Christian Politics for a Post-Christian Society

Christian Politics for a Post-Christian Society November 5, 2019

I recently wrote about the possibility that Christians face religious discrimination in the United States. We are moving into a post-Christian society and this is reflected in increased expressions of anti-Christian bigotry. My research has confirmed that those with this bigotry are more likely to be white, male, wealthy, and well-educated. So, it is very well connected and powerful individuals who have the type of anti-Christian prejudice that will continue to trouble Christians.

Beyond having financial and educational power, those with anti-Christian bigotry also tend to be non-religious and politically progressive. They fit the profile of those who control the institutions that greatly shape our culture. Academia, the arts, media and entertainment tend to be run by powerful individuals who are not religious and are politically progressive. An important implication of this is that those with anti-Christian prejudice are in powerful positions to shape our larger culture. The messages we receive from our culture are quite persuasive to those not prepared to be countercultural.

This loss of cultural power is critical as Christians consider how to prepare to operate politically in a post-Christian world. While the political position of Christians is not dire today (after all many of them helped to elect our current president), things are not going to get better. Christianophobic cultural messages will become more prominent which will eventually impact the ability of Christians to gain, or maintain, political power. Even today political leaders feel free to use religious tests in efforts to weed Christians out of governmental service and challenge whether Christians even deserve religious freedom. I expect that over time such efforts will increase, rather than decrease, in a society where anti-Christian bigotry becomes more acceptable.

So, what are Christians to do politically in this new post-Christian world? We cannot act as if nothing has changed. The days where we can expect our Christian faith to be an advantage are behind us, at least for now. In fact, about one in five Americans today will not vote for an Evangelical Christian. I understand the desire of Christians to make our society better through political activism. They envision a society whereby their moral values can be implemented into how our government operates. However, for the foreseeable future, unless God intervenes in a miraculous way, this is not feasible. In a post-Christian world where our cultural institutions are controlled by Christianophobic forces, pushing for public policies based on Christian values is not going to be successful. In fact, it may even spur on further displays of Christianophobia.

Let me suggest that Christians must change their approach. We are not going to “take the society for Christ” so we need to stop talking about doing that. Instead Christians need to think about keeping a seat at the table. We need to think less about infusing the larger government with our Christian morality and more about keeping our voice active so that we can speak into our society. We need to stop thinking about having the power to do whatever we want in society and more about being able to be one of the voices contributing to the direction of our society.

One way to see how this may unfold is to look at the recent debate between David French and Sohrab Ahmari. French argues that Christians must fight to protect freedom in general while Ahmari calls on Christians to adopt more of a take no prisoners approach. For example, as it concerns having Drag Queen Reading Hour in public libraries Ahmari wants them to end. French points out that whatever rules used to end those can one day be turned against Christians having access to the public library. We need to be on the side of French, not just because it is right to allow others to experience the same freedoms we want, but also practically so that we can protect our freedoms in the future.

Here is another example of how Christians must politically readjust for the post-Christian world. While I have talked about Christianophobia, I have also written about dealing with Islamophobia. I have been disappointed by Christians who do not take seriously the discrimination and hatred that Muslims face simply for being Muslim. We should support the religious freedom of Muslims simply because it is the right thing to do. I do not want people to become Christian because they feel coerced into accepting this faith. They should do so because they have reasoned their way to the faith, their relationships with Christians, their experiences with the divine or one of many other acceptable ways people decide to follow a faith. But never because they must become a Christian to be a full citizen in our society. I know this has happened in the past, and we should lament that it has ever been the case that people had to lie about being a Christian to have their place in society.

I would rather that Christians support the religious freedoms of Muslims, and any non-Christian group, simply because it is the right thing to do. But if they are still unwilling to offer such support, they need to reconsider in a post-Christian world. The same zoning laws used to stop that Muslim Mosque today will be turned around to stop a Christian church tomorrow. If we allow religious criteria to prevent Muslims from coming into the country today, then tomorrow Christianophobes will use it to prevent Christians from coming into the country. A recent court case struck down an all-comer policy that was being enforced on Christian student groups because it was not being enforced on a Muslim student group. If Christians had found a way to drive that Muslim student group from campus years ago, then they would be the ones driven off today. Protecting the rights of Muslims is also protecting the rights of Christians in a post-Christian world.

My research indicates that many with Christianophobia want Christians to be excluded from the public square. As they gain more cultural power, their ability to engage in such exclusion will matter. If Christians look like we are trying to impose our morality on others by attacking Drag Queen Reading Hour or by limiting the religious freedom of Muslims, then we provide cultural ammunition to anti-Christian bigots. We must be politically smarter than that.

This does not mean that Christians need to avoid politics altogether. Indeed, efforts to remove us from the public square should be resisted with every reasonable resource we have available. This is a smarter brand of politics since instead of being seen as arguing to impose our values on others, we are clearly arguing to protect ourselves from unfair treatment. To this end confronting the unfair all-comers policies, legislation that attacks Christian schools and forcing Christian businesses to serve wedding ceremonies that go against their values, unfair firing of Christians for their religious beliefs, and of course combating the imposition of religious tests are political battles we must undertake. But to fight them effectively, we must retain some degree of cultural standing to deal with those cases. Trying to remove drag queens from the library (although trust me my sons will not be entertained by them) works against that cultural standing. Working to deny religious freedom to Muslims does not help either.

In time a smarter political strategy than trying to “take back America for Christ” can pay off dividends. Keeping our seat at the table in our cultural and political conversation for this nation will provide us with ways to impact our society that rely less on our political power and more on our ability to engage in moral persuasion. It can help us to develop the allies we need to protect ourselves and serve others in our society. It can keep us from relying on some political King Saul (yes, I am looking at some of the Christian Trump supporters out there) to protect us, instead of looking to the Lord for our protection.

Finally, it is an approach that reflects the reality that we live in a post-Christian world. We should have always strived to get along with our neighbors, but now it can be a matter of our survival that we learn how to operate in a multicultural world. Fighting for our seat at the table does not portray the arrogance found in demanding that society adopt our values and morality. And that change in emphasis and approach can make all the difference in helping us to survive and thrive in a post-Christian society.


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  • John (not McCain)

    Yeah, it’s totally anti-Christian discrimination when Christians aren’t allowed to use the government to force other people to live according to christian beliefs. Maybe you people should learn how to live in a civilized society.

    • Featherfoot

      What? He’s literally arguing against trying to set up some sort of theocracy, and is arguing in favor of protecting the rights of others, such as Muslims. Did you even read the article?

      • Eeyore

        Yancey’s argument is unhelpful. It flatters evangelicals sense of privilege married to a sense of persecution, rather than critiquing it.

  • “I understand the desire of Christians to make our society better through political activism.” That’s the problem. Until prohibition, the US had a very limited government and that allowed a lot of freedom for most people. But Christians decided they could perfect humanity by making alcohol illegal. They were willing to expand the power and scope of the state and give up most freedoms in order to achieve their goal. Of course, Christians thought they would always be in power. They succeeded in grossly inflating the power of the state and destroying many of our freedoms, but they didn’t stay in power. Now non-Christians wield that state power against Christians. When will Christians learn that the state cannot improve people? Only God can do that. And you can’t improve “society” without first improving people through the power of Christ working on individuals. If the state could improve people, Christ would not have had to die. Nothing will improve for Christians until Christians quit trying to use the power of the state to do the church’s work. We have to quit worshiping the state and return to worshiping God. Then we need to join anyone who will work with us to shrink the size and power of the state to Constitutional levels.

  • Eeyore

    “Beyond having financial and educational power, those with anti-Christian bigotry also tend to be non-religious and politically progressive. They fit the profile of those who control the institutions that greatly shape our culture.”

    You mean the evangelicals who advise the President, who support the party that controls the Senate, and who back the pro-gun anti-migrant anti-environmental policies of the current administration? From my perspective, they are indeed non-religious, at least from the definition of religion Jesus lived. But they are neither progressive nor powerless. And feeding evangelicals’ false sense of persecution and powerlessness is NOT helpful at this present moment.