Division Means We Are Free — But Maintaining That Freedom Requires Us to Engage

By Chenyuan Snider Published on April 17, 2024

Our society is sharply divided by irreconcilable political and ideological beliefs, such as abortion, transgenderism, and the role of government (just to name a few). For many American Christians, this division causes mental distress. They’d much prefer peace and harmony in our society.

I, however, see a different picture.

I lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76) when thoughts were not allowed except those in line with Chairman Mao’s. There was no room for “wrongthought.” Disobedience to the Chinese Communist Party could result in prison and death (and still can). I never saw adults publicly disagreeing with each other, for there was nothing to disagree about. Yet, this seemingly peaceful and harmonious society has witnessed the deaths of millions of innocent people and the near-total destruction of the traditional Chinese culture. This period was the darkest time in Chinese history.

After I immigrated to America, one of the first things I noticed were the opposing ideas in society. I later realized that this is a byproduct of free speech. Based on my experience both in China and in America, I consider our current ideological division a positive phenomenon, because at least it signifies the presence of freedom in America, however frail that may have become.

In addition, I find that Scripture suggests that in this world, ideological division is inevitable. Jesus said both wheat and tares would grow together, and He would not separate them until they reached maturity and showed their true natures. Though salvation has come to us through Jesus’s death and resurrection, we still live in the period of what theologians call the “already” and the “not yet.” In this flawed world, light and darkness coexist, and with them, ideological struggles and contentions.

Do the Right Thing

If ideological contentions are unavoidable, how then should we conduct ourselves in a combative society?

As Christians, we may seem to be at a disadvantage compared with those controlled by dark forces. Jesus said the sons of darkness are shrewder than the children of light. We routinely underestimate the serpent’s cunning and tend to be reluctant to fight back unless we are cornered. History shows that when a society is dominated by a single ideology, more often than not, that society is controlled by darkness and light is driven into hiding, as we saw in Germany during WWII, the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and today’s China under the Chinese Communist Party. Consequently, we must pay special attention to Jesus’s words in Matthew 10:16, when he commanded us to be shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves.

Further, we must acknowledge that ideological division in our society actually benefits us. Scripture teaches us that the world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19) and we live here as aliens (1 Peter 2:11). We enter the Kingdom through the narrow gate, while others choose the wide gate that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13). Even though Christianity has had significant influence on the world, our ideas remain unpopular as the Scripture predicted. Ideologically speaking, we are a minority hated by the world.

Nonetheless, Jesus commanded us to keep our light shining until He returns. This is not an easy task because dark forces always try to eliminate our opportunity to be God’s witness. Thus, our current ideological contention is actually a favorable sign suggesting that we still have a voice and our light is still shining somewhere.

From this perspective, we understand the real value of the First Amendment. Though many American Christians ignore and even despise this right to free speech, considering it to be something that enables vice and promotes confrontation, this right creates favorable conditions for the light to shine continually.

Absent without Leave

Moreover, we need to realize that in order to maintain our voice in this battle between different ideas, we must join the fight.

Unfortunately, too many Christian leaders in America fail to do this. Over the years, American evangelical churches have sought to attract the unchurched by appealing to dominant cultural practices. We have been presenting ourselves as tolerant and accepting – but in the process, we have allowed the secular culture to exert a subtle (and sometimes strong) influence on our thinking. The result is that we have become like those we endeavor to reach.

Refusing to take an unpopular stance that draws criticism in part testifies to the secularization of the American church. Regrettably, this ambivalence produces devastating consequences when we are confronted by dark forces that aim to devour us.

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The progressive left has never practiced the tolerance it relentlessly promotes, but uses that idea to disarm and manipulate Christfollowers, forcing us to kowtow to their demonic ideologies. For example, California has passed a law that requires mental health workers to affirm young people as homosexual when they are struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. Suggesting anything else subjects counselors to a loss of their licenses. This restriction has never applied to any other area in the mental health field; clearly, it aims to eliminate Christian influence on a preeminent issue of our time. Step by step, these types of laws will eradicate the Christian worldview from America.

Dereliction of Duty

Yet, many Christians choose to ignore these types of events out of a desire to avoid damaging our image and hurting our witness to the world. However, by being too gentle to disagree, we have been giving the dark forces a free hand to silence us. How can we be a witness for anything when our light has been stamped out? To answer that, just ask yourself how effective the German Church has been since WWII.

Nevertheless, with the rapid advance of the dark forces, no one can ignore what is taking place in our society. Many American Christians are experiencing cognitive dissonance induced by the degree of evil in our society and our unwillingness to stand up against it — but unfortunately, instead of repenting and engaging, they are scrambling to find biblical teachings to justify their complacency.

One such justification centers on a preoccupation with the End Times: They say all the signs point to Christ’s imminent return. If the Bible has already predicted an apocalyptic ending, nothing can be done but to passively await the inevitable, they claim; the best we can do is to embrace it.

That sounds spiritual, doesn’t it? But in reality, it’s abdication. Every generation of Christians in the past two thousand years thought the world would end in their time. It hasn’t. What does the Bible teach about the Second Coming? That no one, not even the Son, knows when this will take place except the Father.

This teaching alone should warn us to never assume, but instead to stand ready, watching, and engaged in the Master’s work. Paul did that, and so did generations of Christians – and as a result, the Gospel has been advanced and America has played an instrumental role in beating back the forces of darkness when they threatened to overwhelm the world in the twentieth century.

Get Up, Stand Up

The trope that “God is sovereign and in control” has become hackneyed, used by many Christians here to respond to the increasing wickedness in our society. At first glance, it seems to demonstrate their unwavering trust in God in a trying time. In reality, it’s a ready-made excuse to evade their responsibility to confront evil.

As a person raised in an eastern culture (the cultural perspective from which, by the way, the Bible was written), I would like to write a longer piece debunking this false belief than space here permits. Suffice to say that nowhere does Scripture teach that either our actions or inactions are inconsequential. Nowhere does Scripture permit us to blame God for many grievous things in the world for which we’re responsible because we have failed to perform our duties.

How then should we respond to America’s societal division? Acknowledging the inevitability of ideological struggles is the first step. We also need to recognize that it is through the struggles that we, American Christians, have the opportunity to keep demonstrating the truth of the Gospel to a lost world.

It’s imperative that we stand up and fight in order to remain in the struggle – now.


Chenyuan Snider was raised in Communist China and majored in Chinese language and literature in college. After immigrating to the U.S. and studying at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and Duke Divinity School, she became a professor at Christian colleges and seminary. Recently, she sensed God was leading her to use her unique voice to warn Americans about the various Marxist influences in our society. She lives in northern California with her husband and has two grown children.

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