As I promised yesterday, I want to offer some perspectives on the state of the nation and have outlined seven ways to describe where we are and why that has left us in a very unsettled place as a people. Today is the first of those seven assessments.
A Secular Nation
If we understand the word ‘secular’ properly, most fundamentally it means to leave God out. Intentionally leaving Him out as a protest of defiance or statement of atheistic/agnostic thinking normally comes to mind when we identify something as secular. Unintentionally leaving Him out as sign of careless indifference or as evidence of an underlying absence of belief perhaps plays a larger role than we might think at first. Yet there is at least one other source of secular thinking and that is the worldview that restricts God to categories related only to faith but isolates Him from what is often described as the ‘real world’ of daily living.
Intentionally leaving God out dismisses Him as a non-entity, so insignificant to perceptions of reality that pushing Him aside does not even arise from a conscious act, but is the result of no thought even given to Him at all. Unintentionally leaving God out often occurs when statements of faith are kept separate from practical living—one confined to being, the other to doing—one rooted in faith, the other in fact—all of which are unacceptable dichotomies from a biblical perspective. The result is a ‘functional atheism,’ living your life and making your choices as if God did not, in fact, exist at all. Separatistic thinking buys the premise that we can divide the universe into mutually exclusive categories which have come to be understood in a variety of ways, the most common language describing the split as one between the secular and the sacred.
Once we begin to see the impact of this divide, we can understand how the nation has made a dramatic swing to the secular view of life and tries to convince itself and everyone else that faith issues belong on one level and real life issues on another.
Another helpful breakdown of this shows the current trend toward a split between values and facts.
Private, individual choices/Subjective/Relativistic/Belief
Public, scientific knowledge/Objective/Absolute/Rational
Armed with this understanding of the way the world is, is it surprising that this way of thinking has come to dominate the landscape of how people view life? They see private preferences based on non-rational beliefs as opposed to what they cling to as the completely neutral public realm of rational knowledge–‘empirically proven facts’ (which I say with tongue firmly placed in cheek!). Consequently, secularists believe morality has no place in the public square when it depends upon anything other than facts. Faith is ruled out of order because it is viewed as non-cognitive and depends upon that which cannot be proven scientifically for its conclusions.
Hence the secularizing of the nation. The rules are made inviolable and constructed to prohibit the possibility of considering that behind the ‘accepted facts’ are beliefs that are just as subjective and relativistic as anything relegated to the values level. For example, people assume the innate goodness of man (based on what empirical evidence?), or others make assumptions about the origin of the world and human race (for all its variations, it all boils down to a faith statement of either a Creator or a Cosmic accident—neither possibly proven in a laboratory). So unfairly dismissing faith in God and assuming belief in Him and His truth is not relevant to the practical affairs of the public life of the nation, the culture rushes to defend factual foundations that ultimately also depend on faith in the unprovable.
Christians join in the perpetuation of this charade and allow themselves to be intimidated by the secular culture into a silent complicity with the values/facts split and the sacred/secular divide. As long as we do nothing to propose sound alternatives to the existing worldview, we will remain as we have become—a secular nation. We are becoming more so with each successive generation being indoctrinated by secular minds, guaranteeing a secular future where the voice of God has been effectively silenced in the public square.
**For more information on this, Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey is a great resource. The charts here were suggested by some like these in her book and from the works of Francis Schaeffer, specifically How Shall We Then Live.