Contemporary Western culture is critically ill.
This is the frequent lament of many evangelical Christians—including myself.
But it’s time to face a hard fact: What’s wrong with American (and Western) culture results from what’s wrong with many churches and Christian movements within it.
The focus here is on evangelicalism for three reasons: we are often the most outspoken regarding the ills of culture; we seek to base our worldview on the Bible, and have passion for the application of biblical values in society; we have enough influence remaining to have tilted the voting balance in a presidential election.
But what if we are actually contributing to the problem?
Christopher Dawson wrote that Christianity is the soul of Western civilization. In a human, the “soul” is the psuche, or “psyche,” according to the Greek New Testament. It is the organ of self-awareness and identity, thought, emotion, and volition.
In a living person, if the mind gets confused, emotional instability takes over, and erratic, destructive choices become the pattern. Such symptoms suggest the individual is having a nervous breakdown, or going insane.
Western culture is having a breakdown because the Western “soul” is losing its equilibrium. Consider just three symptoms of many currently evident among churches, Christian organizations and movements in one big chunk of the West, the United States:
- Schizophrenia—A strange coalition ranging from dispensational Southern Baptists to health-wealth Pentecostals and Charismatics gathers periodically in the Oval Office—viewed by some as almost a civil “holy of holies”—while another group of evangelicals assembles at one of the monumental institutions of evangelicalism—Wheaton—to discuss their distress about “evangelicals in the age of Trump.” When a president becomes the point of definition for what a true evangelical—or any biblical Christian—is or is not, the diagnosis is grim indeed.
- Paranoia—Some liberal churches seem to view Donald Trump as the “Beast” of Revelation. Meanwhile, some conservative Christians appear to equate Hillary Clinton with Revelation’s “Scarlet Woman.” Many Christians walk in constant dread when God has called us to be givers of light and hope midst the gloom.
- Irrationality—Even the Catholics are showing signs of soul-sickness with the scandal of clergy sexual abuse, and now the emergent pope leading the Catholic Church into postmodern theological ambiguity. Irish voters celebrate their new-found right to deprive their unborn children of their right-to-life in a country once called “staunchly Catholic.”
But before we evangelical Christians judge the culture and other parts of the Body of Christ, we must first assess ourselves. The Bible we take as our infallible authority is in-our-face blunt: “it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” (1 Peter 4:17)