American culture does not take Christianity seriously. Should it?

One does not need prophetic gifts or the ability to read tea leaves to know that for the Church to be taken seriously by the millennial generation some things will have to change. I have tried to contribute a slightly different voice to this conversation…the voice of one who has spent 30 years working with college and young adult students desiring to reach youth for Jesus. I have NOT jumped on the bandwagon clambering to change the content of the faith. I HAVE said the way forward will be in the way we live that faith out…and that we have a model for that living rooted in our distant past: The followers of Jesus were once a multi-ethnic, multi-economic group.[1] They gathered in seeker INsensitive worship rituals[2] (and went out from the strength of that Acts 2:42 gathered community) and loved the world with their hands, feet, mouths and, often, lives.

What did it look like to the world? Somewhere between 130 and 200 CE an explanation of the Christian faith was offered from anonymous Christian to Diognetus, a tutor to Marcus Aurelius known for being intelligent and fair minded. Read this excerpt[3] describing the Christians Diognetus knew and ask yourself  “Is this what those who know us see?

5 For Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs.  2They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life.  3This doctrine of theirs has not been discovered by the ingenuity or deep thought of inquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching, as some people do.  4Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth.  5They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, yet endure everything as foreigners. 6They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring.  7They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed.  8It is true that they are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.”  9They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. 10They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require.  11They love all men, and by all men are persecuted.  12They are unknown, and still they are condemned… 13They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance.  14They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated.  15They are reviled, and yet they bless; when they are affronted, they still pay due respect.  16When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because they are brought to life.  17They are treated by the Jews as foreigners and enemies, and are hunted down by the Greeks; and all the time those who hate them find it impossible to justify their enmity….

6 To put it simply…Christians dwell in the world, but do not belong to the world…9The soul, when faring badly as to food and drink, grows better; so too Christians, when punished, day by day increase more and more.  10It is to no less a post than this that God has ordered them, and they must not try to evade it.

7Do you not see how they are thrown to wild animals to make them deny the Lord, and how they are not vanquished?  8Do you not see that the more of them are punished, the more do others increase?  9These things do not seem to come from a human power; they are a mighty act of God; they are proofs of his presence.

American culture does not take the Church seriously. Why should it?

Don’t you think the diminished view of the Church in the eyes of young adults has a lot to do with our walk not matching our talk? We whine and moan and wring our hands when we could love and serve and give and pray and love some more.

We can do better. Instead of seeking our own good and the perpetuation of institutions, we could remember, to paraphrase Paul that we are not our own, we were bought with a price.”[4] Why do missionaries fare so well? Probably because the people group sees the sacrifice of someone leaving all to join them and wonders why. I’m pretty sure that a little more Romans 12:1-2 sacrifice would be pretty jarring to the world right about now.[5]


[1] Check out the leadership group in Antioch in Acts 11 and 13

[2] Read Justin Martyr’s 1st Apology from 150 CE

[4] 1 Cor 6:19-20

[5] I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


4 thoughts on “American culture does not take Christianity seriously. Should it?

    • Thanks for commenting, Rev. Paul. I appreciate your blogging support for those seeking a home. I am from the US state that is the frontline of our arguments for/against immigration. It seems that strangers and aliens should welcome fellow strangers and aliens.

  1. “Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world.” – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy. So what have we got, if not that?

    Thanks for the post, the epistle was new to me.

    • It is a great letter, isn’t it? And thank you for returning the favor with Chesterton.

      If only we would remember that the church is the solution to modernity rather than repeatedly attempting to baptize it.

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