When Vanna White received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Wheel of Fortune creator Merv Griffin called her “America’s sweetheart.” She has been the show’s co-host for forty years and is one of the most famous and popular celebrities in America.
She told People magazine, “I was baptized a Baptist, and I’ve always had my own personal relationship with God.” However, she says, “I don’t preach, because everyone’s entitled to their own beliefs.”
According to a new article on yahoo!life, these beliefs include the marriage advice she gives her two children, now in their twenties: “Don’t get married until you’re thirty. You can live with your girlfriend or boyfriend. You can have all the fun you want. Just don’t get married until you’re thirty.” She adds: “Wait until you’re thirty, you can still do all the same stuff. Just don’t tie that knot, just in case.”
Choosing “tree” as your personal pronoun
My point is not to criticize Vanna White; her advice to her children is more the norm today than ever before. My purpose today is to ask why this is so.
In the 1970s, when only 0.2 percent of the US population lived as cohabitating romantic partners, would you have believed that the number would climb to 15 percent in the eighteen-to-thirty-four-year-old age bracket today? This despite the fact that couples who cohabit, even as common as this has become, are still at advanced risk of divorce compared to couples who do not.
If I had told you in 2005 that same-sex marriage would become the law of the land in 2015, would you have believed me? If I had told you in 2014 that a mainstream show like NCIS Hawai’i would portray a lesbian love scene on primetime television last week, would you have believed me?
If I told you last year that a Massachusetts school district would promote a book teaching children how to use gay sex apps and containing pornographic descriptions I will not reproduce, would you have believed me? Or that a Chicago curriculum would prompt first graders to choose their own gender pronouns? (One character chose “tree” as their preferred pronoun.)
“Take every thought captive”
As I noted in a recent Daily Article, “normalization” is “the process through which wisdom becomes conventional.” A New York Times article explains that “things, simply by becoming more common, become more acceptable.” By contrast, behavior that is viewed as abnormal is easily considered weird or deviant, often resulting in ostracism or bullying.
There was a time when LGBTQ behavior would have been seen as abnormal and biblical morality as normal. Now, after decades of strategic cultural normalizing of the former and condemnation of the latter, the script has flipped.
As a result, it is more urgent than ever before in American history that Christians normalize biblical values for their fellow Christians.
Dr. John Newport, my major professor in my philosophy of religion doctoral studies, often emphasized the importance of “immersing” people in the biblical worldview. He reminded us that churches see their members for a few hours a week at best; schools and society influence them for the rest of the week.
To counter the secularizing forces constantly at work, we must be deliberate and strategic about helping Christians think “Christianly.” In biblical terms, we must “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, my emphases).
“The Lord added to their number”
In other words, the best way to fight the culture wars is first to focus on Jesus.
In John 15, Jesus taught us, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (v. 1). As a result, he urged us, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (v. 4). The consequences of this decision are enormous: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5, my emphasis).
Do we truly believe this? Do we truly believe that apart from “abiding” in Christ we can do “nothing” of true significance?
If Christians do, we will “abide” in Christ every moment of every day. As a result, we will refuse sin and worldliness. We will worship and study Scripture with passion. Our lives will be marked by spiritual disciplines and intimacy with Jesus.
Consequently, we will share God’s word out of the overflow of God’s Spirit in our lives. We will do evangelism because Jesus will be making us fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). We will demonstrate the “fruit of the Spirit” in our personal character and public witness (Galatians 5:22–23). We will operate in the gifts of the Spirit (for more, see Dr. Ryan Denison’s new book, What Are My Spiritual Gifts?).
And what was true of the early church will be true of us: “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b).
The gospel in action
In the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona’s destruction in Puerto Rico, evangelical ministries Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Blessing, and World Vision are partnering to deliver emergency relief supplies across the island. Shelter tarps, water filtration units, portable family water containers, tablets for purifying water, cleaning buckets, clothes, blankets, tents, and fans are among the items being supplied.
Each of these ministries embraces biblical sexual morality. Each would therefore be condemned as homophobic by secular critics.
But ask the thousands of people in Puerto Rico being served by their compassion if they are modeling a faith worth following.
How will you follow their example today?