Monday, July 1, 2013

Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows

I read yesterday some interesting facts about colonial America.  We tend to look back on the Puritan era as a time when the church dominated society, for better or worse.  But apparently, it wasn't necessarily so.  In 1776 only 17 percent of the people living in the soon-to-be United States were members of a church congregation.  And even in very Puritan New England, about a third of all first births that happened between 1761 and 1800 came less than nine months into the marriage of the parents.

Just goes to show that we tend to look on the "good old days" with rose-colored glasses (if one could consider the Puritan era as religious good old days . . . but that's another post).

It was an interesting coincidence to read these statistics yesterday, because I knew I wanted today to write about the following point that Ed Stetzer makes in his  article I referred to in my last post:

Fifty years ago, Christians comprised the mainstream in America and were fully accepted as a cultural majority. Many during that time did not stand up for those who were weak and marginalized. The "good old days" so often longed for were also times of racial oppression, gender discrimination, and theological confusion. So, pining for those "moral" days of yore is like chasing a mirage. The past simply wasn't that great for many when Christians had more influence.

Yeah.  We forget those things.  If there are those out there who fear a Christian-dominated nation, we may have given them good reason for that fear.

Every time we move and start looking at other churches, I find myself initially attracted to churches that feel like the one I grew up in.  And there were wonderful things about the church of my youth -- I wouldn't change that aspect of my early years at all.  But having grown up now, I am aware of the things I wasn't aware of at the time.  The tension and discomfort the very few black members of the congregation felt.  The strain on my sister's homosexual friend.  The marriages that were falling apart behind the scenes, or staying together more for appearances than for any other reason.  The generation of young people who were not getting the grounding in their faith they needed to continue. 

Christians who rail about the moral condition of our culture today need to remember three things.  One, the unregenerated are going to behave like the unregenerated.  Just what else do you expect of them?  That's exactly how you would behave if you were in their place.

Two, there are far more unregenerated within the church walls than we want to believe.  Church folk may have their own lingo and "secret handshakes" that separate us from the world, but too often, that's all that separates us from the world.  I believe the last statistic I heard about divorce had the divorce rate of church-going Christians slightly higher than the general public.  Shameful.

Three, the situation today grew out of the situation of yore which you are fighting to maintain or restore.  The happy, traditional, Christian world you seek where you can float through life as happy, traditional, Christian people never existed . . . and never will.  The world is a battleground. It always has been.

As Stetzer says, we didn't do a very good job of things when we were "on top" -- and that's why we may be losing the culture war now.  I just thank God that the "culture war" and the fight to keep a "Christian nation" aren't the fight God calls us to wage here.

But that, again, is a topic for another post.  :)

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