Culture and Religion
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
There is no shortage of voices today demanding cultural change in our society. Whether it be social distancing or social justice, masks on or masks off, donkeys or elephants, black lives or all lives, our nation’s issues have risen to a boil that threatens to spill over the constraints once provided by the Judeo-Christian beliefs and values of the past.
Regardless of what cultural arena you look at, groups are forming within to create their own sub-cultures with the intent of making their culture the overarching one in society. In some ways, these movements reflect a new religion. Take, for example, our political arena, which author Andrew Sullivan describes this way:
Now look at our politics. We have the cult of Trump on the right, a demigod who, among his worshippers, can do no wrong. And we have the cult of social justice on the left, a religion whose followers show the same zeal as any born-again Evangelical. They are filling the void that Christianity once owned, without any of the wisdom and culture and restraint that Christianity once provided.
It’s interesting to note that Sullivan, who is neither a Christian nor a conservative, sees Christianity as a religion that once provided wisdom and constraint to society. Now, it’s given way to other “religions” that lack both. Sullivan isn’t the only one to see the current cultural movements as new religions. Christian leaders have recognized the same.
In a 2019 Sovereign Nations conference, a panel of six Christian leaders compared some fundamental Christian tenets to those of the social justice movement. In characterizing the social justice movement as a religion, the panel suggested that white privilege is the new original sin, and to be saved, one must be born again by becoming woke, then sanctified through activism and virtue signaling. What unites followers is their common experience of being victims of injustice or oppression or sympathy for those within these groups. There is no ultimate redemption or sense of forgiveness within the religion. Those converts who don’t fall naturally into the oppressed groups can only be accepted into the religion through perpetual penance.
What are Christian business leaders to make of these “new religions?” How shall we respond to “the cult of Trump,” Black Lives Matter, and Pride? The answers are not easy. However, choosing not to respond won’t protect you from the influence of these cultural movements. It will only make it easier for them to absorb you into their momentum, shaping not only your beliefs and values, but influencing the cultures where you lead, including your work, your family, and your community. Regardless of how you ultimately respond, it's important to protect yourself and those you lead from the persuasive power of these social movements, or new religions. You do this by managing yourself, managing the cultures you lead, and being prepared to lose the culture war.
Managing Yourself Within Your Culture: By culture, we mean the beliefs, values, and behaviors of a group, along with the symbols that are accepted by the group. For Christians, this means their primary culture consists of the beliefs, values, and behaviors communicated by God, along with the truths symbolized by the cross and the sacraments or ordinances. But, what do we mean by “managing yourself” within the Christian culture?
Many of the individuals who become members of these new movements join the group because it gives them a sense of identity. Hence, terms like LGBTQIA evolve through the addition of letters to the acronym, allowing others to be affirmed in their identity as they become members of the group. Christianity is completely contrary to finding one’s identity this way. Christians are not to find their identity in a group. Instead, Christians are to find their identity in a Person.
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Contrary to these social movements that unite people based upon their political affinity, ethnicity, gender fluidness, or the common experience of oppression, Christianity operates on an individual basis. One is not measured by what group they belong to. Instead, they are measured by how closely their character aligns with the character of Jesus Christ. Christians must not identify with any group which would force them to compromise their biblical beliefs, values, and behaviors. Instead, they must hold to the gospel, guarding their heart and mind against the influence of cultural lies and deception. And they must realize that just as their calling is unique and personal (Ephesians 2:10), so too is their account before the Lord for the things done in life, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10). Hearing “well done” will not be based upon the group they belonged to. It will be based on whether they belonged to Jesus Christ.
Manage the Cultures You Lead: How you live out your beliefs and values will influence the cultures where you lead. Those cultures include your work, your home, and your community. When we speak of managing these cultures, we mean that you must establish the values, teach the beliefs, and hold others accountable to godly behaviors. You must tell the stories and explain the symbols that reflect the nature of your group and its culture. There’s no room for passivity in this work. You must be intentional and lead in an engaging way that combines courage with compassion and empathy.
Paul said much the same when writing to Timothy:
“The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
Note the way we are to engage culture, being kind, patient, and gentle. Note too how we manage cultures by teaching and correcting. These are the elements of courageous and compassionate leadership. And empathy guides us into becoming “all things to all people, that by all means, we might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Even with efforts to manage the cultures you lead toward the greater good, you must be prepared for the advancement of evil. You must also prepare to lose the culture war.
Preparing to Lose the Culture War: The winds of cultural change in our nation are blowing very strongly. A perfect storm is coming. Even though Christians will resist falling prey to deceptions promoted by new religions, the eventual success of these religions is becoming more obvious. As Michael Yousef says in his book, “Saving Christianity,”: “The agenda of the postmodern Christians is nearly identical to the political and social agenda of the secular left.”
While we may pray and even work for “God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven,” the truth is that the one institution that is to resist secular culture, the church, will yield to it. Satan is planting tares among the wheat, bad fish in the net, and yeast among the flour. And the yeast of falsehood will infect the whole lump (Matthew 13:36-43, 47-50; Matthew 16:11-12; 1 Corinthians 5:6).
The advent of postmodern Christianity represents the breakdown of what once held our society together. It also foretells of the American church’s trajectory toward losing the culture war against society. The Christian message of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation with a Holy God who calls us to righteous living while having joy in our suffering will come across as an attempt to keep those who feel oppressed in their place. As a result, our country’s churches will have to decide whether they’ll fold to social justice pressures, take a stand, or seek a middle ground. The division in the church will be obvious and exploited by the oppressed groups intent upon dividing and conquering the American church and its religion. Persecution will arise from outside the church, as well as from within. And the proponents of these new religions will succeed in winning the culture wars.
So, what are Christian leaders to do? They must manage themselves, being certain they don’t “have the appearance of godliness but deny its power.”
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
They must manage their culture.
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:7-8).
And prepare to lose the war for this world and its culture.
“And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” And it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. Here is the call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:4,7,10).
Each of us has feelings and beliefs related to the changes happening in our society. And, it’s important to realize that our sentiments and behaviors are being watched by those we lead. We’re making a difference by what we say or do – whether we like it or not. Let us lead in ways that move hearts toward Christ so that regardless of what happens in this world, the souls we encounter are secured for eternity in the next one, described by the Apostle John this way:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
 Andrew Sullivan, America’s New Religion, Intelligencer, Dec 2018.  Sovereign Nations, “Social Justice & the Gospel Conference.”  Woke refers to being “actively aware of systematic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights.”  Virtue signaling refers to the sharing of one’s point of view on social or political issues, seeking praise from the like-minded on their righteousness, or passively rebuking those who don’t agree.  Sovereign Nations at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xm0OUAowdkw&feature=youtu.be&t=2858  Found at: http://people.tamu.edu/~i-choudhury/culture.html  Saving Christianity, Michael Yousef, Tyndale Momentum, Illinois, 2018, pg. 77.