Praying for our culture

I have had scant energy or time lately to post to the blog. Other assignments have exhausted my expressive energy. One assignment into which I have poured a lot of energy is a prayer guide King's Harbor Church is using to lead people into prayer for our culture. Since the church is focusing on "cultural transformation," we have called it a Cultural Transformation Prayer Guide. It's a clever title, I know. :-)

The Prayer Guide brings up an interesting question. To what extent can we expect God to transform our culture? Doesn't the New Testament teach that cultures are beyond hope? I specify the NT, because the OT carries with it the clear hope that Israel will be the one human culture that displays the character of God.

But what about the NT? Let me throw out one side of the story -- a fairly pessimistic outlook that has been shared by many conservative Christians in America over the last 150 years or so.

Jesus makes no attempt to change Jewish culture, let alone that of their Roman overlords. He gathers followers and expects messianic influence to rise from the bottom of society up. But he nowhere communicates a vision or expectation that a human culture would be governed according to his principles (at least, not in the era of time before the eschaton).

Similarly, Paul indicates that there are elemental powers and a "spirit of the air" that is contrary to Christ and that holds sway over human society. Christians are to shine in the midst of this darkness, but Paul does not expect them to turn all that darkness into light.

Furthermore, we might add the philosophical point that human cultures are based on human values. Dominant views of what is true, good, and just have a lot to do with how our cultures are formed. If most people in a culture are not Christian, the source and content of those values are probably not going to be Christian. Maybe we shouldn't expect too much out of a given culture then.

What, then, are we to expect when we beseech God to work in our culture? Should we concern ourselves with individuals and select organizations within the culture? Should we expect godly values to dominate political parties? Should we target specific election results? All or none of the above?

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