Thursday, March 09, 2023

Retro Christianity

“In a post-Christian society, all faithful people begin to look a little Amish.”

— Ken Myers, host of Mars Hill Audio

Nice quote, Ken. Love the way you put that.

He’s got a point, though. In the ongoing moral and cultural decline of modern society, there must surely come a point at which the difference between how Christians live and how their neighbors live becomes too great to escape notice any longer.

And then, in a sense, we will all be “Amish”. I mean those who actually care to be Christians will be.

The Distance Between

Like those odd, traditionalist folk who persist in riding around in buggies and treating electricity as sinful, Christians (at least any real Christians) are certain to start sticking out — not because they’ve bought a farm and formed a closed community, but because even while living among the regular folks the variance between their lifestyle choices and those of the “respectable” citizens around them has just become too great.

“Personal holiness? What’s that?”

“Family values? What the heck is a ‘family’?”

“Commandments? Commandments of who?”

“The Bible? Do people still actually read that?”

“Church? Haven’t you ever heard of golf or the pre-game show?”

“Unequal yoke? Isn’t that the gear they used to put on horses or something? What’s your point?”

“And salvation ... what do we need to be saved from? Are you trying to say you’re better than us? How judgmental! Seriously, we've got to worry about you guys sometimes!”

“Are you people still stuck on homosexuality? How retro are you! That’s so yesterday: we’re transgendering bathrooms.”

“Are you still carping about abortion? Get with the program ... we’re onto harvesting fetuses and elective euthanasia.”

“Are you still moaning about Hollywood corruption? Ha. We’ve got anything you wanna see, twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week on your iPhone.”

“Substance abuse? We’re legalizing all that: what’s to talk about? Seriously, you people are living in the past!”

And the contrast might even become painful. I’m pretty sure the world won’t sit still while we say — no, while we prove by all that we do — that its “respectable” folks are really nothing respectable at all.

The Blends

I’m not sure we’re there yet. In present-day suburbia an average Christian can live a quietly moral life, keeping most of his decisions covert and his convictions indoors without too many questions. Maybe that’s a function of the old, dying legacy of cultural Christianity, the residual effect of things like civic morality and the Protestant work ethic. But this residue is fading fast; and in its place is appearing omni-tolerance, relativism and the brain-dead dogma of the “progressive” left. Soon enough, the distance between being a Christian and participation in an increasingly confused and dissolute Western society is bound to become unmistakable.

Will people stop understanding us, then? Will they resent us for our refusal to participate with them in the common sins of our society? Or do we suppose that the soiled blanket of progressivist omni-tolerance will still be large enough to include us?

The Lord himself said that a time would come when men would hate us, because they hate him and we are truly his. How they can we suppose that the present time of relative ease and freedom from persecution can go on forever? If it does, the only reason can be that we have given up our association with Christ — for the world’s hatred of him is implacable.

Staying in the Game

However, we are not all going to start wearing funny hats and driving around in buggies. Nor should we. To make arbitrary laws about the wearing of clothing or the using of technology is not the Christian way. Christians are never to be of the world, but they are most certainly to remain in it. Ken Myers continues:

“But we must remember that we are always against the world for the world. This is not a call to retreat, but a call to provide a faithful public witness.”

In other words, our withdrawal is moral, not bodily. We remain very much in contact with the world, involved in the whole round of its legitimate activities — social, cultural, economic, educational, artistic, scientific and even political — to whatever extent we are righteously able. And we do it for the sake of the world — to save as many as we can, and to remain a faithful public witness to the reality that the life of Christ is not just theoretically possible for mankind, but is real.

Boy, Do We Stink

Yet our presence will inevitably be convicting. We will be the fragrance of life to the believing, and also the stench of death to the unbelieving. And so long as we remain fully engaged with the world but actually devoted to Christ, we cannot help being like that. We will be a lure to those the world wants to drag down with it, and an olfactory offense against the many who tread the broad way that leads to destruction.

Not just our words but our values, choices, lifestyles, activities, entertainments, opinions and actions will all start to smell like the Great Judgment.

So persecution will come. At first, probably the sort of disdain and contempt the world is already showing us, but increasingly we will be pushed to the margins, excluded from aspects of public life, and maligned in whatever slanderous ways the world, in its smug self-righteousness, can manufacture. Then alienation: exclusion from key life activities, reduction of our rights and access to resources, then further vilification …

Then maybe outright persecution.

Maybe. And if it be so, then we are blessed. But oh, the price we may have to pay …

The Challenge of Standing Out

We’re near that — maybe in the early stages — but perhaps not quite there yet. All the same, today I’m asking myself this question: When the world looks my way at the present moment, am I looking sufficiently Amish?

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