Arkansas Baptist News
Any casual observer of the news understands the Church is under assault.
A recent LifeWay Research survey of Protestant pastors bears out the reality, with a disturbing response: Fifty-nine percent say Christians are losing the culture war, while one in 10 Protestant pastors says the culture war has already been lost.
Conversely, 10 percent say Christians are actually winning the culture war.
What’s more, the LifeWay survey found seven out of 10 senior pastors at Protestant churches say religious liberty is on the decline in America.
Recently, while speaking at Brigham Young University, Southern Baptist leader R. Albert Mohler Jr. told students and faculty, “We may go to jail sooner even than we thought,” recalling his concern about the threat to religious liberty raised in an earlier appearance at the Mormon-owned school.
Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., added, “I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together.”
The reality is that much of the world doesn’t make much of a distinction between various religions or denominations, and subsequently people of all faiths are equally the target of religious persecution.
An article about the LifeWay survey said evangelical pastors (79 percent) are more likely than mainline pastors (60 percent) to say Christians are losing or have lost the culture war.
Mainline pastors (30 percent) are also most likely to say they “don’t know” when asked about the culture war. By contrast, 13 percent of Evangelicals say they don’t know. Overall, nearly one in five pastors (19 percent) says they don’t know, the survey stated.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said some of the unease about religious liberty is due to shifts in American culture and church practice.
In the 1960s, nearly two-thirds of Americans were Protestants. Today, they make up less than half of the population, according to the General Social Survey.
Fewer Protestants means less cultural power, said Stetzer.
In the past, he said, Christians – and Protestants in particular – took it for granted that Americans would look to the church for guidance on moral issues. Churches, he said, were seen as being good for society and so they were given special privileges – like exemptions from taxes and other laws. “Even if people did not go to church, they looked to the church,” Stetzer explained.
That’s no longer the case, as the government and culture no longer defer to Protestant Christians, which makes pastors and their congregations nervous.
Stetzer pointed out in the article that not all the news is bad.
“The fact that ‘Christian’ is not just a demographic category can have a positive side,” Stetzer said, which means that Protestants and other Christians have to be more active in living out their faith.
But Stetzer pointed out it has political and social consequences, as a sizable number of Protestants and other Christians run into conflicts with societal norms on issues like sexuality and marriage and other issues.
Stetzer said it is important for Protestants and like-minded religious people to think through a new strategy that defends their religious liberty, but also acknowledges that conflict.
Several recent court battles may play a role, such as the Hobby Lobby case and other cases, Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University, told LifeWay. Both involve disputes between the government and religious groups over exemptions from federal law.
In the cases, religious liberty was seen as less important than other issues – like nondiscrimination or health care, said Kidd.