I was speaking recently with another minister in our city, lamenting the fact that so much of Southern Christianity is shallow at best and counterfeit at worst. Christianity in the South is largely viewed as an accessory to be added to a life already filled with accessories aimed at cultivating an aura of wealth and propriety (to be fair, all people from all cultures chase these idols but it is a uniquely Southern instinct - in our secular age - do this with church life instead of jettisoning it altogether).
Perhaps it is because Christianity has held a place of prominence and prestige for so long in the South, that the gospel has become domesticated from its offensive roots. So much of the church’s messaging is now targeted toward comfort and safety (despite living in one of the most luxurious and secure times and places in the world). The Church, in large part, has become therapy for stressed out, white suburbanites where social and political ideologies are massaged and not challenged. In a real sense, the church has presented spiritual reality as a portfolio to be managed rather than a war to fight. And therein lies the real danger, most Christians are living in a way that is incongruent with not only their true identity (in Christ) but the urgent reality of spiritual warfare.
During World War II, Vichy France was the headquarters of the displaced French government after Paris was occupied by the Third Reich. Vichy came to represent the legally recognized administration of France while in actuality, the Vichy government were de facto Nazi collaborators who assisted in advancing Hitler’s agenda. What politically and militarily happened in France in the 1940s has spiritually happened in the South – nominal Christianity has capitulated to the enemy (materialism, white nationalism, systemic injustice, secularization, etc.) and now promotes that agenda rather than the kingdom of heaven.
If the “front lines” of missionary activity are pioneer efforts into unreached contexts, then perhaps ministry in the American Bible Belt is more akin to a civilian resistance during enemy occupation. In the same way that the French Resistance or the “Maquis” laid the ground work for the eventual Allied advancement - not only by fighting the enemy but providing hope that there is a different way to live - so should the church.
Rather than existing as the spiritual chaplain for the cultural status quo, what if the church postured herself as the resistance movement? What if the church was the counterculture that refused to give in to the dominate force of the day? What if there were communities that didn’t surrender to the Left and didn’t capitulate to the Right - that simultaneously stood up for the underprivileged and maintained historic orthodoxy?
This is a much more difficult way of doing church, and it’s hard to consistently swim against the current, but one day The Liberator will come. Until then may we fight the good fight and remain faithful to the end.