Voices are being raised in our culture that say, 'Back away from the culture war. We've lost it. Just build our separate institutions. Have nothing any more to do with the culture,'" Charles Colson observed.
"This is no time to turn away from the culture around us," countered the founder of Prison Fellowship in addressing the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference June 14 in Atlanta.
"That would be exactly a sin of despair because it would deny the sovereignty of God," Colson said.
"Those of you on the front line equipping the troops for the great renaissance, the great renewal of the Christian faith that I believe is coming – preach boldly, but always humbled by the awe that a holy God has chosen you to speak for Him and to represent Him to a needy world," Colson counseled.
Twenty-five years ago, he was sentenced to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal. He remembered thinking that his chances for doing anything of significance in the future were over.
"Little could I have imagined twenty-five years ago this week that God would have chosen to use my life for fifteen books, for radio programs that are now on a thousand stations in America, for 50,000 volunteers, for a ministry that has spread across the country, where everywhere I go people are telling me how God has used me to change their lives," Colson said.
"Don't quit. Don't turn away," he said, reiterating his call to stay engaged in the culture war. The 1960s spawned a "do-your-own-thing" generation that spanned three decades, he said, adding some people have awakened in the 1990s to realize, "When everybody does his own thing, the result is moral nihilism."
"And that's the opportunity for us as the church to step into that vacuum" and say to the "secular world that is hungry and desperate, 'Look, there is a better way to order our lives.'"
Colson referred to the school shooting tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., as a "cultural watershed" that riveted American attention because it showed two worldviews in sharp contrast.
"Raw, naked evil" is how Colson described the massacre. But the contrast came in the stories of victims Cassie Bernall and Rachael Scott, who were martyred for their faith and for the numerous memorial services replete with Christian content that were televised across the country.
"I believe as we go into the new millennium that the church has an opportunity that it has not had in hundreds of years" – to show the world that nihilism leads to death while God gives life, Colson said.
"Look at all the '-isms' of the 20th century. Look at Marxism … national socialism … existentialism … postmodernism. All of the utopian promises of the 20th century, all of the promises that man could achieve his final glory here on earth through our utopian schemes. Every single one is lying on the ash heap of history because every one has proven bankrupt," Colson said.
As people look around for meaning in life they will realize "the only way you can make sense out of life is to turn to God's revelation on how he teaches us to live."
In addition to urging Christians to stay in the culture war, Colson said the secular world must see the church as a "loving" community. When Christians demonstrate Christ's love toward each other, "we won't have to worry about church surveys and marketing plans; [people] will be knocking the doors down to come into a loving community," he said to another round of applause.
Colson also urged Christians to "lovingly contend for truth." If Christians will create loving communities among themselves and for others, as well as become apologists for Christian truth, the next century will be "the most exciting era to be alive in centuries," he said.
Challenging Governmental Opposition
The American Family Association Center for Law and Policy has won a big victory for churches in Southern Calif. The city of Fountain Valley, California, had closed down the Shalom Alliance Fellowship Church, citing zoning violations, and the AFA Center for Law and Policy filed suit. The city's zoning laws made it impossible for a new church to locate in Fountain Valley. The city had banned churches in commercial zones because they do not generate tax revenue. But in the lawsuit, senior trial attorney Brian Fahling noted that Fountain Valley allowed other non-tax generating uses in commercial zones. He says as a result of the lawsuit and settlement, the city of Fountain Valley has reversed its zoning policy toward churches. The Shalom Alliance Fellowship was awarded $6,000 in damages. Fahling says the case will set a precedent in Southern California, saying future rulings will favor churches as a result of this settlement.
AFR News, July 27, 1999
A national poll of 1,008 voters conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide the evening of November 3 found that 22 percent of voters said that the abortion issue affected their vote. Fifty-nine percent of those (13 percent of all voters) said they voted for candidates who oppose abortion, while 41 percent (9 percent of all voters) said they voted for candidates who favor abortion. This indicates that the abortion issue provided about a 4 percent advantage for pro-life candidates.
National Right to Life News, November 17, 1998