Claiming that religion can have no part in public discourse, in government, in law, etc., is not a neutral stance regarding religion. It is an overtly hostile and antithetical stance whatever its claims about tolerance; it is hostile to God and therefore to most of what is good, true, and just in the world.
The Blessings of Cultural Christianity?
I am the beneficiary of cultural Christianity. I didn’t grow up in a genuinely Christian home, though I did attend (very) liberal United Methodist churches beginning in elementary school. These churches did not believe the Bible was true, did not believe in the supernatural events of Scripture, nor the moral teaching of God’s word.
And yet Christianity was the very air I breathed all through my childhood and teenage years. I spent most of my childhood in a small town in northern Oklahoma. In the 1980s the influence of Christianity was all pervasive in such a place. I still remember the assembly at my local public elementary school in which the principal, with no hesitation at all, nor fear that his words would endanger his position, stated unequivocally that our country was under God’s judgment. Christian culture was so pervasive that no one batted an eye.
When I moved to West Texas in the early 1990s I simply moved from one culturally Christian milieu to another. While the liberal Methodist church I attended there continued to teach the same tepid moralism devoid of the saving work of Christ, I was largely uninfluenced by it. Having spent my whole life in strongly culturally Christian places the thought never even crossed my mind that the Bible could be anything other than 100% true. I had never really even read the Bible. And yet the influence of the culture in which I lived was such that despite the Methodists’ best efforts I never for a second doubted that the Bible was true.
I wasn’t converted until my freshman year in college in the late 1990s, around the time my parents also began to take Christianity seriously. Cultural Christianity paved the way. Having not read the Bible much at all growing up I was shocked when, in a bout of homesickness my freshman year, I picked up my Bible and began reading the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. Imagine my surprise, having only ever known liberal Methodist churches, when I encountered Paul’s words about human sin and rebellion against God:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
…we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin.
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
And then my joy in reading those wonderfully words which follow:
…and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
When I read all of this I simply believe d it. It was in the Bible after all, so I assumed it had to be true.
Had I not grown up in the culturally Christian world I did this would not have happened. Could God have saved me anyway? Of course. But does that make the blessing of having grown up in the world I did any less real? Would the same thing have happened, even been possible, if I had grown up as a Muslim in a Muslim nation? Or in a modern radically secular state in Western Europe? God is sovereign, he saves as he pleases, but I am thankful to this day for the way in which my path was prepared for years prior to my own conversion.