RESPONSE OF SOME EVANGELICALS TO PERSECUTION

Many evangelicals in the USA have been anticipating some kind of confrontation with the changing social order. Crawford Griffen writes about it in his new book Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America – Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest. Over the last five years, he says, ” I’ve been writing about what might be one of the most significant trends among American evangelicals – a migration movement into the Pacific Northwest that has resulted in the formation of some very successful and increasingly influential intentional communities.

From small towns in northern Idaho, and elsewhere in the region, writers, artists and polemicists are publishing books with Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Random House, and broadcasting talk-shows on Amazon Prime. While offering different perspectives, they present a similar sense of crisis. The nation is no longer held together by common values, they explain. They argue that the teaching of evolution in public schools, the debates about abortion, gender and marriage, and the guidelines that shut down churches for reasons of public health are different fronts in a long war against Christianity. They recognize that the neutrality of the public square is an impossible ideal. They understand that politics is always about coercion. And so they proposed their solution. While, in the grand scheme of things, the believers who have migrated to the Pacific Northwest are not numerically significant – although they may number in the tens of thousands – they do project considerable soft power. Many of these believers live very visible lives. The community of several thousand members that has been established in Moscow, Idaho, for example, supports a publishing house, a music conservatory and an impressive liberal arts college. Led by Douglas Wilson, whose many publications include a book that he co-authored with Christopher Hitchens, this community sets out to make Moscow a Christian town.

Other migrants into the region prefer more secluded lives. They are attracted by the idea that this region could form an “American Redoubt,” as James Wesley Rawles has argued, a hold-out for those who want to resist the cultural powers that be. Rawles is the author of several novels and preparedness manuals, which are published by Penguin, and his website, survivalblog.com, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every month. His work sets out a more ambitious agenda for survival and resistance, in which readers are encouraged to adopt evangelical piety while being ready, if necessary, for less spiritual forms of defensive combat. For obvious reasons, those who follow Rawles’ agenda prefer not to attract attention. But for all their differences, Wilson and Rawles agree that believers need to expect an extraordinary cultural crisis in the short to medium term, and prepare for the new world that will follow. While their tactics for dealing with opposition are sharply different, their vision of the future is much the same. Dark skies are on the horizon, but they predict huge numbers of Americans will be converted, the social and political life of the nation will be renewed, and the policy of a renewed republic will be built around the demands of biblical law. Their optimism is appealing but I don’t believe Biblical prophecies such as these two by Jesus supports this optimistic view.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:9-13

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.Matthew 24:21-22

I believe the Bible reveals that those Christians that adopt a praying church as it was in the Book of Acts intent on making disciples in their own communities, loving their neighbours and honouring Jesus regardless of the cost, will have the most impact for the Kingdom in these last days. The power of the Holy Spirit will be once more evident in this Home Church environment.

WHY PEOPLE LEAVE THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

Extensive new research from The Barna Group shows that nearly half of young adults worldwide who have a connection to Christianity feel that the Church can’t answer their questions. 

Barna, a California-based evangelical research firm, partnered with the leading international evangelical humanitarian organisation World Vision to compile “The Connected Generation” study. 

Published in a research report, the study is based on a survey of 15,369 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 across 25 different countries and nine languages. 

According to the study, one in three young adults (32 percent) said “hypocrisy of religious people” causes them to doubt things of a spiritual dimension. Almost half of the young adults who have left Christianity see the religion as “hypocritical.” 

Meanwhile, 31 percent of respondents said “science” also challenges their willingness to believe. Which is one reason why we need to connect young people with Creation Ministries International (CMI) http://www.creation.com.

One-quarter (28 percent) of respondents said human suffering and conflicts around the world cause them to have doubts. Once again, having a Biblical world view is so important. Understanding that SIN introduced by man’s disobedience and lack of trust in God is the cause of all of man’s troubles.

“It’s always the question of why God allows suffering; this is the biggest objection to Christianity. And there is no easy answer to it,” Nicky Gumbel, vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London and pioneer of the Alpha Course, wrote in an essay published with the research report. 

I would agree with Nicky that there is no easy answer, but the only answer that makes sense of the world’s condition is JESUS and what He has provided for us, both salvation and the provision of the Holy Spirit to be our counsellor, comforter and teacher.

The survey found that only 13 percent of respondents globally who grew up with a Christian background can be labelled “resilient disciples” today.

 A “resilient disciple” is someone who attends church regularly, engages with the faith community beyond just attending worship services, trusts firmly in the authority of the Bible, is committed to Jesus personally, and expresses a desire for their faith to impact their actions. 

Thirty-eight percent of respondents who grew up with a Christian background were defined by Barna as “habitual churchgoers” who do not fit the definition of “resilient disciple.”  Among respondents with a Christian background who live in countries with a “secular climate,” the survey found that only 5 percent can be defined as “resilient disciples.”

Eighty percent of young people who left Christianity said they believe that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual,” while 81 percent say present-day Christianity is judgemental.

Seventy-four percent of those who are no longer Christian said present-day Christianity is “out of touch with reality.” Only 60 percent of respondents who are no longer Christian said present-day Christianity “consistently shows love for people.”

Strangely, more than half (57 percent) of respondents to the survey, however, said they feel as though religion is good for people and society. 

“Ultimately, the only answer to it is in Jesus, who suffered for us and suffers with us. So that is the answer, but it’s much harder to get to. We’ve got to answer their questions, but more importantly, they want to know what we’re doing about [these issues]. If the Church is doing nothing and is not engaged in social action against homelessness, poverty, racial injustice, climate change or any of these issues, young people are not going to be very interested:, says David Kinneman, President of Barna Research.