How Should Christians Respond to the American Identity Crisis? part 1 | Opinion News
It should be clear to all who are not too blind to see or too deaf to hear that America faces a deep identity crisis in terms of who we are and what we stand for as a people and nation.
Significantly, this “culture war” can be boiled down to two large groups of Americans, each deeply committed to their cause.
One group, while recognizing America’s flaws and imperfections, wants to restore traditional American values (inextricably linked to the Judeo-Christian values enshrined in our founding documents) while continuing to fight the imperfections and inequalities that remain.
For a quarter of a century (1988-2013), I had the privilege of leading a Christian organization deeply committed to this vision of the religious reform of American culture and society (Commission for Ethics and Religious Freedom of the Southern Baptist Convention).
The Commission’s vision and mission statement states this with admirable clarity:
“Our vision: an American society that affirms and practices Judeo-Christian values rooted in biblical authority.
“Our mission statement clarified how this vision was to be realized. “To awaken, inform, energize, equip and mobilize Christians to be catalysts for the biblical transformation of their families, churches, communities and the nation. “
The other side is made up of the various groups of Americans who make up the “progressive left,” whose collective aim and purpose is to profoundly change an American society they believe is hopelessly compromised by its racist and sexist past. Racism and sexism must be overthrown and abolished and a new and different society must be erected on the rubble of the existing order.
In a country as committed to democratic autonomy as America, such cultural wars are fought in the public arena through political debates and elections. Students of these conflicts observed: “Politics is downstream of culture and culture is downstream of religion. This is true whether your religion is monotheist, polytheist, agnostic or atheist.
Therefore, before we can begin to answer the question of how Christians should cope with our nation’s deep identity crisis, we must attempt to answer the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”
As an Orthodox Christian (with a small “o”) of traditional Protestant beliefs (of Baptist persuasion), my attempt to answer this question will always begin by addressing it to the New Testament as my manual of faith and practice.
The New Testament informs that a Christian is a disciple and disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ who placed his personal faith and trust in the death of Christ on the cross as an atonement for their sins. As the apostle Paul informs us: “For it is by grace that we are saved by faith; and that not of ourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest no one boast ”(Eph 2: 8-9).
While Jesus was still in the midst of his earthly ministry, he taught his disciples that they were to be the “salt” of the earth and the “light” of the world. (Mat. 5: 13-16) The context of this teaching is both fascinating and instructive.
Jesus, having seen the multitudes, withdrew and beckoned his disciples to join him. Jesus, being the incarnate Son of God, actually “saw” the multitudes. He saw them as they really were. As he read the fine print of their souls, Jesus saw them in their darkness and despair. He could see the immense and cavernous difference between who they were and the person God had created for each of them.
He turned to his disciples and charged them to be the “salt” of the earth and the “light” of the world, serving the darkness, decadence and despair of the lost world. Salt is a preservative, stopping rotting and putrefaction. Salt is a disinfectant that cleans infected wounds. Jesus calls Christians to be a moral disinfectant and a steward in a rotten and infected world. Salt cannot bring life, but it can stop decomposition. Light penetrates darkness, dispels darkness and illuminates truth.
Jesus commanded every Christian to be salt and light because we are to be living and breathing examples of having been salted and enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
The New Testament tells us that every Christian is a new type of man who has never existed before, and as such we are to bring this transforming light into a lost and dying world.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he proclaims that Jesus Christ broke the wall between Jews and Gentiles and created a new man (Eph. 2: 14-15).
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul uses the Greek term kainos for “new” of a different and unique kind and the Greek κtizō, “to create”, not simply “to do”. In other words, after Pentecost, with the coming of the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way, God created a new type of human being, a being born of the post-Pentecostal Spirit unlike all others that have gone before. As John Chrysostom (347 AD-407 AD), a father of the early church would have said: “It was as if God was founding a statue of silver (the Jews) and a statue of lead (the Gentiles). ) and produced a new statue. Golden!”
This is why the apostle Paul declared that in Christ there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor freedom, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one. in Christ Jesus ”(Gal. 3:28).
Since Christians are indeed a new kind of human being, we are called to a ministry of reconciliation. The apostle Paul states: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things are gone; behold, all things have become new. And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to him through Jesus Christ, and entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation ”(II Cor. 5: 17-18).
Next week we will explore some of the implications of the “ministry of reconciliation” that have been assigned and entrusted to Christians today.
Dr Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 to July 2021. Upon retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and continues to be Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics. Dr Land previously served as Chairman of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as Chairman Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr Land has also been an editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011. Dr Land explores many other topical and critical topics in his daily radio article, “Bringing Every Thought Captive” and in his weekly column for CP.