I recently heard a presentation by Jim Garlow, a former Nazarene pastor in Fort Worth who now pastors a very large congregation in San Diego. He's considered to be one of Christendom's foremost experts on Christian history. Some of his presentations on Christian history are just fantastic. In this particular presentation which I heard Pastor Garlow, he presented a sweeping overview of the relationship between Bible-believing Christians and American society. Look at this:
- From 1607-1833, 236 years, Bible believing Christians were the Establishment of this nation.
- From 1833-1918, they were the Predominant Force, which is a period of 85 years.
- From 1918-1968, the Sub-dominant Force, 50 years. Notice how each of these periods is getting shorter and shorter.
- From 1968-1988 a Sub-culture, 20 years.
- From 1988-1998 a Counter Culture, 10 years.
- From 1998-2008 an Antithetical Culture, which he defines as being in full opposition to the predominant values of the culture.
- From 2008-Present a Persecuted Culture. These are Bible believing Christians.
One of the main reasons for this trend is because the number of true Bible-believing Christians in our society has plummeted. Although 85% of Americans claim to be Christians, only about 40% of those claim to be born-again Evangelical Christians, and only 9% of Americans are true Bible-believing Christians, as revealed by poll after poll taken by the Barna Research Association. Only 9% are Bible-believing Christians.
Persecution of Christians in America
The persecution of true Bible-believing Christians has increased exponentially in the last ten years. Let me give you some quick examples taken from the book Godless America by Todd Starnes. He's a social commentator. He gives 89 examples in this book of Christian persecution. I want to share just eight with you.
- A North Carolina pastor was fired from his duties as an honorary chaplain for the state House of Representatives after he refused to stop praying in the name of Jesus.
- A senior citizens center in Port Wentworth, Georgia, told its elderly residents that they could no longer pray over their meals.
- A federal judge ordered the Medina Valley Independent School District in Texas to prohibit any public prayers at its graduation ceremony.
- A Massachusetts eight-year-old boy was sent home from school and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation after he drew a picture of Jesus on a cross.
- A professor at the University of Kentucky who applied for a job directing the university's observatory was turned down by the hiring committee when it was discovered that he was a Christian.
- Bibles and other religious materials were banned from Walter Reed Army Medical Center before a public outcry forced the administrators to reverse their decision.
- In San Jose California, a statue was erected in a city park with taxpayer money that celebrated the Aztec god to whom child sacrifices were made. And at the same time, in San Diego, a court ruled that a Cross that had stood in a city park for many years had to be removed. An Aztec god "Yes"; a symbol of Christianity "No."
- A New York public school teacher was ordered to remove inspirational Bible verses from her classroom. The teacher was also told to remove a quote from former President Ronald Reagan. And what was the quote? "If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be one nation gone under."
We are literally witnessing the dismantling of the Christian foundation of our society. The gravity of the situation was recently summed up by Albert Mohler with these words:
"We are witnesses to one of the most comprehensive and fast-paced moral revolutions ever experienced by humanity. The velocity and breadth of this revolution are breathtaking, and the consequences are yet incalculable. This society is dismantling the very structures that have allowed for the enjoyment and preservation of human liberty and respect for life. We are engaged in a head-long effort to replace the convictions that gave birth to democracy and ordered liberty with a new set of convictions that will lead to the emergence of a very different culture, society and civilization. We cannot pretend this is not happening. We cannot delude ourselves into believing it will not matter. The word for the process that is driving this shift of worldview in the West is secularization which the Russian prophet, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, explained with four simple words: 'Men have forgotten God.'"
Responses to Christian Persecution
How are we to respond to this downward spiral of American society and to the increasing Christian persecution?
One way is to ignore it. Believe it or not, there are Christian spokesmen who say that we as Christians are to focus only on one thing, and that is evangelism. They argue that the collapse of society is not our concern. You would be amazed at who some of those people are. I believe this is a very unbiblical attitude. We are called by Jesus to be salt and light of the world, and the only way we can fulfill that task is to take a stand for righteousness.
Other professing Christians have decided to embrace the decline of society by getting in bed with it. They're endorsing immorality in the name of tolerance and in the name of Christian love. After all, who are we to judge? Shouldn't we make Christianity as user-friendly as possible and free of all condemnation?
A well-known pastor recently said that he believes that Christian businesses should be forced under penalty of law to offer their services for homosexual weddings. He explained his view by saying that serving people we don't see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. This incredible statement is terribly wrong in at least two ways. First, it ignores the fact that the Constitution of the United States in the First Amendment restricts the government from passing any law that prohibits the free exercise of religion. A photographer should have the right to refuse to photograph a homosexual wedding if that is opposed to his viewpoint. And, even more important, the second problem with this statement is that it is totally unbiblical because it is not the essence of Christianity to help other people commit sins. Furthermore, the pastor's reasoning could be used by the courts to force Christian pastors to perform same-sex marriages. I wonder if he would do that.
A third response to the collapse of society, and the biblical one, is to take a stand for righteousness against the tide of filth. A sterling example of a person who is doing that is Franklin Graham. I really admire this man. Here's what he has to say about same-sex marriage, and he pulls no punches:
"True followers of Jesus Christ, whose salvation is based entirely upon Gods Word, cannot endorse same-sex marriage regardless of what our President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Media or the latest Gallup Poll says about the matter. This moral issue has been settled by God Himself and is not subject to man-made revisions or modifications. In the end, I would rather be on the wrong side of public opinion than on the wrong side of Almighty God who established the standard of living for the world He created. Marriage is a biblically moral issue, not a political or theological one. This debate is ultimately about something much more important than the question of same-sex marriage. It is about the authority of Scripture. The Church is on dangerous ground when it departs from the teaching of Christ and attempts to redefine His commands and compromise His truth."
Praise God for Franklin Graham! He concluded that with these words: "There are many things in Scripture that Christians disagree on, but the Bible is crystal clear about the sanctity of life and marriage. It is also clear that homosexuality is spelled out as a sin, there are no if's, and's, or but's!"
Every time I speak of standing for righteousness, I think of this man. He's one of my heroes in the faith. Don Wildmon is the head of the American Family Association. He has spoken out boldly for years against the moral decline of our nation. Sadly, he has often said that his greatest detractors are pastors who write to him and taunt him. He puts their letters in his magazine all the time. The usual taunt goes like this, "Don, you are spinning your wheels and wasting your time. Think of it. You have been opposing the immorality in our nation for years, and it just keeps getting worse. You are not winning." His response is this: "God did not call me to win. He called me to stand. We will not win until Jesus returns, but in the meantime, we must stand!"
The bottom line is that if we Christians do not stand for righteousness, no one will. We are specifically called to do so. In Matthew 5 in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called his followers to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
When we engage the pagan society around us, none of our efforts will be effective unless they are grounded in prayer. We need to pray earnestly for our nation as we have never prayed before. We need to pray the kind of prayer that Daniel prayed when he prayed for his nation. He prayed, "Father, forgive me." Think of it, he prayed for God to forgive him of the sins of his nation, yet he is referred to in the Scriptures as one of the three most righteous men who had ever lived.
The point, of course, is that all of us are part of the problem. All of us have compromised with the world to one degree or another. Think of it, 85% of the people in this nation claim to be Christians. And yet, our nation is wallowing in sin and rebellion against God.
If professing Christians would stop buying lottery tickets, the lotteries would have to fold. If professing Christians would stop getting abortions, the abortion mills would close. If professing Christians would stop buying pornography, the pornographers would be hard pressed to sell their filth. If professing Christians would stop going to R-rated movies, Hollywood would have to start making wholesome films. If professing Christians would stop watching the TV trash shows, the networks would be forced to provide more decent entertainment. And the list goes on and on.
All of us need to keep in mind the words of Proverbs 29:2, "When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan."
In the sixth and last part of my teaching on America's spiritual crisis, we'll look at how God warns, but also provides hope.