World Magazine — Janie B. Cheaney
If I’m supposed to be the light of the world, why do I feel like a dim bulb? If I’m supposed to be the salt of the earth, why do I taste like cream of wheat? Since the 1970s Christians have been deploring the state of the culture and solutions, but the culture keeps getting worse. Does anyone have a clue how salt and light works?
Three models within living memory are the Godly Voters, the Culture Warriors, and the Christian Incubators. The first of those developed in the mid-70s and flowered with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and the election of Ronald Reagan. Reagan was the Christian Conservative’s dream: articulate, winsome, focused. And he wrested America back from the brink of socialism and set us on a steady course for the future?…?not.
The Culture Warriors surged in the 1980s, with organizations like the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and CLEAR-TV. They called for boycotts and protests and better alternatives to the mass-media rot, and their efforts ushered in a new era of good role models and decent, family entertainment?…?ahem.
The Christian Incubators were humming by the early 1990s. Since secular leaders let us down, we would grow our own. The home-schooled generation would arise as social and political leaders, models of stability and virtue. Enough of them would turn the culture around?…?maybe. It’s too early to say, but healthy skepticism is advised.
Some Christians throw up their hands and head for the hills—sometimes literally. Others retreat into a Jesus & Me religion, letting the world go its merry way to hell. But that salt-and-light thing still makes us uneasy. Maybe Jesus should have told us how?
Perhaps we should stop confusing a Christian lifestyle with the Christian life. When we look back nostalgically at the 1950s, or celebrate the Greatest Generation, or laud our American Christian heritage, we overlook one critical distinction: The world has sometimes been friendly with the church. But the world has always, in every generation, been deeply hostile to Christ. His call to self-denial is never in fashion; His shameless sacrifice for people who didn’t ask for it is never good taste.