New form of Christian civic engagement
Christians are awakening to the ways in which our cultural coarseness has affected their own community. They've heard their leaders resort to extreme rhetoric, insults and name-calling, whereby those who disagree with Christians are accused of being unpatriotic, pagans, baby-killers and anti-God. They recognize that this trend has led to 70% of non-Christians ages 16 to 29 saying Christians are "insensitive to others," according to the Barna Institute.
So Christians increasingly long for a substantive change in tone. This desire has led to efforts such as conservative Christian and Romney adviser Mark DeMoss' Civility Project and liberal Christian Jim Wallis' Civility Covenant, which was signed by more than 100 Christian leaders and denominational heads. Today's Christians are not seeking ways to "divide and conquer" but to "partner and achieve." Unafraid to collaborate with those they may disagree with on other issues, young Christians and their leaders are showing up throughout the public square and working on common-ground agendas.
One can only imagine how Christian culture warriors such as Richard Land, Tony Perkins and James Dobson must feel as these shifts gain traction and their power wanes. In response, some have decried the shift while others deny it is even occurring.
As Andrew Sullivan noted in a recent Newsweek cover story, organized religion is in decline, and Christians exercise far less influence over society than even a decade ago. As Sullivan and others rightly argue, this trend is due, in part, to Christians' partisan, divisive and uncivil engagement in the public square. So I say bring on this new brand of political engagement. Because crucifying the culture war model could be the only hope for resurrecting American Christianity in a new century.