What Now? Faithful Living in Challenging Times - page 4

 

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WHAT NOW? Faithful Living in Challenging Times
by Michael Cromartie, Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center

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Put simply: Christians in today’s society are no longer the moral majority but clearly are now a moral minority. So one of the important questions we must ask ourselves is this: what must we as Christians do in order to live faithfully as a minority in a culture in which we were once considered the majority?

As for me, I have respect for Rod Dreher, and I concur with his plea that we need to form strong Christian communities rooted in deep discipleship. But I feel this need not be an either/or proposition. My concern is that those who follow the Benedict Option and create sealed-off Christian communities may well find themselves sealed off from having any influence in the worlds of the media, the arts, science, and literature and, yes, even politics—in other words, sealed off from crucial areas shaped by meaningful public influence and conversation. There is certainly room for lament when looking at the condition of the modern world, but in this scenario the ability of the larger church to offer its prophetic voice to the culture would continue to be weakened.

I believe the best guide for rethinking our relationship to society and culture in the challenging contemporary culture is St. Augustine. Indeed, I want to argue that what we need is an “Augustinian sensibility” if we are to rightly discern what we as Christians, should and should not, aspire to do in our private and public witness. Perhaps I should call this the “Augustinian Option.” Augustine offers us insights into the possibilities but also the limits of our current human condition.

In his classic book, The City of God, Augustine makes a very radical claim: he says the “City of Man,” meaning this “world and this culture” is always at odds with the City of God. Because we presently live between these two cities, we can never really claim to have ever “won the culture.” That understanding—that commitment to the future City of God—should always be operating in the back of our minds as we seek to be faithful citizens in this broken world, doing the best we can with the broken instruments with which we work. This does not mean we cease to love and care for this earthly city and for the welfare of our fellow image-bearers. But I am suggesting that this Augustinian view, this “Augustinian sensibility,” will give us a more realistic approach to the challenges we face in our culture, in our various vocations and in our callings. This Augustinian sensibility will keep us realistic about our goals and our expectations and will keep us from having the mentality of an embattled minority—a pattern that has been prevalent among some of our fellow brothers and sisters in the recent past.

So, what are we to be doing now?

Listen to these words from Jeremiah 29:4–7 (ESV):

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…. Take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

 

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