In a recent blog post Rod Dreher writes about a new generation of Southern Baptists. In it he quotes the following from Trevan Wax . . .
It’s common to hear the story of young evangelicals fleeing conservative churches and embracing center-left politics. I don’t see this happening among young Southern Baptist pastors. What I do see is less emphasis on bringing change through political engagement and more emphasis on dealing pastorally with the implications of a secularizing society.
When I talk with older Southern Baptists about recent cultural developments, I get the impression that many of them see mobilization of Christian voters as the best way to effect change. When I talk with younger Southern Baptists, I get the impression that the landscape has shifted to the point they expect to be a minority. Therefore, the strategy becomes more about preserving space for Christian morality and less about enshrining our views in law. This is a generalization, but I think there’s truth here: Older Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Israel. Younger Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Babylon. That’s a significant shift, and it leads to a different tone.
Dreher responds . . .
That expresses my view exactly. “Babylon” here refers to the Babylonian captivity, where the Israelites lived as strangers in a strange land. This is the reality of where orthodox Christians find themselves today. Those Christians who understand this and figure out how to live and to thrive in Babylon will make it. Those Christians who persist on thinking that we are living in the Promised Land will not, in large part because they will not have prepared themselves.
The Reformation (497 years ago) seismically shook the church. Protesters against the Roman Catholic Church (hence, “Protestants”) called the church back to God’s Word. We enjoy the benefits. But in the last 50 years (though its seeds were planted earlier) a spiritual-moral revolution has swept America. And, unlike the Reformation, it isn’t good for us.
At a recent Baptist convention, Dr. Albert Mohler made this observation: “Western civilization is in the final stage of a moral revolution — one that is happening at warp speed.” Take same-sex marriage as an example. Our culture used to condemn it. Now states are rushing to legalize it, and whoever refuses to celebrate is condemned. Mohler went on to say . . .
The church is now in a position of being “a moral minority. We are accustomed to ministry from the top side in the culture, not from the underside. We are accustomed to speaking from a position of strength and respect and credibility. And now we are going to be facing the reality that we are already, in much of America, speaking from a position of a loss of credibility.”
We too are “sojourners and exiles” in a strange land (1 Peter 2:11). Yes, vote this Tuesday! But realize, as Dreher says, we can’t “enshrine our views in law.” Should Republicans become the majority in the Senate this Tuesday America will not soon become morally righteous.
As Mohler said, “The church is now in a position of being a moral minority.” We speak “from a position of a loss of credibility.” It’s important to note that it’s not just Baptists or Reformed or Evangelicals, but the church of Jesus Christ that has become a non-credible moral minority as far as the country is concerned.
So, how can we “live and thrive in Babylon”?
1. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind . . . ” (Romans 12:2a). Let’s not fool ourselves into assuming the world doesn’t influence us. For example, more professed Christians today accept same-sex marriage, because the world does and considers us Neanderthals if we don’t. To not be mindlessly conformed, we have to be mindfully transformed. That means fill our minds with God’s Word. Learn from sermons. Read the Bible regularly. (Don’t give up if you don’t understand everything; get it in your brain!)
2. Live as part of the community of the local church. This doesn’t mean “holy huddle” shut off from the world. It means join with like-minded people to receive strength and grow like a family in the faith.
3. Realize we’re in a war. Maybe back in “Leave It to Beaver” days we could think Sunday Worship a time for a little inspiration. Not now. Church is more “boot camp” to stand faithful in a life or death battle. “Those Christians who persist on thinking that we are living in the Promised Land will not (“live and thrive”), in large part because they will not have prepared themselves.”
4. Remember “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy isn’t the government, atheists or the LGBT community. The enemy is the evil one who stalks us to undermine our faith and oppose Christ.
5. Love our enemy. That doesn’t mean love the devil. It means love unlovable people who may treat us like the enemy. Love them with Christ’s love, because, even if a minority, we’re still on offense!
6. Keep in mind the church has suffered far worse than minority status. We may lose a few rights; many in “the persecuted church” lose their lives. Government trample on religious liberty? That should deepen our resolve to follow Jesus.
7. Expect “many tribulations” on our way to the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Turn off prosperity preachers’ lies. Teach our children by word and example “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life” (Matthew 7:14). Pray more for this lost world than lost keys.
8. Worship God as sovereign. His kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19). Read the back of the Book: the minority of believers out of all nations reigns with Christ forever. We win because he does!
Meanwhile, we live in Babylon. Ready?