James Davison Hunter's To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2010) explores how the Christian faith influences the modern world. Do Christians living in this modern world positively influence the attitude of others in the world towards living a godly life? These questions may seem academic, but they are also pastorally inclined because the divisions within our relationships make them relevant for a general discussion.
Hunter's book is even more relevant when we consider the desire of conservative Christians in America that there is need for a revival due to low pew numbers. By returning to the old-fashioned practice of religion, families refrain from imbibing neo-liberal ideas that portray Christian values in a different light. The irony of this thinking is that it is too late to return to the old-fashioned religion. However, adherence to the values of the Christian faith is necessary toward witnessing to the name of Jesus in public and private life.
Christians need to know that Jesus warned us about divisions before they happen. He says, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!" The fulfillment of these words can be seen in the divisions in society, in our families, and among friends. Our value systems have been affected by forceful ideologies especially coming from political influencers twisting religious values to fulfill personal ambitions.
By opposing the political leaders of his time, the Prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern. He was left there to die a painful death until God touched the heart of King Zedekiah. The officials of the king influenced him to work against the prophet by saying, "This man ought to be put to death, because he is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, and all people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin." The case against Jeremiah was a strong one and he had to suffer humiliation for standing on the side of honor for the sake of the city. Today we witness the fulfillment of biblical prophecy concerning the rise of divisions in our society and our family lives. The older generations of Christians see a departure from the practice of the faith by the younger generations who believe in neo-liberal ideas. By succumbing to modern challenges, Hunter's book discusses the reasons for these actions and the dilemma that Christians face in trying to live the faith in this modern time. There should be a redefinition of our morality in the light of the words of Jesus and a possible return to the true practice of the faith.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews admonishes Christians to learn from Jesus who endured the cross and left a mark. He writes, "For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God." He bore our pains and all our sorrows in order to give us an example towards the perfect life. Making Christians to realize the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus is a near impossible mission because of the oppositions that exist within society and at the family level.
Hunter's book therefore, is an attempt to define ways of achieving this goal of changing the world influenced by the values of Christianity. Hunter's book reflects on the changes within the American society and the West generally. For the Christian believer, it is an obligation to go into the world and proclaim Jesus as a savior that brings hope, joy and happiness. The irony of this action is that many have turned away from the Church and religion due to many factors from within and from without. By admitting the limitations of the Church due to human elements, the Church acknowledges that the divine factor is most powerful in leading the Church through turbulent periods. The restoration of the old-fashioned faith should dominate the discussion both in private and in public life making society to realize the necessity of the divine in our human existence.
Hunter's book also explains why divisions exist between family members when the topic of religion is on the table. The path of religion neither depends on emotions nor neo-liberal ideologies that seek to please anyone in the name of fairness. True religion seeks to bring people back to the realization that evil is evil and only by obeying divine rules that society moves in the right direction. Modern society should not depend solely on political actors but as well as on religious actors in order to establish a balance on the soul of society.
The writer to the Book of Hebrew advises the Christians to work against sin and never lose heart in pushing evil elements far from the faith. He writes, "Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners in order that you may grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood." Without allowing neo-liberal ideologies to proliferate in society, we work against a force that challenges our Christian values and systems. We can choose to be like Prophet Jeremiah by standing up to the truth and bearing the consequences of a true religion. Jesus assures us it will be tough with divisions even among family members, but our adherence to his true teachings against false ideologies will win the day. Those who have changed society are individuals influenced by a moral standard that is based on obeying God rather than man. How have you changed your society? Think about change in positive ways. Keep praying!BACK TO LIST