America's evangelical Christians, at roughly 25 percent of the population, aren't really a minority group. But after the Supreme Court mandated same-sex marriage in all 50 states last week, evangelicals are pondering how to interact with a changing culture.
While Christian values were once part of the American fabric, that's no longer the case, according to Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore.
"Increasingly, the culture doesn’t see Christianity as the 'real America,'" Moore wrote at Leadership Journal's website. "If Christianity is a means to American values, America can get by without it, because America is learning to value other things."
Moore, who heads the denomination's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said evangelicals will have to offer more than a Christianity that leads to greater morality or patriotism. Instead, it will have to offer a gospel message and focus on "the exclusivity of Christ" to impact hearts.
New York Times columnist (paywall) David Brooks wrote this week, "Christianity’s gravest setbacks are in the realm of values. American culture is shifting away from orthodox Christian positions on homosexuality, premarital sex, contraception, out-of-wedlock childbearing, divorce and a range of other social issues."
Brooks' prescription is for evangelicals to dial back on the so-called "culture war" issues and concentrate on good works as a way of getting their spiritual message across.
"The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse," Brooks wrote. "This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority."
According to conservative author and orthodox Christian Rod Dreher, Christians who value traditional marriage are in for a rocky road ahead.
Writing in Time magazine, Dreher predicted "orthodox Christians must understand that things are going to get much more difficult for us. We are going to have to learn how to live as exiles in our own country. We are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution. And we are going to have to change the way we practice our faith and teach it to our children, to build resilient communities."
Dreher pointed his readers to the story of St. Benedict of Nursia, who in the year 500 A.D. fled the decadence of Rome to pray as a hermit in the woods. He founded monasteries where Christian civilization was preserved, Dreher wrote in The American Conservative in 2013. Today, he says, the need for Christian self-preservation also beckons, evidenced in the formation of modern Benedictine communities across the country.
"These communities offer a way for believers to thicken Christian culture in a time of moral revolution and religious dissolution," he wrote. "And if they’re successful over time, they may impart their wisdom to outsiders who crave light in the postmodern darkness."
Not everyone endorses Dreher's "Benedict Option" as a solution.
Writing at ReligionDispatches.org, Kaya Oakes says self-isolation won't work. "Christians who self-isolate will miss out on the opportunity to know, learn from and perhaps even to love some of the Americans who have thought the hardest and longest about religion and its role in their lives," she wrote. "Jesus, after all, did not lead his disciples away from the people and their questions, and their messy, real lives, and doubts. He walked toward the people, not away from them."
Email: [email protected]