“Engaging the Culture” Doesn’t Work Because Christian Beliefs Are a Mark of Low Status

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In recent decades, a plethora of evangelical ministries has emerged designed to “engage the culture”.  A Google search for “engage the culture” returns more than half a million results. Moreover, a huge number of operations designed to inculcate a Christian worldview and provide apologetics training are booming. In short, the evangelical effort to reverse America’s slide toward secularism and decadence has been vigorous and pervasive.

It has also been, largely, a failure. The evidence is plain. In spite of the resources poured into these efforts, American culture has increasingly embraced the cultural and sexual Left. Any impact of evangelical efforts to reverse this trend has been vanishingly small. How can millions upon millions of evangelicals have so little effect on the culture around them?

The answer is that evangelicals have failed to reckon with the fact that Christian belief is a mark of low status, and has been so for a long time. This has been the case at least since the Scopes trial and the unflattering media portrayals of traditional Christian believers that accompanied it.

In the middle of the 20th century, it was more difficult to see Christian belief as a marker of low status. After all, during that period America was still dominated by a form of Christianity as its civil religion. Some religious figures were widely admired, Billy Graham being the most obvious example. Millions of people still attended church.

But, even then, in elite circles, Christian belief was a mark of low status. In such places, traditional Christian belief was largely considered the province of the weak, the bourgeois,  the misinformed, the gullible or the wicked. At the same time, Protestant liberalism dominated. This less stringent form of Christianity sought to relax the tension by accommodating traditional Christian belief to the worldview of America’s secular elite. Eventually, that project failed.

We have now arrived at a moment when this dynamic can no longer be hidden. The hostility of our elite institutions and those who run them is well documented.  Just consider Harvard University’s recent treatment of a traditional Christian group.

Only now, as the reality of Christian belief as a marker of low status has become undeniable, have evangelicals begun to take note. The failure to do this earlier explains the previous ineffectiveness to “engage the culture” profitably.

The idea behind the “engaging the culture” movement was that, rather than withdrawing from the surrounding culture as their fundamentalist cousins did, evangelicals should go forth to meet it. The expected outcome of this going forth was a revival of Christian faith.

It sort of makes sense. If enough evangelicals,the idea was, could be trained to engage the surrounding culture, especially in the culture-making arenas of politics,education and the media, eventually these well-placed agents of change could turn things around.

What this plan never took into account is the dynamics of social status. Evangelicals sought to engage the culture by being relevant, by creating works of art , by offering good arguments for their positions. None of these addressed the real problem: that Christian belief simply isn’t cool, and that very few people want to lower their social status by identifying publicly with it.

Many evangelicals sensed something was going on. They responded as though the problem were a matter of style rather than content. They created churches calculated to prove evangelicals could be as hip as anyone else. The result was churches that had rocking worship bands, superb lighting, a million cool programs and no cultural impact.

The only lasting success to come from this trend was to make the hip pastor in a goatee and skinny jeans a universal object of derision. When the elites see him, they aren’t impressed. Rather than seeing someone so cool they want to emulate him, they see desperation. They see a low-status guy craving their approval, and they are rightly repulsed.

This is just one example of how evangelicals misjudged the context in which they operate. They could not see that Christianity has fallen from its place of cultural dominance not because we haven’t had enough worldview seminars, cool clergy or “God’s Not Dead”-style movies. Christianity has become marginalized because Christian belief has become an obstacle to getting what most people want: social status and the privileges which accompany it.

Rod Dreher was one of the first to recognize this. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of his “Benedict Option” solution, it is an attempt to grapple  with the reality of our situation. In the end, few will heed his advice. The worst, and most probable, response evangelicals could offer here is to continue doing what they have been doing: offering solutions to problems most people don’t have.

The right path forward is murky. But, whatever that path requires, it requires the truth. To continue acting as though the approach of the last two or three decades is productive is to avoid the truth. Let traditional Christians, of all people, embrace the truth. And perhaps, in doing so, we will set an example that might finally make an impact on this culture.

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  • Paperboy_73

    Who are elites? And how could such a definition possibly exclude practically the entirety of the US political class?

    Without a more precise definition, it seems to be an empty phrase that means “people what I don’t like”.

  • Johnny Davis

    You mean the elites will reject the truth. Nothing new there. There are millions of hurting people and broken families which the true Gospel can repair. Problem most the famous faces of the Church today are respectors of person and focus on the rich.

  • For lack of knowledge [of the Truth], my people perish.
    True Christians have been fooled by their own preachers for centuries into a false universal salvation religion that ignores the same Truths they claim to profess.
    “God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever”
    Is He?
    Then why do most Christians believe the Old Covenant has nothing to do with them? The entire Holy Bible is a Christian book. It is not a Jewish tome- they have their own religion and religious books that wholeheartedly contradict and obfuscate the teachings of Yahweh our God- Babylonian Talmud, Michnas, Kaballa, etc.
    We were not chosen to let the antichrists walk all over us, while we cower and wait for some ridiculous “Rapture” event to save us. Christians are the same warrior Israelites today, in denial. We truly are meek.. and peculiar.

  • Alan Drake

    I think the “low social status” of evangelicals (NOT all Christians) comes because nothing good comes from them to the larger society. In Biblical terms, they are “goat Christians” Matthew 25:31 et al.

    One need only see the nearly universal respect that Pope Francis has generated to see the impact of being a true “sheep Christian”.

    I grew up Southern Baptist and later renounced then for the positive evils they supported. I saw much evil and almost no good coming from the SBC. Power in our society appears to be their highest priority – witness their overwhelming support for Donald Trump.

    I am a recently convinced Quaker. I have been quite shocked by the respect given me when I mention that after a criticism of religion, etc. Common responses are “If only all Christians were like the Quakers.” And “I do not believe as you do, but Quakers have done much good for this world.”

    May I suggest that the path to higher social status is by doing MUCH more good for those suffering in this world. And drop the focus on getting power over others in our culture.

  • Rod Bristol

    Low status is one mark of genuine discipleship, according to 1 Corinthians 1. However, low status also results from untenable tenets masquerading as gospel truth. When demonstrably absurd doctrines define a group of people, their status *should* fall. Forcing people to read Genesis 1 – 3 as history drives them to positions from which they can not effectively engage the broader world.

    Some Christians accept the idea that Genesis is true only if it is history. Some lose their faith, or have it intimidated, on noticing the obvious self-contradictions of Genesis 1 – 3, when read as history. Another way to lose your influence is to pretend there are no contradictions in the historic reading, which results in an incoherent witness to thinking people. A third way to lose your influence is to attack science (or promote pseudo-science) in defense of the Genesis-as-science tradition. I have been there, but eventually learned to love Genesis for what it is, instead of what it “should” be.

  • Scott Clement

    In my view, the thoughts envinced in this essay do more to demonstrate the problem than to answer the problem. Here’s why:

    1. The answer is that evangelicals have failed to reckon with the fact that Christian belief is a mark of low status, and has been so for a long time. This has been the case at least since the Scopes trial…”

    “At least since the Scopes trial?” Come on, that comment is biblically uninformed at best, just stupid at worst? It’s been that way since at least the day of the crucifixion! Can anybody remember the disciples being called “ignorant and unlearned men” by the intelligentsia? The weight of the historical record tells us that this is the way the world has almost always looked at the church. And in those rare times throughout history when the world has not looked at the church this way, it was often because the church was in bed with someone whom she should not have been in bed with.

    2. “The right path forward is mirky. But, whatever that path requires, it requires the truth.”

    If history is any witness, the path forward is not mirky, but muddy, with a mud mixed with the blood of the saints. That is the historical record. I am not wishing that on anyone, but I can’t see anything different as I look back through the history of the church. Why do we think we are exempt?

    Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease while others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas?

    3. Jesus and the apostles told us that it would be thus:
    >Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. ~Matt 5:11
    >If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. ~Jn 15:18
    >For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ~I Cor 1:18
    >He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. ~Col 2:15 (Does it not follow that they’d hate and attempt to shame the one who shamed them.)

  • Alan Drake

    May I respectfully suggest the best way to raise the status of Christians is to act more Christlike.

    Much (All ?) of the repugnance against Christianity cones from the unChristlke behavior of “Christians”. The politicized e

  • Ulf Turkewitsch

    Christianity has become marginalized. I was quite amazed at your statement Dean! When was Christianity not marginalized ? Jesus never even hinted at the power of His church in the world. All through the New testament the attitude is one of servitude, suffering for ones faith and humility.
    If you

  • John Campbell

    “When God said a new covenant He made the old covenant obsolete.’ (Hebrews 8:13)

  • Ellen Gilmartin

    There is much to be grieved about in our culture, and there is plenty of work to do. North American Christians are sickeningly selfish and materialistic. Many of us have no concept of duty to family, loyalty, or community. Justice and care for the poor? It just doesn’t sell the way the “prosperity gospel” does. Engaging Scripture to fight these things is totally appropriate as they are stressed throughout the Old and New Testaments. Using a handful of verses to fight a shift toward recognizing the full humanity of LGTBQ people is not a Biblical fight.

    Christians of a generation ago asserted that they were defending the faith against “elites who were rejecting the truth” when they refused to integrate schools. I am old enough to remember all the Bible thumpers cheering Gov. Wallace for calling integrationist “effete snobs”. They made their case based on “plain reading of scripture”. It was hatred, demanding to be interpreted as loving, authentic Christianity.

    Did the Bible change? No, the culture changed, Thank God!

  • Ellen Gilmartin

    Good points!

  • Johnny Davis

    There are no scriptures which support your demand to abandon teaching that homosexual relations are wrong. All sex outside marriage between single man and wife is against the will of God. And it those selfish materialistic ones who are abandoning the biblical teachings on sex and marriage not the vast majority of the Church across the world. The Bible clear teaches all mankind is made in the image of God therefore racism was never justified. But the sexual morality teachings are not bigotry – its about conduct and God clearly proscribes both what is right sexual conduct and what is wrong. The biblical teaching raises the value of the individual and uplifts sex to a precious union for life reflecting Christ’s union with the Church.

  • Johnny Davis

    Just about everyone is the White house is an evangelical? Very few people in the current White House profess to be evangelical Christians. And VP Pence has advanced himself by embracing unbiblical globalism and the corrupt establishment.

  • Johnny Davis

    Embraces from the world are generally a bad thing since the World system is inherently corrupt and wicked.

  • The Stormer

    Every time I drive I through an impoverished neighborhood, I see an abundance of churches. I don’t see that as much in the suburbs with the exception of the megachurches featuring life coach-style sermons.

  • There are more low status folks than there are high status, so in a system that is representative, the low status will feature much in ways of governmental presence. But the discussion here isn’t about what religion a specific politician claims to adhere to, but about the influence or lack thereof they have on those around them. Politics, as Breitbart said, is downstream of culture, and in the broader culture, materialism has been winning for some time.

  • Dean

    You don’t even have the facts of the case straight.

  • Johnny Davis

    Only about 4 cabinet members out of 16 go to that bible study and no White House. Hardly a widespread presence of evangelicals in the White House.

  • Doug

    Ellen, it is clear that you – like a couple of the other posters here – have a personal agenda that you are on because the Bible doesn’t line up with your personal views or experiences. I humbly suggest that you bury yourself in the infallible, inerrant Word of God and bend your knees and sinful will to His Word, not to your feelings. Your argument is with the holy God – not with other Christians.

  • Doug

    Rod, you paint with a very broad stroke here, and thus your argument loses validity. Either you believe God’s Word or you don’t. And if you don’t believe the Scripture’s telling of Creation, then I suggest you take it up with God Himself, and not blame other Christians. Your limited understanding of science causes you to label people as promoters of “pseudo-science” when you may be lacking yourself. I’m thinking you would label those of us who do not believe in the fanatic’s claims on “climate change”, “global warming”, or “global cooling” as “pseudo-science” types, when in actuality the science in no way supports the Al Gore-type windbags.

  • Doug

    Alan, sounds like your “journey” has come to be more important than God’s holy Word. I supported the policies of Donald Trump – does that hurt my Christian influence? If so, how? Did Christians who supported Barack Obama’s anti-Christian agenda do damage to their Christian witness? Your personal experience is just that: yours, and merely an experience. That doesn’t validate it or make it correct. God’s Word instructs us how to live and what to believe – more of us ought to spend our time in His Word instead of trying to decide what the “flavor of the day” denomination to attend, good work to do, or “correct” belief to have is.

  • Doug

    Ellen – all people are made in God’s image, but that doesn’t make their life choices valid or right. LGBTQ people must be loved and valued, but their lifestyle cannot be validated as “OK” – that flies in the face and against the clear teachings of our holy God. To say otherwise is to make your “Opinion” the Truth and that is just plain wrong. More and more those who hold – even in a very loving fashion – to Biblical truth are going to be ostracized and pushed to the margins. That’s called being “persecuted for Christ.”

  • Doug

    I’m not sure your rationale for this post – it is incorrect and incoherent.

  • Doug

    That’s the perfect place for churches to be!

  • Alan Drake

    Like all Christians in the first 15 centuries and a majority of Christians today, I am not solo scriptura.

    I do firmly believe that slavery is a great moral evil, but that is not self evident in the words of the Holy Bible.

    I searched for those for whom The Holy Spirit aka Light of God first revealed this moral Truth, and found the Quakers. The Light of God has been pleased to reveal a series of other moral Truths first to them as well.

    Since becoming convinced to become a Quaker (we are not “converted”), I have developed a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.

    Now, as to your points, Barack Obama is a Christian and acted like one, personally & politically, as POTUS.

    Donald J Trump is not a Christian and acts like an unredeemed sinner of the worst sort both personally and politically.

    Supporting Trump contradicts your Christian Witness.

  • Doug

    Alan, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but here are a few points:

    1) your assertion that the Holy Spirit (God, 3rd Person of the Trinity) first revealed that moral truth to the Quakers is not only fiction but also a sad reflection on your knowledge of Scripture.
    2) if (and I qualify that) you have been a Christian, then you have always had a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit; it has absolutely nothing to do with “becoming” a Quaker – again, sadly this is an unbiblical position.
    3) Barack Obama not only believed himself but also legislated and pushed the following: partial-birth abortion, “regular” abortion, homosexuality, forcing religious institutions to violate their beliefs (Sisters of the Poor hospitals having to perform abortions, for example), forced insurance companies to cover the “Morning After” abortion pill, pushed and tried to legislate the normalcy and protected status of “transgender” people —– I could go on and on. He lied his way through 8 years (Satan is the father of lies, thus Barack could well be his son based on the amount of lies he told, and continues to tell to this very day). To call Barack Obama a Christian would be to call Caesar Augustus one – that is absurd. Obama tried to portray himself as a Christian, but he was nothing more than a white-washed tomb.
    4) I never claimed Donald Trump was a Christian (I don’t believe he is); I merely said I supported his policies, which are far more biblical than Obama’s ever were.

    I think you might need to hop out of the Quaker clan, get to know the Scriptures and what they actually teach, repent of your sin, and come back to Jesus.

  • Lisa

    What other people thought of Christianity had nothing to do with me leaving it. In fact, in leaving I lost almost all of my close friends. Evangelical politics were a huge factor in my very slow deconversion process. Evangelical support for wars of choice, torture, hatred of the poor and various minorities along with misogyny and love of power at any cost caused me to dig deeper. When I got to the bottom, I found there was no there there. I’ve gone from seeing Christianity as being very good for society to seeing it as bad – especially for women, the poor and minorities. Now I make a point of supporting only secular organizations and avoid supporting anything to do with Christianity.

  • Alan Drake

    On the issue of slavery, the sola scriptura Southern Baptist Convention was founded to explicitly defend the morality of slavery. That is where reading the Word of God and Biblical principles lead them.

    The Quakers were first lead to question the morality of slavery in the 1600s and required the members of Meetings to free their slaves in the 1700s (a few Meetings in very early 1800s. Slaves could not be freed in North Carolina, so they were given to the local Meeting which meant de facto freedom).

    http://abolition.e2bn.org/people_21.html

    The Light of God lead Quakers to knowing slavery was a great moral evil. The Word of God lead Southern Baptists to the conviction that slavery was good and righteous.

  • Alan Drake

    In all my decades as a Southern Baptist, I never once felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as intensely as I routinely do in Quaker worship. (Which is an hour of silent prayer unless one feels lead to share a message).

    One of my messages was “The 4th Comnandment – Honor thy father and thy mother – is both the most demanding and the most rewarding of all the Commandments”.

  • Durin

    Do you think doing good helped the Little Sisters of the Poor? If so, how so?

  • Doug

    You obviously have a past “issue” with the Southern Baptists that is clouding your judgement, as they are what you reference every time. That is very revealing, as we are NOT to identify as any denomination but as followers of Christ. Perhaps your “while guilt” has gotten the better of you, I don’t know. But when you “identify” as a certain group you always end up eventually changing groups as you at some point become disillusioned with people – it’s a natural progression. Identify with Jesus Christ and you’ll be much more biblical and have a more certain foundation. By the way, there were people WAY before the Quakers fighting slavery – you need to look outside the U.S.

  • Alan Drake

    Well, for one, I have respect for the Sisters of Little Sisters of the Poor.

  • Doug

    Very dangerous language: “I never once FELT the Holy Spirit.” That, Alan, unfortunately shows your spiritual immaturity. Your feelings mean nothing when weighed against the truth of Scripture. Discipline your emotions to submit to the TRUTHS of Scripture. Your feelings have no bearing.

  • Doug

    What on earth are you saying? I’m trying to figure out some sort of rational thought pattern in your post. Please explain…

  • Alan Drake

    Like all Christians in the first 15 centuries and a majority of Christians today, I reject solo scriptura.

    The lack of condemnation – and the active endorsement of slavery by those that follow solo scriptura -convinced me to reject sola scriptura.

    A more accurate verb would be “I knew the presence of the Holy Spirit”..

  • Alan Drake

    “By their fruits, you shall know them”.

    The Sourhetn Baptists have consistently supported evil from their founding to Donald Trump.

    The Quakers have lead the world in first revealing a series of moral truths.

    BTW: A history of abolition of slavery. The Qing Dynasty of China was not influenced by Quakers. Everywhere else, the spark of abolition died out.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_abolition_of_slavery_and_serfdom

  • ron_goodman

    Given the extent of evagelical support for Trump, it isn’t likely that the rest of us will be changing our minds about them any time soon.

  • Falcon 78

    ‘Sola scriptura’ was a construct/belief formulated by Luther in the 16th century. There is no scriptural basis for ‘sola scriptura.’ For that matter, the canon of the Bible among Catholics and Protestants is not agreed on. It’s very coincidental that the Protestant Bible is missing some books that contain key passages that support the faith that the Apostles taught. That said, scripture well documents that Christ did found his church on earth (“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”) So, led by very human and fallible men, Christ established his church for His people and believers to lead their lives and find their way back to their heavenly reward. His church on earth–for the first 15 centuries–grew and spread the faith. Then, 1500 years later–15 centuries later–you think Luther (and Calvin and others) were the ones who got it right? You think it was them that got it right instead of the giants like Aquinas, Augustine, Benedict, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Gregory, etc? Christ himself said there was “one church,” and not to be several thousands denominations that all think they’re the ones who ‘understand’ the best.

  • Tom Gervais

    Interesting commentary.

    One might argue that it’s worse than the essay suggests. It’s not just that Americans are increasingly engaged with the ‘cultural and sexual Left’, but that Americans are becoming more skeptical of Christian supernatural beliefs. The essay hints at this by noting the disassociation between American elites and those who supported the laws enforcing the teaching of Creationist Theology that resulted in the Scopes trial.

    As the essay notes, mainline protestants tried to meliorate this by reading the Bible more figuratively and metaphorically. But the recent decline of the mainline protestants has left the Evangelicals as the most prominent voice, so that Evangelicalism has become the most prominent voice in the discussion. Thus, when Americans think of Christian belief, they think of the Creation museum in Kentucky, or the failed attempts to insert Intelligent Design into the science curriculum.

    Modern Americans peer into the Internet, brimming with news of artificial intelligence and unmanned trips to mars, and find the scientifically unverified claims of Christianity wanting.

    Here, I would argue that some credit is due to the New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.) whose strident advocacy made it acceptable for atheists to come out of the closet. One might argue that, for the first time in human history, the burden of proof has shifted to the believer, and they are struggling to find evidence that stands up to 21st century scrutiny.

  • BeamMeUp

    The internet has made access to information questioning the foundation of Christianity and other religions on a scale unimaginable before. The number of non-believers has been growing constantly in recent years. People are asking the basic question: What evidence is there to support the existence of a deity? The answer: None. “Sacred” books like the bible and Koran only prove that there’s a belief in a god. Even the existence of an historical Jesus has come into question.

  • BeamMeUp

    Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” In Gandhi’s day, Christian Europeans, including the British, treated non-Christians and non-whites like second-class people or worse. It was hardly a reflection of “love thy neighbor.”

  • BeamMeUp

    Inerrant? The bible has been used to support censorship and slavery as well as freedom, racism and sexism as well as equality, and war as well as peace. Believers actually cherry-pick the verses that suit their beliefs and ignore the rest. Social conservatives often overlook do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and judge not lest ye be judged.

    Ned Flanders: “Why me Lord?…I’ve done everything the Bible says! Even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!” The Simpsons, Episode “Hurricane Neddy” (1996), after his home is destroyed by a hurricane. His neighbors’ homes, including the Simpsons’, have been spared.

  • I do believe during the heyday of the Jesus Movement and the high points of Billy Graham’s ministry, many were led to seek out Christians as having some answers that were different than what the prevailing culture had tried and burnt themselves out on. Scopes was a black eye for Christianity, and represents our inability to engage [yes, I use that word] with legitimate Scientific Inquiry. Peace.

  • I love this topic because this is what a good portion of my memoir is about! The problem, if you want to call it that, is that True Christianity is doing just fine. By that I mean the “organism” or actual Spiritual Body of Christs followers is flourishing and invisible to our eyes. The “Christian” organization, “the Church”, has a vital and legitimate role to play in spreading Christs message, but what we call Christianity became Church-i-an-ity soon after the last of the original Apostles died. The secular world absorbed the Church over time and church dogma splintered the church into competing organizations and denominations, for command and control of the faithful. The Reformation helped heal some of the fractures but the East vs. West mystical and theological divides remain.

    As I stated earlier this is no accident, and as others are aware was foretold by Christ and others. The real Anti-Christ is not a outside entity necessarily, but more likely wealthy and popular mega churches and denominations that actually are feeding their flocks confusing doctrines. This produces hypocrites (hypo-Christians) and (hypnotized, robotic) hypno-Christians as followers who might have good hearts and good intentions, but no Spiritual insight or fearless confidence, to intelligently and tactfully oppose godless secular ideas, without the same old tired phrases like; “the Bible says it and I believe it!” or “I know where I’m spending Eternity,do you?” That type of narrow minded indoctrination speak is what has made the decaying culture around us see the “Church” as just another set of mumbo-jumbo believers in a religion that doesn’t truly change lives, just the words they use!

    In the 1970’s I had a series of discussions with a Born Again Christian who challenged my changing view of the Christian experience. That chapter in my book is titled “An Invitation To Openness” and the book is: Finding Heaven In The Dark (https://www.findingheaveninthedark.com/) That argument is just as topical today!

    This topic is very important. There are many good and loving people hungry for the Way that Jesus revealed to humanity. It is not in today’s Church’s, Temple’s, Mosques’ or other man made religions. They all serve a purpose, because Our Heavenly Father’s Word can not be made void. Some of the organized religions, and especially the Christian Churches teach the basic Truths. But they teach the Truth and learn the words, but totally miss the “Music” or Spirit of Christ because they are still ego based and word focused. They cannot be convincing disciples of the Living Word to a lost world because they are also dominated by the ego mind and the printed word! It is hard to convince unbelievers that God and Jesus are Alive when your life is just a set of rules, laws, and attitudes. Remember that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives Life! We have to learn to find and practice the Presence of God by getting above our compulsive thinking! In the Divine Light of Insight we find a neutral zone to help us change the World without being overcome by it. The gospel is alive and well but only sincere people who aren’t afraid to question what they Think they Know will find the clues that lead to inner Peace and the Joy that brings more Light than Heat to any situation. Thank God the clues are everywhere! Just Be Still & Seek To Know.”
    @WLIngramAuthor

  • Matthew Kilburn

    Here’s the thing: modern society believes in LOTS of things that either can’t be proven, or are directly contradicted by known facts. The fact that belief in God has declined, but belief in aliens has not…tells you that “proof” isn’t what is driving people. Its hedonism. Belief in God actually requires something of you. Specifically, it requires you to believe in higher goods than you own sexual gratification. That’s what people are rejecting. And its why society is going to hell [literally] in a handbasket.

  • Matthew Kilburn

    Yawn. Conservative Christians today support almost nothing that wasn’t common place for hundreds if not thousands of years in Western civilization. For more than 1500 years, Christianity was the dominant political and social force in Western Civilization. That period coincided with the greatest growth in health, wealth, and well-being humanity has ever known. In the ~50 years (I dispute the author’s timing) since Christianity has been marginalized, things have spiraled downward at an unimaginable pace. Supplanting traditional Christian morality for a culture of abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, and divorce has done nobody favors. And whatever personal qualms you might with to make concerning the conduct of individual evangelicals or the politicians they support, you cannot law and of those leftward social lurches at their feet.

  • Michael Sanches

    So many articles are either wrong or about inane topics. This one is a keeper. For me, it clarifies, in modern language, what our goals should be. We shouldn’t be trying to look cool. We should be showing our King and Lord who is the ultimate cool: the Fonzie of Gods.
    He is super strong.
    He is super attentive.
    He has a great sense of humor (See confrontation at Mt Carmel.)
    He is super forgiving.
    He is super patient.
    He is super just.
    Jesus rocks!

  • Michael Sanches

    Given that Christians had the choice between Adultery (Trump) and Child Sacrifice (Hillary), there was no contest. The Bible clearly states that child sacrifice is much worse. In fact, God says that child sacrifice is the worst thing a nation can do. One day we will be punished in such a bad way it will make our Civil War look like a walk in the park.

  • Michael Sanches

    “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” You can have your low status now or you can have it later. Your choice.

  • BeamMeUp

    Double yawn. You’re not the first person to say that with the growth of tolerance, society is going down the drain. Before their battles against the “LGBT agenda,” social conservative were using religion to support Jim Crow, anti-Semitism, Prohibition, banning the teaching of evolution, anti-Mormonism, anti-Catholicism, and slavery. They always portrayed themselves as victims of an oncoming “demonic” onslaught. They didn’t debate their opponents, but instead demonized them. They cherry-picked bible verses that matched their prejudices.

    Nothing irritates social conservatives more than being reminded of the more inclusive bible verses, like love thy neighbor, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and judge not least ye be judged. I grew up in the South as a Lutheran in the 1970s and 1980s. These were the ideals preached at my church. No fire and brimstone. When one of my high school classmates who came out as gay mentioned at our 30th year reunion that he had recently married his male partner, we congratulated him. If being open-minded and accepting of others different from me is a crime or sin, I’m guilty with no apologies.

    Americans, according to polls, are becoming more accepting in recent years of differences on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity, just like they became more accepting of differences in race and religion in prior decades. (Race relations may still not be perfect, but we’ve come a long way since the 1960s.) This acceptance is quite high among young people. Even young religious people are turned off by anti-LGBT rhetoric. The business world, with its growing policies of inclusiveness, caught on to this several years ago.

    How to social conservatives respond to businesses being more LGBT-inclusive? Boycott Disney. This is why social conservatives are losing the culture wars they start.

  • RB

    No, there isn’t one argument on any atheist blog that most people hadn’t heard before the Internet, although the asberger nerd porn fiends who flock to computer work because they suck at dealing with people do like to tilt search results and Facebook feeds in an anti God direction, all the while they believe in their magical aliens who will one day come and be their true nerd friends. You do know right that even among people who say they are not religious, most say they believe in God.

  • RB

    BS, if they had voted for Hillary you would still hate them.

  • benboy73

    I was raised in an Evangelical household by loving Christian parents. I was baptized, went to church with my family, and engaged in social activities via the church. When I got into my teenage years, I discovered that I was an inquisitive, clever person. I found satisfaction in intellectual pursuits, but had a well-rounded adolescence. I graduated from college and continued with intellectual pursuits. I can honestly say, without any attempt to be cruel or insulting, that the “typical” Evangelical Christian is uninteresting to me. I want to know why things are the way they are, why events happen. I want to know the mysteries of creation and the heavens. I don’t want to hear that “God did it” or “God moves in mysterious ways.” Those are a simple, easy answers to exceedingly complex issues. Again, I have no malice towards Christians whatsoever. I’m just telling you my perspective. Religious people in general, around the world, don’t hold my interest because their whole lives are ruled by emotion and “feelings”, which is essentially what religion is. Take care everyone.

  • ron_goodman

    Hate? No. Point and laugh perhaps.

  • Jeannie

    The church has bowed down because of fear. We are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves which necessitates asking questions and knowing what’s happening. https://foreverymom.com/marriage/enough-enough-church-stop-enabling-abusive-men-gary-thomas/

  • Jill F

    If Christian beliefs are low status the voters didn’t get the message. They keep electing Christians, who are currently running the country and most of the states as well. This is not surprising given that most of the voters and the US population itself identify as Christians and share Christian beliefs.

  • Miklos Jako

    As a former Christian, my opinion is that the biggest reason Christianity has lost ground is that more and more people have realized how irrational it is. You yourselves would never torture sentient beings FOREVER, yet you worship a God that does. The concept of Hell is utterly insane, and devoid of love and justice.

  • Robert Limb

    I think I get the message, and the warning is judicious and timely. I would be interested in hearing the author’s opinion of the work of Gabe Lyons (and David Kinneman) and the “q ideas” project.

  • hisxmark

    So, Mr. Sanches, you seem to say you have to be ignorant and stupid now, and well-informed and smart in heaven? Or perhaps it is the intellectuals that you despise that will be the elite?

  • Tiny J

    God saw fit to make you smart, so you harbor that to yourself because God’s people are “boring” by your own judgment? And justify it by saying “Religious people’s lives are ruled by emotions and feelings” which is a fairly bigoted statement…
    I’m more concerned with your conviction that other people exist to interest you. That’s insanely selfish.

  • Fartrell Cluggins

    I would say that until so many evangelicals and christians stop being hypocrites in their hand-waving of anything conservatives do, while throwing the book at anyone not a conservative, then religion will continue to be shunned by the masses. When those of us who are looking in see nothing but judgement and hypocrisy, evangelicals and christians need to look inward and stop worrying about the outside world, forcing their beliefs on everyone else; they need to work on themselves and how they can be better or even the best examples of Christ’s love there is.

  • hisxmark

    There are still those who think of “Christian” as a term of praise. These are those who identify themselves as “Christians”. Those who don’t so identify don’t see the term quite so favorably. People usually only see what their filters enable them to see.
    In fact, in spite of the labels, people just do what they do. They always impute to themselves “good reasons” for doing “bad things”. And they always pluck from the chaos of reality the order that they want to see.
    To outsiders, “Christians” are just superstitious and self-righteous, bragging of their humility, attempting to oppress others while pretending to oppressed victims. They, very often, publicly parade their piety. They are, in short, the people that their nominal messiah denounced.
    In this Christians are not better or worse than other people, but if Christianity, or all religions, were to vanish, they world would probably not change much. People would still do the same stupidly cruel and stupefyingly noble deeds, but they would impute their motives to other factors than religion.
    Religion is just the graffiti on the wall of reality.

  • JA Myer

    Spot on sir! People do not leave Christianity because Jesus told them to love their neighbor; they leave because the preachers in the pulpit tell them to judge and hate their neighbors.

  • Vlad Nicolaescu

    You know what probably doesn’t help evangelicals cause? Their leadership’s sicophantic praise of Trump even in the faces of his extreme moral depravities. Kind of hard to take their criticism of the culture seriously when they keep giving Trump one pass after another. Granted this isn’t the explanation of failures up till now, but given that one of the common accusations against Evangelicals is that they are really just hypocrites excect this assumption to harden.

  • ollie

    Perhaps the real issue is that being a Follower of Christ has always been a lowly position even for the moneyed. Most of culture (including Christians) miss and don’t like the fact it is not about being served but about serving. Being a Follower of Christ is about doing the foot washing not having your feet washed.

  • ollie

    Hummm as a Christian I would argue that these Christians you are talking about don’t seem to be following the tenets of their religion (as I understand it) very well.

  • muzjik

    As a Christian who is inquisitive (I won’t boast and say “clever’) and fond of intellectual pursuits, I am often frustrated by my fellow believers who are satisfied to simply accept the milk of their faith without delving into the meat. However, I need to remind myself that God has gifted His children in different ways. I certainly don’t have the gifts of mercy or hospitality that some of these less “intellectual” saints exhibit.
    And, fortunately, there are many incredibly clever Christians who have engaged with the deeper complex questions and issues in printed (often quite lengthy) form.

    PS Do you actually find non-religious people LESS ruled by their emotions and feelings? That surprises me.

  • benboy73

    Yes.

  • cestusdei

    I suggest Catholicism. St. Thomas dealt with many of those questions. If you believe in the big bang theory you can thank the Catholic priest who discovered it.

  • Durin

    I have respect for them as well. But as important as you and I are, I am skeptical that “the path to higher social status is by doing MUCH more good for those suffering in this world”. I figure that the Little Sisters are a reasonable test case.

    Have you encountered people that give them respect similar to the respect you have received for being a Quaker?

  • cestusdei

    Actually there are answers to those questions. But they haven’t considered other questions. Such as where is the evidence that scientism, that all things can be proved by empirical science, is true? The answer, nowhere. That leads to metaphysics where atheism dies. I suggest you move beyond the typical bullet points of atheist websites.

  • cestusdei

    That is false. I have never heard such a sermon. Granted I am Catholic, but have still never heard it. I have heard it however in my college classrooms and the target is usually the Christians.

  • Riley

    Most Americans are of humble status and Disdain the elite. Christianity could be well poised in our culture. My response: http://highplainsparson.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/engaging-the-culture-a-response-to-dean-abbot/

  • Bill Kilgore Trout

    For another take, try Rodney Stark’s “The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success”.
    https://www.amazon.com/Victory-Reason-Christianity-Freedom-Capitalism/dp/0812972333/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_2/140-2973757-7634649?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=M7QPVPKZWTDJZMT3NM6D

  • Sophotroph

    Do you really not understand that something doesn’t become untrue simply because you have not experienced it?

  • Sophotroph

    Then tell us what you thought was wrong. Just saying “This is wrong, you are wrong” only has the purpose of satisfying you emotionally.

    It doesn’t detract from Iain’s points in the slightest.

  • cestusdei

    Almost no one has experienced it in the Catholic Church since the council. You are just using a straw man argument.

  • Good_Samaritan

    “the asberger nerd porn fiends who flock to computer work because they suck at dealing with people”

    Do you think being an a-hole like is is constructive?

  • Good_Samaritan

    “I supported the policies of Donald Trump – does that hurt my Christian influence? If so, how?”
    For me yes, yes it damages the credibility of your religion. How? Well, Trump’s policies are damaging to the most vulnerable groups in our society. As I see it, you are willing to throw women, the poor, and immigrants under the bus in exchange for what? Kicking trans people out of the military? Tax cuts? The possibility of LGBTQ+ people losing legal protections?

    Yes, for everyone outside of your bubble, you have damaged the credibility of your witness.

  • What kind of social status, determined by whom?

    The media business leadership and its Deep Industry of public culture gatekeepers are very secular (unless you classify Leftism as a religion). The kind of Christian who insists on bearing witness publicly may mark themselves for low status, and the soft shunning of un-returned calls, texts, and e-mails. But those who practice Christian values and behavior quietly in a humanistic manner (while perhaps networking quietly among themselves) can enjoy success, prestige, and party invitations.

    Cultural influence requires, above all else, highly skilled craftsmanship in the creative arts. It’s easier to achieve success if one’s sensibility is in touch with both the industry gatekeepers and the audience. Those who lack the former may never get a chance to test their output on the latter. But extremely high end talent and dedication to the work can sometimes surmount prejudice. It’s middling and marginal talents who need not apply, regardless of religious affiliation.

  • Amy Lynn Campbell

    Dang… that is a good question and raised so eloquently.

  • Alan Drake

    Basically yes. No one I know has contempt of them.

    Although lack of contempt does not => high social status: contempt is a common denominator for those with low social status.

    Simply escaping contempt (and who wants that ?) leaves one in a middle ground at least. Respected, but not one of those who are part of the “elite”, at the top of the social hierarchy.

    I would argue Christians should try to avoid climbing to the apex of our social order. Respected and admired for our good works & general character should be more than enough.

    Examples would be Pope Francis and Jimmy Carter.

    Amongst the club of ex-POTUS, Jimmy has fewer elite contacts & standing than any other ex-POTUS. Less than ex-VPOTUS Al Gore as well. Yet he is more respected than any other ex-POTUS or ex-VPOTUS.

  • Alan Drake

    My earlier response seems to have disappeared.

    Contempt is a necessary element in low social status. This appears to be an almost universal truth.

    The contempt of evangelicals I have observed has accelerated quite remarkably during Trump’s Presidency. It is stronger and more vehement today than it was in 2016 (and deservaedly so IMHO). This implies a related drop in social status.

    Respect (and related lack of contempt) does not necessarily result in high social status but something in between.

    As Christians, we should not try to climb to the apex of our social order. Respect for our good works should be enough.

  • Alan Drake

    Jimmy Carter vs other former POTUS is another test case.

    Jimmy is less involved with the elite than other living former POTUS (and ex-VPOTUS Al Gore), but the respect for him exceeds any former POTUS in living memory.

  • Alan Drake

    You erected a straw man with your definition of “scientism”.

  • Merging religion with secular political power such that Donald Trump’s administration is now joined at the hip with evangelical Christianity– it fails and he fails, it succeeds and he succeeds, etc– has gotten us to where we are now.

    Naturally, this can (and probably will) end up with evangelical Christianity being utterly discredited in the eyes not just of Americans in general but even other Christians. But what if that happens? The blame will rest on the evangelicals themselves.

    It’s worth noting that shortly before his death Billy Graham stated that being considered “the pastor to the Presidents” and getting in deep with the levels of governmental power was his life’s entire biggest mistake… and this stated by a man who didn’t openly endorse candidates, didn’t issue death threats to political opponents, and didn’t set up lobbying groups (unlike the evangelicals in charge of the current movement).

  • It seems to me that the largest change is the sheer increase in the number of individuals going to college and becoming aware of the broader world– particularly with more Christians being aware of religious faiths such as Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, etc asserting alternate ideas that must get addressed.

    I’m not one to claim that Christianity is inherently stupid or that being Christian makes one ignorant. What IS clear, however, is that having more knowledge about more ideas from direct experience tend to increase humility and openness. The opposite of being totally certain that one is always right, even if one still holds to one’s past beliefs.

  • George Lee

    Is the “system” that we have in theU.S. representative? We certainly have a higher proportion of the population that calls itself Christian than most of the rest of the world, but with Gerrymandering & the Supreme Court declaring corporations to be “persons”, exactly who is being represented. Poplar votes are no always election winners.

  • cestusdei

    That IS the definition of scientism lol.

  • Mr. James Parson

    Hear, hear!

  • It’s telling that in the broader culture: the more foot-washing as a matter of ethics a given pastor acts (at the far end, look at Martin Luther King Jr. and others so focused on serving) and the less demanding-of-feet-washed-and-pronto (at the other far end, look at Jimmy Swaggert and other ‘Prime-Time-Pastors’), the more positively a pastor’s legacy is viewed.

  • Durin

    “May I suggest that the path to higher social status is by doing MUCH
    more good for those suffering in this world. And drop the focus on
    getting power over others in our culture.”

    I agree that in the test case for the Little Sisters of the Poor that
    “No one I know has contempt of them.” However, FWIW my impression is that that did not help them when it came to an area where they were different from the general culture (birth control). I would read that situation as they were on the wrong “team” so any good works became irrelevant.

    I agree that the other examples you propose have better status because of good works, but I find it hard in those cases to separate that from having status for the “team” they are on, or at least to see if the good works are not a distant second to being on (or perceived as being on) the right team in determining status.

  • Durin

    “As Christians, we should not try to climb to the apex of our social order.”

    And yes, I assumed that this was your underlying view, ie, that you were NOT saying that Xians should *try* to achieve social status as the goal but were just saying what would happen to help status.

  • Alan Drake

    Supreme Court decisions are not supposed to be determined by the social status of the parties. So I see no link between the social status of Little Sisters of the Poor and any SCOTUS decision.

  • jekylldoc

    If you substitute “values” for “feelings” in your next-to-last sentence, you will see the problem with your formulation. Knowledge without values is sterile and devoid of human warmth. Maybe that is fine with you, but I don’t accept a dichotomy that says one either cares about others or cares about intellectual pursuits.

  • Durin

    Why do you focus solely on the Supreme Court in the whole
    socio-political process that was involved around the Little Sisters when there were a number of other significant actors involved?

    What difference do you thing social status should make? If
    you say “none”, why did you propose a way for Evangelicals to improve theirs?

  • 4thegloryofgod

    You are exactly right. It is a straw man in the OVERWHELMING majority of Protestant churches as well. That message is simply never preached.

  • Yes, Culture is Religion Externalized. If you’re following Christ, and conforming your life to his word, then you will change culture. Christianity applies in all areas of life, it can’t be compartmentalized.

  • Douglas-Debbi Rose McCall

    Perfect, this is what the lowly position is. Christianity has for to long tried to be out front and be the ‘leader’ in everything. This is what has be the downfall of christians and their living. Actions speak louder than words! Get out of the pulpits and into the ditches!!

  • “Goat Christians” is an interesting term that perhaps should be applied more. At the same time, people may misinterpret it as a pure insult without even understanding the full reference in context (such a lack of understanding that, itself, is a problem).

  • David Hawley

    RB is right. Being one of those asberger nerds, I recognize my own type.
    Nerd retireea are the worst, having too much time on their hands.

  • David Hawley

    Direct exposure to conflicting ideas has an effect irrespective of the validity of those conflicting ideas.

  • David Hawley

    The media portrayal wins over reality. You might say this is due to overly sensitive progressives conflating dissent with hatred, but there is certainly a polemical element there. E.g. the canard of the medievals believing in a flat earth, or that science and religion are necessarily at war.

  • David Hawley

    Exhibit A.

  • David Hawley

    If you are a couple of SD over average intelligence, you will spend a good part of your life looking for someone to talk to, whatever your beliefs happen to be. And Christianity is a lot more interesting than materialism.

  • David Hawley

    There’s a Youtube video of Jonathan Haidt presenting research that showed Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins right up their with ideologies in their use of words expressing anger and certainty.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8so_FSpJ17I

  • NelsonRobison

    Christianity has become marginalized, but at what cost and why? Firstly Christianity, helped to marginalize itself by becoming less and less about the truth and more about single issue politics. They wished for a president that would do their bidding and complete what they hoped would be a complete circle of modifying people’s behaviour by mandating their adherence to biblical principles and adherence to a fundamentalist and evangelistic view of the bible’s norms. Christianity never was never intended to be a political powerhouse in the past, and in the future would never be that so-called, ‘utopian dream’ of living in a world, run by Christians under the leadership of Jesus.

    We all know what these people were looking for, that 1000 year reign with Jesus, when that utopian view of the world and its government would be under the authority and rules of Jesus, along with the Church as the earthly rulers, they being the captains and lieutenants of Jesus’ rule for a period of 1000 years. After which the Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, would be loosed on the earth and finally cast into Abbaddon, the bottomless pit, Hell, eternal torment, the place where G*d would not live nor care to go, for all eternity. And those who had rejected G*d, or his mercy would be cast into the place of pure evil, together with Satan to live forever never knowing the presence of G*d for all eternity.

    Such dark musings, are another one of the reasons that Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christianity are rejected by rational and reasonable people today. What surprises me isn’t the decline of Christianity, especially the fundamentalist and evangelical kind of Christianity, but that it took so long to happen especially here in the U.S. of A. People will remain gullible and impressionable for only so long, and then they will begin to question the foundation on which Christianity is built. And more and more people are doing so to the chagrin of those churches.

    The second reason is the meddling into politics of so many churches for the sole purpose of gaining political power with the end result of making the U.S. a ‘Christian nation.’ We have in this nation those who believe that the US exists only to spread the gospel to the world and be the political power base for the coming utopian age of ruling and reigning with Jesus for 1,000 years.

    To do this, there is a subset of Christian thought that calls itself, the Dominionist Movement It is based solely on the idea that the Christian religion will dominate the world. This is much like the fundamentalist faith of the Islamic religion that purports to claim a caliphate will rule the world for Allah. No one will be left out and everyone must comply or be beheaded by the authorities, the same goes for the Christian faith and its version of Dominionist faith.