If I were Satan (no cracks, please, from my detractors), which of the following strategies would more likely sidetrack followers of "the Enemy" (to use the term for God in C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters")?
Choice 1: seductions to lust, greed and selfishness.
Choice 2: appeals to battle the culture to make it reflect Christian beliefs.
I'm going with Choice 2, because it is showing itself far more effective.
USA Today reported last Tuesday (Sept. 28) that standoffs between church and state are spreading across the country. Some people are upset by the court ruling barring display of the Ten Commandments in an Alabama courthouse. They are erecting, or defending existing, displays of religious documents in their communities. They will either lose their fight in court, or they will lose it in principle, because in order to maintain such displays they will be forced to surround them with "secular" documents or displays to satisfy the judges.
Sociologist Alan Wolfe has discovered the source of the contemporary church's power failure. In a book titled "The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith" (Free Press), Wolfe, a self-described nonbeliever, reaches some sobering conclusions. After traveling the country observing various denominations and religious services, Wolfe writes, "Far from living in a world elsewhere, the faithful in the United States are remarkably like everyone else." C.S. Lewis called this "contented worldliness," which he said is the great enemy of the church.
Wolfe says that religion in the United States "has never existed in practice the way it is supposed to exist in theory" and that in the battle between faith and culture, "American culture has triumphed." It was supposed to happen the other way, but too many people got comfortable with culture because it's easier to give in to the current and be carried along than to swim upstream.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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