The Church and the Mainstream

Last week there was an article at YahooNews asking the question whether Evangelicals are out of  touch with mainstream views.

As a part of a special Easter week discussion on religion, Graham told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz that gays could go to heaven if they repent.

“Maybe gays that are watching want to know, ‘Can God forgive me? Or can I go to heaven as a gay person?’ Absolutely. But the same for any of us. We have to repent of our sins in turn. A person cannot stay in adultery and be accepted by God. You’ll have to repent,” said Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

“Franklin Graham is a sinner, and I’m no better than a gay person. I’m a sinner,” he added. “But I’ve been forgiven, and I’ve turned from my sins. For any person that’s willing to repent in turn, God will forgive.”

ABC News’ Cokie Roberts replied: “A lot of gay people feel that they are sinners, but not because they’re gay.”

In the last decade, public opinion has swung dramatically on key issues pertaining to gay rights, including gay marriage and adoption. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from March found approval for same-sex marriage at an all-time high: 59 percent of total respondents said they approve, including 75 percent of respondents under 30 years old.

While evangelical Christians overall are more likely to disapprove of same-sex marriage, younger evangelicals are nearly split on this issue: 43 percent of evangelicals under 30 years old said they approve of the idea.

The same poll also found that a majority of Americans, 61 percent, also now approve of gay adoption.

“The reason the numbers have changed so fast and so dramatically on this question of gay marriage is because everybody in America now has experience with someone who is gay,” Roberts said. “People have come out of the closet and said, ‘I am your brother. I am your sister. I am your cousin. I am your friend.’ And then they have seen these families raising children and see these loving families.”

Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, noted that overwhelmingly states still define marriage as being between a man and woman, while voicing his belief that laws should be written based on an “ideal” for families.

“I think that the social science is just simply not in yet on same-sex couples, and I think the law has every right to set an ideal, and the ideal is a mother and father,” he said.

Politically, the majority of evangelical leaders – 82 percent – think evangelicals’ influence is waning in the U.S., according to a 2011 Pew poll. Simultaneously, church attendance and membership is at record lows in the U.S.

Putting aside the questions of same-sex marriage and homosexuality generally, of which too much has been written, the question asked is whether the Church should strive to conform with what is popular, mainstream, or politically correct or should the Church uphold the teachings of the Gospel even if they are considered to be unpopular, strange, or hateful. I think that anyone who has studied the Bible to any extent must conclude that the Christian Church must take the latter position. I would even go so far to say that a church that is considered popular and mainstream by the world may not be doing its job very well.

Jesus himself said that Christians ought not to expect to be popular.

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. ( John 15:18-20)


12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

The Apostle John writes:

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

And the Apostle Paul:

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? (2 Cor 6:14-16)

Christians, then, must be counter-cultural. We live in the world but are not of the world. Our true citizenship is of Heaven and it is Heaven’s values we must follow. Since the world and Heaven oppose each other, we ought not to expect to be politically correct. I think C. S. Lewis put it very well in Mere Christianity.

One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living ma part of the universe occupied by the rebel. 
    Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening–in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, ‘Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil-—hoofs and horns and all?’ Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is ‘Yes, I do. I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person. ‘Don’t worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you’ll like it when you do is another question.’

If I could extend Lewis’s World War II analogy a bit further, as Christians we are members of the resistance fighting for our King against a usurper. When we go to church we are attending meetings of our cell. The Bible is the secret instructions from our true King. If a church strives to uphold the values of this world, it is in effect taking instructions from collaborators working for the invaders.If you look back through the history of Christianity, it is always when the Church follows the world that Christianity goes bad. Think of the horrible medieval popes who were more concerned with Italian politics than proclaiming the Word of God. Think of the religious wars during the Reformation gave up on God’s way of settling differences and decided to use the world’s way of bloodshed. Think of corrupt television preachers, more concerned with living well instead of doing good or liberal denominations who are so intent on following the world that their churches are empty.

The decline in attendance is a concern; obviously we want to reach as many people as possible. Still, we must not forget the mission of the Church. The whole purpose of the Christian Church is to get souls into Heaven. Everything else is secondary. It does no one any good at all if a church fills its pews by watering down or diluting the Gospel. In fact, to continue the analogy, such a church is a little like agents provocateur send by the enemy to capture would be resistance fighters. We want to make the message attractive to save as many as possible, but we must always make such that we are proclaiming the true message that saves.

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