*Editor’s Note: This articles is excerpted is part of an unused chapter from the forthcoming book, The Battle For Main Street: Reclaiming America’s Heritage available for pre-sale.
Why should I care about the culture?
Lance Wallnau, a popular evangelical business consultant and cultural commentator, helped to kick off the national conversation about Christianity in our cultural context. He called his research Kingdom and Calling; the 7 Mountain Summit. The concept of 7 cultural mountains has been picked up by others, including yours truly.
In a recent article Lance wrote, “We’ve been losing the culture war decisively for the last decade, largely because we never knew how it was fought in the first place. Christians represent a sufficient number in America to impact the nation. Why do we fail?
I’ve researched this topic for 20 years and keep coming back to a conclusion my colleagues and I don’t like—namely, culture isn’t shaped the way we thought. We assumed culture is a reflection of the values of the majority of the people. If you can turn the majority, you can tip the culture—or so we thought. The truth is, a relative few shape the culture, a remnant of elites in proximity to power. This is why you can’t evangelize a nation into transformation.
Christians already outnumber other groups but keep losing influence. To put it in Christian terms, a remnant of gatekeepers who sit at the culture-shaping gates of influence are making the greatest impact. This powerful elite is made up of dense, overlapping networks located and largely concentrated in the coastal cities and distributed among the peak institutions of government, law, academia, journalism, banking and entertainment—institutions that touch us all. It’s a revolutionary distinction. Revival ignites from the bottom up, but cultural reformation solidifies from the top down. You must occupy the gates!
Christians by and large are not concentrated in these heights. This explains why a remnant in the progressive left has succeeded so radically since President Obama came to power, true to Jesus’ saying: “For the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8). Put simply, evangelicals and charismatics are a large but disjointed group. We don’t work together and we don’t occupy key “gates” in the high places of opinion shaping.”
The ideas you just read are so concise and elegant. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to say just that my entire career as a thinker and writer. It has haunted me, teasingly eluding me, until now, like the midnight apparition ghost of Jacob Marley. It is all suddenly so clear. No matter how good our pastors are. No matter how compelling is our religious programming content. No matter how well produced our music, concerts, magazines, and youth conferences, if we do not participate in the broader cultural discourse we will fail as an evangelical people.
If we do not start creating culture, we will lose. To be ignored is worse than to be disagreed with. The message of Jesus Christ will stay within our ranks, like a ping pong ball being volleyed back and forth. And, America, along with the rest of the world, will continue to descend into moral and cultural chaos.
Maybe you are saying to yourself, “But, we elected Donald Trump! Surely that must be a sign that the tide is changing in the culture wars. Right?” There is no doubt that a lot of good can be accomplished with the right man in the White House. Many evangelical superstars (Paula White, Pastor Robert Jeffress, Eric Metaxas) threw their support behind Mr. Trump, hoping to usher into power a man who would be sympathetic to proponents of religious liberties. According to Time Magazine, evangelicals made up 26% of the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, and 80% of those votes went to Donald J. Trump.
What a testament to what can be accomplished when Christians work together! But the work is not complete. Indeed, it has only just begun. We have had sympathetic presidents before, some better and some worse on religious liberties issues. Electing Trump is only the first salvo in a series of harrowing skirmishes to come. It isn’t about who is president, it is more about who is on TV. It is about who is telling the stories to our kids, and what values those stories reinforce.
The devil wants us to let our guards down, and rest on our laurels. I am confident that if we continue to exert our God given authority as leaders of this nation, applying godly pressure on elected officials, media outlets, and (possibly most important of all) culture shapers, then we can anchor this nation to the judeo-christian tradition for generations to come.
What’s at stake?
Losing the culture war means losing the soul of America. More than that, it means losing the ability to pass on to your children the America you grew up in. Try to think back to your childhood. It was pretty great, right? Times were simpler, and people were less fearful of one another. The America you grew up in is the legacy your parents and grandparents passed down to you.
Wasn’t it grand? Didn’t you feel a great swell of pride saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each school day? Wasn’t it meaningful to take your cap off, put it over your heart and sing the Star Spangled Banner before each baseball game? If you are anything like me, you are mighty grateful. When I say the Pledge or sing the Anthem, in my heart I am thanking God I was born in the USA.
Growing up in 1990s America sure was good. This country looks a lot different these days. Gay marriage, trade with Cuba and Iran, open talk of Socialism, and masked violent protesters in the streets of our major cities, are things my parents would have never dreamed of are commonplace. I asked my dad once, did you ever think you would be carrying a GPS device around, letting the government know who you are talking to, and exactly where you are, at all times. And, for the privilege you would pay $300 a month. He said,”Son, if you would have told me that 10 years ago, I would have said you were crazy.”
When my dad was a kid every politician on both sides of the aisle agreed about gay marriage, immigration, terrorism, property rights, and who was allowed to vote. When my dad was a kid a gallon of unleaded gas was $.36, which is $1.52 if you adjust for inflation to match today’s money, or most likely more depending on when you’re reading this. You could get a new car for $16,578 in today’s money, nearly half what you and I pay now. The head of household could support a family of four, on a factory worker’s salary, with no college degree.
But, all was not rosy and bright. Russia was the great Red Bear gobbling up Europe, and China, the Yellow Dragon, was pulling itself out of a 100 year sleep. The baby boom was on the decline, and abortions and divorce were starting to rise. The War on Drugs was in its early infancy, and the fallout of the Cuban Refugee Crisis was landing on the shores of Miami. There were problems, like always, but people respected honest disagreement when it popped up, and mostly identified with the definition of Americanism they had in common.
But, still the 1970s was a good time to be a child, and so were the 90s. The country was still one people, it’s greatest enemies foreign, and you could still get a factory job if you wanted one. America was religious, prosperous, and the future was looking bright. Now, she lay disjointed and in pieces. Did Abraham Lincoln speak true when he said, “and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”?
We’ll be the ones to determine that. Just remember, a country like ours only comes around once every 3,000 years or so. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.