Yesterday SCOTUS made rulings which have sweeping ramifications for America the extent of which no-one knows for certain. For the greater part of this country’s history there has been in the background an assumed Judeo-Christian identity which played a part in every aspect of public life, shaping the understanding of common law and basic morality. The SCOTUS rulings make clear what has been apparent to most in our culture, the foundational understanding which underpinned our culture for so long can no longer be assumed or expected.
This break down comes from several different sources. Some of the influence comes from the church itself. Through the history of America one can trace a theme of compromise in the life of the church. One can look at the condition of the various denominations in the early colonial period and see the roots of rebellion coming from within the institutional church itself, as evidenced by the growth of Unitarian Universalism from the early Congregational churches. Doctrinal compromise disintegrated the gospel and created a new religion entirely antithetical to Christianity. This doctrinally deficient bastard child of Christianity owes its origins to the attempt to conform Christianity to to the beliefs and values of popular culture. One can see today the fruits of this compromised religion in other denominations as well. Theological compromise, loss of confidence in revealed truth has again and again given rise to a religion that may imitate the form of Biblical Christianity while at the same time holding in disdain the doctrine and ethical system found in the Bible.
Every denomination is now faced with a question, will they accommodate to the culture and deny revealed truth. The church is not called to seek the approval of the state or the culture. One can read the book of Acts and see that the early church went against the popular culture in every way possible. The Greco-Roman culture exalted and glorified sexual perversions in the same way our culture does, the early church exalted Christ-centered marriage, holding its members accountable for their marriage covenant. The Greco-Roman culture accepted abortion and infanticide, the early church took in and adopted children thrown away by the culture. The Greco-Roman context was one marked by its religious pluralism with a unifying civic religion based on the worship of a human leader, the early church at the cost of their life confessed Jesus Christ and him alone as Lord and not Caesar. The early church existed in a world without religious freedom, constant threat of persecution and death, and rampant culturally ingrained immorality, yet the church did not retreat and isolate itself from culture nor did it accommodate itself to culture. The early church shined like a light in the darkness, it was the salt of the earth, it was a city on a hill. There is a common theme in those three metaphors, the idea of being different. The church is the church at its best when it can be seen as distinct from the world while at the same time being on mission in the world. Local churches need to reclaim their identity as salt and light, and recall the promises of Christ. Christ has promised us that we will be hated and despised by the world, because he was hated and despised by the world. He has also promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. We need to remember in our culture that our war isn’t with the culture but with the serpent, and we need to remind ourselves we follow the one who has already crushed the serpent’s head, the war is won.