The Bible teaches that Christians are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every human being. Christians believe that every human being is a sinner in need of salvation and deliverance. Through the merit and work of Jesus Christ every sinner can have the forgiveness of sins. Not only can every sinner have the forgiveness of sins, they can also have purpose, direction, meaning, and peace. Greater still, every sinner who puts their faith in Jesus Christ will have a home in heaven with God for all eternity. (strictly speaking, their home for all eternity will be the kingdom of God, a new Heaven and a new Earth)
Is it any wonder that the Christian gospel is called the Good News? To those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, forgiveness of sins, purpose, direction, meaning and peace in this life, and a future home in heaven, is indeed good news. However, for those who reject the Christian good news, a life of meaninglessness awaits.(purpose, meaning, and direction begins with the Christian God) Under the wrath and judgment of a thrice Holy God, the non-Christian will be tortured forever in the Lake of Fire because of their refusal to put their faith in Jesus Christ.
From its first days as a new religion, Christianity has made evangelizing non-Christians a priority. Jesus implored his followers to take the gospel message to the ends of the earth. Every person in every country deserves to hear the good news. Why should anyone hear the gospel twice before everyone has heard it once, says a sign in a Baptist church. Another sign over the exit says, You are now entering the mission field.
Granted, many Christians do not evangelize non-Christians. They consider their faith to be a private matter. They want to be well-liked and accepted by others, so they don’t share their religious beliefs with others. They rightly understand that religion and politics often bring contentions and they, as much as lies within them, desire to be at peace with everyone.
While this approach is to be commended, it is an approach that ignores the teachings of the Christian Bible and the example of the early church. Any cursory reading of the Bible shows that Christians were expected to be counter-cultural. They were expected to live publicly as followers of Jesus Christ. There was no such thing as a secret Christian. Early Christians would likely find our modern polite, cultural Christianity an affront to Jesus.
Regardless of the large percentage of Christians who are passive in their faith, millions of Christians take seriously their obligation to share the gospel with everyone they meet. Evangelicals, in particular, believe they have a solemn obligation to preach the gospel to everyone, even those who do not want to hear it. Often, armed with the belief that America is an exceptional nation specially chosen by God to advance his kingdom, Evangelicals use any means possible to make the gospel known to the ends of the earth.
Who are the Christians that tend to irritate, annoy, and anger atheists, agnostics, and humanists? The evangelizing Evangelical type. While atheists often have a problem with ALL religions, their scorn and derision is usually focused on religions that proselytize.
If Christians kept their faith to themselves, if they made no attempt to turn the United States into a theocracy, I suspect that atheists would have little to be upset about. However, since evangelizing is part of the Christian DNA (or should be), atheists and non-Christians alike, are forced to encounter Christianity everywhere they turn.
While the U.S. Constitution clearly establishes that the United States is a secular state, everything in our culture suggests that we are a Christian nation. (and that is why I say, we are NOT a Christian nation but we ARE a Christian nation) The majority of Americans claim they are a Christian, though most of them are illiterate about what the Bible teaches. (This is, at best, cultural Christianity)
Christian churches populate numerous street corners in every town in America. (I don’t know of any community in the area that I live in that does not have at least one Christian church) Local, State, and Federal governments are overwhelmingly governed by politicians who profess faith in Jesus Christ.
There are Christian radio stations, TV channels, bookstores, and countless businesses advertise that they are a Christian business. Everywhere you look you see Christianity. This is why Christian claims of marginalization and persecution are laughable and not supported by the facts.
We are constitutionally NOT a Christian nation but, in every other meaningful way, we are a Christian nation. While atheists, agnostics, and humanists love to quote the 16% NONE statistic, I hope this does not lull us into thinking that we are winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people.
All this statistic tells us is that Americans are becoming increasingly indifferent to matters of religion. While this is certainly a good thing, many of the 16% are passive about matters of religion and are not likely to engage others in meaningful dialog about religion, Christianity, and its intersection with American politics. They simply don’t care.
If you are reading this I suspect you are not a passive atheist. I suspect the separation of church and state matters to you. I suspect you want to stop the Religious Right’s attempt to turn America into a theocratic state. I imagine you have a problem with attempts to teach creationism as science. I have no doubt you have few good things to say about Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, James Dobson, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, or One Million Moms.
Maybe you are an angry atheist. You are tired of being evangelized, preached at, and judged by Evangelical zealots. If you are like me, you may have spent years in the Christian church and you now see how harmful Christianity, especially Evangelical Christianity, is. You read the Facebook, Twitter, and blog attacks by self-righteous, Holy Spirit filled, preachers of the Christian gospel, and it irritates the heaven out of you.
To people like you and me, these things matter. We not only want to se people who have been hurt by Christianity find help, we also want to push back any and all attempts to turn the United States into a theocratic state governed by the Bible.
If these things matter, then how should we best engage the overwhelmingly Christians culture we live in? This is the question I hope to answer in future posts.