American culture stands at a point of crisis, brought here by historical forces beyond our ability to foresee or forestall. The question within the crisis is whether the Christian-based traditions of Western culture will be successfully passed down from this generation to the next, or whether the process will be fatally interrupted. It is not at all a sure thing that the transmission will succeed. It is possible that the link of transmission will be broken, and the traditions that have shaped 1500 years of Western history will just sink into the sands of America’s secular desert preserved only in the teachings of eccentric and marginalized sects of Christianity.
But the forces that brought us to this crossroads have not simply dumped us here with the admonition to choose our future. We have arrived at this destination with direction and momentum (historically speaking) and they are still carrying us forward in effect, doing the choosing for us. That is one reason I suggested in the concluding chapter that no merely human effort is going to slow our descent into decadence or stop us from turning our backs on our own history. It will take an act of God to turn things around.
That doesn’t mean that human beings can sit on the sidelines and watch God perform. Biblically speaking, when God takes a hand in history, he typically does so by acting through his own people. There will be plenty for Christians to do if God decides to intervene. For that matter, there will be plenty for Christians to do if God decides not to intervene. The basic duty of Christians in facing the hostility and resistance of “the world” remains essentially the same in all times and places: to personally be a flag of the City of God, planted in the heart of the Earthly City, wherever you may happen to be, and to be an outpost of God’s Gospel, a sign of His standing offer of mercy and a warning of His impending judgment. That responsibility doesn’t change, no matter what conditions we find ourselves in. The plain duty set before us is summed up in Christ’s instruction that in any and all circumstances, we are simply to “bear witness” to Him. (Matthew 10: 18)
But in our current circumstances, we find ourselves facing two additional problems: the challenge of cultural decadence and the crisis of cultural transmission. Both of those issues present themselves with a certain degree of urgency, and one of the first things that Christians can (and should) do today is simply to ask God to do something to intervene in the downward spiral we are caught in before we crash and burn altogether. Readers who are serious about coming to grips with our cultural crisis should therefore consider resorting to the classic triad for effectively invoking the intervention of God: repentance, fasting and prayer.
The explicit expectation behind those prayers is that God would act so as to renew (“revive”) His people, and through them produce a more general renewal in society as a whole. The logical (and biblical) assumption is that if God’s Spirit is strongly present in His people, then its influence will radiate outward in society, producing effects that mirror God’s justice, His compassion and His righteousness. Thus, the hope of social renewal is that God will grant us a stronger dose of His Spirit, which will thereby bring us back into alignment with something resembling sanity, spiritually and otherwise.
There is only one problem with that scenario it presupposes a society that is already primed and prepped to accept the influence of God’s Spirit. The familiar examples of such social renewal come from Old Testament Israel, a nation soaked in the consciousness of God, or they come from the America of a hundred plus years ago — a society that was likewise dominated by the concepts and images of the Christian Bible. The categories for receiving God’s influence already existed in the public mind, and only needed to be brought to life.
But that is no longer true, and that society no longer exists for us. One result of the changes we have seen in this book has been to eliminate those pre-formed biblical categories from our collective consciousness. Biblical ways of thinking are no longer common currency — people no longer speak the dialect (so to speak), and they don’t understand what you are saying when you talk to them in biblical terms. Collectively, we have “hardened” our hearts and minds to the biblical message.
Therefore, even if our prayers are answered and God graces us with His Spirit, it is by no means certain that the outcome will be renewal. If the pressure of God’s presence can’t freely communicate itself to the general public, it is more likely to produce a social explosion than to create social harmony. If our culture has compromised with the Spirit of the Age to the point that God’s Spirit meets with more resistance than acceptance, the result will not be renewal, but polarization. When God appears among people who are predisposed to reject Him, the result will be conflict rather than concord. That’s essentially what happened at Jesus’s first coming, and the active presence of God in our midst today could easily provoke a similar kind of spiritual and social turmoil. The “New Religious Synthesis” has made great social and public relations gains in recent years, and its proponents are not prepared to see those gain reversed without resistance.
It is impossible to know at this juncture whether our culture can be brought back from the brink of (self) destruction or not. But we don’t need that knowledge in order to prepare for the next stage of our spiritual warfare. Whether the culture collapses completely or struggles back to its feet, Christians will be called upon to represent the Gospel in relation to resurgent paganism of all kinds. Therefore we should expect to be in contact with Neopagans and expect to have opportunities for apologetic and evangelistic interaction and we should prepare ourselves accordingly.
In that context, “prepare ourselves” means “educate ourselves.” To begin with, that means taking Neopaganism seriously, both as a religion and as a social phenomenon. It also means taking Neopagans seriously as people, not just as “the opposition” or as potential converts. Read up on the subject. Take the time to look into the resources listed in Appendix 2. Follow up on some of the resources they provide. Browse the Pagan Internet. Type in “Witchcraft,” Wicca” or “Neopaganism” on Google or Yahoo and they will give you more links than you will care to follow. Or type in witchvox.com or cog.org on the Internet and go directly to the nexus for Pop-culture witchcraft and Traditional Witchcraft respectively. And pay attention to what you find there. Take notes. Collect information. Begin to accumulate a knowledge and experience base of your own.
When it comes to “dialogue” with Neopagans, five minutes of experience is worth a bookful of advice. Because of the extreme diversity among modern Witches, it is difficult to offer conversational pointers that will apply in more than a limited number of cases. Nevertheless, some observations from my own experience in talking with Neopagans may be helpful.
First and foremost: Assume nothing and be prepared for anything. Bring no stereotypes to the encounter. Determine to find out first hand about the Witch you are dealing with. Most Witches who are open to talking to outsiders about Witchcraft are open to an honest inquiry about what they believe. But be prepared for anything. From any given Witch you may encounter a bristling hostility to Christians that will foreclose any further discussion. Or you may encounter a bias against Christianity that is grounded in historical falsehood, and thus subject to historical correction. Or you may encounter someone who is willing to engage in an extended philosophical discussion about natural versus revealed religion. In one way, Witches are much like anyone else they will give respect if they are given respect. If you can approach the conversation without being fearful, hostile, dismissive, condescending or disdainful, it will further open doors of communication.
Witches tend to be very touchy about “evangelism,” apparently believing that Christians have little genuine interest in them except as potential converts. Showing a little genuine interest in them as representatives of an alternate culture will go far to dismantle that misunderstanding. My own approach has been to stress that I have no interest in whether they choose to accept the Gospel or not; my interest is in seeing to it that the messsage of the Gospel is clearly presented and clearly understood, free from distortion and misunderstanding. Once they have understood what the Gospel is, and what the Good News proclaims, they can respond to it however they want to believe it, reject it or take it under advisement. That is the free will God gave them, and I can accord them no less.
The good news about talking to Neopagans is that if you can maneuver past the rhetorical landmines and barriers to communication, they can be quite open to the full, industrial-strength supernaturalism of the Gospel message. The bad news is that there is a lot of maneuvering to do, and a lot of distortions to dispel before your communication can reach that level. What’s needed is for enough Neopagans to encounter enough knowledgable, articulate Chrtistians to discredit the stereotypes and misunderstandings that they have of Christianity. As Witchcraft goes mainstream, the opportunities multiply for such encounters to happen. Christians should be preparing now to play their role effectively when those occasions occur.