Christian Escapism?


Earlier this year, 19-year-old Traci Johnson tragically took her own life while undergoing drug trials at a pharmaceutical company near Indiana Bible College, the Pentecostal school she was attending. She'd wanted to make some extra money to pay for her studies. By accounts, Johnson had come from a strong Christian background and was truly a follower of Christ. The school she was attending doesn't even allow television. Yet Johnson allowed herself to become a subject in a drug trial that risked highly unpredictable results. And she wasn't the only one at her school participating in these trials. Could it have been a sheltered unworldliness that left Johnson unprepared for the callousness, selfishness, and greed of the world at large? And if so, aren't Christians commanded not to be lovers of this world?

Jesus speaks of the saved in John Chapter 17:

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
When Christians are said to be "in the world, but not of this world," as the above verses are commonly rephrased, it is meant to infer a state of spiritual separation, not physical separation. On this latter point, there is much debate among believers since physical separation can often be quite relative. Yet, Jesus is quite clear on this point, for He defines "in the world" in the terms of His own time on Earth., a non-profit organization based in Texas, is calling Christian Americans to form a Christian nation within the state of South Carolina. The projected date of independence (i.e. secession from the Union) is 2016. The group contends, rather credibly, that the United States government no longer serves its Christian citizens and is, in fact, progressively antagonistic towards them. There have been other groups, from time to time, with similar goals. Does this course of action advocate to Christians that the solution for these problems is to run away from them? Or is the situation so dire that this plan resembles the flight to America of pilgrims escaping religious persecution in 17th-century Europe? There is certainly enough evidence of antagonism towards Christianity (some would say persecution) today to support the latter position. However, there is no more New World to run to; those cards have been played out.

A Christian nation in the U.S., were it to even reach fruition, would be far more vulnerable than other nations to the global hegemony wielded by the U.S. (or U.N., whatever the case may be) Assembling a large number of Christians all in one location could have an unintended effect, that is, enabling their own genocide by inciting military wrath from the outside. In Proverbs 28:12, the Bible tells us that "when the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, men go into hiding."

There are several recent examples in churches where the issue of Christian separation has resulted in division (note the Anglican Communion/U.S. Episcopal Church) or even schism. In June, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance because the main body had strayed too far from a Biblical worldview. The SBC stopped short of passing a resolution to fully endorse home schooling and Christian private education over public education. That debate is far from over for the single reason that public schools in the U.S. have gone from a secular position (the banishment of school prayer in 1963) to outright antagonism towards Christianity. There is no question that children need protection and that there are few, if any, credible arguments left for believers to support the direction that the public schools are taking. But when you take the children out, you're also taking their parents and the Christian teachers out. What about the remaining children of godless parents? The question should also be whether or not home schooling or private Christian education can prepare children for the temptations and traps of an ungodly world. Because believers are to be in the world, Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 10:
16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
When it comes to spiritual separation for many Christians today, it is often of the name brand variety. When you have Christian books, music, and movies that merely are religiously souped-up versions of their secular counterparts, separation is reduced to a matter of labeling. It's not real. Jesus calls for change beginning on the inside, which is why nonbelievers frequently see through the sham of utilitarian separation. The Christian message must not be subverted by its presentation simply so it can be palatable to the world. (Case in point: so-called "Christian" heavy metal.) Believers cannot be sheep in wolf's clothing. They must represent the Lamb of God through and through. It is futile and unbiblical to dress up humanism for God's purpose. At the same time, a believer's works need not be emblazoned with superficial signs of Christianity. If the Holy Spirit is absent, no amount of ixthus bumper stickers or stadium-filling rallies will deliver Jesus' message of salvation.

The only theocracy that will truly work is the Millennial Kingdom, when Christ returns to rule the Earth. Any earthly government, no matter its structure or purpose, has its limits in the fallen nature of man. Believers cannot simply run away with what they know and hope God will come. We must go to Him first and follow His Will. The travails of this time are not a test of personal perseverance but of faith in Jesus Christ. To find answers for the government, the church, the arts, education, the family, and so on, we must go directly to Him. The dissolution of these institutions which we hold dear is inevitable without an unbroken devotion to Christ.

It's nice to be put on a white robe to cover our dirtiness, but we can't do it. God has to put the white robe on us. To demand holiness or the conditions for holiness is demanding personal gratification. A believer must pray that, by the grace of God, he will be able to submit his will to the Lord. And when it's God's Will, he will deliver His people (cf. Genesis 6 and Exodus)...but first we must be in His Will, instead of playing at being godly.

As tempting as it may be, believers mustn't throw up their hands at the problems of the world. Does fleeing the world absolve a Christian's own culpability (as a sinful creature) in the decline of civilization? No. We are our brother's keeper, whether we like it or not (a lesson learned only four chapters into the Bible). Jesus followed the above verses from John Chapter 17 with these words:
20 My prayer is not for [those already saved] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their [emphasis added] message.