their baby playing on the carpet in front of them, the perfect image of domestic happiness. While I understand that there may be more myth than reality to this “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” generation, there certainly was a more positive view of the traditional family during that time. A family consisting of two loving parents, husband and wife, is no longer the norm. Broken homes, fractured marriages, and strange relationships now called marriages is the new reality.
This culture war will not be won with clenched fists, loud mouths, and fast feet. It will be won with open hands, listening ears, and bent knees. Let us serve others with our hands, so everyone will see the love of Christ in us. Let us listen to others’ stories, truly care about them so that we can share the gospel with a receptive heart. And most importantly, let us pray that God would be glorified by what we say and do as He uses us to rescue lost and dying people out of a wicked culture.