If you’ve ever tried to build a sandcastle in the middle of a hurricane then you’re pretty weird but you would also know exactly what it feels like to be disheartened by modern culture. Often the incremental steps taken by Christians to change culture and politics can be completely overhauled by secularity and contemporary values; it seems that every step forward we take ends up being five steps backwards.
Judging by passionate posts on social media, young people seem to care more about the perceived possibility of climate change than they do about the certainty of thousands of un-born children dying from abortion laws. Political parties benefit from the uneducated, all the while universities can make special bursaries of well over a grand for students that identify as LGBTI+, exclusively. Finally, a professional rugby player can be kicked out of his league and publicly vilified for voicing his beliefs, and this is just the last month.
While this is sad and disappointing, the downward spiral of culture and hegemonic views is nothing new and isn’t the end of the world. This has been happening since the beginning of time and is addressed relentlessly in the Bible, in fact it’s the very premise to most stories and teachings in the book. The challenges don’t date however and are completely relevant now as they were back then.
A great example of strength in the face of adversity is the well-known William Wilberforce, the poster boy and key figure in the abolition of slavery. Wilberforce was a social reformer who dedicated his life to ending the slave trade by leading presenting facts, arguments, and evidence before the House of Commons which were often futile.
Friend and Mentor, John Newton, a former slave ship captain who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace, quoted the story of Daniel and the lion’s den to Wilberforce, suggesting that Daniel was also a public figure who faced adversity but kept his faith in the Lord that none of his enemies could prevail. Newton said to Wilberforce "the God whom you serve continually is able to preserve and deliver you, he will see you through."
After facing adversity, physical attacks, declining health, and his reputation dragged through the mud, to say that Wilberforce didn’t want to run at some point, I believe, would be completely inaccurate. To reject the money-making machine that slavery was to the British at this time and support the abolition of it required commitment beyond time, money, and status as this was a cultural shift he fought for not just a political one.
I often write about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but that’s because the book by Eric Metaxas is so long that you’d hope to use that information regularly to justify the investment of time. Nevertheless, he’s a brilliant example of someone who against odds defends righteousness and doesn’t back down from the fight.
In the early 1930’s, a few years before the Nazi party gained power, a young pastor clued onto the party’s true intentions which were clear to anyone who looked. Regardless, church leaders of Germany turned a blind eye to this threat. After sending letters to fellow pastors and leveraging radio air-time to expose Nazi lies, the church of Germany didn’t just submit to the Nazi power but endorsed it, supporting the implementation of Nazi values in the German church now deceptively named ‘The German Christians’.
With the pastors of Germany siding with a Fuhrer instead of God, Bonhoeffer was faced with only three options. The first one was ignoring the problem or running away, granted, this wasn’t the worst idea considering he was up against an empire fuelled by hate, deceiving the church, and murdering millions of people. Secondly, he could have sided with them, “if you can’t beat them, join them”, and added to the problem. But the third option, after his freedom to preach and write came to an abrupt end, and realising he is of no use on the outside, Bonhoeffer joined the military intelligence agency, where he was able to continue preaching and secretly work with the conspiracy against Hitler.
Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce both were able to illicit change and shift power by running head on towards the problem instead of running away from it. Neither of these men could have served or found their purpose if they secluded themselves from the falling societal values. Today, we are faced with different issues but the same challenge: will we stand up for righteousness and defend our freedoms by running head first into the problem or run from it?
Jesse Moore draws from the Bible and classical literature for insight into life’s tough questions. He is currently studying at university to become a film-maker.
Jesse Moore’s previous articles can be viewed at: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jesse-moore.html