Day: July 1, 2011

the first irony of Christian cultural engagement

The second ‘essay’ in James Davison Hunter’s excellent book To Change The World centres on a fascinating examination of the characteristic modes and methods of Christian cultural engagement in the USA today.

He surveys the three most vocal Christian groups — the Christian Right, the Christian Left, and the Neo-Anabaptist movement. For the most part, he lets them speak in their own voice.

Upon its completion, Hunter highlights three ironies of much Christian engagement with contemporary culture.

The first irony emerges from the focus on values shared by both Christian Right and Left.

As Hunter observes (page 172):

Today, most of the ideas and values that are discussed in public have acquired political content and connotation. Fairness? Equity? Justice? Liberty? These have come to have little or no meaning outside the realm of politics.


The other ideals and values that are discussed in public have been largely reduced to instruments for one side or another in the quest for power. Decency, morality, hope, marriage, family, and children are important values but they have become political slogans.

The irony is that while the politicization of values is exactly the kind of thing Christians decry, “no group in American society today has done more to politicize values over the last half century, and therefore undermine their renewal, than Christians”.

It is, of course, worth marking the differences between Hunter’s context and ours.

And yet I can’t help but feel that perhaps it’s moves in this direction on the part of some Christian groups that have (unintentionally) prepared the soil for the growth of vehement secularism in contemporary Australian society.

What do you think?

Where have Australian Christians contributed to politicizing values?

(Like Hunter, I’m interested in examples on both the Right and the Left.)