~~Alexander Hamilton to John Laurens, August 15, 1782
I happen to be familiar with statistics and polls dealing with religion in this country in recent times. However, these results only explain the sometimes seeming contradictions between different polls of American citizens. For example, polls reveal that most Americans believe that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman, and that it is not anything else. The favorite television shows of this same majority, according to other polls, however, anything but depict marriage as a sacred union. Among the same majority, divorce is now quite commonplace; the last I heard, the divorce rate among unbelievers and professing Christians is the same – 50%. Half a century ago, in the Christian community of the United States, divorce was scandalous. Even more scandalous was divorce and subsequent remarriage to another person during the lifetime of their former spouse -- a practice which Jesus Christ unequivocally condemned as adulterous (Matthew 5:31-32).
How can the majority of Americans believe that marriage is sacred, protest pro-'gay' legislation one minute, and then sit down, enjoy all the hideous “entertainment” our decaying culture can provide, and divorce and remarry left and right the next minute? And then we scratch our heads like a punch of puzzled monkeys, wondering why we are losing the “culture war”?
May I suggest to my audience that first of all, we are fighting the wrong war? And second, that we are fighting the wrong war in the wrong fashion? I say that we are fighting the wrong war, because we are trying to fix the culture, without fixing what is really wrong with our nation. In all of the analyses that have been done about our cultural illnesses (all done by honorable and studied men, for whom I have great respect), I have never heard one that addresses the worldliness of the modern American evangelical community as lying at the bottom of it (though there could be such an analysis out there that I have not seen!). I hear of the complacency of Christians to get involved in politics, as being the cause of the great cultural decline. But this is a contradiction, since politics do not determine the climate of the culture. Politics, legislation, and court rulings do not determine whether a nation is moral in general or not. Rather, a nation's morality (or lack thereof) will determine the amount of governmental interference with that level of society. If there is not a considerable problem with drunkenness among the populace, then numerous laws, regulations, and interferences by the government are unnecessary, and if proposed by the governing body, will be rejected as tyrannical. Only a moral and virtuous people truly appreciate the responsibilities they have as the keepers of their liberties.
In conclusion, culture is not what lawyers, congressmen, judges, or even what celebrities, popular artists, and other cultural figures determine. Culture arises from the people themselves, from the way they act, speak, and think. These ways may be influenced by certain things like legislation, they may be influenced by popular media, but if the people are not already pre-disposed to have their behavior affected by certain stimuli, an abundance of laws and propaganda could not change it.
To demonstrate my point, let me ask a simple question: would Roe V. Wade, if passed by the Supreme Court in 1790, have resulted in mass abortions? If Hollywood was the main supplier of visual entertainment in the colonial world of the Founders, what would have been the effect upon that culture? Would they have accepted it? Imitated the celebrity world and fashion of Hollywood? No! They would have chased those judges and the whole corporation of Hollywood and all of their golden assets into the Atlantic with the British redcoats! Why? Because pastors were not prohibited by the IRS from preaching on specific cultural and political issues? No again! Rather, because the conscience of America at the time, by and large, was reinforced by biblical teachings. The Bible was the nation's conscience, and Christian and Deist alike in America felt in some way its power and the weight of its authority on their lives. God was at the core of our national conscience and consciousness.
Why is that different now? The morals of Unitarians and deists and rationalists in America in the Founders' day (although far from perfect) was more laudable than that of many professing evangelical Christians in America today. It is not, because the evangelical community is not engaged enough in our culture. It is because we lack holiness, we lack fervent dedication to God, we lack a zeal for justice and an abhorrence for everything God hates, and therefore we lack the power of godliness, first to change our own lives, and to spread that change to the world. We work and labor and strive to keep the form of godliness up and running, but because we do not deal with the problem and cleanse the vessel, the multitude of layers of paint simply have ceased forever to obscure the deterioration of the wooden structure behind it. The whole thing needs to be burned down, and the wall built afresh. We need to give up our dreams of a utopian kingdom of our own, that makes us comfortable with a pro-family values religion devoid of true godliness. We need to quit thinking that we can achieve a comfortable Christian culture, that can coexist with “lesser” sins in the church pews. Thorn bushes will never produce figs, just as a bad tree will never produce good fruit. Gluing apples to the branches of sumac trees will only waste good apples; they will only rot, and be replaced again and again until we finally learn that only apple trees make apples.
When God deals with the sins of a nation, He deals with the sins of the church first. “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person'” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
Conformity is the name of the game. Conformity tells who you follow; who is really your master. That to which you consistently conform shows who your master really is. The question I would ask then is, are you conforming to the Word of God, or are you conforming to the world? When you read the Scriptures, do you wear the lenses of the world, that presents mankind as basically good and God as basically wishy-washy? Or do you change your thinking to conform to God's Word? Are you fulfilling the commandment of God by being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” rather than being “conformed to this world”? What do you imitate?