I thought, when I explicitly asked for your opinions a couple of issues ago, that I might discover something statistically defining about WORLD readers, and perhaps even about evangelical Christians at large. Or, if not defining, at least suggestive.
Here's what I asked, in WORLD's June 2 edition: "If you could identify just one issue that is terribly askew in our culture today, and then were granted as a gift from God the ability to set that one issue right, what would it be? What specific cultural victory, if we could win it, would provide the most leverage to produce a society that is closer to the cultural blueprint God has designed for us?" And I asked you to respond in 25 words or less.
Your replies, even after some brutal editing, constitute a short book. Because I wanted your thoughts, and not just your reaction to mine, I didn't give you a multiple choice or an "on-a-scale-of-one-to-ten" quiz. You created your own categories, and in your own words. I'm glad we did it that way-but it makes for a little fuzzier statistical analysis.
By my reading of your responses, nine categories of concern dominate your thinking. In the order of the number of your responses, they are:
- The secularization of our society-led by the rejection of a Creator God and the dominance of evolutionary thinking.
- Loss of the distinctive identities of men and women, leading to a loss of understanding of marriage and family.
- Loss of the tools to educate and shape the rising generation.
- Sense of entitlement, selfishness, and complacency.
- Loss of a defined dominant culture, with attendant culture wars.
- Loss of specific freedoms.
- Loss of honest and civil public discourse.
- Obsession with sex.
Because the overall survey includes fewer than 300 respondents (more are arriving almost every day), dogmatic inferences are risky. Don't go too far too fast comparing any of the categories.
But a few observations may be legitimate and worth noting. For example, issues 1, 2, 3, and 4 all drew at least twice as many responses as did any of the lower-ranking issues. Our experience with sampling suggests that such a ratio would almost certainly continue no matter how much we enlarged the universe. Nor is it likely, we think, that some new issue will pop up as item No. 10 on some other list in the near future.
The extensive overlapping of these several categories is, of course, obvious. And some respondents would argue (indeed, some did) that items 2-9 flow from item 1 just as night follows day-and that fixing one of the lower-ranking issues wouldn't necessarily do much for those higher on the list.
Biggest surprise of the exercise? For me, it was that only one respondent mentioned Islam as a major concern.
Notable throughout the responses was a balance between what you might call cultural activism on the one hand and pietistic devotion on the other. One respondent did list as his primary concern that "Christians are forgetting that Christ is coming back for them." A handful of others suggested various forms of evangelistic enterprise as the main need. Most folks, though, pointed to loving cultural engagement based on the absolutes of biblical truth as the best route forward.
What will that engagement look like? Reader Randy Worley was helpful when he challenged us to consider as our culture's greatest need: "Relating properly to God sets all other issues right."
He added: "Continue to inform, challenge, exhort, and encourage me. Don't let me off the hook. Get 'in my face' a little bit more! When I lay down the magazine, I need to pick up my tools and go to work for Christ's kingdom. Please challenge me to shorten the distance between the WORLD magazine on my coffee table and the world Christ wants me to serve outside my door. Challenge me to apply something I've read. Go ahead-ruffle my feathers!"