The church’s place in American society is changing. A recent AP article declared that the church’s influence in the once Christian-dominated Bible Belt has greatly eroded in recent years. But I take some issue with this declaration.
The metric for the church’s influence was largely based on blue laws: you know, the laws that keep people from buying alcohol (especially on Sunday). But was that influence really Christian? Baptist, perhaps. Fundamentalist, for sure. But Christian? The Bible never says it’s a sin to sell or drink alcohol. Get drunk, sure. But Jesus drank. His first miracle was turning water into wine. Not grape juice. Not sweet tea. Wine. So the erosion of blue laws might actually be a good thing. I like what this guy, quoted in the AP article, had to say:
Fuller, the religion professor, said the loss of influence isn’t all bad for Southern churches. The idea of churches controlling Southern society is giving way to individuals searching for a deeper faith, he said.
“The fact that you didn’t drink, cuss or chew or go with girls who do, didn’t dance, didn’t do this or that, was far more a litmus test of one’s faith and devotion to Christ in a previous day and in many instances in a way that, I think, produced a superficial sort of religion in many respects,” he said. “I think there has been some growth and development in outlook.”
Exactly. Instead of focusing on superficial marks of religious lip service, many modern churches are far more interested in marks of true spiritual health: you know, helping orphans and widows and remaining unstained by the world. That’s not to say that churches aren’t still interested in politics. If the modern church is faithful in the little things—discipleship, community, charity, piety—that will have an impact on the heart of this culture. And once the heart of this culture shifts, everything else will shift with it. Including politics.