American education seems to be a lot like American health care: we spend more per-capita (patient/pupil) than do most countries and get less for the money than do most countries. 581 more words
[Note: The title above is for Stephen McAlpine's article linked at the bottom or found directly here. The comments that follow are my own.] I remember thinking, back when I first started working professionally in the field of apologetics, that something wasn't quite right with all the talk about escaping the sacred/secular dichotomy and seeing all as sacred. This went hand-in-hand with the talk about transforming culture. I never was clear about how that was to be done. The idea seemed to be that if we talked about it all being sacred, and if we performed our cultural tasks with excellence, somehow culture would be changed for the better. Now, I know that the first concern behind this was that seeing all as sacred would lead Christians to live more godly lives. But there was an external, cultural application as well. The idea of changing hearts before changing lives that I heard from pulpits and evangelists wasn't prominent in the culture-transforming talk. The only ones of Niebuhr's categories that were live options for conservative evangelicals were Christ against culture and Christ transforming culture. We couldn't go with the separatistic fundies on the former, so the latter it was. What I was witnessing in the church, however, was that, far from bringing everything up to the level of the sacred, the sacred was being brought down to the level of the secular, and evangelicals were looking a lot like their non-Christian neighbors. We had to be hip and cool. I haven't read McKnight's book, but I agree with the observation (quoting McAlpine) that "Jesus did not come to make the world a better place, but to redeem people out of it, and that trying to make the world a better place is in fact, 'a species of worldliness.'” Trying to be "in the world but not of it" is an interesting idea, but the results depend upon how far into the world one goes. Rather than being so heavenly minded that we're no worldly good, we could be—and in many cases are—so earthly minded that we're no heavenly good. There are no simple rules for how to engage a post-Christian culture in the Bible. Christianity isn't just a competing religion now, one in a sea of many. It now is regarded more as "been there, done that," and not with a sense of nostalgia. Also, many of us are still smarting from having our quasi-Christian culture taken away from us, from losing, if not a place of power, at least a place of some respect. America was a comfortable place for Christians (speaking as a Baby Boomer), but now it isn't, and we'd to back things up. But lacking a friendly response today, taking our ball and going home isn't an option. We really shouldn't retreat to the fundamentalist trenches since we can't even reach individuals well from a hiding place, much less influence culture. We do have to "Come out! Come out, wherever [we] are!" and be witnesses for Jesus live and in person. Maybe that's a key point or at least a place to start. Our job isn't to change our culture (which might only be possible in the very long run after hearts are changed) but to be living and speaking witnesses for Jesus. Which means we have to leave the constantly shifting sands of "coolness" behind. If Builders and Baby Boomers made no headway by complaining that this country is ours and we want it back, generations following will make none by pointing out that we are as hip as the next guy. Francis Spufford, in his book Unapologetic, thinks the next generation of Christians will have to deal more with being thought weird than being considered evil, the basic charge of the New Atheists. I think McAlpine is correct, however. If Christians are living like Christians, other-than-Christians can hardly be neutral in their responses, especially if we’re seen as encroaching upon their territory. Paul said that "all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12). We may have had a bye on that to some degree in the West, but I think that promise will have more and more relevance in the coming years. Read this article. Christians must make this a topic of serious consideration.