Christian morality has been a driver of public policy since the days of Constantine, but I think somehow we are loosing collective Christian consciousness. Granted, history is filled with Christianity doing crash and burns… but I tend to think as Shaun Grove stated, something has changed.
A friend of mine with Mennonite roots was pondering along that line of thinking a while back too. He suggests that the last 2 generations of Christians have presented worldviews where:
Forgiveness is replaced by Vengeance
Peace is replaced with anger.
Love is replaced with mean-spiritedness
Faith is replaced with Fear
I’ve observed the same, and I’ve also noticed situations where folks talk about Judeo Christian values, except that when queried, said values often reflect recent traditions of men or pop psychology, rather than the words of Jesus. I think about the sentiments expressed in a couple recently anti-beatitude songs by U2 .
Blessed are the arrogant,
For theirs is the kingdom of their own company.
Blessed are the superstars,
For the magnificence in their light
We understand better our own insignificance.
Blessed are the filthy rich,
For you can only truly own what you give away,
Like your pain.
Blessed are the bullies,
For one day they will have to stand up to themselves.
Blessed are the liars,
For the truth can be awkward.
As I stated earlier, history is filled with Christianity going off the rails. As little as 50 years ago, Christians took over zoning boards in many US cities and played the discrimination game with housing, intentionally excluding Jews, Muslims, and those of other faiths, or of no faith, to say nothing of matters of class and race. Going back further, consider how Christians have treated native Americans over the years, words in the treaties were rarely worth the paper they were printed on. If we roll back to the time of the Puritans, its almost a replay of the parable of the forgiven debtor. The Puritans left England to pursue religious freedom, only to turn around upon arrival here to persecute the Quakers. And it’s not just an American thing, Calvin had Servais killed, the Catholic church had the crusades… pretty much, if there was a moral high ground held out in the scriptures, Christians throughout the centuries downplayed it in the pursuit of other things.
In today’s world, the words of Jesus about greed and coveting are truly hard to hear as they impact most everyone, as contrasted with ear-tickling morality that rarely rings explicitly personal. As Pastor Shane Holden of First Free says, the Bible mentions greed and caring for the poor many thousands of times, and yet Christianity is not known for its preaching against greed and covetousness. Add in the folks on radio and tv avoiding the same, and is it any wonder that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus gets buried in the noise, to say nothing about Jesus words about lovings one’s neighbor.
And yet despite the moral failings of Christians, a form of Christian consciousness has always streamed from the pulpit, albeit not without difficulty. I remember a pastor friend told me about preaching about the rich young ruler… with the result that 2-3 wealthy families including a congressman left his church never to return. Another pastor friend of mine got chewed out for being too political when he brought up Matthew 25 in his sermon.
Consider the atheist Bertam Russels words about Ghandi.
“It is doubtful that the efforts of the Mahatma would have succeeded except that he was appealing to the conscience of a Christianized people”
His approach of non-violence ran smack into Christian consciousness… had it not, he likely would have been killed and the status quo would have remained.
But where is this Christian consciousness in today’s world? If its presence is iffy now, will it exist in the future? Consider generation Z and their views of Christianity — from a Barna survey.
For Gen Z, “atheist” is no longer a dirty word: The percentage of teens who identify as such is double that of the general population (13% vs. 6% of all adults). The proportion that identifies as Christian likewise drops from generation to generation.
More than half of Gen Z says church involvement is either “not too” (27%) or “not at all” important (27%). Only one in five says attending church is “very important” to them (20%), the least popular of the four options.