Resisting the Winds

Easter in the Negative World

Raised in a Christian home (my father is a pastor) I was a regular church goer – something that has never changed and that has not changed. I’ve never known life outside the church. Devout church goers will sometimes poke fun at the people whom we referred to in jest as CEOs: “Christmas and Easter Only.”

CEOs are people who never step foot in church except on Christmas and Easter weekends. With Easter upon us, I cannot help but reflect on a very sad reality of our culture.

Growing up, pastors always anticipated high numbers on Easter weekend because of CEOs. Pastors know more people will be going to church that weekend than usual. What did this reflect? It reflected a kind of “Christian Consciousness.” While most of society was no longer actively Christian, it was still in the air – there was a cultural Christianity that compelled non-Christians to go to church when it “really mattered.” However, over the past few years, the numbers of CEOs seems to be dwindling. In other words, many are becoming more consistent with their principles, and they feel no burden to go to church at all, not even on Easter.

This reflects a true change in our society. Society went from a place where it was shameful to not go to church, to a place where it was shameful to not go to church only on the holidays, to where we are finally beginning to rest now, a place where there is no shame in never going to church. Not only that, but we are already seeing the beginning of the transition beyond the neutral. Not only is there no shame in never going to church, but society at large is beginning to actually shame those who do! The shame is not in neglecting church, the shame is on those who cherish it!

Aaron Renn masterfully characterized this cultural swing by breaking our culture up into three worlds: The positive world, the neutral world, and the negative world. The positive world (pre-1994) is a society which

retains a mostly positive view of Christianity. To be known as a good, churchgoing man remains part of being an upstanding citizen. Publicly being a Christian is a status-enhancer. Christian moral norms are the basic moral norms of society and violating them can bring negative consequences.

He describes the neutral world (1994-2014) as a society which

takes a neutral stance toward Christianity. Christianity no longer has privileged status but is not disfavored. Being publicly known as a Christian has neither a positive nor a negative impact on one’s social status. Christianity is a valid option within a pluralistic public square. Christian moral norms retain some residual effect.

And then he describes our world (2014-present), the negative world:

Society has come to have a negative view of Christianity. Being known as a Christian is a social negative, particularly in the elite domains of society. Christian morality is expressly repudiated and seen as a threat to the public good and the new public moral order. Subscribing to Christian moral views or violating the secular moral order brings negative consequences.

I don’t anticipate many visitors this Easter; I don’t anticipate any CEOs. This is a hard truth to embrace. As one who used to relentlessly tease CEOs, I am humbled in the sad irony where I now miss them. While it certainly was not healthy for people to attend church only twice a year – especially out of compulsion – it nonetheless reflected a society with a modicum of Christianity still in the air. But this Easter I will be forced to face the reality that the air I breath today is entirely polluted.

2 replies »

  1. Excellent article. At once both sad and hopeful. Yes, the “neutral” is quickly vanishing, and the “positive world” and the “negative world” will get farther and farther apart, more polarized, until Christ comes again. The separation of the “goats” from the “sheep,” and the “tares” from the “wheat, in the years leading up to the Second Coming, is a sign that has long been foretold by prophets in both the Old and New Testaments.

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