Not Your Grandmother’s America
The recent brouhaha surrounding the selection of Nina Davuluri, an American of Indian descent, as the next Miss America was another reminder of the racial divide that still exists in the United States. News networks cited the disparaging comments that were posted to Twitter about the ethnicity of the new Miss America as evidence of this rift.1 But while spotlighting the racism that festers in our midst, Ms. Davuluri also reminds us of the reality that America is becoming more and more diverse. While some Americans felt that the new beauty queen wasn’t “American” enough, the new Miss America responded with dignity and reminded us all that she is as fully American as are any of the rest of us.
The veracity of his general commentary aside, even Bill O’Reilly lamented on the eve of the last election that the days of the “White establishment” were over in America, recognizing that we are fast becoming a nation of incredible diversity.2 And most in our society have come to the realization that the demographics of color and ethnicity are shifting here at home. Simply put, this isn’t your grandma’s America anymore.
While some in our culture seem to find the increased diversity of the American landscape lamentable, others (such as myself) see the new post-White establishment America as a step toward the fulfillment of the true American dream—a nation where all, regardless of ethnicity or color, are “created equal.” But when you’re used to being part of the controlling majority, conceding power to those who were once in the minority can be hard to do.
Christian America No More
This is becoming true of the “evangelical Christian establishment” in the United States as well. While there has officially been no established church or religion in any American state since 1833, a certain strain of Christianity has traditionally enjoyed a position of privilege and influence in American politics and culture. In part, this is because the majority of Americans have always claimed Christianity as their religion, and hence any politician who cares to win would do well to cater to the concerns and values of his or her constituency. However, regardless of the cause, over the past centuries nominal Christianity has enjoyed majority status in the United States and among its political elite.
But as the racial and ethnic demographics shift in America, so too the religious landscape seems to be changing. American Christianity has sometimes shown a superiority complex, but the reality of the current situation is beginning to set in. While the majority of Americans still claim to be Christian, there is a perception that traditional evangelical Christianity no longer enjoys the position of power and prestige that it once held in America. It is no longer a given that national leaders will be elected only if they are White, or claim Christianity as their religion. The secular left is now controlling the agenda, it seems. And for many this reality is disconcerting. And they are fighting to turn back the clock.
Biblical Christianity and Political Power
Many Christians blame the general decline of moral values in the United States on this loss of political power and influence, noting that it all began when the Supreme Court “removed” God from our public schools in the 1960s and decided some other controversial cases.3 Of course, no court really has the power to kick God out of any place, anywhere! In the cases decried by politically conservative religionists today, the Court merely ruled that state-sponsored prayer and religious activities were prohibited in public schools.4, 5 Student-sponsored prayer meetings and Bible study groups still take place every week in public schools around America, and students are free to join these groups as they please.
However, as Christians struggle to take back power and fix what they perceive has gone wrong in American society, there’s the question of whether true Christianity was ever meant to be “in power” or in a position of popularity with the world. A cursory look at the teachings of Jesus leads to the conclusion that He never envisioned His church to be in a position in which it would dominate others in the political realm or attain popular majority on the world scene.
When the disciples were jockeying for the top position in His church, Jesus warned them that their self-seeking attitude of desiring to dominate others was contrary to the principles of His kingdom (Luke 22:25, 26). It follows that if Christ’s disciples should not seek to “lord it over” one another in the church, a place where they have legitimate jurisdiction, how much more should the church avoid misrepresenting Christ by seeking to lord it over those outside of its borders.
Jesus also prophetically warned His followers that “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33, NKJV)6 and that “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18, NIV).7 With Jesus, His lack of popularity stemmed from the fact that He fearlessly yet lovingly lived and told the truth. He further clarified the relationship that His church would have with the world by telling Pilate that “my kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight” (John 18:36, NIV). Clearly Jesus did not intend for His followers to use force or political power to set up His kingdom, or some variation of it, on this earth. Nor did He intend for them to put their ultimate hope in earthly politics.
How Should Christians Respond to Loss of Political Power?
As I hear some Christians complain about their perceived loss of political influence and power in America, I can’t help believing that becoming the underdog could be a positive thing for true Christianity. Why? Because biblical Christianity has always thrived in hostile environments (“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”— Tertullian) and experienced some of its best days, in terms of true conversions, when it was politically powerless.
Additionally, the church is actually told in Scripture how to “fight” for Christ’s kingdom—and it’s not by seeking political power or by fighting the way the world does. The apostle Paul said, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3, 4, NIV). What are these weapons with which the church does battle? They include the power of prayer, the faithful preaching of the Word, and acts of love.
And yes, sometimes those acts of love may take the form of political action. But before we seek to force our religious or religiously based moral views on the rest of society, let’s think about the end goal. Do we want to win them over to our point of view or merely force them to comply? The former is an attitude of love; the latter an attitude that is foreign to Christ’s kingdom. And every political action undertaken by Christians must be done with love. A Christian that loves will never violate the conscience of another in order to convert them to their idea of religion.
The Future of the Christian Establishment in America and Beyond
What does the future hold for the “Christian establishment” in America? In fact, the Bible indicates that a form of nominal Christianity will regain the upper hand in world (and American) politics. In the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians he speaks of the “lawless one,” a character understood to be synonymous with the antichrist power of the Apocalypse, whom he also refers to as the “son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, NKJV). Jesus, in speaking of the traitorous disciple Judas, called him “the son of perdition,” indicating that Judas prefigured the future antichrist power predicted by Paul (John 17:12, NKJV). Of course it was Judas, one of the 12 and part of Christ’s inner circle, who ultimately betrayed Jesus to be put to death for His crime of disagreeing with the religious establishment of the time.
The Bible indicates that history will repeat itself—even here in America. A power arising from within the inner sanctum of Christianity will assert itself to betray and persecute the people of God—a power that is Christian in name and outward appearance but devoid of the love and truth of God.
But there’s a good ending to this story. The biblical prophet Daniel tells us that the people of God, who are ultimately portrayed in Scripture as a politically powerless minority, will prevail. Christ’s kingdom of love will conquer the kingdoms of this world, the kingdoms of force and false Christianity, and set up a society in which love and righteousness will reign forever (Daniel 7:26, 27). And by the way, Christ’s kingdom will be a melting pot of different ethnicities, colors, and cultures—just like we have here in America (Revelation 5:9).
- Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Scripture quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Article Author: Stephen Allred
Stephen N. Allred writes from Yuba City, California.