The Christian Response to Cultural Opposition

The Christian Response to Cultural Opposition February 18, 2024

Philosopher, theologian, writer, and speaker Bill Watkins has 8 books, 30 study guides, and more than 150 articles, essays, and other kinds of writing to his credit. One of his early books The New Absolutes, explains how ten beliefs once held to be true would be replaced by ten new beliefs. The book, published 25 years ago, is almost prophetic.

His thinking about the Christian’s place in culture is both frightening and hopeful. Frightening in that the tsunami of secular thought has now seeped so deep into politics, education, and business that Christianity is now at the fringe of society. Hopeful in that Christianity thrives best when it’s counter-cultural. When we are marginalized, minimized, and mocked, the gospel prophetic message of a transcendental message of hope, faith, and love is at its finest. And People of the Way have a chance to fulfill their ultimate purpose on this earth. I was able to ask him a burning question about unprecedented cultural opposition to the Christian message.

David Rupert: Christianity is increasingly misunderstood. We are painted with a broad brush with all kinds of terrible things like homophobia, anti-immigrant, and propagators of hate.  How do we best counter these perceptions?

Bill Watkins:First, we have to realize that the vast majority of criticisms against Christianity show incredible ignorance of what Christianity actually teaches and how, at its best, its adherents typically behave. At one time even non-Christians in Western culture knew that Christianity taught that we should love God with all we have and are and that we should love our neighbors (no matter their skin color, economic status, political affiliation, level of education, age, etc.) as we love ourselves.

But most non-Christians today don’t even have this minimal understanding of the Christian faith. Instead, they see Christianity as a white man’s religion and therefore condemn it as oppressive. What they no longer know–and in some cases don’t even care to know–is that Christianity emerged from the Middle East and that its first-century believers were near-Eastern Jews and non-Jews of various ethnicities and nationalities (e.g., Arabian, Persian, Ethiopian, Greek, Libyan, Egyptian, Iranian).

“Christianity was and always has been a religion of immigrants. And it drew to itself individuals of various stations (e.g., business, military, government, education, medicine, architecture, music, crafts), different economic situations (wealthy businessmen and businesswomen, slaves, widows, orphans, homeless), and differing moral persuasions (homosexuals, lesbians, adulterers, prostitutes, swindlers, idolaters, the religiously holy, philosophical skeptics).

“It was upon this incredibly diverse foundation that Christianity eventually emerged as the fastest-growing and largest religious movement that the world had ever seen. But do most non-Christians know this about Christianity? No, and I’m afraid that many Christians don’t know this either. The public education system and most churches in America do not teach history anymore. Instead, most schools indoctrinate students with ideological notions that best fit with socialism and communism, and that requires twisting historical realities to shame and embarrass rather than teach truths from which we can learn and thereby grow in wisdom. And too many churches fall prey to these historical misrepresentations and then try to guide congregants to learn how to better understand and placate those who have been hurt and oppressed.

“Moreover, Christian love has been diluted into a romanticized feel-good kind of love that strives to avoid all offenses (real and imagined) rather than teach the hard truths people need. We are not equipped to challenge erroneous thinking and false claims.

“So, realizing that the vast majority of misunderstandings flow from ignorance, we who claim to embrace the truth need to better learn the truth about what Christianity teaches and why, and that includes learning much more about the church’s history–the good and the bad. We also need to live out the faith. People need to see in us what we claim to be real. For example, if we say that Jesus loves all people, we need to explain what that means and then live it out among everyone we come across.

“And by the way, biblical love is not sloppy and sappy. Genuine love comes from God first, and his love embraces us as we are but refuses to leave us as we are. He is for our development, our maturity, our growth in knowledge, goodness, and beauty. And this Lover hates–yes, I said hates–anything that seeks to undermine or destroy that which he knows is true, good, and beautiful.

“In short, to best counter the misperceptions you mentioned, we Christians need to educate ourselves and others in what’s true, and we need to live out the truth that we express. This will not halt all misperceptions, for some people will stubbornly hold on to their misperceptions no matter what we say and do. But it will lead those individuals who are open to correction to inquire more about what we believe and why. And some of these will eventually find the fullness of truth and life in the One who is Truth and Life, Jesus the Christ.”

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