Why Do Christians Close Their Eyes When the World’s On the Attack?
Some cynical explanations for the Church's sleepiness — and then another, more positive, more likely one.
The Western world grows more hostile to Christianity. Yet some Christians close their eyes. Why? How could they when the signs of this hostility are all around us?
Some must be thinking, “Hey, I’m okay. Why should I worry?” Or, “If it’s not my problem, it’s not a problem.” Others have no good sense of history. They don’t realize how tyranny progresses, how it takes one plot of land, then another, then advances to whole provinces and regions until it’s grabbed the whole culture.
Then there are those — I’ve spoken with some — who feel safe closing their eyes because they’re just not inclined to make a fuss. There’s a whole list of ways I’ve heard that spoken:
- “Who cares if gays get married? It doesn’t hurt anyone else’s marriage.”
- “I don’t like abortion, but I wouldn’t interfere with a woman’s right to her own body.”
- “What difference does it make if everyone at work is expected to put ‘Ally’ stickers on their office doors, showing they support the LGBT agenda? What’s it cost to put up a sticker? It’s worth it just to keep the peace.”
- “What does it matter if some woman gets kicked out of her fitness club because she didn’t want to shower with a man? She can go somewhere else.”
Things Don’t Always Happen to Someone Else
Do you know why you may have to make a fuss? Because you may be the person who gets hit with something like this.
The woman who didn’t want to shower with the man? That happened two miles from my birthplace. I had dinner right across the street from the place a few days ago.
What about the “Ally” sticker situation? I had a meal with that person not long ago. He’s no troublemaker by trade. He’s just trying to maintain Christian integrity in the workplace. (He didn’t go along with it, and he’s in another job now.)
You may not be feeling the heat. Be thankful. Pray that it lasts. But don’t think it’s always going to be someone else.
No Man Is an Island
But do you know the bigger reason you may have to make a fuss? It’s never just someone else’s problem. “No man is an island,” wrote John Donne. If the bell tolls, “it tolls for thee.” All of it affects all of us. Realize it or not, the sin in our culture is harming kids. Anti-Christian activists have their ear. Eternity is at stake for them.
It’s never just someone else’s problem. All of it affects all of us.
Meanwhile gay marriage may not hurt your relationship with your spouse, but it sure does add to the decades-old relationship-of-convenience ethos that’s been undermining marriage for everyone.
Yet the Church is drowsy in response. Could it be because we’re safe where we are? That no one’s bothering us? That it’s happening to someone else; and besides, if it comes our way, we can keep our heads down so no one thinks we’re troublemakers?
Do We Have Time to Notice? Do We Have Time Not To?
I know that’s not the whole story. There’s a lot going on in all our lives, and we all have enough trouble just keeping up with what hits us in the face when we get up in the morning. We’re helping our children deal with the bully at the bus stop, or picking out colleges for our kids, or holding on to our jobs or our spouses.
Pastors who might otherwise be calling their churches to wakefulness are busy with other genuinely crucial ministry. They’re counseling couples and healing committee rifts and preparing their next teachings, and on and on it keeps going.
Give me another minute or two, though, and I could show you how every one of those concerns ties directly back to cultural currents of the sort churches should be addressing. We see them as individual concerns, but they grow out of much larger cultural issues.
I don’t have that additional minute or two right now in this column. I was exaggerating anyway; it would longer than that.
The Most Likely Explanation: We Just Don’t Know What To Do
Yet there remains one more reason for the Church’s sleepiness. (All cynicism aside, I believe this is true for more of us than all the other explanations put together.) We’re stuck. We see what’s going on, but we don’t know what to do about it.
It’s human nature to go slow in such cases. I know about unrest in Syria, for example, but I don’t know how much I myself can do about it; therefore I don’t give it as much thought as some other people might. Similarly there are Christians who know what’s going on in today’s world but don’t know what they can do about it. So they spend their attention on what they actually can do.
I get that. It’s why I’m planning to continue this series on the Church’s best strategic response.
My question for now is, Do you see the dangerous directions our culture is heading? Are your eyes open, at least? If so, great! You’re on the right path. If not, which of these explanations best fits you or your church? Or is there another one?
Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream, and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ. Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.