The French Revolution
As Evangelicals Falter, Catholics and Mormons Lead
Next, culture. The Mormon church knows what it is like to live outside the mainstream. Born in an atmosphere of violent persecution, with a cultural heritage buttressed by their own perilous trek across the wilderness to the haven of Utah, and with strong emphases on family and church bonds, the Mormon culture is inherently resilient in the face of cultural headwinds. Two-year missions teach Mormon children about selfless service but also how to face rejection and even scorn. Evangelicals, by contrast, are often shocked when co-workers turn on them, or when the country drifts from its heritage. Mormons aren't so easily shaken. After all, the country wasn't theirs to begin with.
For all our many virtues (and there are many: American evangelicals are among the most generous and loving people in the world), we generally have no conception of—or particular loyalty to—"church teaching" and tend to see marriage and life as "issues" rather than integral parts of our core theology. Since we're busy being spiritual entrepreneurs, revolutionizing the whole concept of church every 90 seconds, we don't have the kind of (relative) theological stability that has marked almost 2,000 years of Catholic history, and we can't come close to matching the (again, relative) uniformity of teaching that marks the Mormon experience.
We also lack the shared Catholic and Mormon culture and the solidarity that comes with it. We're more unified than we've been in the past, but we're a collection of subcultures that comprise a shaky, larger whole. And we are often desperate for acceptance. We view the transient scorn of popular culture as a virtual cataclysm, and our distressingly common health and wealth gospels wrongly teach us that Christian faith carries with it measurable earthly pleasures. We lack a theology of suffering. We lack a unity of purpose. And our convictions all too often collapse in the face of strong cultural opposition.
Simply put, we evangelicals are blown and tossed by the cultural winds. Right now, the winds are blowing against us, and our young people are reluctant to engage. But God is sovereign, and the fate of the nation is in His hands, not ours. And if we fail, there are others—some from an ancient tradition, some from a new one—who may very well carry out His work with more faith and courage than we ever could.
Read a Catholic response by Tim Muldoon to this article here.
David French is a lawyer, writer, soldier, and veteran of the Iraq war. He is Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. Follow him on Facebook.