During the 1700’s, Europe and Great Britain were suffering from moral and economic decay. The Great Awakening, led by men like John and Charles Wesley, brought a revival to the whole of society. That awakening spilled over into the American colonies where powerful preachers like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards continued to fan into the flame a spirituality that impacted culture and brought about positive change. One such change was the human rights movement which, in the early 1800’s, fueled the eventual freedom of slaves, brought an end to child slavery, and gave women a rightful place in society. The revivalist movement of the early 1900’s continued these emphases as well as providing people with faith in the midst of two world wars and the Great Depression.
But a major shift has taken place. Secularism has reared its head and demanded that faith take a back seat to humanism – a system of thought that is centered on man’s interests. The defining moment for our country was in 1948 when the Supreme Court used the “Separation of Church and State” argument to outlaw a time for school prayer. In 1962, the Supreme Court again ruled that prayer in school was unconstitutional. Then in 1963, the Warren Court stopped schools from allowing Bible reading in classes. The Supreme Court declared in 1980 that posting the Ten Commandments in a school classroom violated the constitution of The United States.
What has essentially happened is that our culture has determined that the Church has no right to political or social influence. According to those in authority, the only place for Christian faith is within the confines of a religious institution. Christians who attempt to use their convictions to guide their moral and social commitments are assailed as being out-of-touch with the mainstream and are ridiculed for taking stands that are synchronous with historic Judeo-Christian principles.
This should not really surprise us. The earliest Christians found themselves in the same position. Palestine was ruled by Rome. Thanks to Alexander the Great’s philosophy of world rule through cultural saturation, Christ-followers found themselves out-of-step with a society that was anything but spiritual. One example of this is found in the life of the apostle Peter. As Roman persecution of the Christians increased, Peter found himself in the crosshairs of Nero’s aim to exterminate people of faith. In his reflections on this matter, the Apostle Peter wrote how believers live as “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11).
It would appear that from the beginning of time, people of faith have found themselves (for the most part) to be a part of a counterculture – one that had the potential to bring about wholeness, but that stood in opposition to the mainstream of their society. We find ourselves in that same place today. In their book, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, authors Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon state that the church should in all times assert “that God, not nations, rules the world, that the boundaries of God’s kingdom transcend those of Caesar, and that the main political task of the church is the formation of people who see clearly the cost of discipleship and are willing to pay the price.”
If this is indeed the position that we are to take (I believe it is), how then do we take back territory we have surrendered to the forces of evil? How do we take the battle to the Enemy? What are the possibilities that our normal daily lives can have supernatural eternal influence?