Published August 16, 2023
Christians in America have grown used to playing defense. Each new year seems to bring a new assault, whether it be on principles of public morality that nearly all Americans used to hold sacred, or a direct attack on Christians for their supposed bigotry, patriarchalism, authoritarianism, xenophobia, racism, and myriad other alleged sins.
A great many Christians have responded by internalizing the rhetoric of their accusers, taking a perverse comfort in lacerating themselves and their fellow Christians for the various evils that they have brought upon the world. We are regularly treated to the spectacle of evangelical elites calling upon us to join in “lament” and “repentance” for our “complicity” in any number of national evils, past and present. Such calls are psychologically appealing, for they provide an opportunity to indulge pride (“we are so much more morally enlightened than our forebears”) while pretending to display humility.
Other Christians decide to respond by embracing the discourse of victimhood, but reversing the terms: It is not African-Americans, women, gays, or immigrants who are the oppressed victim class, but we Christians. If they’re going to play the grievance game, we will play the grievance game too, some will say. If they will stoke resentment and present politics as a zero-sum battle between rival identity groups, so will we. More responsible voices will try to argue that Christians should at least be left to be themselves within protected enclaves: “Perhaps we have forfeited any right to shape public discourse, but at least let us keep practicing our faith quietly in our own communities.”
Brad Littlejohn (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh) is the founder and president of the Davenant Institute. He also works as a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and has taught for several institutions, including Moody Bible Institute–Spokane, Bethlehem College and Seminary, and Patrick Henry College. He is recognized as a leading scholar of the English theologian Richard Hooker and has published and lectured extensively in the fields of Reformation history, Christian ethics, and political theology. He lives in Landrum, S.C., with his wife, Rachel, and four children.