“Hello, I’m in the Ku Klux Klan.”
What no one ever says today.
This racist organization has been so successfully and rightly stigmatized that anyone boasting of membership would be immediately ostracized and isolated.
But we’re moving rapidly towards the day when “Hello, I’m an evangelical Christian,” will have the same consequences.
This tragic development in our culture has a context though, a back-story that’s been developing for decades, and it’s ignorance of the Bible, even among Christians.
In Muslims and Jews Know Their Sacred Texts: Why Don’t Christians? Roman Catholic journalist and author, Christian Odone, bemoans the widespread ignorance of the book that has done so much to shape our culture and language.
A recent survey found that only one in 20 people could name all ten commandments, and that 62 per cent of respondents did not know the tale of the Prodigal Son.
Odone basically counsels the Church of England to abandon their proposed remedy of inviting adults to enrol in a “Pilgrim” course, a kind of Sunday School for grown-ups, because the only people who’ll come are the elderly who already know their Bibles.
Instead, Odone calls the church to invest in Christian schools by teaching all grades the Bible’s stories and morals, and to fight back against those who want to shut down Christian schools as “divisive,” or dilute the teaching to avoid being “exclusive.”
Without this backbone of biblical knowledge, “Christians will become a community filled with ignorant and therefore insecure men and women. They will feel threatened both by secularists and the followers of other religions.”
Odone contrasts the ignorance of Christians with the Muslims and Jews who do know their Koran and their Torah, thus strengthening their sense of identity. She concludes with this rallying cry:
For too long, Christians have been on automatic pilot: they were the majority, that’s all they needed to know. Well, they have been proved wrong. Their way of thinking and their way of life is now under threat everywhere. In the Middle East and Africa, they face vicious persecution, as we have seen with the recent tragedies in Nairobi and Peshawar. But in the West too, as I argue in my e-book, “No God Zone,” they face discrimination. Laws and social stigma are used against them. It’s time to fight back – by reclaiming our heritage, including above all the Bible.
Although writing in a UK context, most of what Odone says is relevant in the USA too. I disagree with her defeatism about reaching the Moms and Dads of today and focusing instruction and evangelism only on their kids. Let’s continue to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible to reach and transform even the most untaught and unholy. From what I’ve seen, evangelism that bypasses parents has limited and short-term effects. Without parental interest, support, and commitment, child evangelism’s effects last only as long as childhood.
She’s right, though, that the “Pilgrim” course is not the best vehicle for reaching the masses (the name is a marketing disaster for a start – probably designed by an aging hippy bishop), but other “stepping-stone” courses such as Christianity Explored have been very successful in bridging the gap between the church and our secular culture, and communicating the content and message of the Bible in an accessible way.
In addition to widespread biblical illiteracy, I believe that the increasing discrimination that Odone identifies at the end of her article is the greatest barrier to the future spread of Christianity in the West. She’s right, laws and social stigma are being used against us in an unprecedented way. I don’t think many Christians yet realize the extent to which the gay hobby has managed not only to de-stigmatize homosexuality, but also to stigmatize Christianity and Christians in the process.
Via education, politics, judicial decisions, movies, TV sit-coms and chat-shows, the rising generation are being gradually but powerfully persuaded to view evangelical christianity with the same horror that we would rightly associate with joining the Ku Klux Klan.
Which is not dissimilar to the stigma the first Jewish converts faced when turning to Christ as Savior. These were the worst of times, but also the best of times for the Christian church.
May God give us apostolic courage and faith, and above all an outpouring of the Spirit of Pentecost that we may not only spread the truth but stand for it regardless of consequences.