The terrible news is everywhere. America is progressing away from traditional Judeo-Christian values and the downslide is ever the steeper. Though the idea that our country ever was a stronghold of Christian virtue is questionable, our country’s default religion has been in some sense, Christianity since its founding. This Christian default religion has begun to fade progressively away and as more and more Americans identify themselves as nones and mainline Protestant denominations continue to die, we will inevitably go the way of post-Christian Europe. While unquestionably the navigation away from default Christianity will have negative connotations for our future, by and large it may actually be one of the best thing that could come in America, both for Christians and for those who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior.
Despite the millennium of state churches and mass recognition of Biblical concepts, true Biblical Christianity has always been the narrow road. The message of salvation through Jesus stands against everything lost souls hold dear. Since Eden, there has never been a people primarily committed to bringing God glory. This does not mean that Christianity never meets culture or society, merely that when the two meet inevitably one will remodel the other in its own image. In a world where sin still reigns, it’s usually culture that will pervert Christianity. Cultural Christianity is born out of this intersection and cultural Christianity, is less the intrusion of Christianity upon a culture and more the hollowing out of Christianity to adapt the culture. Cultural Christianity is simply no Christianity at all, and it really never has been. It may be true that most Americans of past generations identified as Christianity but only because the Gospel of America stripped Christianity of any substance. For this reason, statistics have consistently shown the vast majority of Americans claim to be Christians, but a minority of Americans affirmed such essentials as the reality of hell, salvation by faith alone, Jesus’ death as a substitute for our sins, or the Lordship of Christ. This cultural Christianity was not without its consequences and the most serious consequence has been providing assurance of salvation to those who warrant no such thing. It has created supposed adherents of Christianity that are divorced from any local church, and who either do not know or even deny many of the essential beliefs of Christianity. Even today, most Americans would call themselves Christians but have no real understanding of what that means apart from a vague acknowledgement of Christ. Most Americans are no more Christian than a tofu product is our Thanksgiving turkey.
The veil of cultural Christianity is being ripped to shreds; and we are now being given a glimpse of how things really are and always have been in this life. Christ’s church is beginning to become more distinguishable from our culture at large, we are being forced to be the city on the hill we always were. Peter describes Christians as sojourners in this land who live for a kingdom that is to come, one we wait for eagerly. The sojourner life has caused Christians throughout time to abandon the fleeting hope of this world and consecrate their whole lives as a sacrifice to bring God glory and live for eternity. Cultural Christianity made both true Christians and even more so nominal “Christians” comfortable, we forgot we are sojourners and made being a Christian merely another adjective to describe ourselves. This “God and Country Christianity” made our faith a one day affair and turned church membership into a consumerist spectator sport. Less and less does the “God and Country Christianity” bring any cultural appreciation and thus it is starting to die, especially among young adults. Slowly Judeo-Christian values are decaying in America and with it goes any idea that pledging Christianity is anything but frowned upon in the culture. People may be navigating away from Christianity as their default religion, but this only means nominal Christians who were never truly Christians in any historical or theological sense are losing false assurance of salvation, and born again Christians are realizing they better go big or go home.
Why then do I celebrate the death of cultural Christianity? Two simple questions will demonstrate that you might deep down not be the biggest fan of cultural Christianity either. Have you ever tried to share the Gospel with someone knowingly living in unrepentant sin and gotten nowhere because the person walked down an isle as a child or vaguely believes in Jesus and thus believe they are just dandy? I imagine most readers have had at least a few conversations along those lines and if you haven’t in America, I wonder how often you share your faith. Next, are you aware of people in your church that may indeed be Christians but rarely practice their faith during the week and may be more concerned about their hobbies or politics than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Not only do I suspect that you would answer yes, but I suspect the number of those of whom this is true of in your life is troubling when you give it a moment’s thought. Perhaps one could argue that neither of those concerns are primarily caused by cultural Christianity, but it would be hard to make an argument that the “God and Country” faith I’m referring to hasn’t brought great havoc in both of these areas and more.
The death of cultural Christianity will remind the church we are called to be sojourners and salt to the world. In addition, when Christianity is no longer our fall back religion, we will be able to share the Gospel of Christ with an unfamiliar clarity. Those who need the new birth are starting to lose a false assurance that they are Christians. Through this tearing down, we can build up by grounding them in the hope of the Gospel and seeing true conversions. Parents are once again seeing the need to intentionally disciple their children because it’s no longer being wrongly assumed that to be a good conservative American is to a Christian. Church members are turning to God’s Word and one another to find guidance in a world that will gradually oppose their message more and more. I am overjoyed about the impending death of idol we have understood to be cultural Christianity and when it finally does lose its grip upon us I hope you join me in singing, “Ding Dong! The witch is dead.”