What Are Your Thoughts About the Future for Christians in America?


As usual, Wanda’s café was crowded during the lunch hour, so my student and I decided to head outdoors under the breezeway to enjoy our fresh-grilled meals, which, in my case, included a side order of crispy fries sprinkled with that patented bay seasoning lightly coating them, giving them a salty, spicy kick to accompany the ham and melted Swiss on ciabatta—Sorry! I digress…

WandasSign Conversation PersecutionAs we enjoyed our meals outside, in the cool of the shade, Jordan and I spoke—as best we could envision it—of the future of Christianity in America. Neither of us felt any hint of an Eeyore complex, where we lived under a cloud of gloomy expectations; yet we invariably returned again and again to the concept of Christian suffering. Regardless of where our topic began—he was asking me questions related to a research project he was conducting—we always came full circle back to the idea that the future of Christianity in the next half century would be markedly different from that of its recent past. The future of Christianity in America includes increased marginalization and, most likely, increased persecution.

This sentiment is one that is “felt” or “sensed” at the grassroots level in evangelical churches because Christians are feeling isolated and silenced at work.  However, it still is not fully on the radar of Christian academics. Increasingly, as a result of the Supreme Court DOMA decision last summer, academics are realizing that conflict over the sinfulness of homosexual behavior is on the horizon. Dr. Mohler made the point plainly this past week with his post, “No Third Way.” His message in that post was that churches will be forced to decide one way or the other on the acceptableness (or sinfulness) of homosexual practice. There will be no third way of holding firmly to the truth of Scripture while also keeping in step with the cultural norms of sexual practice.

Still, even with prominent evangelicals beginning to notice the clash ahead, I think that too few scholars are paying attention to persecution itself. I have presented a paper on the topic at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in the past. And, Lord willing, I may do so again this November. ETS is the largest annual gathering of evangelical scholars in the U.S. Even if my paper is accepted, it will represent only the slightest exposure in the overall scheme of Christian academic research.

At the ETS annual meeting, there will be about 700 papers presented. There will not be even 7 papers at ETS which discuss persecution in the New Testament. There will be dozens of papers discussing the biblical doctrine of inerrancy and authority (as there ought to be). There will be dozens more discussing the doctrine of ecclesiology (and rightly so). But there will also be a great many papers dealing with esoteric, navel-gazing topics which amount to nothing more than “straw,” as Thomas Aquinas put it.

Meanwhile, Meriam Ibrahim is likely to be killed in Sudan for maintaining her faith in Christ. Asia Bibi has been separated from her husband and children for 1,250 days, locked in a Pakistani prison with the death sentence hanging over her head. Christians in Eritrea are confined in metal cargo containers, being allowed so little room that they cannot even lie down for sleeping.  Christ’s sheep are being slaughtered by the wolves of the world, and we’re mired in conversations about how Christians might best care for whales.

–I’m not opposed to whale care. I love whales. I paid a hefty sum of money at Newport Beach so my family and I could see these massive creatures. They truly are an awesome feature in the splendor of God’s creation. They are living beings and, thus, warrant our proper stewardship of them. Yet, they are not people. They are not human beings created in the image of God, and, more importantly, they are not the threatened and oppressed church of God which was purchased by Him at the cost of His own blood!

I expect that more and more Christians in America will soon be wrestling with what it means to lose a job on account of Christian faith. More and more, we will be faced with needy Christians in our churches—Christian teachers who get fired because of Christian convictions. Christian churches that are smaller, poorer, and, likely, pastored by a bi-vocational minister.

We all need to be thinking and speaking soberly about what persecution means. Why does persecution happen to the righteous? Why do all of the China Christians persecutedNew Testament writers (with the possible exception of Jude) think that persecution is a topic which they need to address in their sacred writings? How should Christians respond to suffering on account of Christ? What do the blessings—which Jesus, Peter, John, and James reference—mean for those who suffer for the sake of righteousness? Christian scholars can help us answer these soon-to-be pertinent questions.

In the face of an ever-intensifying fury against Christ and His church, there is an urgent need for writing and thinking about persecution and pastoral ministry.  I think now is the time to focus on such work.

Christians are losing their freedoms at a record pace all over the world. They are on the verge of being extinct throughout the Middle East. And we all—I, too—have been guilty of a little too much whale-watching.  We need to focus more attention where Christ is intensely at work—caring for his abused Bride and suffering Body, loving His Church.

If Jordan and I had any foresight at all, then a new day for Christianity is rising quickly in the west. Fading like a distant dream is the vision of a moral majority. In its place is a moral—and persecuted—minority.  The future of Christianity will look less and less like the evangelicalism of 1994 and more and more like that found in Acts 14 and Hebrews 10 and 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 12.

“Do not be deceived. Anyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

I’m curious. Do you agree with me and Jordan? Is there a growing sense of persecution increasing in the U.S.? Does this seem right to you?

14 thoughts on “What Are Your Thoughts About the Future for Christians in America?

  1. The only ‘freedom’ Christians are losing in the West is the ‘freedom’ to express their opinions without hearing contrary opinions. But no one has that freedom.

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    • NotAScientist, Thanks so much for the comment. I agree with you that no one (should) have the freedom to avoid contrary opinions. I think, however, the freedom to express a contrary opinion is exactly what Christians are losing in America. Consider this story (http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/63575) from Canada Free Press concerning the Colorado baker who has been forced by the state to undergo policy changes to his business AND sensitivity training by the state for him and his employees because he expressed a contrary opinion concerning gay marriage. Gay marriage isn’t even legal in Colorado! Yet, this business owner is no longer free to express an opinion; it is not an issue of his not allowing others to voice a contrary opinion. It is an issue of the State not allowing him to voice his. And there are many more examples of such forced silence. Those examples will only multiply as Christians will continue to lose the freedom to express their opinions. I hope you will acknowledge that free speech and the right to act on conscience should be granted to all Americans, even Christians.

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      • “Yet, this business owner is no longer free to express an opinion”

        Yes he is. He just isn’t able to discriminate based on it. The same way that you are still able to be racist (for example), but not able to withhold your services based on race.

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      • But the article points out that what you are advocating goes contrary to the nature of a business transaction. Are you prepared to say that Muslim restaurants must sell pork? Must hotels rent rooms so that pedophiles can make their vile videos? Surely there is an issue of freedom at stake when it comes to acting on your beliefs. Your position is not historically that held in America. Historically, people have been free (in accordance with basic beliefs) to refuse military service and to enter freely into contracts or to decline freely the entering into a contract. You may argue that the new way is better, but (I think) you should at least admit that it is a loss of freedom for Christians to act on their beliefs.

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      • “Are you prepared to say that Muslim restaurants must sell pork?”

        Nope. But they do have to sell to non-Muslims.

        “Must hotels rent rooms so that pedophiles can make their vile videos?”

        Nope. But all of that is illegal already. Homosexuality is not illegal. And even if gay marriage isn’t legal in a given state, many couples will have non-legally binding weddings anyway, which are also not illegal.

        “that it is a loss of freedom for Christians to act on their beliefs.”

        It is no more a loss of freedom than it would be disallowing Christians or Muslims or Jews the ‘freedom’ to stone their disobedient children to death.

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      • So, if I understand your argument rightly, you are saying (1) that the right of individual conscience does not apply in a business transaction; and (2) that acting on the belief that marriage is defined as a heterosexual relationship is racist behavior which the state should punish. If my summary is correct, then I still believe we are talking about a loss of freedom. Historically, there was room in America for the individual to live by the dictates of his conscience. That room–as your position mandates–seems no longer available.

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      • “Historically, there was room in America for the individual to live by the dictates of his conscience. ”

        So you’re arguing that businesses can discriminate by things like race and religion? Or is it only sexuality that’s allowed?

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      • I’m not arguing for discrimination at all. Ironically, I think your position is the one which discriminates–against religion. Businesses of all kinds are free to accept a client or not based on a host of reasons, but your position says a Christian (or Muslim, etc.) cannot refuse to participate in a gay wedding, even if gay marriage isn’t a legal option in the state (Colorado).

        This is not a case of discrimination. The baker did not refuse to sell his bakery goods to a gay or lesbian. He simply declined–on the basis of conscience–to participate in a gay marriage ceremony.

        As a pastor, I totally understand this position. There were a number of potential weddings which I did not perform. The couple seeking someone to marry them were free to choose whether they wanted me to do the wedding or not. I was free to choose whether I wanted to perform the wedding or not. Both parties free. As I said, your position limits that freedom to one side of the equation. The gay or lesbian couple is free to choose anyone they want to participate in their gay wedding ceremony. But the other party is no longer free to decide whether they wish to participate or not. They are being coerced by the state to participate–even against their formerly protected 1st amendment right to religious liberty.

        There’s no way around it, this is a loss of freedom.

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      • “He simply declined–on the basis of conscience–to participate in a gay marriage ceremony.”

        And if he decline to participate in an interracial ceremony, what would your position be?

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      • Honestly, NotAScientist, inter-racial marriage is such a radically different issue from gay marriage. Do you not recognize a difference based on sexual activity versus a difference in skin color? One might be a homosexual, for example, yet choose also to be celibate, right? The same thing is true for a heterosexual. One may be heterosexual, yet choose to be celibate. However, one cannot choose to be white-skinned if he is black-skinned. One cannot choose to be African if he is of Asian descent.

        Again, the real issue I’m addressing is not whether gays should be allowed to marry; it is not whether gays ought to be able to buy and sell in the market place; it is not whether Christians should or should not sell property and goods to gays and lesbians; it is not even whether or not Christians ought to participate in gay weddings. The issue here is whether or not the state ought to be able to coerce Christians against their moral beliefs to participate in a gay wedding ceremony. That is the problem, as I see it. And, again, I say to you that this is a loss of freedom. Christians Muslims, and other religious people under your view cannot act on their basic beliefs concerning what is moral behavior and what is not. Giving the state such coercive control over basic beliefs portends even greater oppression in the future.

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      • “Do you not recognize a difference based on sexual activity versus a difference in skin color? ”

        I do not recognize a difference based on skin color and sexual orientation, no.

        ” One cannot choose to be African if he is of Asian descent.”

        And one cannot choose to be heterosexual if he is homosexual.

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      • With all due respect, you missed the point. I happen to disagree with your statement because I know of folks who have changed orientation. Even some who remain in the LGBT lifestyle switch between those categories. But the point is not whether they must be heterosexual or homosexual. Regardless of whether one is homosexual or heterosexual he could choose not to participate in marriage. He could choose not to participate in sexual activity. This choice is clearly not available to Asian, African, Black, White, etc.

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      • “I happen to disagree with your statement because I know of folks who have changed orientation”

        I don’t believe you based on the scientific study of ‘conversion therapy’ and its utter failure.

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      • I’ll leave the conversation alone concerning my main point, which has been demonstrated above, namely, that there is a loss of freedom for Christians who will be forced by the state to participate in something they do not believe is morally right. Thank you for engaging in a respectful manner. I do appreciate it.

        And I will follow up on your last point. I am pasting a link to a testimony from a former lesbian. You can read her testimony of her life story and decide for yourself whether she is telling the truth. Before you judge too hastily, you should know that she is as opposed to ‘conversion therapy’ as you seem to be.
        http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/january-february/my-train-wreck-conversion.html?paging=off

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