Consider how John the Baptist’s head ended up on a platter.
The Baptist, a man’s man if ever one existed, was lauded as a teacher and a prophet. People would come from all over to hear him preach. Even King Herod was fascinated by him and revered him. But John the Baptist was not afraid to call a sin by its name, no matter the audience, and no matter what he risked losing in the process. So he told Herod that it was a sin for him to divorce his wife and take his brother’s wife. For this, he was imprisoned and eventually beheaded.
He died because he denounced immorality. Not just any immorality but sexual immorality. You might say — and most American Christians probably would say — that it was “none of his business” and he shouldn’t have been so “judgmental.” Love is love, after all. If Herod wanted to get rid of his wife and commit adultery with his brother’s wife, so what? Why should John the Baptist have any opinion on the matter? Live and let live, John. Take it easy!
But he saw it differently. He viewed sin as something vile and toxic; something that harms not only the one who engages in it but also anyone who might come in contact with it. From John’s perspective, sin had to be identified, condemned, and torn up from by the roots wherever it was found. He was a man of extreme intolerance. He was also, according to Jesus Christ, the greatest mortal man to ever live. That would seem to be a rather ringing endorsement of John’s intolerant approach.
It is useful, then, to compare his attitude to that of the spineless, gutless jellyfish who call themselves “Christian” in the West today. While he died for his defense of sexual morality and marriage, polls show that the church in America has abandoned its defenses on both fronts. A majority of Christians endorse same sex marriage, divorce, and fornication. It would be one thing if a majority struggled personally with those issues. The problem is actually the opposite: there isn’t any struggle. We have simply declared that these things are not sins and carry no consequence. We believe that sexual immorality, as a category, has drifted outside the realm of moral scrutiny.This has been the general trend for most of the popular sins in our society. Even abortion is enjoying approval among wide swaths of self-identifying Christians.
How do we account for this? Are Christians in America confused on all of these points? Do they really think that the Biblical teachings on a variety of crucial subjects have somehow expired? Perhaps some are as ignorant as that. But I don’t think ignorance totally explains how we devolved from John the Baptist literally losing his head for the sake of asserting moral truth to modern Christians politely applauding while perversion and degeneracy are paraded in front of their faces all day long. The main culprit is not ignorance but cowardice.
Moral cowardice is the disease infecting our churches. We are not the first Christian cowards to ever live, but I think we may represent the highest concentration of them. Has there ever been a society plagued with so many Christians so unwilling to defend even the most basic teachings of their faith? Has any group of Christians ever abandoned so many of their doctrines so easily? Has any Christian society ever cowered so completely under so facile a threat?
What are we even worried about? What terrible punishment awaits us if we speak out forcefully in defense of moral truth? What great violence will be done to us if we oppose the hedonistic and relativistic agenda of our cultural overlords? Perhaps we will be the targets of unflattering comments. Perhaps some of our friends will stop speaking to us. Perhaps it will cause awkwardness in the family. In the worst case, we may lose our jobs. And so what? What does a job matter in the grand scheme? Almost everyone reading this will be dead in 50 or 60 years anyway. We can’t bring our jobs with us into the next phase. Our “financial security” will do us little good at that point. It would be a pity if we sacrificed the only eternal thing for things temporal and ultimately meaningless.
This is not just a matter of denouncing sin. Our tolerance of sin is but one symptom of our cowardice. The greatest symptom is the way that the Christian faith in its entirety has been pushed — with our permission and sometimes with our help — out onto the fringes of existence. We have allowed our faith to be severed from normal life and relegated to dark and rarely visited corners. A population of Christians built for themselves an atheist society. And now we use the irreligiosity of society as an excuse to be irreligious ourselves.
There will be no resurgence of faith in America until there is a resurgence of courage among the faithful. We cannot expect God to bail us out here. I do not think He is going to rescue our culture from total self-destruction by means of a miracle. He could intervene in that way, but as long as we continue being cowards, the gains made by Divine intervention would just be lost all over again. No, only courageous Christians can have a truly Christian culture. Only they can maintain it and defend it. And only they deserve it.