Some writers have described America as moving into a post-Christian era; others have spoken of religious persecution. There is some truth to both views. There are large and influential segments within our country that consider Christianity a culturally interesting but otherwise irrelevant vestige. There are pockets of persecution, and some genuine threats to religious freedom in America.
But Christianity remains too vibrant here for America to be truly post-Christian after the European model. And although persecution is on the increase—and for those who experience it directly, it’s far from trivial—its level here is still very far from what it has been in many other times and places.
So in my view, neither post-Christian nor persecuted describes our situation; yet we cannot escape noticing that something has changed. Christianity once fit easily and comfortably within our culture, but no longer. Christianity thrives here, but in the midst of rapidly increasing opposition. We are entering an age of post-comfortable Christianity.
It’s not the catchiest phrase in the world, I’ll admit. Still it’s helpful, in my view, for it captures the uniqueness of our day. We have models of how to handle persecution: it’s all over church history, not to mention many parts of the world today. We have examples of post-Christianity to learn from, primarily in Europe. I’m not aware, however, of any time or place that has taken such a turn from Christian cultural dominance to such deep polarization.
Most of us can remember when it was easy to be a sleepy Christian. In many ways it still is. We face the real temptation of trying to shut out the changing realities of our world, so we can continue in our drowsy churchiness.
So we need fresh thinking and leadership. I have written of this in my Worldview and You column at BreakPoint this week: Leadership for Post-Comfortable Christianity. This continues a two-part series I began last month.
I see this more as an opportunity than as a problem, by the way: sleepy Christianity is not real Christianity. This is a time to go deeper and to grow stronger in Christ, and to let our light shine (Matthew 5:16) in such a way that others will see it and glorify our Father in heaven.