Bethany Lutheran Church, CLS, and the Souls of our Community
This article describes a trend that has been noticed in many parts of American public and private life for some years. Several American generations have on the whole lost a deep appreciation for the value of faith, especially the most formative faith of western civilization: Christianity.
There has been a strong push toward multiculturalism on several fronts simultaneously, notably in the areas of religion, history, and social norms. This is linked to the trend mentioned above. For clarity in this article, we will distinguish between “cross-cultural” and “multicultural” points of view. The word “culture” is used to describe the traditions, language, and customs of a group of people. It often includes their native religion, but not necessarily. A person’s native religion depends on choices made by his father and mother that do not change their culture.
A “cross-cultural” view recognizes that various cultures each have their dignity and special value worth preserving, and that there can be communication and influence between cultures without damaging or eroding them. A culture is only wrong to the extent that it opposes universally-recognizable truth. One person can function and communicate in multiple cultures beyond his own native culture. An example of this is Christian missionary activity such as in the book of Acts when St. Paul traveled throughout the Roman empire, speaking in various languages and using the local customs to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It’s important to note that the gospel of Christ is not part of any specific earthly culture, but transcends culture just as the god worshipped by the ancient Jewish people is transcendent far beyond the local gods worshipped by heathen people throughout the world. While the gospel has been a powerful formative influence on western civilization and on America, it would be a mistake to think that it’s part of western or American civilization. The gospel, and therefore the Christian faith, exists outside the many earthly cultures and is truly cross-cultural. That’s why the Romans continued to be Romans whether Christianity was accepted among them or not. The gospel has influenced the cultures where it has been embraced, but it does not create a homogenous earthly culture in all parts of the world. Palestinian Christians have a culture distinct from African Christians, and together those cultures are distinct from that of American Christians. Yet they also share something with one another that runs deeper than the traditions in any culture. In this way, the gospel can unite people across many cultures without destroying their most valuable characteristics.
The “multicultural” point of view attempts to unite the people of many cultures, but without the gospel of Christ. Instead of providing a common thread, it attempts to uphold all elements of every culture, especially where they contradict each other. It relies on something like moral relativism or the Orwellian skill of believing two contradictory propositions at the same time. In the process, multiculturalism undermines the distinctive value of every culture. Even more problematic, it denies the value of the message that St. Paul was communicating in the book of Acts. It attempts to destroy the foundation of the gospel.
Unfortunately, the multicultural point of view has been spreading for many years, and dominates most education systems throughout the world. American public and higher education is exhibit A in the United States. The massive influence of this trend is behind the observations in the article linked above: a decline in religious faith, and the difficulty that Americans have when dealing with evil.
One of the serious spiritual problems with the multicultural approach is that it goes hand-in-hand with moral relativism. Moral relativism is the notion that the definitions of right and wrong have been constructed by people in their particular cultural situations. It would mean that there is no absolute definition of what is right and what is wrong that transcends all cultures. What is right or wrong for people in China would be in opposition to what is right or wrong for people in Uganda, and multiculturalism says that the opposition of the two doesn’t matter at all. It calls them both morally right and correct, regardless of whether they are compatible.
Moral relativism takes another step when people raised in a certain culture decide that they don’t agree with its morals. According to the multicultural point of view, they should be able to establish their own personal system of morality that may or may not be compatible with other systems. There is inevitable conflict when people try to live by opposing moral systems, but the multicultural point of view says that none of them is superior or inferior in any way.
The conflict that takes place joins multiculturalism and moral relativism with another destructive philosophy: social marxism. Karl Marx laid the foundation for the atheistic philosophy that drove the communist revolutions of the 20th Century. The basic doctrine of Marxism is the struggle between classes of people. With Marx, the classes were defined by their wealth and income, but today the struggling classes are defined in many different ways. For example: by sex (men vs. women), by ethnicity (such as white vs. others), and even by recently-imagined categories like “privilege” and the newly-defined fluid concept of “gender.” What they have in common is the Marxist struggle between classes of people. Thanks to moral relativism, there are no rules in these struggles, and they can be brutal. Journalism and propaganda become synonyms. There is hardly a distinction between lies and truth. Even clear words like “violence” and “murder” are twisted to serve one or another side of the Marxist struggle.
It’s no coincidence that “traditional religion” has suffered in this environment, because in a way Christianity has been the target all along. This explains the decline of religious faith among Americans. It also explains the difficulty when those who have been steeped and indoctrinated in multiculturalism, moral relativism, and social Marxism are confronted with something undeniably and objectively evil.
Bethany Lutheran Church is here as a witness to the culturally transcendent truth of the gospel. We all have one creator, and He has revealed himself in specific ways that are accessible to people of all cultures. He does not tolerate disobedience and other kinds of sin. Instead, He has provided a redeemer: His eternally-begotten Son, who became human to accomplish the redemption of all humanity. While sinners didn’t (and couldn’t!) ask for Him to do this, He did it anyway, as the only alternative to everlasting punishment in a place of torment. He did this because He loves us. He graciously restored us to eternal life, while remaining perfectly righteous himself. The only way for us to lose is to reject our Savior by closing our ears His word or rejecting the faith it gives. By faith, we stand before God in the righteousness He provides.
Columbia Lutheran School serves the mission of Bethany Lutheran Church by teaching what is needed for people to engage with the revelation of God and to critically distinguish between what is true and what is false, between what is good and what is evil, and between what is beautiful and what lacks beauty. Thanks be to God that our little congregation, together with Concordia in Hood River and with the indispensable assistance of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, stands against the forces of multiculturalism, moral relativism, and social Marxism. May Columbia Lutheran School continue boldly to carry that torch for the salvation of souls and for the good of our neighbors.