Russell Moore suggests that we consider America not in a “Post-Christian” era, but rather as having been a “Pre-Christian” nation all along. That thought might surprise some of you men. He refers to Soren Kierkegaard’s observation that a nominal, civil form of Christianity is the greatest apostasy, in which pagans live thinking they are Christian. He called this cultural expression – “Christiandom.” Kierkegaard argued that the illusion that we are Christians in a Christian nation can be so persistent that, “it looks indeed as if introducing Christianity amounts to taking Christianity away.” But this is what must happen for the illusion to be debunked.
Ezekiel prophesied about whitewashed walls falling. “I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundations will be laid bare” (Ezk 13:14). Could the whitewashed wall of “Christiandom” be falling? Isaiah prophesied a sudden collapse of the walls. “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant” (Is.30:12). Could it be that we will see a collapse of “Christiandom,” during which true Christianity will thrive under persecution. “The Book of Acts,” notes Moore, “like the Gospels before it, shows us that Christianity thrives when it is, as Kierkegaard put it, a sign of contradiction.”
I write today to warn men of the collapse of nominal civil religion (Christiandom). The latest Pew survey makes this clear. The days of easy believism are over. Yes, we are going to have to resist the cultural headwinds in the days to come. But my concern for myself and men who are committed to Jesus is that we do not become rigid, unloving and inflexible in our disposition. Peter writing to Christian exiles exhorting them to, “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (I Peter 3:8). Later he reminds them, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15). It is how we resist that is vital.
Willpower, determination and effort alone will not help us confront the Christ-denying, cultural headwinds that are coming. Willfulness is a focus on how we are doing, not what God is doing through us. It breeds a grasping, clutching spirit, making us rigid and intolerant. We will be more against then for. There is little evidence of compassion and love. Let me stress this point – what will be needed are hearts that have been softened by surrendering to the love of God. I pray that God will raise up a whole new generation of men, who have meet God in vulnerability and surrender, thus having hearts softened by the love of God. These will be men who are both “tough and tender,” having strength to stand, but also able to act with humility and compassion.
Jesus is our example. He was both compassionate and yet strong in opposing, especially the “religious spirit” of his day. Open your heart to Jesus and keep your spiritual gaze on him. Learn from Jesus how to live freely and lightly. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” ( Matt 11:28-9 – Message)