An Alternative to Defensiveness in Our Day

This is worth our real consideration:

"It is hard to generalize about a whole nation as large and complex as our own, but it might not be far wrong to say that the characteristic flesh of America is compounded of covetousness, gluttony, egocentric libertarianism, and pride, all of which have been selectively bred into our culture because of the types of sinful people we have attracted and the behavior which our political and economic system has stressed and rewarded. It is true that all of these vices are simply distortions of virtues which are part of the American ideal (ambition, enterprise, freedom, self-respect). But our immediate tendency to defend ourselves when accused of these defects is usually a sign of that unconcious subjection to universal sin which corporate flesh involves. The Christian cultures of other nations, especially those of third-world Evangelical churches, can easily detect the fact that most American Christians have their lives organized around the kingdom of business success and not the kingdom of God.

Why has American revivalism failed to breed these patterns out of American churchmembers? Largely because the ideals of the two kingdoms have been subtly fused together in a gradual process of compromise, mutual support and enculturation which results in an uneasy symbiosis. The question is often asked why the Evangelical religion of the Bible Belt in southern America failed to eradicate racism despite its relatively pervasive influence on southern life. The implication is drawn that "being born again" in an evangelistic meeting really changes very little in the lives of converts, and sometimes it is even said that racist Christians cannot be regenerate. Of course this is nonsense, unless we are prepared to pronounce as unregenerate every Christian who is imperfectly sanctified. But many areas of sin are virtually invisible within particular cultures. As Reinhold Niebuhr has shown, we are all guilty of corporate sin in ways which are almost too numerous to chart.

Once this is recognized, however, it is the responsibility of Christians (and especially Evangelicals) to turn the spotlight of the Word of God on the corporate flesh of their region and call for repentance among Christians who should become the vangaurd of cultural transformation. The same spotlight should be directed at non-Christians in the work of evangelism; the "invisible sins" of a society should be presented as material for repentance along with those which are more obvious to the natural conscience. If this kind of assault could made by Christian leaders on the patterns of flesh which up to now have been accepted simply as normal modes of behavior, how much blocked energy could be released within Western Christianity!" (Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p. 253-254.)

Timely. Wise. Probing. Thought-provoking. Worth prayerful consideration and responsiveness.

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