Voices
Krieg Barrie

Around the corner, part II

Culture | Readers give a gloomy forecast, but also a little cheer

Issue: "Tidings of discomfort and joy," Dec. 28, 2013

When I asked in this column six weeks ago what major cultural changes might lie ahead of us Christians over the next few decades, I was hardly ready for your thunderous response. I listed there (it was our Nov. 2 issue) four big changes I’ve watched in my lifetime—and asked you to identify issues of similar import that may shake our lives, for good or for evil, in the years just ahead.

The four changes from the past I mentioned were a lessening of racism, strident feminism, abortion on demand, and the normalization of homosexuality. What similar changes, I asked, are likely to characterize the next generation?

You readers were more than ready with your suggestions. More than 200 of you wrote me, with well over 1,000 specific proposals of cultural changes that you think are likely to be just around the corner. I have read, word for word, every one of your responses. In the process, I note that you’ve blithely ignored my request that you not write long essays. I don’t have a secretary, and when I promised to get back to you with the results, I had in mind only the most nonscientific and informal of replies.

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Here it is. I’ve divided your responses into three main categories—with my very approximate estimate of how your responses broke down. First (70 percent): your identification of issues that you think will dominate the world’s culture. Second (20 percent): your identification of factors that will specifically threaten God’s people. Third (10 percent): your identification of factors that will describe God’s people.

1) Descriptors and characteristics of the dominant culture of the future. Many of you see a culture increasingly defined by sexual deviancy, including pedophilia and bestiality. A surprising number of you see a future when euthanasia will be an accepted way for society to deal with an aging population.

Many of you foresee a world society dominated by Islam; others are optimistic that growing supplies of natural gas in North America and elsewhere will make the Middle East (and therefore Islam) less and less important in geopolitical affairs. Just how Israel fits into that scenario puzzles a number of you. A worldwide economic collapse is part of the forecast suggested by many of you, and some of you suggest a parallel collapse of the evangelical parachurch infrastructure.

A deepened secularist, humanistic, and naturalistic outlook on life seems expected by almost all respondents—but many suggested that’s more a continuation of present trends rather than a new direction.

2) Factors that directly threaten God’s people. While most respondents seem to assume such a secularist drift, a significant number see future cultures as going much further—actively trying to press God’s people into their secular mold. For some, that simply means polite intolerance and political correctness. For most, it means more overt opposition—including actual loss of specific freedoms, loss of tax-exempt benefits, actual prohibition of taking some positions in public, further application of hate speech structures and penalties, and even more explicit “persecution” of Christians.

3) Factors that describe God’s people. It struck me, as I sorted through the hundreds of your responses, that while most of the issues listed so far had tended toward dark gloominess, a relative handful of you seemed determined to see the future through a more optimistic grid. You were not folks who denied the realities of a fallen world. But you were folks who did not hesitate to describe God’s people as “thriving” in the face of persecution.

You see God’s people as those who still might model the joys of proper sexuality and Christian families, prompting unbelievers to pursue biblical patterns for marriage and parenting. You see Christians’ obedient stewardship of money and material things—including biblical care for the poor and needy—as a pattern that might catch the attention of the world at large, just as it did at the time of the early church.

You were a bright-spirited minority in a sometimes seemingly downcast group. May your tribe increase—and may we all be blessed, a few years from now, to be able to look back and point to your accurate predictions as cheery exceptions in an otherwise gloomy forecast.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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