Last night we got to witness The Red Wave That Never Happened. Like you’d expect, most of the attention was on the failure of candidates in particular elections, but under the surface was something a bit more consequential.
“Culture is religion externalized” as Henry van Til put it. It may seem self-evident, and it’s confirmed by history. As Christianity spread around the world, it converted civilizations in fundamental ways. The Romans ended their blood sports and child murder. The pagans ended their tree worship and child murder. The Norsemen ended their raiding, pillaging, and child murder. The Aztecs ended their aggressive conquest and child murder. Catch the theme?
The Great Commission makes disciples of all nations and teaches them to obey all that Christ commanded. We convert large numbers of people. And since culture is religion externalized, we see corresponding cultural changes. Cultures still remain distinct – oddly far more diverse than Globo Homo can claim even with its false virtue of “diversity” – but they become Christian versions of their old forms. In some cases that means dropping practices altogether, as in child sacrifice. In other cases it means no change at all, as in growing potatoes. In most cases, you have something in between, as in dress becoming more modest but still recognizable.
What does all that have to do with the election on Tuesday?
In red counties across the country, including counties with many churches and large numbers of Christians, there’s a strong leftist undercurrent. These people voted yesterday in support of everything from unrestricted child murder to the utter destruction of parental rights. This group of people to the left of Stalin is overwhelmingly young.
We get something interesting when we add all of these things together.
If the Great Commission is successful, it will change the religion of a people.
Culture is religion externalized.
Therefore, if the Great Commission is successful, it will change the culture of a people.
Politics reflects culture.
Therefore, if the Great Commission is successful, it will change how people vote.
What do we see? We see that the Great Commission has either not been begun in many places, or it is being done with all the ineffectual power of a televangelist begging for money. Minds are not being changed, men and women are not repenting, and children are not being trained to obey Christ.
It seems absurd to think Christians wouldn’t be obeying the mission Christ gave, and in my experience that isn’t what happens. Instead, Christians find ways to make this mission about reaching a specific kind of person. They’ll travel around the world to talk to people in remote villages, and they’ll travel across their cities or their countries to talk to people totally outside their everyday life, but they want nothing to do with the far more complex situation in their own neighborhood.
The New Testament was written while virtually the whole world was unreached, and it is to the New Testament – to the exclusion of the rest of church history – that is appealed to in making the case that we should reach out to those we have no natural relationship with. Don’t misunderstand: some Christians are certainly called by God to do this. But most probably aren’t, and they have the far less glamorous, but far more difficult task of actually living next door to their mission field. When faced with the choice between exciting and hard, it’s not surprising which is preferable.
The fact is, though, we are failing in our responsibilities. For all the pietism we have, we are not very pious (dutiful). We have an obligation to raise our children and to bring the places we live into submission to Christ, but we’d rather go anywhere else and do that. This election has shown just how deep that failure to attend the harvest next door has gotten.