American culture is moving toward a state of equity, increasingly sensitive to personal injuries and supportive of personal freedoms. Within this culture, there is a shrinking minority that, in some sense, identifies with Jesus Christ. Within that group, there is a still smaller minority that wants to impose the ethical teachings of Jesus upon a secular culture.
This is, at least, the standard narrative regarding culture and Christianity.
In this telling of the story, it is culture that sets people free. Christianity is considered a private ritual and tolerated so long as it does not interfere with public affairs.
The success of this narrative is clear. The role of Christianity in America has never been smaller. When the name of Jesus is invoked in public, it does not typically refer to the historical person, but to a vague modern caricature, rather like Santa Claus.
While these changes are widely described as progress, the story has a few problems. In fact, life in America is not going so well.
Rather than an increase in personal freedoms, we see a strange decline. Our speech is no longer free. Censorship and false reporting are common. Our streets are less safe, and our conversations are less kind. Our leaders are less competent and less truthful, asserting new powers that contradict law and reason.
American culture speaks fondly of freedom but grows steadily less free.
This happens because, contrary to the narrative, our culture is not moving away from religion, but merely replacing one religion with another. American culture is an increasingly jealous and coercive ethical system, imposing itself on everyone within reach. What we call cancel culture is the new evangelism, with its gospel of condemnation, its altar call to submission, and its sacrament of human sacrifice. In the new religion, you might choose the winning side, but you will never be free.
America began with the Christian idea that “all men are created equal,” which provided a foundation for human dignity and freedom. We have descended to the assumption that men are not created and, quite possibly, not men.
If Christians exhibit a peculiar resistance to this culture, it is because culture exhibits a peculiar resistance to Christianity. It does not ignore Christ as a discarded myth but reviles him as an imminent threat.
A man who robs banks might be comprehensible as a non-Christian who at least has some fun. Not so, the doctor who spends his day snuffing out the lives of healthy children, or the angry crowds who celebrate this macabre event. Or the historian whose theories require the rewriting of history. Or the man or woman who thinks all 30 trillion cells in their own body must be mistaken.
The hallmark of contemporary American culture is not progress or even fun, but a shoddy mangling of beautiful things we don’t understand and cannot replace.
Our freedom from Christianity has left us prisoners, for it was our founders’ confidence in God’s authority over powerful men that set common men free – a confidence that even common men are not common. We traded one just and merciful king for an ocean of selfish and incompetent bosses, yet seem surprised by the disappointing result.
American culture is moving away from a state of equity, away from the idea that people have inherent value, and away from the confidence that anything can simply be true and honorable. To the advocates of this new religion, Jesus is no myth. He is an imminent threat, and their hatred for him is evident in their joyless mangling of the world he loves.