Should Christian apologists avoid political, moral and cultural issues?

 

The Sexual Revolution and the decline in religious affiliation
The Sexual Revolution and the decline in religious affiliation

Here’s an article from The American Conservative, by moderate conservative Rod Dreher, dated April 2013.

He writes:

Twenty years ago, new president Bill Clinton stepped on a political landmine when he tried to fulfill a campaign promise to permit gay soldiers to serve openly. Same-sex marriage barely registered as a political cause; the country was then three years away from the Defense of Marriage Act and four years from comedian Ellen DeGeneres’s prime-time coming out.

Then came what historians will one day recall as a cultural revolution. Now we’re entering the endgame of the struggle over gay rights and the meaning of homosexuality. Conservatives have been routed, both in court and increasingly in the court of public opinion. It is commonly believed that the only reason to oppose same-sex marriage is rank bigotry or for religious reasons, neither of which—the argument goes—has any place in determining laws or public standards.

The magnitude of the defeat suffered by moral traditionalists will become ever clearer as older Americans pass from the scene. Poll after poll shows that for the young, homosexuality is normal and gay marriage is no big deal—except, of course, if one opposes it, in which case one has the approximate moral status of a segregationist in the late 1960s.

[…]When they were writing the widely acclaimed 2010 book American Grace, a comprehensive study of contemporary religious belief and practice, political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell noticed two inverse trend lines in social-science measures, both starting around 1990.

They found that young Americans coming into adulthood at that time began to accept homosexuality as morally licit in larger numbers. They also observed that younger Americans began more and more to fall away from organized religion. The evangelical boom of the 1970s and 1980s stopped, and if not for a tsunami of Hispanic immigration the U.S. Catholic church would be losing adherents at the same rate as the long-dwindling Protestant mainline.

Over time, the data showed, attitudes on moral issues proved to be strong predictors of religious engagement. In particular, the more liberal one was on homosexuality, the less likely one was to claim religious affiliation. It’s not that younger Americans were becoming atheists. Rather, most of them identify as “spiritual, but not religious.” Combined with atheists and agnostics, these “Nones”—the term is Putnam’s and Campbell’s—comprise the nation’s fastest-growing faith demographic.

Indeed, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, the Nones comprise one out of three Americans under 30. This is not simply a matter of young people doing what young people tend to do: keep church at arm’s length until they settle down. Pew’s Greg Smith told NPR that this generation is more religiously unaffiliated than any on record. Putnam—the Harvard scholar best known for his best-selling civic culture study Bowling Alone—has said that there’s no reason to think they will return to church in significant numbers as they age.

Putnam and Campbell were careful to say in American Grace that correlation is not causation, but they did point out that as gay activism moved toward center stage in American political life… the vivid public role many Christian leaders took in opposing gay rights alienated young Americans from organized religion.

In a dinner conversation not long after the publication of American Grace, Putnam told me that Christian churches would have to liberalize on sexual teaching if they hoped to retain the loyalty of younger generations. This seems at first like a reasonable conclusion, but the experience of America’s liberal denominations belies that prescription. Mainline Protestant churches, which have been far more accepting of homosexuality and sexual liberation in general, have continued their stark membership decline.

It seems that when people decide that historically normative Christianity is wrong about sex, they typically don’t find a church that endorses their liberal views. They quit going to church altogether.

That’s why I am somewhat underwhelmed with the pure apologetics approach of most apologists.The real reason that drives atheist “apologetics” is, to be frank, the desire to dispense with rules around sexuality. The sexual freedom comes first, and then the speculative smokescreens follow. Close behind the sexual freedom is leftist economic policies (which are seen as more “fair”) and anti-business environmentalist policies. So there’s more turf to defend here than just the existence of God, the resurrection and the reliability of the Bible. That’s not what’s behind the drift of young people away from Christianity.

That’s why on this blog, you get a ton of politics and tons of studies and arguments against premarital sex, no-fault divorce, single motherhood by choice, same-sex marriage, and everything else that comes before traditional apologetics. (And you also get lots of apologetics, too!) We need to get better at defending Christian sexual ethics using purely secular arguments and evidence, e.g. – showing people how premarital sex undermines marital stability or how gay parenting harms the well-being of children. There are reasons for these rules we have, and we have to go beyond “The Bible Says…” if we expect to be convincing to young people.

And when we go against the Sexual Revolution, we have to bring secular arguments and secular evidence and bring it to bear squarely against radical feminism, and the Sexual Revolution. In particular, we have to put the burden of responsibility for poor sexual decisions back on the shoulders of young people. Young men must reject a cultural standard of what a “good” woman is. Young women must reject a cultural standard of what a “good” man is.  Men and women who reject traditional Christianity, traditional morality, and traditional notions of male leadership and male roles are bad people to have relationships with. We have to persuade both men and women about the harm that poor choices cause – abortion,  divorce, fatherlessness, expensive welfare programs. There is no point in blaming bad men and women – they are already bad. We have to teach young people to choose good men and good women. We have to teach them that choosing mates poorly, and making poor sexual choices, is their responsibility. They are not victims! And we shouldn’t be blaming one sex for the others poor choices, i.e. – we should not be blaming bad men when women chose them and make bad choices with the bad men. Those men were bad before the women chose them, and those women are only victims of their own poor choices.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, we have to defend traditional marriage using secular arguments and secular evidence. We have to show how same-sex marriage undermines religious liberty. We have to show how same-sex marriage undermines marital norms like exclusivity and permanence. We have to show how same-sex marriage harms children by depriving them of a mother or a father or both. And so on. We have to defend the goodness of traditional marriage.

9 thoughts on “Should Christian apologists avoid political, moral and cultural issues?”

  1. I really like your thoughts and agree with what we need to do to defend traditional marriage. I don’t like that some churches and faiths are changing and becoming more liberal with gay marriages and other impure sexual relations. The problem here is that churches are changing to follow the people instead of the people changing to follow God. God is truth, and truth is unchanging. Marriage between a man and women is ordained of God, this is a truth and this will never change. There are many problems that can arise when a child is not reared by a mother and father who love and care for them and are faithful to each other. I agree that christian apologists may need to change their tactics and approach these issues with secular reasoning as well as spiritual reasoning.

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  2. I am currently going through Wayne Grudem’s book: Politics According to the Bible, during our Sunday School College class. It’s been a great resource to use, especially with what is happening in our state, Indiana.

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    1. Yes! If only ALL pastors were like him. You can’t say that he doesn’t understand and emphasize the gospel, because he does. It’s just that he works from that into every other area of life, trying to see how to live out a Christian life, how to apply Christian principles to different areas and situations. More pastors should do that!

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      1. Completely agree. Evangelicals were afraid to be part of the “social gospel” so slipped away from political involvement. However, I think there is a reformation coming. You should look up Dr. Russell Moore and the ERLC (Ethics Religious Liberty) for the Southern Baptist Convention. I think Dr. Moore is standing up for righteousness in the political sphere.

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        1. I’m am not concerned much with political activism, I am more concerned that Christians be able to defend the policies and values they espouse. I want them to be able to explain WHY they think that sex before marriage is wrong, etc.

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          1. Who do you want them to be able to explain it to? You could have an airtight argument against the Modernist and he still would not care. It doesn’t matter how we justify a commitment to marriage, we’re still bigots.

            I think what’s critical is making sure Christian children understand just what state Christendom is in. Since the 1700s, the Christian Occident has been under a brutal occupation by anti-Christian forces, some of whom even dare call themselves Christians. There is no reasoning or convincing these people. They are not the Romans or Greeks, they are something of a different breed, a people who have jettisoned all aspects of the spiritual life.

            Our goal should not be to win the debate. The opponent isn’t interested in having a debate. He’s interested in imposing his will. The reason we believe sex before marriage is wrong, paramount above all else, is because our Creator has told us this is so. ‘Secular’ arguments can bolster this, but if you have to resort to them then you’re likely talking to someone who isn’t worth the time.

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  3. I think this confirms so much Romans 1’s teaching about suppression of the Truth and the relationship with our depravity with suppressing spiritual/moral truths

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  4. I agree that using secular arguments will reach far more people than Christian ones alone, even if you are of faith. Non-believers, especially those who walked away from Christianity, often feel alienated by religious based arguments to change our society even if the detriments are valid. They feel that using only faith-based reasoning is arbitrary, i.e. “it’s wrong only becuase God said so…” and overly moralistic or doesn’t apply to non-adherents. Even though it is unfair to dismiss religious group’s reasoning solely based on them being religious, there are many people who have had very negative experiences with overly moralistic and judgmental religious family and friends, and will interpret even reasoned criticisms as berating. Showing that these arguments have more beef aside from religious reasoning for others of a non-religious worldview will open the minds of more people. There is plenty of secular evidence for the detriments of destroying the family unit, promiscuous sex, and radical liberal censorship! Keep putting it out there :)
    https://aladyofreason.wordpress.com/

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