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CULTURALLY INCORRECTHow Clashing Worldviews Affect Your Future
By ROD PARSLEY
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Rod Parsley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSURVEYING THE BATTLEFIELD
Surveys may not be glamorous, but they are necessary to determine where we are and where we need to go. In this chapter I will point out that something is going deeply and dangerously wrong in our nation. But I suspect you already knew that.
If you have a television, Internet access, or simply a functioning set of eyes and ears, you are acutely aware that our culture is dancing on a slippery slope of amoral madness-blindfolded. You have watched the entertainment industry relentlessly push and extend the boundaries of decency, knowing that outrageousness is the surest road to wealth and fame today.
You have seen wrong upheld as right. You have seen right denounced as intolerance. You have watched efforts to redefine the terms marriage and family into meaninglessness meet with increasing success. And you have seen an all-out effort to push faith to the outer fringes of our national life.
You know something is very wrong. But before we go further it's important that you fully comprehend where we stand. You need to know what is at stake. It is vital that you know the national price we will pay if you and I sit idly by and do nothing. Yet I also want you to see that there is real cause to be hopeful. I want you to know thereare some clear pathways back to sanity and wholeness before us.
In fact, our current situation reminds me of the opening lines of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities-"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ... it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness."
On the one hand, a huge majority of Americans today claim to believe in God-nearly 90 percent! And a full 40 percent profess beliefs that indicate they are born-again children of God. And yet precious few of those Christians actually live lives that are markedly different from those who do not claim the name of Christ. It's not the atheist shaking his fist toward the heavens that is a threat to Christianity; but far more dangerous is the so-called Christian, who despite his outward appearance, is a verifiable stranger to the character of the Christ he claims to serve.
When you observe the behaviors, values, and dysfunctions of the average "Christian" family, you don't come away with a sense that these are people who believe there is anything beyond this present life or that one day we will all stand before a Judge who will weigh our thoughts and deeds.
Today, Christians can be found in the highest levels of government, at the helms of Fortune 500 companies, and increasingly, even among the ranks of Hollywood actors, writers, and producers. At the same time, we are witnessing an all-out campaign to de-legitimize and stigmatize Christian belief and even criminalize the proclamation of biblical truth. Indeed, we are not many steps away from having the public reading of certain Scriptures declared a "hate crime."
A Swedish pastor was sentenced to one month in prison for reading Scriptures regarding homosexuality, although his conviction was later overturned by the Swedish Supreme Court. Canada has passed hate crime legislation which loosely defines what constitutes hate speech, leaving it open for interpretation by the courts. More than a few observers say the effect of this legislation will be to inhibit any public discourse, such as preaching, that may be regarded as unfavorable to homosexuals or other protected groups. California passed a similar law, called the Omnibus Hate Crimes Act of 2004.
Through television, gospel preaching and teaching are more widely available than at any time in our history. Yet at the same time television programming is becoming increasingly vile, violent, and valueless. Witness the fact that some of the most celebrated shows on television have been HBO offerings like The Sopranos or Sex and the City, network hits like Desperate Housewives, and syndicated perennials like The Jerry Springer Show.
A random, five-minute sampling of The Sopranos, for example, will expose you to more profanity than a typical sailor hears in a day. The steady drumbeat of "f" words that forms the soundtrack for the program is laid over images of graphic violence and sex.
On those too-rare occasions when the entertainment industry provides something wholesome and family-friendly, it tends to be a huge success. There is a tremendous, unsatisfied hunger in our nation for entertainment that is clean and uplifting. The recent successes of The Chronicles of Narnia in theaters, and television programs like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition are evidence of this demand. In fact, a study by the Christian Film and Television Commission showed that seven of the top ten box offices successes of 2005 contained no sexual content. The commission also reported that family-friendly films as a group consistently do best at the box office.
Meanwhile, Howard Stern and ten thousand imitators grow spectacularly wealthy feeding America's appetite for the seedy and seamy.
Stern is a fifty-something-year-old man who has built a wildly successful radio career out of talking like a sex-obsessed thirteen-year-old boy. After repeatedly being fined by the Federal Communications Commission for violating decency standards, Stern recently made the jump to satellite radio. Why? Because it is unregulated-giving him the freedom to be as vile and perverse as he wishes. In making the move, Stern claimed he was striking a blow for free speech. He apparently was also striking a blow for free enterprise. His deal with Sirius satellite radio will pay him $500 million over five years.
Yes, Jesus-honoring self-help books like The Purpose-Driven Life and Your Best Life Now are featured on the New York Times best-seller lists for months at a time. But at the very same time, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code-a novel that claims to be based upon "facts" and suggests that Jesus of Nazareth survived the cross and fathered a child by Mary Magdalene-has become one of the greatest fiction success stories of the new millennium.
OUR "BATTLE OF THE BULGE"
Clearly, we are standing at a decisive moment. It is a moment very much like the Battle of the Bulge I referenced at the opening of this section. Allow me to remind you of the context of that pivotal chapter in history. (And for heaven's sake, don't check out on me here just because I'm about to review a little history. This is exciting stuff! They've made movies out of this!) First, some background.
Beginning with the invasion of Poland in 1939, Nazi Germany had marched unchecked through most of the continent of Europe. By 1941, the Axis armies of Germany, Austria, and Italy had overrun Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and France. Their only setback had come at the hands of Churchill's tenacious Britain when Hitler's ferocious bombing campaign of England failed to adequately soften the nation's defenses and infrastructure enough to allow an invasion of the British Isles.
Nevertheless, Hitler and his Axis allies seemed well on their way to achieving the world domination for which they believed they were destined.
Then, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, finally brought the United States into the war. Gradually, and at tremendous cost, the tide began to turn. The forward momentum of the Axis powers was stopped.
But the Allies still needed to take back the territory lost on the continent of Europe. Thus, in 1944, American and British forces successfully invaded Italy at Anzio. It was followed five months later by the D-Day invasion at the beaches of Normandy, France. This invasion was depicted with horrifying accuracy by Steven Spielberg in his film Saving Private Ryan.
Using the hard-won beachhead established at Normandy, the Allies began the slow, bloody work of pushing the Axis powers out of France -one village and farm at a time. By August 25, 1944, Paris was liberated. By December, the Allies were in position to invade Germany herself. Thus, for the very first time in the long war, German armies faced the real prospect of having to fight to defend their own homeland.
This brings us to that ferocious German counteroffensive I described at the opening of this section and why, in my opinion, it mirrors the current phase of the "culture wars."
For most of the last century, the forces of secularism and humanism enjoyed victory after victory. One by one, the primary institutions of our society fell to these philosophies.
Take the arts, for example. In the 1800s you had the great American painters of the Hudson River School creating majestic landscapes that they very consciously saw as reflections of God's glory manifest in His creation. Just a few decades later, we find Jackson Pollock randomly slinging paint at a large canvas and being celebrated as a genius. As we'll see in a later chapter, this steady degrading of art from meticulous and beautiful to random and chaotic was a direct outgrowth of the culture's embrace of Darwin's new evolutionary gospel of random chance.
We also lost the universities. Many of the most prestigious universities in America were founded by Christian men as distinctly Christian institutions. Harvard was founded in 1636 so the Puritans of the Massachusetts colony could train their own preachers and not have to depend on Oxford and Cambridge in England. Princeton was established by the "New Light" Presbyterians and was originally intended to train Presbyterian ministers. Ten Congregationalist ministers pooled their personal book collections to form Yale University's first library. Most of the other Ivy League schools were likewise founded by Christian people with sacred aims.
How is it, then, that today, the massive majority of our institutions of higher learning are not only blatantly humanist and atheist in their orientation, but they are fiercely intolerant of the ideas that energized their founders?
Finally, the government itself-particularly the judicial branch of government-became dominated by those who reject the truth of the Bible and much of the Judeo-Christian framework upon which our nation had been founded and had flourished. As I pointed out in my earlier book, Silent No More, the last few decades of the twentieth century brought us a series of disastrous U.S. Supreme Court rulings that turned the Constitution's "freedom of religion" provision on its head:
So now we live in a society in which atheists file lawsuits to have "In God We Trust" erased from our money, in which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenges almost every expression of our Christian heritage, and in which "faith-based initiatives"-of a kind our Founding Fathers enacted themselves-are considered by some legal minds to be a violation of the law. Simply put, we are watching the banishment of our heritage.
At the same time, the great mainline denominations that had played such a key role in the early greatness of our nation began to abandon their biblical roots and become more theologically-and as a direct result, more politically-liberal. They began a progressive embrace of much of the humanist agenda and thought. And as they did, they began a steady slide into irrelevance and extinction.
In the twenty-five-year period between 1965 and 1990, America's historic Protestant churches lost from one-fifth to one-third of their members. As writers for the scholarly journal First Things noted back in the 1990s:
America's so-called mainline Protestant churches aren't what they used to be. For generations on end, the Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and kindred denominations reported net annual membership gains. But in the early 1960s their growth slowed down, and after the middle of the decade they had begun to lose members. With very few exceptions, the decline has continued to this date.
Throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, traditional Christianity seemed to be in full retreat. So much so, that many of the proponents of the more "enlightened" ideologies began to foresee a glorious day in which America would be freed from the last vestiges of this primitive and restrictive belief system.
For example, by 1973 Gloria Steinem felt optimistic enough to write, "By the year 2000 we will, I hope, raise our children to believe in human potential, not God." That same year, many of the nation's political, academic, and cultural elites signed a document called the Humanist Manifesto II. Among its numerous confident declarations was, "No deity will save us, we must save ourselves. Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful." That was also the year in which comedian George Carlin would get big laughs by saying, "I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood."
But as the apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 5:20, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the emergence of the Jesus Movement and a remarkable wave of charismatic renewal in many churches. While many of the older mainline denominations continued their slide into obscurity, churches that remained faithful to the message and authority of the Bible-the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptists to name two-thrived. At the same time, nondenominational churches, meetings, and gatherings began springing up by the thousands all over America, drawing millions as they proclaimed (and demonstrated) the ongoing relevance of God's Word for wholeness, fulfillment, and successful living.
One of my fondest memories from this period was a national youth event I attended at Houston's Astrodome, where I was one of tens of thousands of young people from all across the country who came by car, bus, train, and plane to participate in worship, teaching, and evangelism for several days. I remember staying in an unfinished apartment complex, sleeping on the floor, eating cereal out of an economy box, learning The Four Spiritual Laws, sharing my faith door to door, celebrating with others who loved Jesus as much as me, and generally having the time of my life.
Then, in 1980, Ronald Reagan was sent to the White House. From the standpoint of the cultural Left, his election was unthinkable and appalling. Reagan was the antithesis of everything they believed and stood for. But in 1980 they had every reason to believe Reagan was just an anomaly-a temporary, nostalgic, God-and-country detour on America's steady march to humanist utopia. But that belief was wrong. From my point of view, Ronald Reagan restored some things in America that were becoming endangered-hope, for one thing; along with a sense of national pride and patriotism, and a determination to overcome the challenges of the age and to restore faith in a nation that desperately needed renewal.
America wasn't ready to follow Europe's example and go quietly into a post-Christian night. Well underneath the radar of the cultural elites, a movement toward faith and values, not away from them, was well underway.
So just as the Axis armies had seen the Allies reverse many of the territorial gains they had made so quickly, so have the forces of secularism and humanism seen their monopolistic hold on the culture slipping away.
This has produced the fierce "push back" we are now witnessing in this struggle for the soul of our nation.
The close and bitterly contested election of George W. Bush in 2000 seemed to trigger something ferocious and desperate among America's ruling cultural elite. A viciousness that emerged only occasionally in the Reagan years became standard operating procedure almost overnight. This was more than just the usual hurly-burly of politics. There was clearly a spiritual element to this hatred. You'll recall that during the presidential primaries, George W. Bush created quite a stir when he was asked during a debate which historical figure had the greatest impact on him. His now-famous answer was: "Jesus Christ, because He changed my heart."
I can tell you from experience that He will change yours, too! That's what He does-that's why He came; born in a barn because that's where a lamb ought to be born ... this I know to be true. God changes lives-He changed mine at eight years of age in a cinder block building with wooden pews and 40 watt light bulbs-because we couldn't afford 100 watt bulbs. The forgiveness of God washed me as clean inside as my mother's homemade lye soap did on the outside.
Why was George W. Bush's statement different than, say, Reagan's frequent references to God? Because the dominant leftist culture assumed Ronald Reagan only pretended to be a Christian to dupe the backward, religious rubes in "flyover country"-their derisive term for the heartland of America lying between the two "progressive and enlightened" coasts. But from their perspective, George W. Bush was one of the religious rubes from flyover country. And it was more than they could bear.
Ambiguously talking about "God" was one thing. Openly and unashamedly using the J word was something else entirely.
Of course, as many of the personal letters and papers that have come to light since his death have shown, Ronald Reagan was, indeed, a deeply spiritual man who had a real relationship with Christ and a firm grasp of the biblical view of man, God, and history. The letters of the man whom Lyndon Johnson's former secretary of defense, Clark Clifford, sneeringly described as "an amiable dunce" actually reveal an impressive command of sophisticated arguments by thinkers such as John Locke and C. S. Lewis.
But again, the secularists thought Reagan's frequent references to faith were all theatrics. "After all, hadn't he been an actor for all those years?" No, it was President Bush's unmistakable, unapologetic faith that really sent the cultural elites over the edge. And thus, in early 2001, once the bitterly contested election results were finally decided, the cultural counterattack started in earnest and our "battle of the bulge" began. That counterattack was swift, fierce, and multipronged. Within weeks of the election, MTV launched a despicable comedy series called That's My Bush! In it, a character who was clearly meant to represent President Bush was portrayed as a stupid, hard-drinking, drug-taking, southern Christian hypocrite.
Immediately, stand-up comics on late night television began mocking the president's faith and the spiritual motivations of many who supported him. Dozens of books designed to validate and reinforce the biased assumptions of the Bush-haters were rushed into print.
Liberal columnist Molly Ivins, who, because of her Texas roots, was a seasoned Bush-hater before Bush-hating was fashionable, got in early with Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, and it was followed by dozens of others. On the whole, these books were not created to persuade the undecided or enlighten the uninformed. They were raw red meat for those who had already made up their minds. They were fuel on a fire that was already burning hot and wild.
Then there was MoveOn.org-a Web-based, left-wing, grassroots fund-raising machine formed during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent investigation by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. The name of the organization came from their contention that the country and Congress should stop being occupied by whether or not President Clinton lied under oath about this or that-and should just "move on." At that time, the movement's founders claimed they were concerned about the level of "partisan warfare in Washington." But with the election of George W. Bush, the organization found a new purpose. It quickly became a powerful force for ratcheting up the partisan warfare to the highest possible level.
Excerpted from CULTURALLY INCORRECT by ROD PARSLEY Copyright © 2007 by Rod Parsley. Excerpted by permission.
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