Grade-schoolers wearing cross necklaces, sleep-deprived college students witnessing to their coeds over a carb loaded lunch, and a flip-flop wearing forty something telling her neighbor that she believes marriage is between a man a women are not usual images that Christians associate with extremism. We picture guys with long beards blown themselves up and crazy white dudes driving cars into monuments.
But most Americans are just as likely to associate the first group of images with ‘extremism’ as they are later ones. According to the Barna Group, most Americans label their neighbors who uphold traditional marriage, believe Jesus is the only way to heaven, and who publicly share their faith to be extreme. (p.11, 42). Now while we may not like the term ‘extremist,’ most Christians would agree that America’s culture has shifted away from its Christian heritage. Sixty-five percent of evangelicals feel misunderstood, and sixty percent believe they are already being persecuted for their faith. What happened and why are Christians viewed as extremist?
Seeking to answer these questions and to chart a way forward through Babylon, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons published the book, Good Faith back in 2016. After combing through ridiculous amounts of data, the authors discovered that most Americans view people like you an me who sit in a church-pew most Sundays to be irrelevant and extreme.
The modern stance towards Christendom in some instances is the result of poor education. People simply do not know what the church does for society. Almost half of Americans believe that a majority of charitable work happens outside the church (p.29).
However in many cases the perception that Christianity is dangerous can be traced back to a new religion, the religion of self. Americans today find Christianity extreme because the new moral code declares you to be the source of all truth. Eighty-nine percent of Americans believe people should not criticize other’s life choices (p.58). “And according to that moral code, any competing morality – say, a religion – that seeks to constrain someone’s pursuit of personal fulfilment must itself be constrained” (p.59). Christians are no longer interacting with a secular world. They are interacting with the world of Ireligion.
After showing their readers the current dispositions of our American culture, the authors turn their attention to helping Christians navigate their way through the new culture landscape. They show that Christians can meaningfully engage those who disagree with them by affirming the truth of the Bible.
While the culture believes the Bible is outdated, the book is actually the very thing are culture needs. And if we are willing to humbly step forward and love our neighbors, the gospel can and will still go forward as we tackle issues ranging from homosexuality to racism. And as the authors tackle these various topics, they bring many insightful stats and personal stories that help everyone better understand the Biblical solutions to today’s problems.
In an encouraging note, the authors also promote the local church and expository preaching. Instead of encouraging people to abandon the church to save the gospel, they are encouraging people to dive back into the church so that the gospel can go forward.
If you have a heart to better understand your neighbors, to reach the lost, and to influence the world for Christ, you will want to grab a copy of Good Faith. To date, Good Faith is the best resource for understanding how the world outside our churches thinks. If you have a couple of hours and heart for seeing the gospel expand in the United States, read Good Faith.