So We’re in a Clinton/Trump America. Now What?
I have participated in the argument over whether Christians should support Donald Trump given that Hillary Clinton is an unacceptable candidate, and I have landed on the side of nonsupport. But even many Christians who support voting for Trump are not confident he will support their causes. Trump does not have an established record of protecting conservative Christians or their issues, and he obtained the Republican nomination without such a record.
Hillary or Trump: No wonder conservative Christians are discouraged by the current state of our presidential race.
The fact that there is not a presidential candidate attractive to conservative Christians is indicative of the changing state of our society. Christians would be well advised to consider carefully the direction to take in our post-Christian society. In the past Christians have been what social scientists call a majority group. This does not necessarily mean that Christians were in the numerical majority — although they were — but rather that Christians had disproportionately high levels of power in our society. It is hard to call Christians a majority group today, since those with anti-Christian hatred tend to have a great deal of power themselves. Even if someone argues that Christians have disproportionate power today, I see no reason to think we will retain or regain majority group status in the near future.
This election, difficult as it may be, could be a useful wake-up call for the Church. It could remind us that we cannot rely upon politicians to protect us. For many years Christians have been able to look to the government to protect them and even to project their power. In a post-Clinton/Trump age it has become clear that this is no longer viable.
This does not mean the end of our faith. Too many Christian pessimists and anti-Christian bigots have prematurely proclaimed the end of American Christianity. Our faith cannot be destroyed by what others do to us. Only we can destroy it, by failing to live up to our values and to act in wisdom. Even then God still reigns. We can survive a Clinton or Trump presidency. Christians down through the ages have survived and even thrived in much worse conditions.
I am going to suggest two steps as we consider this post-Christian society. First, we need to stop thinking of ourselves as a majority group, and to think of ourselves as a countercultural group instead. If the United States was ever a Christian nation, it is not one now. We have to face the reality of powerful forces seeking to marginalize Christians. What worked in the past when Christians were a majority group will not work today when we lack that sort of power.
So if we are no longer the dominant culture, then we should endeavor to be the counterculture. Embrace that! Be the rebels who stand in opposition to the distortions in our society. Exhibit Christian love, but refuse to participate in the social dysfunctions around us. We can be the critique of our society, and if we do it right then many will turn to us after wandering around in our current society’s amorphous gender and family madness.
There are many values that are important in setting up this counterculture. I want to see a Christian community that is intellectually strong, has solid family norms, reaches across racial lines and exhibits a viable economic center. I will flesh out what I see as the application of these values in future Stream writings. (Stay tuned.)
The second step is to make ourselves ready to engage the larger culture and not merely rely on political activism. I am not advocating any escape from political activism. It is important to understand its limits, however, and not expect more from political activism that it can accomplish. Political activity will be important so that we retain our rights to the public square, but if we do not impact the culture outside of our community, we will remain marginalized. There should be at least as much effort invested in impacting non-Christian cultural institutions as we in impacting political races.
The changes that created the anti-Christian hostility we see today did not occur in the political sphere until after a great deal of cultural revolution had taken place. The days when Christians can be content to stay inside of our own cultural organizations are gone. While Christian media, educational institutions and entertainment play important roles in our community, even these institutions will not survive unless we have Christians in secular mainstream media, educational institutions and entertainment to counteract secular anti-Christian bias.
Establishing a Christian counterculture to protect ourselves defensively while also engaging in the larger culture to go on the offense are two broad steps we can take in this frustrating political year. The devil of how to do this is in the details. There is a need for dialogue among Christian leaders as to how to take these steps. Nevertheless, knowing that there are steps we can take, steps to adjust and move forward in this post-Christian society, can help us not to feel so helpless and defeated. Of course with God’s help we never need to latch on to fatalism. We can trust Him to show us a path through these difficult times.