About four years ago, I wrote about “evangelism in every place.” Specifically, I argued that Christians need to look that the three dominant places where life happens: first place being the home, second place being the workplace or school, and third place being connecting hubs in the community. It is my observation that much of the latter half of the 20th century was a retreat engineered by the fundamentalist impulse of separation from worldliness.
A Little Context to the Problem
Going into the 20th century, Christians in the West were living in the age of the Industrial Revolution, great advance in innovation and transportation, and an overall increasing quality of life. Under such circumstances, postmillennial convictions found a home in a prosperous society. Could it be that the kingdom is being consummated? Well, postmillenialism was largely dashed with two World Wars, financial collapse, and several plagues. Postmillenialism was left only for liberal theologians and the social gospel–those who believed that doing good, feeding the poor, and serving the social structures of the community was “kingdom work.” The posture was one of assimilation and absorption such that there was really little to “counter” in the culture.
The reaction to postmillennialism was the rise of dispensational premillennialism which became the theological foundation for fundamentalism. In one sense, fundamentalism was a good thing–it contended for the faith once for all delivered to the saints and stood for the “fundamentals” of the faith. In another sense, however, it signaled a retreat from cultural engagement and meaningful involvement in the world. The posture became one of confrontation, not conversation or interaction. Conservative Christianity became a subculture or “ghetto” where life happened safely within the confines of sanitized, sanctified environments. There was Christian music, Christian movies, Christian magazines, Christian conferences, Christian camps, Christian radio, Christian you name it. You could live in the Christian village without ever having to fear of going into the dark, wild, and wicked outside world.