Not Clinging to Religion?: Charles Murray's "Coming Apart"

The church's primary business is proclaiming the life-transforming gospel: we are all sinners deserving the righteous judgment of God, but in his mercy, God sent his Son to die for our sins, and Christ then rose from the dead to defeat death and Satan. In light of this message, we are called to repent, and to commit ourselves to Christ's kingship over our lives, and to life in his church. If churches are nurturing true followers of Jesus, Murray's worldly virtues will become the natural outflow of changed hearts living in redeemed community.

Many people in my parents' generation—perhaps living off the borrowed capital of a heavily Christianized culture—maintained the virtues without a heart-level commitment to that gospel. But over the past fifty years, borrowed Christian capital has run dry. In the long run, this may not be an entirely bad thing, as the American church now has opportunity to really shine in a morally dark culture.

To the extent that churches have made congregational life about religious consumerism, and substituted therapy for proclaiming the stark reality and wonderful hope of the gospel, we can partly blame ourselves for the ongoing disintegration of American culture. But opportunity for repentance and renewal is always at hand. If American churches commit themselves to faithful preaching and biblical standards of morality, it does not necessarily mean that people will return en masse and that Murray's tale of cultural calamity will reverse. But perhaps the church will start becoming the kind of city on a hill Christ envisions—a beacon easily distinguished from the surrounding darkness.

3/21/2012 4:00:00 AM
  • Evangelical
  • Faith in History
  • Culture
  • Class
  • History
  • Morality
  • Christianity
  • Evangelicalism
  • Thomas Kidd
    About Thomas Kidd
    Thomas S. Kidd teaches history and is a Senior Fellow at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion. He is the author of Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots and God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution. Follow his writings via Facebook and Twitter.