In a recent article entitled, “The French Connection: The Many Parallels Between France’s Revolution and Today’s Anti-Christian Secularism” (Touchstone, Sept./Oct, 2011), James Hitchcock essentially argues that what started in the French revolution is now being continued by those who are rampant secularists and strident atheists. The goal is to dismantle the effects of the Judeo-Christian worldview on culture, in particular Western culture, stripping it of any vestiges of what secularists believe is a repressive and non-progressive system of belief.
Hitchcock rightly states, “The Enlightenment attempt to discredit Christianity in three ways – 1) as the incubator of hatred and violence, 2) as based on a false understanding of its own origins, and 3) as merely one manifestation of the natural human religious instinct – is now being reprised.”
Hitchcock is correct. In both subtle and blatant ways, Christianity is slowly being isolated and marginalized in the public square. Where it once was welcomed, the Christianity is now an increasingly unwelcome voice, a world-view now viewed as strange and obstructive. Whereas before the Christian worldview was the framework for the consideration of what was right and wrong, it has itself become the focus of suspicion and ridicule.
Are Christian’s the trouble-makers we’re made out to be? Do we foster violence, engender delusional beliefs, and manifest an arrogance of belief that is wrongly embraced? Do we hold to strange and unfamiliar truths that no longer resonate with modern culture? Is the church now the unwelcome guest at the community table?
While it is true that Christianity has had its share of abuses and abusers, maybe what we’re discovering is that the reaction a modern, secular culture is exhibiting toward Christianity is actually rather normal. Having come out of a period where Christianity was the ‘favored religion’ of Western culture, could it be that we are actually getting back to the normal reaction any secular culture has to a series of beliefs that focuses on the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the call for a humble repentant self, the authority of a Spirit-wrought book, and where the cross is not just a beautiful mantle piece, but a true symbol of the sacrificed life?
I want to suggest that, barring a revival of monumental proportions in Western culture, Christianity will continue to be minimized as a legitimate intellectual enterprise as noted by a plethora of strident atheists and marginalized as a series of silly beliefs held by wackos and people of sub-intelligence as suggested by many in the modern, main-stream media.
While we should be consistent in our beliefs, measured in our responses, and undaunted in our engagement of secular culture, we should also count ourselves in good company with a few other Christian trouble-makers in history. For example, Jesus troubled Herod’s kingdom at his birth (Mt. 2:3); Paul troubled Athens (Acts 17) and Ephesus (Acts 19) by simply preaching the gospel; and the whole church has been troubling the world to one degree or another for centuries.
Instead of being shocked at this recent rise of anti-Christian sentiment and instead of playing the role of the pouting adolescent who didn’t get invited to the class party, let us sharpen our minds with the great truths of the Christian intellectual traditions that have weathered more serious storms than are currently raging in our times. This is no time for cowardice, but for firm, yet loving spiritual and intellectual engagement. It may that God is refining his church, clarifying her beliefs, purifying her motives, and testing her mettle for some future event in God’s glorious purposes.