It is widely recognized that we Christians in the US (at least in the coastal regions & big cities) live in a post-Christian world. We live in a world where Christianity is no longer the central institution of society, we live in a world where rival ideologies abound. In such a world Christians are going to be drawn into two opposite but equally dangerous postures: withdrawal and assimilation.
We Christians will be tempted to withdraw into our own religious “ghettos” and completely privatize our faith , or our faith will begin to look a lot like the way of the world – living, acting, and thinking in ways that mirror culture around us.
Where we are at in the history of the church – this post-Christian era – we would do well to learn from our brothers and sisters who have lived in exile, namely our brothers and sisters in the prophetic books.
In A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story Michael Goheen explains how Daniel and his friends provide an excellent example of how to navigate the fine line between retreat and assimilation while living in exile:
The book of Daniel offers an example of what this might look like in practice. Daniel and his friends are pressed into civil service of the Babylonian empire. They are able to carry out their tasks in public life precisely because they remain rooted in a different story. Consequently they remember their identity, remember which community they belong to, and remember which God they serve. Daniel and his companions are “bilingual”, knowing the speech of the empire and being willing to use it, but never forgetting the cadences of their mother tongue. As they struggle to be faithful at the crossroads between biblical story and the immensely powerful story of the empire, committed to the Lord yet serving the Shalom of an arrogant world kingdom, their lives consisted of “endless engotionatoin” of when to acquiese and when to resist. How does one remain faithful in the midst of a pagan world? (65)
How do we remain faithful in an increasingly non-Christian world? That is the question that we are faced with living in post-Christian America. That is the question that many college students will have to ask themselves as they return to their schools in just a few weeks. That is the question that the Church will have to ask itself in the coming years as people become more and more hostile towards orthodox Christianity. Michael Goheen gives a great answer (actually Daniel does…):
- Remember your identity
- Remember which community you belong to
- Remember which God you serve
And I would add my own point:
Remember the story you live in…