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Statistics indicate renewed belief in traditional morality, Colson says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–The cultural decay of the past 30 years has begun to come full circle, according to evangelical commentator and author Charles W. Colson, to the point where statistics indicate the first signs of improvement in the nation’s moral climate.

Colson was one of the featured speakers during Legacy 2000, a conference sponsored jointly by the North American Mission Board and Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis to encourage and equip church leaders in evangelism and church planting. Approximately 2,500 individuals attended the Oct. 2-4 conference, which also included more than 130 small-group workshops.

Colson noted that while Christians often appear to be losing ground in society at large, the worst thing they can do is retreat into the churches and stop engaging the culture.

In fact, statistics indicate that the tide is turning. Teenage pregnancies are at the lowest level since statistics began being recorded 40 years ago, he said. Crime is at the lowest level since 1973; welfare rolls have been cut in half; divorce is down 19 percent over the past 20 years; and the number of abortions has declined by 15 percent over the past 20 years.

Why the reversal? Colson pointed to the “modernist impasse” — the realization that the ideals of the ’60s ultimately result in societal decay.

“The 60s culture became mainstream, and we see the quintessential expressions of the 60s’s today: ‘Do your own thing, live for the moment, overcome the nothingness of life, God is dead,'” he said. “It leads to moral chaos, and people can’t live with that. And they’re suddenly waking up to the fact that you simply can’t survive in the moral jungle and can’t live without rules.”

That shift in thinking reached a critical point in April of 1999 with the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., Colson said.

“I think Columbine was the Pearl Harbor of the culture war in this country,” he said. “I think people were forced to look at two diametrically opposed world views.”

On one side was the nihilism of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who he said were bathed in popular culture and “disciples of Nietzsche, the one who said ‘God is dead.'” On the other side of the same event were “those incredible worship services” in the aftermath of the shootings that “celebrated Christ” and highlighted the faith of those killed.

“People watching those two world views at Columbine had to make that choice, and all of a sudden since Columbine we’ve been seeing some things change,” Colson said.

A recent Wall Street Journal poll, he said, indicated that “84 percent of conservatives and 33 percent of liberals said the No. 1 priority was to restore respect for traditional values. A short while ago that was a pejorative term used against the religious.”

In another recent poll, he said, a majority of Americans said the country is on the wrong track. When asked why that was so, 75 percent said because of the moral failures in American life. Additionally, Colson said, 58 percent said they wanted more religion in American life, and 68 percent wanted creation taught alongside evolution in schools “That’s after 75 years of being told that you are a know-nothing … if you thought that anything other than evolution is the true scientific answer,” he noted.

The task for Christians, he said, is not just to plant more churches, but to “plant more churches that are truly the church.”

Too often, he said, evangelical Christians “are simply as confused as the world around us” when it comes to understanding and holding basic biblical doctrines. “Folks, we’ve got to get it right inside our churches before we can give it away outside our churches,” he said. “… If we’re going to go to war for God in this culture, we’ve got to understand what we believe.”

In order to effectively confront the culture Christians also must understand the full biblical revelation — not just the basics of the gospel.

Without that understanding, he said, “You’ll never make a case for Christianity among people who are doubters and skeptics. Yes, the Word of God will convict, but you are going to be able to understand its fullness and how it applies in all of life.”

Finally, he said, Christians must be willing to live out and defend their faith in every area of life. He noted one family that protested the teaching of evolution as the only theory of origins in schools. They not only were successful in seeing change, but the student’s mother was even offered a seat on a curriculum review board.

“Let me tell you folks, we Christians have been intimidated,” he said. “We think we can’t win those battles, but yes you can — because truth is on your side.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo title: CHUCK COLSON SPEAKS AT LEGACY 2000.

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  • James Dotson