Ever since the Obergefell SCOTUS decision, many Christian leaders have been remorsefully reminiscencing about the past. It was a past where Christianity ruled the roost in much of the thinking in the West. Even with unbelievers back then, because of Christianity's influence on society, many unbelievers held to theistic views in general. But something happened on the way to the future and now many Christian leaders are singing the blues for a past gone by.
In 2017, Albert Mohler (click here for a bio) wrote such a blues article for Ligioneer Ministries. In that article, Mohler talks about the secularization of America in terms of how and when it occurred (click here for the article).
In citing Peter Berger, Mohler explains that, unlike the secularization of Europe, the epicenter for the secularization of America was in its universities and it occurred well after the secularization of Europe.
By secularization, Mohler is referring to the change in society when a belief in a deity is no longer the binding moral authority for people in general. The secularization process in Europe took around 150 years and lasted up through WW II, according to Mohler. America itself seemed to have escaped that process for a while, but it is now catching up.
Citing Charles Taylor in a general discussion about the secularization of Western Civilization, the process occurred in stages when there was the impossibility of unbelief in Pre-Enlightenment times to the time where general acceptance of the Christian God became optional as science provided alternative explanations for the world to the current time of the impossibility of belief. Using different names, what Taylor, and Mohler as he echos him, were describing were Pre Modernism, Modernism, and Post Modernism. Pre Modernism was when faith was used as the metanarrative to understanding and describing the world. That was when unbelief was "impossible." The Modern period saw science and reason compete with faith in explaining the world and reality. So faith was possible then but only optional. The current Post Modern time period has rejected the metanarratives of both faith that claims to have exclusive knowledge of the truth and the metanarrative of science and reason. In the end, Post Modernism seems to philosophically be going where no philosophy has gone before. And it has in a sense just as in another sense it hasn't.
So now America seems to be catching up to Europe in unbelief. One of the biggest canaries in the mine used by many religiously conservative Christians to determine the state of Christianity in America is the acceptance of same-sex marriage in society. Mohler is part of that crowd. And he is surprised at the pace of the change as indicated by the failing health of that canary.
Mohler joins the many other religiously conservative Christian leaders in singing the blues about a lost past, a past where Christianity had more influence over society even to the extent of controlling cultural values to various degrees.
There are two questions that one could hope that Mohler et. al. would address but do not generally speaking. The first question is, what did you expect? Now that question isn't asked because of the effects that Modernism and Post Modernism have had on society. Instead that question is in the light of the makeup of society itself. Society consists of believers in the Gospel and unbelievers. That very fact alone should prepare us not to be surprised when our nation rejects our beliefs in God. This is especially true when we are outnumbered. Because we should not be surprised that a collection of people that includes unbelievers will at times not be dominated by our beliefs. In fact, I don't want Christianity to be in the position of dominating anyone, but that is besides the point.
And it matters not that that group of unbelievers in our society included those who adhered to different faiths. Our very own Constitution dictated that faith is optional when it declared that we have a freedom of religion.
Perhaps it is because of a sense of loss that many religiously conservative Christian leaders today for losing their influential position in society that is driving many to be surprised or ask questions. But that should not be and that society consists of many unbelievers should be one reason why many do not believe the basics taught in the Scriptures. But there is another question that is seldom addressed as it should by these same leaders. That question asks us about our own history.
What is rarely mentioned when religiously conservative Christian leaders sing the 'things ain't what they use to be' blues over their lost influence over our nation are the failures of Christians to adequately live up to what the Gospel teaches. To be sure, all of us who take the name of 'Christian' have failed many times to bring the honor to the Gospel which it deserves. And the struggle by past Christians has greatly contributed to the societal shift away from theism that we see today.
Here in America, prominent Christians have promoted white supremacy, practiced, promoted, and defended slavery, promoted and defended Jim Crow, have had a negative view toward science especially in terms of evolution and climate change, have used the law to persecute the LGBT community, have supported American imperialism, and the list could go on. Note what is absent from the list are the public failures to practice biblical sexual morals by some Christian leaders. Here we should note Post Modernism's beef against religions with exclusive truth claims. Such religions have practiced or supported imperialism, colonialism, wars, slavery, and other means of exploitation and domination. Even just some of that was more than what Post Modernism's outcome-based truth system could tolerate.
This second question points to one of the real contributors to the downfall of the influence of Christianity in our society and culture today. The many failures of its followers has contributed greatly to the secularization of society. And despite how obvious that fact is, it is not asked about or addressed in many of writings of those who lament the secularization of our nation. The failure to admit our own failures as being a contributing factor in the secularization of our nation because that failure to admit our faults and sins are damaging the credibility of not just our own witness, but of what we are a witness too.
Religiously conservative Christian leaders must continually address the above two questions regarding our nation's secularization and fall of Christian influence in our society if they want to fully understand what is going on and possibly how to mitigate the current trend.